Click on the pictures for a larger view and don't miss the launch videos. Our track logs are at the very bottom of the report.
I checked the Williams soaring site and saw that they were going to have a barbeque on Saturday. I thought it would be nice to make another flight from Elk to Williams. At least this time with the barbeque there would be more pilots there.
We have had a couple of fires here in northern California that has been contributing to some very poor air quality and visibility. On the flight up to Lakeport, the visibilities were less than 20 miles. Last weekend we could see the clouds in the Sierra 100 miles away. We did not know how much this would affect the lift, but it was worth a trip up to try for the flight.
Along with Linda, Rich and I, we were joined by paraglider pilot Andy. We consider Andy a honorary hang glider pilot since he is willing to fly with us and likes to try for XC where a lot of paraglider pilots normally would not. When we arrive at the south launch at Elk, it was already crossing from the west so we drove down to the north launch where it was very light, but it was only 11:00.
Paraglider pilot Andy and our wonderful driver Linda.
I realized I have not had a picture of me in my reports for some time, so here is a current photo. I like to sit on launch for at least a half an hour before I launch to get an idea of the cycles and thermals.
By the time we set up, fiddled with instruments and harnesses, and ate lunch, it was 12:45 and the cycles were looking nicer with about 7 minutes between cycles. Rich had to wait for three cycles as the first two were crossing from the right. He launched at 1:19 and turned right were he found light sink, gave up and turned left back to the west and found much better lift at the point. He took this first thermal all the way to 7,000 and immediately headed south. I had launched 7 minutes later and was still climbing. Andy launched 6 minutes after me and struggled a bit before he too was climbing out.
This picture gives a good indication of the amount of smoke in the air. Compare this with last weeks pictures.
I also look my first thermal to 7,000 and headed south to try and catch Rich. This is were I repeated Richs mistake from last week. I was trying to find the thermals Rich was in which did not work. In reality it looked like he was marking sink for me because each time I came into and area he was working I could not find the lift. I ended up hunting around to find some weak broken lift to play in. Rich stayed a thermal ahead as I continually tried to play catch up. Andy was finding good lift and a helpful drift and was able to follow us on course.
The thermals today were very small and much rougher than last week. The cores were also drifting around more and the sink while on glide was much worse. I climbed to 7,600 over the High Glade fire watch tower. Rich had found no lift along the ridge to Pinnacle, but did find strong lift over the saddle at the end of Long Valley. Again, not taking heed of past mistakes I headed over to where Rich caught the lift and found nothing but strong sink. With the sink I was getting I thought I would barley make it to the north end of long valley (the end without any roads). As the sink lightened up I was able to fly along the east side of Long Valley. Finally at 1200 agl I found some lift to climb in.
If you look carefully in the picture, just right and below the center you can see how low I was. This was not a comfortable place to be.
I thought this thermal would get me back in the game. I was climbing at 300 to 400 fpm, but as soon as I climbed higher than the ridge top, the thermal just blew apart. All I could find was 100 fpm some of the time. I only climbed to 5400. We had hoped to climb here like we did last week, getting above 7500 and try to fly directly across the north end of Indian Valley reservoir. Alas today it was not to be. Rich was flying around trying to wait for me and was sinking the entire time. He ended up just a few hundred feet above me. We flew on down the ridge and found very week and broken lift at the end (Rich averaged 26 fpm). I was doing worse and resigned my self to the fact that I would be soon landing. I headed to the field across the street from the Spring Valley store in Spring Valley. As I made a 360 to check the wind direction I hit 300 up. I thought I would be able to climb out of here, but as soon as I was higher than the surrounding hills, the lift broke up (the winds here were 17 mph out of the west).
We landed in the big field in the center of the picture. The left side of the field indicates there is probably a fence along the divide in colors of the field. Sure enough there was a barbed wire fence across the field.
I was at 2,900 feet, just enough to fly across Spring Valley toward Chalk Mountain and look for some lift. Rich was right above me. We found some 100 fpm, but were quickly drifting away from any possible LZs, I climbed back to 2,900 with Rich a couple hundred feet above, but was getting beyond my comfort level from the LZ. I flew along the ridge for one last ditch effort, but had to bail to the LZ. I arrived with enough altitude for one 360. I had a nice landing in light conditions. Rich had a nice landing as well. Soon after we landed with wind picked up to about 10 mph.
Heading back west to the LZ.
Rich took this picture just after I flared. At the bottom center of the picture you can see a small white object. It is a 5 gallon plastic bucket next to a 6' tall pole. It was in the center of the field. We landed on the right side of the field next to the road. Neither of us saw the pole until after we landed.
Andy took this picture from 9,000', looking south toward Long Valley.
Andy climbed to over 9,000 above High Glade. He gave it a valiant effort to make it over into Long Valley, but he found sink in the same places we did and landed up on the ridge near Bartlet road. Linda found him soon enough and came to pick us up. In the mean time I walked over to the store and bought some ice, water, and soda. The total flight distance was 28 miles which sure beats a landing in the creek bed any day.
Vince's launch Vince's launch from helmet camera
Rich's launch Rich's launch as seen from my helmet camera.
Andy took a couple of videos of Rich and my launches. These videos show a very important thing about launching a rigid wing, something called Steve Daleo called "sticky pitch". As you launch a flex wing, the wing geometry changes as it gets air under the wing. As this happens, the nose will rise and you have to keep it pulled in to keep from stalling on launch. A rigid wing is different. It's wing geometry does not change when launching. If you launch with the nose at a particular angle, it tends to stay at that angle until you change it. To launch a rigid wing properly, you have to gently push out the nose as you launch or you could lawn dart at the bottom of the launch. NOTE: This is not the same as "popping the nose up". If you watch my launch you can see me do this. Rich has a tendency to launch his rigid like he launched his flex wing. Watching to two videos the difference is obvious.
I received some request about Rich's camera and how he mounts it. It is a Cannon EOS Rebel XTI, with a polarizing filter on a Cannon EF 24mm 1:2.8 lens.
Looking at the satellite picture it is obvious why the lift was so poor as we headed south. With a west wind, we were directly downwind of the lake. In lighter winds the mountains tend to block the lake effect. With the strong winds we were seeing, as soon as we climbed above the ridgeline we were into the lake effect.
Vince's track log
Rich's track log
Andy's track log