Last weekend the weather reports for our local site did not seem very encouraging.  The pilots who did fly only got to 4,800'.  There seemed to be too much risk of having to land in the creek bed for the reward.  This Saturday looked much better.  The blip maps were showing lift above 7,000' and lighter westerly winds.

Linda drove Rich and I up to Elk Saturday morning.  We were hoping to be able to launch there and then fly over to Hull.  From there we could hop across the mountains to the northern central valley of California.  When we got to launch at 10:30, the wind was coming up the north launch, not a good sign for a flight to Hull.

Click on the pictures for a higher resolution version.  All pictures are copyright by Rich Sauer.

There were lots of buzzards flying, but none were getting very high.  Rich launched first after waiting through several cycles making sure it would be soarable.  When it was my turn to launch, I had to wait almost 20 minutes for a launchable cycle.  In the mean time Rich had climbed out and flew over to Horse and back.  When I did launch, I climbed slowly to 6,400' (about 2,400' over launch).  Sometime during my launch, my radio became unplugged.  I was in very light lift at 6,400' so I tried to get the radio working left handed while flying with only my right hand.  I managed to plug in the radio, but when I did, the frequency changed.  I thought I was able to get the frequency correct, but I still could not transmit or receive.  After 20 minutes of one handed flying I gave up.  I looked at my altimeter and I had managed to climb to 7,100', not bad for one hand. 

Before we launched and after we saw the wind coming up the north launch, we changed our plans and set a goal to the Williams glider port, 44 miles to the east.  Rich and I have set up a lost communications protocol.  In the event of lost communications, the pilot without the radio contact will either fly out to the normal LZ and land, or follow the other pilots and land wherever they do.  I was above Rich so I just watched and hoped he would head to Williams.  I sunk some and he climbed up and we ended up at the same altitude.  He saw I was with him so he headed out with me following.  I did not want to get ahead of him in case he sunk out and I would need to land next to him.

In the picture we are still over Elk and the red line shows our route to the south east.

We worked our way slowly down the ridge.  Because of the lack of radio communications, Rich either had to wait for me to catch up or I was waiting for him.  Because of the slow start, after 2 hours we were only 11 miles from launch. 

This picture is further down the ridge over High Glade.  The haze is caused by all the fires we are having in California.

We started to get into sync and were able to fly much faster. 

We had talked about cutting straight down the ridge from Pinnacle, (the ridge is in the right side of the picture) and then across the north end of Indian Valley Reservoir.  When we came to the point were where had to make a choice, we did not find any lift so we headed more southeast down Long Valley. 

About half way down long valley I found some lift and climbed to 5,600'.  Rich was about 1/2 mile to the west and was climbing fast so I headed up wind and found his thermal.  Together we climbed to 7,600'.  We had been climbing just above 7,000' most of the trip.  As we were climbing in this thermal, I spotted a sailplane climbing on the other side of Indian Valley Reservoir, about 8 miles away (the red arrow in the picture above).

After topping out, I headed for the thermal the sailplane had showed me.  Rich actually got there first, though he never saw the sailplane.  This was a good thermal taking us to over 8,000'.  You can see the smoke in the picture above.  My vario was showing that I had Williams by 3,400' so I went on glide with Rich right beside and above me.

This picture shows Bear Valley, looking north.  Indian Valley reservoir is just to the left of the picture.

As I went on glide I picked up my airspeed to over 40 mph to see how the sink was.  It cost me about 400' over 16 miles compared to Rich who was flying closer to 35 mph. 

The Williams glider port is next to the red arrow.  The wind was blowing at 70 degrees across the runway at about 10 mph.  We chose to land in the 1 mile long, 1/2 mile wide field to the left of the glide port in the picture.  I guess the only field better would be one with a nice mowed grass.  I arrived over the field with 2,000' to spare.  To burn off altitude, I tried to write my name in the sky so it would show up on my track log.

I think you can make out the V I N, but the C and the E came together.  The wind had picked up a little and I did not compensate properly. 

This is me on final.  There is a canal along the top edge of the field.  The arrow points to a bridge across the canal so that's where I am heading.  I saw the bridge as I circled over the field.   Rich landed a few minutes after me.  When he came in a thermal kicked off.  If you watch the video I took, you can see when his nose pitches up as he hits it, then he flies out the side of it as he is flaring.

Rich's landing video  The video was taken with my helmet camera so it is not the best quality.  It also looks dark out even though it is not even 5:00 PM.  I was supposed to take inflight video, but I did not hit the correct button just before I launched.

The satellite view of our track.

My bario trace.

Rich's track log.

Vince's track log.

After landing, several sailplane pilots came over to talk.  Larry Roberts is a former hang glider pilot and flew past us just before we landed.  We packed up and headed home after our first decent flight of this season.  My flight was 3 hours and 30 minutes and Rich was about 30 minutes longer.  My neck is sore today from constantly looking around.  Without the radio, I had to be extra vigilant not to loose sight of Rich.  This was the first time in 5 years I have had any kind of radio problem. 

Vince