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Due to some other commitments, this is the first time I have flown since my last report three weeks ago.
It was another interesting flight this last Saturday. All the weather reports I could find showed poor lift at Elk. The wind predicted to be 15 mph out of the North West. There was supposed to be a convergence about 5 miles to the east of Elk, but it would be very difficult to make it in that direction. The top of lift would be between 4,200 and 5,000. The Elk launch is 4,100.
Rich had a new camera and I had a new helmet mounted video camera that we each wanted to try out. We figured we would at least try to test out our new equipment. I think you will find a marked improvement in picture quality in this report. I've tried to step it up a notch with video as well.
Rich, Kurt, Greg H. and I along with a pair of willing drivers made our way to the top of Elk. On the drive over the wind was south in the creek bed, which was strange because in town it was north. At the top of Elk it was light out of the north so we set up at the north launch. By the time we finished setting up it was blowing in at 10 mph.
Typically hang waiting. Kurt with his hands in his pockets, me fiddling with my instruments and our drivers in the background wondering why we don't launch.
Normally we cant seem to convince the paraglider pilots to launch first, but today Greg was worried about getting stuck on launch if the winds picked up to the predicted 15 mph, so he was kind enough to launch and test out the lift. He had a nice launch, despite the unforgiving to paraglider pilots, north launch.
He cruised back and forth in ridge lift, not getting too much above launch; it was a little after 12:00. He went over to the point to look for some lift and was landing 5 minutes later. He reported the winds 15 mph in the LZ switching 180 degrees every few minutes.
The wind coming in launch was cool, which is typically when the sea breeze kicks in and kills all the thermals. We decided to launch and see what we could find. Kurt launched first.
Video of Kurt's Launch
Video of my launch
He climbed slowly above launch. I soon launched, followed by Rich. We all worked to try and get high enough to go somewhere other than the Elk LZ (which is about my least favorite places to land).
The air was a bit bumpy, but once we climbed above 4,500 it smoothed out. Greg joked to us about getting to 10,000. We continued to climb at 50 to 100 fpm in perfectly smooth air. I then realized that we were in a wave. The top of the convective lift was indeed 4,500 and now I was climbing in my first wave.
Video of Rich flying by
Video of me playing follow the leader
Every 500 we climbed I called down to Greg telling him how much closer we were getting to 10,000. As we passed 7,000 I was wondering how much higher we could really get. It was getting cold and I dont think I could have stood the temperature at 10,000. Finally at 7,600 we maxed out. Our drivers were telling us horror stories about the wind in the LZ, so I decided to head over to Bachelor Valley and maybe land over there. I did not want to head south along the ridge due to the high winds (I was reading 15 mph) and the only LZs that way are in canyons. Kurts radio had given out an hour ago, but he saw me leave and followed.
This is the creek bed we would land in if we had no other choice. In the photo above there are no less than 4 power lines crossing the creek.
We were expecting to get trashed after leaving the wave, but we pleased to find very smooth air and light sink on the way to Bachelor Valley. At Bachelor Valley we found more strange air. It appeared to be another wave. The air was lifting, but still completely smooth. I was down to 6,600 when I circled in the wave and gained 200. There were cows in the field we usually land in and the wind on the ponds looked very turbulent. I decided I did not want to land in Bachelor Valley either and told Rich I was heading for Lampson airport. The field there is much bigger. I was almost 18 miles out and about 5,800 agl when I went on glide. Rich and Kurt stayed in the wave to play some more, climbing back to 7,400.
Here are a couple pictures of Clear lake from 7,400'.
Things kept getting stranger. I must have been in a secondary wave on the way to the airport as I averaged a 37 to 1 glide. I arrived at the airport at 4,500 which is about 3,100 agl. As I descended below 4,200 things got very unpleasant. Kurt described it as being in a washing machine. For the next 25 minutes I tried to loose the 3,000 to land. The air was very rough. I flew all over trying to find sink to core. I did not want to fly upwind very far because I feared the rotor from the mountains. I did not wan to fly too far down wind and not be able to make it back to the airport. The air stayed very rough and when I did find sink I did not feel comfortable coring with a steep bank angle. I would loose several hundred feet or so and loose the sink and gain the altitude back again. Each time I flew over the LZ I hit 800 fpm up. I think it was the most work I have ever spent hang gliding. I had the flaps part way down, my harness open with my leg spreading it out to act like a drogue chute and I was still going up.
I thought this picture of Mt. Konocti was particularly nice.
Persistence paid off and I slowly got lower and lower. Our driver was saying the wind was 3 mph gusting to 12 and the wind direction was constantly changing 90 degrees. I chose my approach direction to split the wind directions. It stayed rough all the way to the ground. I ran about 3 steps and tried to stop as fast as I could to avoid a hole which causes the nose to drop. Given the conditions, I was glad to be on the ground once again. I moved out of the way and waited to Rich and Kurt. They were about 15 miles behind me, but were almost caught up by the time I got on the ground. They both had great landings in the rough air.
My landing video
This is my track while I was trying to get down.
You can see from the vario trace when things got interesting.
Here is my track log. If you have SeeYou or some other program that will play the IGC file, I think you will find it interesting. The total flight time was 2 hours.
When I flew home an hour later I found the top of lift was 5,500. If we tried to fly further south, the only LZs for the next 20 miles are again in canyons. Given the erratic and turbulent winds, I think we made the correct choice landing where we did.
All pictures in this report are copyrighted by Rich Sauer.