Kim, Rich's daughter took several of the pictures for this report.  If Rich is in the picture, most likely it was Kim holding the camera.

It has been almost a month since Rich and I last flew.  I have been out with a pulled muscle in my back and Rich has been busy at work (which is a good thing).  My back is still not 100% but I thought I could give it a go without doing more harm, like I did over the 4th of July weekend.  Rich still does not have a hang gliding vehicle and Bill is nowhere to be found (we last heard from him at the King meet).  I forgot to call Andy, so my only option was to drive my truck the 3.5 hours up to Rich's. 

I left at 5:00AM and arrived at Rich's right at 8:30.  We had plenty of time so we leisurely loaded our glider and headed up to Elk Mountain.  The forecast was for winds out of the south at 10 mph and top of lift around 7,500 at Elk and 11,000 at Hull.  With the south winds we always hope we can get up at Elk, fly over to Hull (about 18 miles) and then hop over to the central valley and points beyond.  Rich's daughter Kim volunteered to drive for us today.  She chose to drive up to the top of Elk so she could get used to my truck.  She did a great job, even missing the point where I always seem to bottom out. 

At launch at 11:00, we found the wind coming up the south side in nice cycles.  We chose to set up there and get off before the sea breeze came in and changed to prefer the north launch. 

We were set up and ready to go by 11:45.  I told Rich I thought a 12:00 launch would be soarable.  He agreed and we suited up and were ready to go by 12:00. 

That is Vince on the left and Rich on the right in our Sunday best (though it was still Saturday).

It is really nice having such strong cycles coming up the south side.  We don't see that very often.  It is usually light or blowing up the north launch. 

 I was off in just a few steps.  Rich had is even easier and was off in just one step.

I found a nice thermal near the west point and climbed 2,000', moved over a little and climbed another 1,300' to 7,100', my high for the day at Elk.  Rich was having trouble with his sinuses.  When that happens I can usually stay above him.  Today was no exception.  He was still at 6,800' when I was at 7,100' and announced I was heading for Hull.  7,100' does not leave much margin to get there and climb out, and 6,800 is even more dicey.  I was surprised when Rich followed.  I figured we had a 10 mph tail wind so that would help, which it did.  I averaged 24 to 1 on my first glide.

There were ratty clouds deep over the mountains by 12:00.

Our first waypoint, Hull, to the right of center of the picture.

After 3 miles I felt a bump off my left wingtip.  I turned and saw Rich behind and a little to my right start to turn.  He was in the better core so I flew back to him and we climbed back to 6,700, which gave us a little breathing room.  Another 3.6 miles later we again climbed back to 6,700'.  Now we had plenty of altitude to make it over to Hull and arrive above the house thermal (which is actually a house on the ridge).  Rich took a much better line and was 400' higher than me after a 6 mile glide.

 

This picture was at our first thermal after leaving Elk.

Here we are just above the "house".

We were able to come in over the house at 5,000' and immediately hook a 500 fpm thermal all the way to 7,500'.  It was now 1:00.  We flew right over Hull timberline launch to see a few pilots just arriving and unloading there gliders.  There were still more pilots driving up. We had been flying for an hour.  Even after we flew over, it still looked like no one was in a hurry to set up.  I guess Hull can be a good late site, but I am still surprised how late the pilots who fly there launch. 

There are three trucks in the picture above, but no one is setting up yet.

We headed over the top so see if we could get high enough to make the crossing to the central valley.  There were cloud streets just on the other side of the crossing, but they would not do us much good.  In three attempts, the best I could do was about 9,000', about 1,500 lower then we need to make the crossing.  Rich was not doing any better.  We tried to fly down windy ridge and over to San Headrin, but did not find any lift at either place.

There were some clouds forming on the west face of Snow mountain, about 13 miles to the southeast.  I climbed to 8,800 and headed that way.  Rich went by way of the LZ, then over toward snow.  Neither of us could make it to the clouds.  Rich was not feeling that great so he headed back to the LZ, climbed back up and flew over launch to take some pictures.  I continued to try to get to those elusive clouds. 

The cloud shadow in the middle left was the one we were trying to get to.

The cloud on the right was our target.

I made several attempts to get under them, finally succeeding on the 4th.  Each time I would get a little higher, but not enough to risk sinking out and having to land with no retrieve roads.  Each time I topped out I headed back to the west, find another thermal and try again.  When I did get under the clouds, I climbed to 8,000'.  There was a cloud street all the way to the top of Snow.  I could have easily flow over Snow to St. John, but I knew the urge would be to great and I would be on my own.

 

I had my camera with me so I was able to take this picture of Snow, with St. John in the distance to the left. 

After we had been flying for 2 hours, the pilots on Hull were still setting up and no one had launched.

Having succeeded to get up the west face of snow was a great achievement for me and made my day and flight.  Rich announced that he was landing.  I turned back to the LZ as well and soon joined him.

Rich landing.

Vince landing.

 We both had great landings. 

What I found was as we were landing from our almost 3 hour flight, the first pilots were just launching Hull.  We took our time breaking down and watched as various pilots landed.  Albert was the first to join us after his first flight in a year and a half.  Earlier this year he was involved in a car accident that left him with vertigo.  He was able to overcome it for the fight and it was not a factor.  It was great to see such enthusiasm from a pilot after a flight.  The next pilot to land was a complete surprise, Mike Barber.  He had flown all the way from Florida to fly Hull for the weekend.  A friend had given him an extra frequent flyer mileage ticket and someone had lent him a glider to fly. 

Mike Barber is talking to the pilot on the left, that's me sitting on the log.

Kim got this great shot of Mike K. landing a tandem.  With the shot zoomed in it looks like they are in the trees, when actually they are 200 yards in front.

Kim helps me break down my glider.

Soon the rest of the pilots landed and the serious lies, I mean stories, could be told in earnest.  There were lots and lots of smiles around the LZ.  All the landings were beautiful. 

A satellite view of our flight.  My track is in red and Andy Long's track is in green.

Again, my trace is in red and Andy Long's is in green.

My landing video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYjiwJ-FV8s

I took a video of my launch, but the camera does not have a wide angle lens and it did not show enough to look interesting.  I also thought a got some great footage of Rich and I thermaling together, but for some reason my camera did not record.  If I ever get money again, I will invest in another camera with a wider lens and a higher resolution.

Andy's IGC file.

Vince's IGC file.

Vince