As usual, click on the pictures to get a higher resolution version.
On Saturday morning, Rich and I checked the weather to try and figure out what the day would bring. The various weather reports agreed that the marine air would push in some time in the afternoon. Last weekend, it came in at 1:00. We decided to launch a little earlier to try and get up before the marine layer arrived. If you can beat the marine layer, you can fly northeast toward Hull or southeast, staying in the convergence and get a great flight. Todd met us in the LZ. He has been flying sailplanes for the last several years and this would be his first hang gliding flight in about a year. Linda, was our faithful driver.
We made it to launch at Elk with plenty of time to get set up and to be ready to launch by noon. Last week, when Rich clipped in to launch at 1:00, the wind switched to over the back before he could even lift his glider. Saturday, the wind was not supposed to shift until 2:00 (wind shift means the marine layer has arrived). Well, this day as soon as he put his helmet on to launch (at 12:00), the wind shifted, so it was time to hike the gliders down the narrow trail to the north launch.
When the marine layer arrives, two things usually happen, the thermals shut down (though there can be ridge lift), or the ground heats the air enough that thermals can break through, usually meaning rough broken thermals. We waited around for about an hour for the air to heat up and get some decent thermals coming up launch. Rich launched at 1:00 into weak lift, but he was able to stay up.
I waited for another 10 minutes. The wind was crossing from the left most of the time. My thought was the thermals were coming up the spine. I was afraid that it would never get very good at launch so I took the next cycle that came up. It was weak and as I turned left toward the spine, I never hit lift. Linda and Todd said a couple of minutes after I launched a great cycle came ripping through. As I slowly sank toward the bailout LZ, I could not believe this was happening to me again. I found nothing I would turn in, and was soon landing in the creek bed.
I landed in at the red X, about 80 yards farther than I wanted.
The bailout is at the intersection of three canyons running north, south and east. As I approached, I could see the dust from all the motorcycles that ride in the creek bed. The wind was out of the east in the east canyons, and out of the north in the north and south canyons. I decided to fly my approach from the south. As I got over my LZ, I hit more lift than I had so far. It would be crazy to try to turn in the narrow canyon, so all I could do was pull in and try and get down before I ran out of LZ. This was not successful. Luckily, there was enough lift to get me over the two trees at the end of the LZ and I could head up the east canyon. Now the wind was blowing from west to east and I had a 5 mph tail wind. I managed my best downwind landing ever. I hit in some small boulders which broke into gravel with my arrival. Several kids on motorcycles fell off from the shock wave, but I did not even bend a weak link in the down tubes (the Atos weak links bend about 10 times easier than a flex wing down tube). I landed on my feet but let the glider base tube hit instead of taking the entire 100 pounds on my shoulders. I was able to just pick up the glider and walk off, much to my amazement.
If you click on the picture and zoom in, you can see me breaking down the glider. .
As I broke down my glider, I watched Rich slowly sink to launch level. He soon headed to the better LZ down the creek, not wanting to tempt fate where I had landed.
This is looking north toward the LZ I landed in. If you click on the picture and zoom in, you can see me breaking down the glider. Notice that when Rich took this picture he was well below the ridge line.
This is what we call the "thistle field" LZ because it is next to a thistle field. You can't land in the green area, you have to land in the creek bed to the right of the two red lines. The red lines show the location of power lines that cross the creek bed.
On the way he found some good lift and was able to get up high enough to make the jump over to Bachelor valley, where CUs were forming.
Rich took this picture as he was topping out of his thermal that got him up and away from the creek bed. Life is much better up high.
Todd waited another 45 minutes and was rewarded with lift to 6,000í which gave him plenty of altitude to leave Elk. He too found lift on the way south and was able to head to Bachelor valley.
CU's starting for form. I launched about an hour too early.
Todd found some lift there but thought there was something better and flew on, only to land some minutes later. Rich flew around taking pictures and then came in to land in the field across the road from his house, where Todd had landed. Both of them had great landings.
Todd about to land.
Lately, I just canít seem to make the correct decision on when to launch. On our 100 mile flight this year, I hit it perfect, pushing to launch when we did. Since then, I have been hit or miss. The weather in general around here has not been that great for hang gliding. I donít know if it is the drought we are having or what, but we had much better flights last year.
My IGC file.
Rich's IGC file.