I got shanghaied into canning peaches so my report is a little late (we did can 20 quarts though, about 1/10 the amount of peaches we picked from one tree).
Back to Elk we go. The weather report did not look too impressive, top of lift at 5,200’ with winds out of the south. The south wind is a good direction. Saturday, it was just Rich and me, with Linda driving. The parapanties were flying in an XC league across the ridge at Potato hill. It sure seems like they are the only ones flying XC around here. Just about every other weekend they have a meet at one of the Northern California sites. I think if someone tried to do the same thing with hang gliders there would only be a couple that would show up vs the 20+ paragliders that show.
Anyway, we drove up to Elk to see what we could make of the day. At launch, the wind was blowing slightly east, and would straighten out and come right out of the south with a cycle, which would blow in about every 8 minutes. We took our time setting up because we wanted to launch a little later and give the day a chance to develop. We were set up by 12:00, but waited around until 1:00 to launch.
You can see in this picture just how huge the north launch is. I have at least 10" clearance on each wingtip.
Just as Rich hooked in and walked to launch, it switched to the north (blowing over the back), which meant the dreaded hike down to the North launch. This time it was particularly hard because the wind was strong and it took quite a bit of work to keep the glider parallel to the trail. Rich had a wing blow into a bush and the bush must have had a nasty thorn since it cut his sail about 3” long. When the wind changes from the north, it means that the sea breeze has arrived. Elk is 44 miles from the coast. The sea breeze also makes the area famous for great convergence. Unfortunately, only the sailplanes are able to take advantage of it.
After resting a bit we launched in easy cycles. After launch we found weak thermals mixed in with light ridge lift. The wind above launch was out of the west at 12 mph. In about 15 minutes we finally found a real thermal, though only 300 fpm, but we did climb to 6,400’, enough altitude to fly north over to Horse. If we can get up at Horse, we have a chance to make it over to Hull and beyond.
Heading to horse.
Unfortunately, nothing was happening at Horse so we headed back to Elk.
Heading back to Elk.
This time though, the thermals were gone and all we could find was broken ridge lift. For the next hour we searched back and forth for anything that would get us up and out of there. Finally, we found a small trashy, weak thermal and climbed to only 4,600’. This was just enough to encourage me to leave so I headed south for greener pastures. The pasture I found was full of manure and I was sinking at close to 1,000 fpm. I did not know it I could make it to the creek bed for a crappy landing. Luckily as Rich says, big sink usually means that there is big lift in the area.
Just to the left of center and a little above, you can see me sinking.
I flew right into a 500 fpm thermal, much better than the 80 fpm ones we were getting at Elk. I climbed back to 6,100’. It is amazing how a little altitude can change your outlook on life. Rich had followed me and despite clicking off a couple hundred pictures, climbed up to greet me. With the altitude, I had visions of a nice green pasture that had been recently cut for hay. It looked like we could easily make it in spite of the 14 mph headwind. Along the way we played spot the pot patch. It seems like most people in Lake County have a prescription for medical marijuana and there are pot patches all over the place.
Look in the red circle, I counted over 100 plants.
After crossing over mid mountain, I found another thermal over Bachelor valley. Even though I was plenty high enough to make it to my LZ, I just could not let this one get away. We climbed another 1,000’, just because we could. We left this one an then just cruised around the valley sight seeing. When we got down to about 1,000’ agl, we flew over the land owners house, just to let him know we were going to land. He was having a pool party with a lot of children and the kids got a kick watching us land.
I let Rich land first; he had a great steady approach, but had to run out his landing due to the wind shadow of the trees at the edge of the field. I came in and flew the same approach as Rich, but I was lucky enough to get a thermal kicking off. With my flaps full on and pulling in, I usually see about 500 fpm down, but at 100’ agl I hit 100 fpm up. I made a slight S turn got out of it and continued the approach, hit another 100 fpm up, pulled in hard while watching the trees quickly approaching. About 50 yards from the trees I flew out of the lift, into sink, just in time to flare to a nice landing, 20 yards from the trees. While all this was going on Rich was on the radio saying “pull in, pull in”, like I wasn’t already. Afterward I told him I was pulling in. He said he knew that, but it made him feel better saying it anyway.
Rich did not have time to remove the camera from his base tube so he shot a series of pictures of my landing from the base tube. It adds a nice effect. In the picture my feet are just about to touch the ground.
My flight time was only 2 hours, so I could not believe how sore I was. I figured out that some of the soreness was from carrying the glider down the hill, but most was from rocking up and pushing out while over Elk. Usually the flights go: climb in thermal, glide, climb in thermal, glide etc, so my muscles get a chance to rest in between climbs. Over Elk, we spent the entire time in the climb mode, with no breaks. My biggest weakness is patience. I just can’t fly back and forth on a ridge. I have to get up an go somewhere. This has cost me in comps several times. The more patient pilots finally get up and get going and I end of on the ground.
Click here for in-flight video. I never realize how hard it is to get another glider in flight with a helmet mounted camera.
Next week we head up to Lakeview for a comp. I should be able to get an internet connection so I can keep the reports coming.
My IGC file.