Click on any of the pictures for a high resolution version. All pictures copyright by Rich Sauer.
I figured out why I could not get my radio to work properly last week. I use an external battery pack that takes 8 AA rechargeable batteries. One of the batteries was not snapped all the way into the battery pack. Every time the pack moved a little it cut off power to radio and the radio would reset to 144.000 mhz. This is the first time I have had any problem with this set up in 6 years.
The weather forecast for Saturday looked promising. There was a front passing through early Saturday. After the passage the winds were forecast 10 to 15 mph out of the southwest. Lift was good and top of lift 8,000' to 13,000' along our planned route. We were hoping to fly from Elk toward the northeast in the direction of Lakeview OR. It looked like it could be a 100 mile day.
This is what it looked like out Rich's front door Saturday morning. This was the tail end of the front. Everything was going as planned.
In the picture, I am standing on the south launch. The sky to the west was clear blue with only a few lingering clouds. This picture was taken at 10:30. The sun felt very warm and cycles were already coming up launch.
The front was just passing Hull and moving at 20 to 25 mph. We could see some dry lighting in the distance. Apparently, the lightning had started some fires. We could see helicopters dropping water on one of the fires. At 10:30 we were not that concerned about the front. It looked like it would stay well ahead of us. We did plan on flying more to the east to avoid the fire fighting activities.
I purchased a 20 cubic foot bottle of helium (enough for about 50 balloons) so I could send up some balloons to do my own wind analysis. The cost comes out to about $.80 per balloon. You can see in the picture above how clear it is to the west.
The balloon showed the wind was blowing out of the southwest, just as predicted.
By 12:00 the day was falling apart. High level clouds were forming and cutting out the sun. They were not drifting in from the west as it normally the case. The front had stalled and an upper level trough was right above us. The thermals stopped coming up the south launch and the wind shifted to the north launch. We hiked our gliders down to the north launch. The clouds kept getting thicker. The air blowing up the north launch was 5 degrees cooler and gusting 10 to 15. Another balloon showed the wind had shifted to out of the northwest down low and southwest 1000' over launch.
The mountain in the distance is Hull. The lift situation over Elk looked dismal and our hopes for a great flight were dashed. We were looking for more than just air time, we wanted a great flight. We decided it was not worth flying so we broke down. Later in the day, past 4:30, the front broke up, moved on and the sky cleared up. Some of the pilots at Hull might have been able to get a flight later in the day. This was one of the stranger weather days I have seen here.