Click on the pictures for a higher resolution version and look for the video files.  All pictures were by Rich Sauer unless otherwise noted.


This is may last flight of the season from Elk Mountain in northern California.  I live in San Jose about 210 miles south of Elk (driving distance).  I keep my glider at Rich Sauer’s house and fly my plane up to an airport near his work on Fridays after work to hang glide.  Today I drove my truck up to pick up my glider.  It cost $100 in gas for the round trip.  It cost $70 round trip for gas in my plane and takes 2 ˝ hours less time each way in the plane. 


When I arrived at Rich's house, this was the view I saw.


We recruited Rich’s daughter Kim to drive for us again.  We heard there was going to be at least one paraglider flying today.  When we got to launch we found 7 or 8 paraglider pilots with their laundry all over launch.  It actually wasn’t too bad since all that fabric kept the bottom of our boots clean.  Several of the paraglider pilots were new P2s and Wally Anderson was giving them some mountain instruction.  A couple of the pilots had never thermal before and did quite well their first time, getting more than a 1,000’ above launch.  Wally was nice enough to climb the tree behind launch and replace the wind streamers.


The paraglider pilots were nice enough to put down some fabric to give us a place to walk and keep our boots clean.

Photo by Kim.


How may paraglider pilots does it take to replace a windsock?  I count 5.


We (Rich and I) set up on the south launch.  With all the paragliders launching, we were delayed more than we wanted.  By the time the launch cleared, the wind was over the back.  At best it came in crossing from the right.  We could not launch, but a couple more paraglider pilots launched.  They launched left to right across the launch.  If we tried that our right wing would hit the hill.  They can get away with it because their wing is so far above their head.


To fly we had to take the penalty hike and walk down to the north launch.  The thermals were still coming up the south side, but the wind was blowing straight in the north launch.  All we needed was enough wind to get us launched and then make an end run around the ridge to the south side and climb out. 


Rich launched first.  The wind died after his launch and it was another ten minutes before I was able to launch.  I found lift over the point (the west end of the ridge) the same place as last week.  This week the climb was much weaker and only carried me to 5,500’.  Rich was below playing pylon racing with the paragliders as pylons, all the while taking pictures (he took a whopping total of 445 pictures on this flight).  I was slowly loosing altitude and radio’d that I was heading south down the ridge.  We found some more lift a couple miles down the ridge and climbed above 6,000’.  Another two miles and we hit some really broken lift for just 200’ gain.


One of the many pylons we could use for a turnpoint when racing around the sky.


Another pylon.  Unfortunately, I could not stay that low to make much use of them ;-)


Climbing over Elk with Horse in the background.  The fall colors were quite beautiful.


On glide to the south looking west.


We went on glide to the end of Clover valley.  This is usually as far as one can go south unless you can climb above 6,000’ and can work your way along the east ridge.  Rich was down to 1,000’ agl.  I was about 400’ higher.  He said we could land in the last field at the east end of the valley.  I did not like the looks of it as it had horses in it and I could not tell where the fences were.  I thought, at least he was lower and would have to land first then he could tell me about the obstacles.


The field we thought we would have to land in is the one just right and below the center of the picture.


In the this video, you can see Rich below me heading toward the east side of the field. 


Rich started circling.  I flew over him and found nothing.  I asked him if he was climbing and he replied “about 2’ per minute”.  I kept searching around the area but after a couple of minutes I was at his altitude and climbing at 2’ per minute.  I though “great, now we will both have to land at the same time and find any obstacles together”.  After 7 minutes of just hanging around in nothing, the lift finally started to come together and we started climbing in earnest.  After 14 more minutes we were back above 5,500’ and could breath a sigh of relief.  Now we could make it to any number of much better LZs. 


The town of Upper Lake is in the left of the picture.  The field we want to make it to is on the other side of the ridge on the right of the picture.


This is a picture you don't get to see very often, it is looking north from Upper Lake.  Hull is in the center the

furthest away.  Horse is on the left top with Elk just in front. The secondary bailout we use is on the left side

of the picture in the canyon where the creek bed widens. 


As I was going through all of Rich's pictures I came across this one.  I chose it because it shows the wind

direction on the small pond in the upper center of the picture.  From the wind lines on the pond, we can tell

the wind is blowing from the upper left of the picture to the lower right.


Here is another picture I like.  It is of Bachelor Valley, just north of the field we will land in.  I like the colors

and is shows how deceiving landing areas can look from the air.  All of the fields in this picture have some

type of obstacle in them that make them useless for anything other than a dire emergency.


The field we will land in is in the upper center of the picture.  The fields in the lower part of the picture are

rice fields and will be planted and flooded.


We decided to fly to the field across the road from Rich’s house to make it easier for Kim to find us and pick us up.  On the 8 mile glide we hit more lift and climbed and took more pictures.  Over the LZ, the lift was even stronger and without trying I climbed 2,000’, just flying around not paying any attention to the lift.  Soon I was starting to get cold.  I was sweaty from the hike down from the south launch.  My harness has a huge gap behind my neck and it acts like an air scoop.  I tried to fix it will a small pillow, but the air still gets in.  One of these days I will find a harness that actually fits well and is as airtight as possible. 


This picture looks a lot like the one last week.  One of these days I will have to ask the rancher what those

dry looking circles are.


I left the lift and worked at finding sink to get down.  It took much more effort than it should but I worked my way down.  Kim was out in the field with streamers and I could see the wind was light and variable.  I picked the direction that was most consistent, but the last 30’ or so off the ground the wind shifted to a tail wind of about 3 mph.  I had a good flare and a no step landing, but the wind was just enough to push the nose of the glider over.  I was on my feet pulling as hard as I could but I could not stop it.  It was like a slow motion bonk. 



The field had a lot more cow pies this week than last.  It was difficult to find a place to break down and keep out of the pies.  Rich landed a few minutes after me in the same light conditions.  He had stayed up to take even more pictures.  Total distance for this dog leg flight was 18 miles.  It was an enjoyable day to end the flying season.   The fall colors were in their full glory and the sky was bright blue from the recent rains.  I still might get a sled run off Ed Levin, but it has been so long that I have flown there I will probably need another site intro.



My landing video, bonk.


Vince's IGC file.

Rich's IGC file.


Thanks for reading.