Once again I was fooled by the blip forecast. On Thursday the NAM blips were showing great possibilities for another record flight from Elk on Saturday. Instead of the normal convergence to the north and east of Elk, it showed extending from Elk directly on our route to the northeast with lift starting at 9,000' at Elk, staying at 9,000 over the central valley and climbing to 16,000 past Burney. Well as is usually the cast as Saturday approached the NAM Blips showed the top of lift lowering and the convergence moving east of Elk. By Saturday morning the RUC forecast was not very good with lift only to 6,000' at Elk and a very narrow convergence.
Forecast or not we were going flying. Rich, Kurt and I on rigids with Greg and Celia on paragliders. We set up early just in case the day would turn on. By 12:00 there only a couple of very small clouds near Hull. The wind was switching between south and west on launch and not wanting to get stuck, Kurt launched about 12:20, followed by Rich with me close behind. We had tried to talk the baggies into launching first (to be our wind dummies), but these baggies had above average intelligence and could not be suckered into our devious plot.
Kurt climbed easily to 6,000' and headed to Horse. This was higher than we thought we would get because the cycles coming up launch felt so cold. I followed Kurt over to Horse and found just zero sink. After hunting around for a while I was able to find 600 fpm sink and ran back to Elk with my V-tail between my legs, watching the top of Elk rising on the horizon. I had to fly around the west side as I was 400' below launch when I arrived back. I have never got back so low. Rich was laughing to himself at me because when he was flying flex wings, he had many times he came back much lower.
By the time I came back, Celia and Greg had both launched and were climbing past 6,000'. They headed south into a head wind only to hit the wall about 4 miles from launch. The rest of us tried to get up at Horse 3 more times without success. Rich managed a climb to 6,700' over Elk. The air above 6,000' was rough and not very comfortable to hang around in. As I climbed past 6,300' over Elk I announced that I had enough of this and was heading toward Rich's house for some XC. This was into a headwind of about 8 mph but from the comps I have been in I have learned that XC into the wind is quit doable. My first stop would be Mid Mountain. Rich followed with Kurt about 10 minutes later.
Clicking on the pictures below will bring up a higher resolution version.
The picture above was taken about half way between Elk and Mid Mountain. To the right is Elk, Left is Horse and on the horizon is Hull. This was taken at 1:15 and the clouds near Hull did not look very promising. There were no clouds on our route to the south.
The normal Elk LZ is in the red circle. Do not use the alternate LZ anymore. In addition to a power line the land owner has installed a series of steel poles 6' tall across the creek that are very hard to see from the air. Another LZ for hang gliders is next to the thistle field in the red rectangle, but use caution, even this field is bounded by power lines. There is a dirt road to the east of the creek than you can drive on for an easy retrieve. The house thermal at Mid Mountain is at the arrow. We hit a very nice smooth thermal there which we took to 6,600', higher than we were at Elk.
This picture was taken from 6,600'. I decided I wanted to try for the airport at Lampson which is the arrow on the left. Rich's house is the arrow to the right.
Bachelor valley is between Mid Mountain and Rich's house. Unfortunately, there are no good LZ's in the valley. It looks great in the picture above, but the fields have fences, wires or horses in them. This brings up an important thing to look for when flying XC and looking for LZs. Keep an eye out for a small building or pole in the field. Around here those are usually well pumps that have a very thin power line going to them which are difficult to see. If you see such a pump house, make sure you have identified the location of the wire before committing to land.
Here is a nice picture of Clear Lake looking to the south with Mt. Konocti in the upper right.
When we approached Rich's house we found light lift. We searched around and kept getting higher and higher. The drift was out of the south east and we found ourselves almost at Blue lakes. We were still climbing past 7,200' when I said I wanted to take one more look around before heading for the airport. We hit 500 fpm up and climbed past 8,000'. I have never been that high over this area before. The picture above was taken just before we topped out.
We were now on a 16 mile glide toward the airport. We flew through a couple of thermals on the way but it did not make much sense to stop and turn because we were plenty high. About halfway on this glide the wind changed from a headwind to a tailwind. The last 6 miles or so my ground speed was in the mid 50's. I marked the traffic pattern for the Lampson airport in red. It is best to avoid the traffic pattern when approaching an airport. If you get there more than 1,500' you can fly over and look. Almost all airports have the traffic pattern direction marked at the wind sock. Watch for aircraft doing the same thing. Do your approach for landing on the opposite side of the airport from the traffic pattern. Lampson has locked gates and it is best to land in the field to the west of the airport.
It does not make much sense to keep going south from here as most of the fields are either vineyards or orchards. If you can get back up above 6,000' or 7,000', by all means keep going.
I am in the red circle above. My intended spot for landing is the red X. The wind direction is show by the arrow. There is an airplane on the taxiway at the airport. Three planes took off or landed as we arrived and landed.
I am just to the right of the runway 28 markings. I am going to land in the yellow circle. This makes it a crosswind landing but I only had to walk my glider about 30' to the road. Both Rich and I had nice landings. The wind was blowing about 10 mph and instead of a strong flare we ran out the landings. I broke down my glider on the road because I was tired of getting foxtails in my socks. I lost one of my gaiters so I was not wearing them. Rich carried his glider over to the shade of the trees and broke down there, as did Kurt. The heat and sun do not bother me as much.
Kurt landed about 15 minutes behind us. He was having too much fun playing with the thermals on the way to the airport and looking at the views to try to catch up to us. I believe that this flight could have been done by a kingposted glider this day. We flew through several thermals we did not need. From 8,000', even a king posted glider can get a long glide. We ended up with a nice day of flying. We turned what could have been a frustrating day with a landing in the creek bed to a enjoyable little XC, landing in a nice big field next to an airport. The total flight time was 2 hours and 1 minute. By the time we landed the clouds over Hull had turned on, but only an hour later they were quickly dissipating.
I should mention that Rich usually takes over 100 pictures on these flights. It amazes me that he can concentrate on the camera angle and subject and still be able to core a thermal.
Here is my IGC file.
The SeeYou satellite view of the flight.