Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt and Flight

We're a mixed religion family. We never go to church or temple, but we do recognize the holidays. Of course this past Sunday was Easter and what would the day be without an Easter egg hunt. The only problem was that the forecast was calling for a potentially good hang gliding day. So I did what any selfish father would do and scheduled the hunt for the crack of dawn so that I could be at launch at a reasonable time.

Despite having the hunt so early one of Bari's friends accepted our invitation to join her in the fun. Our dog Phoebe must like the scent of hard-boiled eggs, because she seemed to be in most of the pictures that were taken of the day.

Poor Nicholas, though, had some kind of bug and didn't get to sleep until about one a.m. and was still feeling it in the morning so he didn't participate until later in the day when he starting feeling better. And no, the remaining eggs weren't left outside all day waiting for him to find them.

Three hours after Bari had gathered her last egg I was set up and ready to go at the EJ Bowl launch in Santa Barbara. That's my usual flying partner's (Tony Deleo) VR in front of my Litespeed.

Originally we were thinking that Kagel might be the place to be. They were calling for light NE winds with thermal tops around 8k. Even though I live in L.A. I rarely fly Kagel so I'm no expert in reading the weather conditions for the place, but it looked to me like it could be one of those classic convergence days that I keep hearing about. A day to fly Crestline and beyond. But Saturday the forecast was calling for similar conditions and it ended up blowing down all day so we opted to head up to Santa Barbara instead.We were supposed to have record temps and the lapse rate looked great to about 6k, but because the mountains are so close to the ocean in SB you're never quite sure what you're going to get; the marine air has a habit of shutting things down in a hurry. Because of that we decided to start a little higher up on the range and launch from EJ Bowl rather than the Eliminator. Tony launched first and I was few minutes behind just after noon.

Both the RR and the Thermal Factory were working fine -- although, as you can see I had to search a bit before dialing into something above the latter.

Up ahead Tony seemed to be doing fine, but I didn't find anything at Montecito Peak itself and had to drop off to the east spine where I proceeded to drop below 3k hanging on to any scraps that would keep me in the ball game. Looking over to East Romero I could see that Tony was struggling too. After awhile both of us climbed out at about the same time despite the mile distance between us. It's funny how that works.
Romero wasn't that much different than Montecito, but I didn't have to hang around as long. Out front Tony was getting up at Castle Ridge so I left a little lower than I normally would (note the strong west drift at Romero). Didn't find anything on the spine that Tony was climbing out on so I continued on to the next one down the line where I found my strongest thermal since leaving launch which enabled me to get ahead of the Atos.

A few thermals later I had reached Noon Peak, the start of the Casitas Pass, comfortably. I climbed out right away to the mid 4s, but rather than take that altitude and continue on I decided to step back to the back of the range where I was hoping to find a convergence. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out and so I was forced to go back out front only to watch Tony climbed out above me to regain the lead. Feeling frustrated after not finding cohesive lift, I eventually ended up leaving for West Divide lower than my original climb out.

At Divide I never did reach the top of the peak (too impatient to hang tight -- although Divide is no place to be messing around waiting for something better to come through) so I ended up tempting fate again by coming in way low at Whiteledge. However, the 3 hour hike, sans glider, will have to wait for another day.

My normal go to spot after leaving Whiteledge wasn't working on this day, but I found something just west of Rte 33 that got me over to the Pyramid where I had on of the highest and smoothest climb out of the day. It was supposed to be in the 90s in Ojai so I had little doubt that that flying would be stellar once we reached the valley. I wasn't disappointed.

I usually stay out on the front points in Ojai, but because I had the altitude I decided to step back to the high ground at Chief's Peak; it wasn't worth it. I ended up having to angle back out front on my way to Boyd's. Normally Boyd's can be counted on to get you high enough for the glide to Santa Paula Peak but not on this day; nearby Puckers, however, was going off.

With light NE winds, the hope going into the day was to eke into Ojai from Santa Barbara and then work the NE/SW convergence to points east once we got to the Santa Clara river basin. Unfortunately, the sea breeze didn't over power the offshore stuff as far inland as we had hoped. Both Tony and I left the east side of Santa Paula Peak in the mid 7s with a west drift, but at 3:00 it was still blowing east at 15 mph in nearby Fillmore. In front of me, after getting tired of bucking a headwind, Tony opted to turn around at the 50 mile mark and land in Fillmore. Of course, I had to at least match that, but instead of turning around I tried to stretch out my flight as far as possible. I landed at the 50.64 mile mark. At 4 o'clock it was still blowing east in the LZ.

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