Sunday, April 13, 2008

Marshall April 13th

The forecast was calling for 8-9k tops and light SE winds everywhere in Southern California from the L.A. Basin to the Central Valley so it seemed only logical to call a Crestline to Bakersfield goal. Sure we would have liked the tops in the desert higher, but what the hay, there is nothing wrong with aiming high -- get up above 10k above the Tahachepis and you practically have Bakersfield on a glide; the valley floor is only about 500ft. MSL.

Of course there was the little problem of the predicted morning NE winds. When the upslope switch occurred was key to how successful we would be. I met Bruce Barmakian at his house in San Bernardino at 8:00 just in case we decided that the winds wouldn't cooperate and we would head to Blackhawk instead.

The decision was made early to wait out the local winds. And wait out we did. Because of a persistent north we were unable to launch until just before 3:00. Fortunately, famed juggler Owen Morse was part of our crew; he promised that he could teach us how it was done in less than 20 minutes. So there we were, two truck loads of pilots atop of Marshall throwing rocks up in the air waiting for the winds to turn around. Surprisingly, no one got beaned; as a matter of fact, we all did pretty well -- although I don't think Owen has to worry about anyone taking food off of his table any time soon.

In our crew it was Bruce, RebarDan, Owen and me with Wally driving; we punched off together in that order as soon as our gliders were set up and ready to go. Owen and Bruce found something to left, and Dan and I to the right. After a slow start everything coalesced somewhere in the middle for a quick smooth climb to 9,000 ft (I'm the white track). Unfortunately, Owen missed the boat and was on the ground soon after. Apparently his fate was shared by about half the pilots on launch.

Ugh, more radio problems. I would have to chase the rigids around with the hope that they would see me following them OTB into the desert.

Another, not so smooth climb to the high 10s near Sugar Pine Mtn and it was "Game On," with Bruce leading the way -- at least I think it was Bruce; I lost track of the other rigid. Regardless, all three of us (four, if you count a very aggressive hawk) met up again just east of the Cajon Pass on the backside of the range.

Bruce bailed first in the mid 9s, followed by Dan soon after. I stayed back and was rewarded with another climb out to the mid 10s. I lost track of Bruce but I could see Dan taking a line along a ridge to the north of the valley that leads up toward Wrightwood from the 15. Because I left higher I was able to come in even with him as he was climbing out over the ridge. We didn't get terribly high but it was enough to keep moving on. But here I made a big strategical mistake: as Dan and I ran up the ridge together -- the Litespeed did a pretty good job of keeping up -- I found a slightly better line on the desert side of it. Because of that, and not having radio contact with Bruce to see how he was doing up ahead and where, I decided to go with it and angle out to the flats. Dan, and finding out later, Bruce, opted to stay in the mountains. Both were rewarded with eventual climb outs to 12k near the Mountain High ski area. I on the other hand was never able to get above 8300 ft for the rest of my flight.

Despite not getting terribly high I managed to make it to the Crystal Air sailport in pretty good shape. As I was coming in I could see a sailplane getting dropped off in a thermal to the north of my course line. I headed in his direction, but the lift proved to be fleeting. Both of us bailed at about the same time with the sailplane heading north and me west.

At just over 42 miles above the town of Pear Blossom, the old home of the USHGA, I ran into a headwind. Without contact with the other pilots because of my radio problems, and thinking that the seabreeze had pushed through (it hadn't; just some localized west wind I guess), I turned around thinking that I'd try an out and return. I didn't get far. And as you can see when I took a low leaner off the deck near the end of the flight it actually had a NE drift (didn't like where it was drifting me to so I threw in the towel and landed). At dark when I was eventually picked up, the seabreeze still hadn't come through so my decision to turn around was an obvious blunder. Live and don't learn - read how my previous flight ended.

Both of the rigids made it to west of Palmdale with Bruce taking the day with a 72 miler landing near the poppy reserve.

No comments: