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This last Saturday looked like the last weekend of the flying season I could get in an XC flight. I have been storing my glider at Rich Sauer’s house so I did not have to transport it back and forth. I live 200 miles away from Elk, but he lives only 15 miles from Elk. I planned on bringing my glider home for the winter after this flight.

The forecast looked good with top of lift at 7,000’. The only big question was the winds. There were several conflicting reports with some predicting winds as high as 25 mph at 9,000 out of the north east. The winds turned out to be from 5 to 12 out of the north to west.

Todd joined us with his flex wing. Rich’s daughter Kim was going to be our driver this day. This would be her first time driving for us (she is 17 and got here license about 9 months ago). She would have to drive down from Elk solo, not a fun task at any age. Elk is the only true 4wd launch road I have been on.

Before we even arrived on launch small cumies had begun forming. We started setting up at 12:00. The wind up the north launch was weak but a few cycles were blowing through. Some times when a particularly strong cycle would blow through, we would see a cumie form about 4 minutes later. The day was looking good. As I set up my glider a couple of items broke. First was the pull tab on the sail zipper (I have never had an Atos that did not have this break in the first 2 years). The other was the cord that holds on the tip wand cam. Both were easily fixed. It was like my glider was telling me the season was ending and it was time for a good inspection and some TLC.

I was first to launch at 1:00 into a very strange cycle. It was blowing it about 6 mph, but my first 4 steps felt like it was down wind. On the 5th step I was lifted quickly into the air. I turned left and headed straight to the point. I found a thermal right away and started climbing at 300+ in rough air. It did not take long to climb to cloud base at 7,000’. As I waited for Rich and Todd to launch, the clouds above Elk dissipated and I sank back to 5,000’. I saw that Todd had found a nice one over the south launch and flew over the top of him. Rich joined in a minute later. We climbed together to 6,500’ and headed south. (Rich took all the pictures here with his Cannon S3).

This picture is looking toward the North West from High Glade.

When we got over Pitney about 3 miles south, Todd headed west to try for Lampson airport. Rich and I continued south along the ridge. There was a cloud street heading south on both sides of Clear Lake. The clouds were only indicating lines of lift as we almost never found lift under a cloud. We would have to hunt around in the sunny areas and “trigger points” to find lift.

We marched along the ridge toward Pinnacle peak, most of the time climbing to 6,500’ along the way. The lift was OK, about 300 fpm, but the sink between thermals was horrible. We jumped over to Long valley and hit our best lift of the day, 800 fpm to 7,200’. As the day progressed, the thermals got smoother and much more pleasant.

Rich just received his new Flytec 5030 and pod. In the picture you can see his airspeed is 18 mph. He needs to adjust his compensation before his next flight. In the picture we are just at the north end of long valley.

When Rich starts taking pictures while thermaling it gives me a chance to out climb him

We took the route along Spring Valley.

We climbed to 6,600 at the end of Spring Valley and headed off into the blue toward the hwy 20/16 intersection, where the CDF fire station is. It was a long glide with lots of sink. With a tail wind of 11 mph and a ground speed of 54 mph, I sill only had a 9 to 1 glide for a couple of miles. The intersection is to the left of this picture. If we can get high enough we want to make it through the gap in the right of the picture.

During the glide to the fire station Rich snapped this picture of me.

Once we arrive over the fire station, we need at least 5,500’ of altitude to even think of heading further south, and that would get us just to the gap in the mountain range in the picture. For any real hope we would like 6,500’. We are down to 3,500’ when this picture was taken.

This is looking north toward Bear Valley and St. John.

There was light lift over the fire station, easy to stay up in, but not enough to climb out with. The fire station had two large flags that are easily seen from 1,500’. The field just across the street is BLM and runs uphill from the creek bed to the road. A word to the wise, the creek is a sink hole. I was having trouble getting low enough on final until I crossed over the creek, when the bottom fell out. There is a steep bank on the other side and you want to make sure you don’t hit the side of it. Total flight distance was 36 miles and 2 hours 20 minutes.

This is a SeeYou plot of the flight.


After landing we called Todd and heard that he indeed did make it to the Lampson airport, about 20 miles from Elk. His highlight of the flight was a sustained thermal of 1200+ fpm. He said it felt like he was flying in the Owens Valley.

This might be my last report until the spring unless I find something interesting while inspection my glider. We had a fantastic flying season this year and I hope everyone had as much fun as we have. I like to give thanks to Linda, Bill Vogel, and Kim without whom we would have a long walk back. And thanks to Rich for flying with me and storing my glider.


PS. My wife says it is the end of the hang gliding season and the start of honeydo season.