Click on the pictures for a higher resolution version.
It’s not quite as fun writing up a report when I didn’t
even fly, but the day was worth mentioning anyway. The Ukiah sounding looked too
good to be true (this is the closest sounding to Elk and Hull in northern
California). Top of lift anywhere between 8,000’ and 11,000’, the highest I have
ever seen for that sounding. The air pressure was low at 29.74”mm. We have been
having really strong winds for the last few days and logic would say that the
high winds would put a damper on things. Every time I have been to Elk in winds
above 10 mph, the thermals are broken, hard to work and not very high.
Rich and I could not find a driver for Saturday. We decided to pick up some paraglider pilots, Greg, Andy and Bernard, and maybe one of them could end up driving for us. We drove up to the Elk launch plenty early to observe the weather trends. Some forecast called for decreasing winds after 1:00. At launch the wind was strong out of the east, but was wrapping around the hill and coming in slightly crossing at the south launch. It was definitely launchable. Rich was coming down with some type of head cold and decided not to fly. Without a driver I was somewhat reluctant to fly as well. I could get up and fly over to the Hull launch and say “neener, neener, neener” to all the pilots on the ground, but I have done that plenty of times this year and it was getting old.
By 1:00 the winds were still strong, but they we coming from the southwest. It was starting to cycle more with some completely calm conditions between cycles. Andy finally had enough waiting and took off a little after 2:00. He climbed very quickly to 8,400’, 4,000’+ over launch in less than 10 minutes (my personal best at Elk is a little over 8,000’). Greg was so surprised that he could not get ready fast enough. Bernard is a P2 and decided conditions were too strong for him. Greg was in the air in less than 10 minutes.
Andy took a bold line and tried to fly east toward the paragliding launch called Potato Hill. He was doing great with very little altitude loss until he was about half way across the valley. There he hit a strong east wind that stopped his progress completely. By this time Greg was climbing like a rocket. He topped out at 10,200’.
These pictures were taken by Rich on a different flight, but you can see where Andy was flying.
Rich and I have been telling Greg that he should try to fly to Hull some day. He always said “yeah, if I could only get to 10,000’” like it would never happen. Well, today was the day. When he saw Andy hit the wall on the way to Potato, he turned and headed for Hull. Meanwhile, Andy had landed just east of the campground on M10. We headed over to pick him up. Greg was obviously excited about flying over a sea of trees with no LZ’s. We assured him that he had plenty of bail out options. His concern was that he could not seem them from his position. This can be quite interesting the first time one tries a new route. Once you are familiar with the bailouts along the way, the next time is much easier.
As Greg got closer to Lake Pillsbury, he finally saw the dam and the large LZ just down stream. This put his mind at ease. The problem is the entire west side of the lake by the dam is a big sink hole. Once he headed that way he was sucked to the ground. He landed in the creek bed just a few feet from the road. He was the first paraglider pilot we know of to fly this direction and make it to the lake.
This is a picture of the general route Greg flew:
Believe it or not, there is a road in the picture that goes from Elk to Hull. At times the trees are so dense you can not see the road for miles.
I believe Greg landed where I marked a red X in the picture:
Now, the normal situation is Greg and Andy have to listen to Rich and my great flights. But for the next week, they have the bragging rights and we will politely listen to their stories. There have been higher altitude gains at Elk, but their flights are the highest I have heard about in the last 15 years or so. I believe Andy is the first paraglider pilot to try to fly over to Potato hill. Congratulations to both of them.