The reports of fantastic weather were greatly exaggerated (which is so often the case). Rich and I were going to fly Elk as usual. I looked at the forecast and it showed a northwesterly air flow. This is never good for Elk. The blips were not very good with lift at only 400 FPM (remember to subtract your sink rate), which would mean we would see 250 FPM. Top of lift was to be 7,000' which would be good if it came true. The only thing that came true was the wind, which turned out to be mostly west at 13 mph, increasing to 16 mph later in the day.
Since there was so much talk of great flights, we stopped at the south launch, which is usually happening on a good day. The wind was already over the back at 10:30 in the morning. This really put a damper on our spirits as we seldom get great flights launching off the north side. Since we were going to be stuck on the north launch, there was no need to hurry and launch which can be the case launching from the south launch so you don't get stuck on launch. Rich spent the time replacing a tip cam that broke last week as he was breaking down his glider. I had one break two years ago so I made my own tip cams, improving the design to be stronger (I also make my own fish cams, but have not had to replace any on the VR). On Thursday I had made Rich one of them to replace his broken one.
Broken tip cam.
By 1:00 the wind was blowing 5 to 8 on launch, but too cool to be thermals. We launched anyway to see what we could find.
Rich snapped this picture as he was adjusting his camera.
Rich launch first and climbed slowly in ridge lift. I launched about 5 minutes later. I forgot to set my flaps. It did not make much difference on the launch run, but I noticed it as soon as I tried to work the lift, the glider was flying much too fast. For the next hour we worked light ridge lift, never getting much more than 500' above launch. It was a lot worse than last week. We stuck it out, hoping some thermals would soon be breaking through. We could feel them pushing, but they never could break through the marine layer that had moved in from the west.
I liked this picture because it showed how close our performance is. We were usually within 50' of altitude from each other.
Last week, Rich was able to stay 200' above me most of the day. This week I remembered to push my outer two ribs down which makes a lot of difference in performance. I found this out in Florida on the second day I flew the glider at the Flytec comp in 2005. The newer versions have the outer ribs fixed to the extension tubes. I laughed to myself when I heard on the worlds in 2006, some of the pilots had just figured this out and were trying to adjust their outer ribs.
This is just north of Elk looking south to Clear Lake.
Looking north toward Lake Pillsbury and Hull.
With the mostly smooth air, Rich had a lot of time to take pictures, 233 of them, which is why there are plenty of pictures in this report (for such a short flight, only 1 hour and 35 minutes). After more than an hour and still not getting higher, I suggested we look south on Pitney Ridge. I left Elk and headed straight across the canyon. Rich flew more to the west in a circular path. I was rewarded with 600 fpm down most of the way. Rich got there 800' higher than me. I worked the first lift I found, light broken ratty stuff. I was going up and down so much I had to depend on my altimeter to determine if I was actually climbing. The thought of landing in the creek bed kept me motivated.
The creek bed that is our bailout. The red lines indicate power lines that cross the creek. We land to the right of the power lines. There are 5 or 6 sets of power lines that cross the creek.
Rich was not finding much lift and flew over the creek bed to look at the bailout. What he found was lift. The ridge to the west was sheltering the wind and allowing the creek bed to heat up and generate thermals. He started climbing out. I had worked back up to 4,000'. I could see across the ridge to the field at the south end of Bachelor valley. This field is in hay and looked a lot more inviting than the rock strewn creek bed. Rich had the same idea. We both made it out of the canyon and across the ridge.
Where would you rather land, in the creek bed, or the field in the lower part of the picture above?
The wind had picked up to 16 mph making for very broken thermals and lots of turbulence once below the tops of the ridges. Rich and I both had nice landings in the waist high hay. When landing in vegetation this high, you can't run it out, you have to drop in with a no step landing. My only concern was the tail grabbing the hay as I flared, which it did not. We landed heading toward the highway. The trees along the highway are about 30', so to avoid the rotor we landed almost 100 yards back. The hardest part of the flight was walking a 105 pound glider with a 25 pound harness through waist high hay in 100 degree heat. We could not lift our gliders high enough to clear the hay so we had to drag the base tubes through the hay.
There was an area where the hay was not as tall where we broke down. It was 100° in the shade.
Standing in tall hay.
The day turned out too much to be what we expected. We look at it as a training flight, working on our scratching ability. I am heading to visit my parents over the Memorial Day weekend, so I won't be hang gliding for two weeks. Hopefully when I get back the flying will be better.
My track log.
Rich's track log.