Saturday Rich and I hooked up with paraglider pilots, Andy, Gregg and friend to fly Elk. There was an area of low pressure that was supposed to pass over about 12:00 noon Saturday. If it warmed up there was a chance that we would get a good day. We all piled in Rich’s truck with Linda driving. We crested launch at a little past 11:00. This gave us plenty of time to set up and watch the conditions. Like last weekend, the wind was blowing straight in from the south without much indication of cycles. There was a band of high level clouds that was passing overhead. It looked like they would pass by 1:00.

We needed a trigger temperature on launch of 72 degrees to get to 8,000’ if the sounding was to be believed. The temperature stayed at 67 degrees until we launched at 1:00. The high clouds had cleared and we were now getting good cycles. There was a little concern that they were starting to turn from the west so we chose to launch then instead of risking getting stuck on launch or having to walk down to the north launch.

Rich and I were off before the paragliders. We climbed steadily to 6,400’ where we hit the inversion. This was the hardest inversion I have encountered. Instead of the thermals just stopping at the inversion, they would roll over the edges. Just picture a geyser. It was so severe that even if you were in the center of the thermal, you could feel yourself moving sideways until you got dumped over the edge, where you would drop 200’ to 300’ in a quarter turn. I was amazed to see what happened in a thermal. Rich was 100’ above me and about ½ turn ahead of me. I looked down to seem him 100’ below me in the same position of the thermal just a few seconds later. I could not believe a glider could sink that fast. We normally thermal as close as 30’ to each other, but this day we kept a couple of hundred feet apart. It was as if the sky gods would smote us each time we attempted to dare them to give up few more feet of altitude.

 

Heading over to Horse.

We flew over to Horse but found the thermals weaker than over Elk. We only climbed to 5,800’ over Horse. The drift was from the west which did not help us get any closer to Hull. My best L/D to Hull was 26 to 1. With the sink we were getting after leaving the thermals, I had no intention of leaving for Hull with less than 7,000’.

After getting smacked around for an hour and a half, we gave up on flying north toward Hull. We decided to fly to the southwest to be over more forgiving LZs. Over Mid Mountain (about 4 miles from Elk) we hit a very smooth thermal that was 400 to 600 up back to over 6,000’. The day was looking up. We headed over Rich’s house to White Mountain (which is dark grey). There we found more of the very rough air we had left 8 miles earlier.

 

On glide toward White Mountain.

 

We played tourist, flew around a bit and decided to land at the base of the hill Rich lives on. My landing was great but Rich had a bit of an equipment failure on his landing approach. I had talked him into trying a 2mm flap cord like I use. My cleat stopped holding the 2mm cord so I added a second cleat. Rich still had the original cleat. When he was a couple of feet off the ground is flaps released and he dropped just enough to catch his base tube. He was fine, but he finally bent his original factory weak links in the down tubes after two years. Needless to say he is changing back to the 3mm flap cord. Total flight time was 2 hours and 20 minutes and a whopping 8 miles XC.

 

Looking south toward Lakeport.

 

Looking toward the east side of Clear Lake, CA.

After breaking down we headed up to Rich and Linda’s for a small party. My wife joined us and even tolerated all the hang gliding and paragliding stories she has heard so many times before. Thanks Linda and Gregg for all the food.

Vince