Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

I guess before I post an entry about a pretty nice flight from Blackhawk on the 14th I should do one on a not so great flight from Pine Mountain over the Labor Day weekend. To be honest the main reason I hadn’t posted the write up earlier was because I was going through one of my, maybe it’s time to give the sport up, phases and just wasn’t in the mood. I get that way every once in awhile, especially after a so so flight. In this case it was that and the fact that they had another fatality at Kagel, making it two in the last two or three months; when you have kids that stuff weighs on you. You think, is it all worth it? After such a short flight the answer at that time was no. But like every other time I started thinking this way the feeling past with time and I was right back poring over the weather forecasts for the next opportunity to fly.

Anyway, here is quick recap of my 15 mile flight from Pine over the Labor Day weekend:

On Wednesday the forecast looked perfect: 14-15k tops with cloud development and light SW winds. It looked so good that tried to shame the Santa Barbara crew to come out and join Tony and me for a day of flying. They were supposed to head up to the Owens, but I happily pointed out that other than Saturday the forecast was saying that it wouldn’t be worth the trip and that they would do better by staying home and flying Pine. It worked. Five of them showed up at launch.

By Saturday morning the forecast wasn’t quite as good as the tops lowered to 12-13k with an added 20 % chance of thundershowers. We also had to contend with an upper level north until we got out into the Antelope Valley. Once out in the valley each model seemed to predict a different wind direction, from SSW to due west.

Despite the chance for overdevelopment the sky was completely blue when we stopped by the north launch to check the wind direction (light north). However, by the time that we got to the south launch a towering cloud had formed just east of the Chute. The cloud formed so fast I thought that the day would be over before we even finish setting up our gliders. But after the initial burst of activity things stabilized a bit.

I launched first. As you can see by my tracklog it took awhile to latch on to something. Tony launched right after, and after an initial climb out found himself down in the same position. It was, of course blowing south at launch altitude, but once I got above the ridge there was a pretty good north push. Despite the abrupt wind shift I had a fairly smooth climb to the mid tens. From launch I took a glide to the backside of Reyes where I tanked up to the mid 11s and headed for the Chute.

As you can see by the track of the thermal that I picked up just short of the Chute we had pretty strong NW wind at altitude. By the time that I topped out in the mid 12s I was back above the front range just east of Haddock Peak.

Up until then I was in the sun, but to the east the whole area north of the Chute was shaded in with development. A while back Tony got caught in some cloud suck to 19k (from a 13k base – yes you read that right) in the same area so I was a bit wary of taking a glide toward Grade Valley under the darken skies that extended out into the middle of Lockwood Valley. Because of my worries I flew through some lift in the beginning of my glide because I wanted to maintain a safe cushion between me and cloudbase. That ended up being a mistake because I didn’t hit any lift at all along my course line. As I write above, the shaded area extended well into Lockwood Valley. However, the southern edge of the sun line was just a mile or two off my right wing. From my position just short of Grade Valley I had a choice of either eking a glide to the sunny side of Lockwood or save some altitude by veering off to the south for the sun there. The problem with heading south is that there is only one area to land in. I would have to keep the LZ within reach while searching for lift. The terrain wouldn’t allow me to just drift downwind. Because I didn’t think that I had the horse power to make it to the sunny side of Lockwood high enough to search for lift I opted to head south. Besides, there was a line of wispies that extended from the back side of Thorn Point (the east end of Pine) to Alamo Mountain.

Well, the decision didn’t pay off and I was soon on the ground less than 15 miles from launch.

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