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It's that time of year again for a new Vince report. I have kept busy during the off season with some stupid hobbies. Somehow I started buying milling machines, rebuilding them and installing new CNC controls. If you are interested in that kind of thing you can check it out here.
My last flight on a hang glider was a little more than 8 months ago. Three weeks ago I took my glider up to Rich Sauer's house were we both set up our gliders and gave them a going over to make sure they would be ready for this years flying. We did some minor repairs, washed them and packed them back up. Our intention was to fly the next weekend. Two weekends slipped by with weather that was not conducive to flying. At least that gave me time to make room in my garage for another mill.
I decided that I was going to go up to Rich's for the memorial day weekend no matter what the weather looked like. If we flew, we would fly from Elk Mountain, which is at the north end of Clear Lake in Northern California. A check of the weather on Friday showed that there was a good chance for some great flying weather. If the blips could be trusted, there would be a convergence along the mountain range between Elk and St. John and heading north for about 40 miles. The winds would be light out of the northwest at Elk and out of the south at St. John. There was a good chance that clouds would form and top of lift would be about 9,000'.
Our plan would be to fly from Elk, then to Hull Mountain. If we could get high enough at Hull we would cross over the mountains into the central valley toward Red Bluff and Redding. Kurt came up to fly as well and was at Rich's by 9:30. As soon as we loaded Kurt's stuff onto Rich's truck we headed over to Elk. On the way up to Elk we heard someone from Hull saying they were planning on launching there between 2:00 and 3:00. This sounded awfully late, but to each their own. We were at launch by 10:45. The wind was coming straight up the south launch in nice cycles. We took our time setting up and were ready to go by 11:45. I noticed the cycles changing and the wind starting to turn westerly a bit. I did not want to get stuck on launch so I suited up and launched a little before noon. Rich and Kurt followed.
I climbed quickly to the right of launch at 400 fpm to about 5,000'. This was a little disappointing because I was hoping to get to 6,000' and get a better chance of flying over to hull. I started searching for something better to the east but found nothing. I came back to the previous thermal a little above Kurt with Rich about 800' higher. I worked it back up to 5,200' where both Rich and I headed for Horse. In the picture below the course line is in red. If you click on any of the pictures below you will get a high resolution version.
We climbed to just short of 6,400' over horse, which is barley enough to make it over to the Hull LZ, but it was as high was we could get and we could see clouds already forming over Hull so we committed to the crossing. We had very little sink and hit a couple of thermals along the way. I even climbed over 7,000' before the lake. I arrived at hull at the top of the ridge above the house and saw some gliders set up on launch and amazingly, some pilots still driving up the road to launch. We both made it over the top of Hull by 1:00. Kurt did not have such good luck. He could only get to 6,200 at horse and when he tried the crossing he found none of the lift we had. He was forced to bail out to the creek bed just below the dam.
The clouds we looking better and better over Hull, but cloud base was only 10,000' and we were still well below that.
After topping out at just around 9,000' and drifting north, we headed back over the top to try again. This time a cloud formed directly above us and we climbed to 9,800' The next crossing toward the central valley is the most dicey with no real LZ's along the way. I had set a waypoint on the other side of the crossing with a 1,000' buffer so I could get an idea if we could make it or not. Rich started heading across and I thought that he was just looking for a thermal. My vario said that we would be 300 to 400 feet under our buffer on the other side. I called Rich and asked him what he was going to do. He told me to watch the cloud shadows on the other side. I did and sure enough they were forming and dissipating with regularity about two thirds of the way across, so I committed as well and headed across.
In the picture above you can see the shadow of a little cloud just to the left of course line. The route is due east and the wind was out of the south at 10 mph. Sure as taxes we hit lift right under the forming clouds. I was down to 7,800 feet when we hit the lift. This lift was strong averaging 560 fpm to 9,600'. When we topped out we headed right down a cloud street that was about 4 miles long. We had turned north east and with the south wind our ground speed was 60 mph. While under this street we managed to climb another 600' without turning.
The peak circled in red in the picture is Red Mountain. Once we left this street were were in the blue for the rest of the flight, but it was great while it lasted.
Rich's vario while cruising under the cloud street. His altitude is 10,233', airspeed 41 mph indicated (about 48 mph true) and going up at 200 fpm.
After leaving the cloud street we had a 16 mile glide to a weak 170 fpm thermal which only gained us 600'.
After this, we had another 9 mile glide to our next thermal. This one got us back above 6,000' at 250 fpm which was OK for this area.
By 2:00 we were 36 miles from launch. This was pretty good considering the multiple attempts it took to get up at Elk, Horse and Hull.
After our two long glides we started out over the flats of the central valley. One more 8 mile glide and we were down to 3,500' (about 2,500 agl). Across the flats we had many weak climbs, usually under 150 fpm and only to 4,000'. Occasionally the lift would pick up above 4,000' and we would climb into the mid 5,000's. The factor that kept us going was the wind. We had a pretty consistent tail wind component of 10 mph. Our ground speed for the entire flight while gilding averaged 48 mph.
Redbank road can be seen just to the right of course line. It heads over to Red Bluff. Just about this point I was drinking some water and managed to burp up stomach acid. For the next two and a half hours I kept burping stomach acid. I should have brought along something to eat. I had to stop drinking water as that seemed to make it worse. When we stopped to thermal I would rock up with my arms extended because that made me feel a little better. I really wanted the site record, but as bad as I was feeling I would not have been upset if we landed.
For the next 30 miles we stayed between 3,000' and 5,000' with most of the climbs about 160 fpm. The nice part was we would gain most of a mile at each thermal from the tailwind drift. In the picture above the CHP weigh station on hwy 5 is at the first dog leg. The power lines that go to Burney are at the second dog leg. Just after the CHP weigh station is a spot that always seems to give us trouble. As usual we got low here. The area has a lot of green fields and I only found a thermal here once on all my flights.
We crossed the green area without finding a thermal and followed the power lines. It was another 8 mile glide. I was down to 1,800' (1,200 agl) over the big field in the top right of the picture above when Rich found a thermal and I joined up with him. If we would have landed here we still would have got the site record since we were about 91 miles from Elk. Our thermal was good considering what we had been getting, averaging 200 fpm to 4,200'. Now we just follow the power lines until we run out of lift. Hwy 44 crosses about 5 miles ahead. After hwy 44 we make a 3 mile jump over to Oak Run road.
Just before this jump, we climbed to 5,600' which would take us over our eventual landing spot. Once we passed the CHP weigh station the terrain continues to rise until the pass on Hwy 299 into Burney, which is over 5,000'. The thermals get higher as you get closer to the pass. Oak Run road is in yellow in the picture above. Round mountain can be seen at the dog leg.
Our landing area is marked in yellow above. The direction we landed was left to right, which was uphill into the wind. I was about 600' above Rich and we were at 106 miles from Elk. I found out after we landed Rich was feeling miserable as well because he did not put his water bag in his harness and had not had anything to drink for the last 5 hours. He saw that nice field and said he was going to land. I was climbing past 4,000' but decided that was indeed an awfully nice looking field and spiraled down to land. Rich had a nice two step landing. As I was on my final about 50' off the ground the wind stopped. My stall alarm went off and I pulled in as far as I could. I figured I would flare as soon as I was 2' off the ground. I did so and took 3 steps just as the wind picked up 6 mph. I started flying again and flew another 50' before flaring and a nice no stepper for my second landing. The field we landed in was 105 miles from Elk, a new site record.
Me after 5 hours and 105 miles.
Rich after 5 hours and 105 miles.
Rich, who took all these pictures. He actually took close to 150 pictures on the flight. Flying a ridged wing makes it easy enough fly with one hand so the other can be taking pictures. Linda and Kurt were about 20 miles behind us when we landed. They still managed to arrive before we broke down. Thank you Linda for driving all that way. After this first flight of the year for both of us, we decided to take Sunday off. My neck and back are sore which is to be expected. We arrived back at Rich's house at 11:00 PM. Gas prices are really getting to be a factor for these long flights. The cost of gas for the retrieve was $120. It was worth it. Since Rich, Kurt and I crossed over from Hull to the central valley, we knew we could break 100 miles from Elk, we just needed the right day. Saturday was a great day for the crossing, but the lift in the valley was not as good as usual. Next flight I will remember to put a granola bar in my bar mitts and maybe some Tums as well.
Here is my IGC file for the flight.