Thursday, March 3, 2011
Well, I said that I usually don't do a lot of flying during the fall months. The problem with trying to pick the good days is that they don't always correspond with your schedule. You don't want to waste a kitchen pass on an average day for fear the following weekend will turn epic. So you keep waiting. Only, the next thing you know five months have gone by.
Anyway, after what seemed like weeks of offshore winds we finally saw a change in the weather pattern. The offshore stuff had given way to a series of cold fronts. Just what you like to see when flying in Santa Barbra. Earlier in the week Robert Millington had flown out to the interstate (60+ miles)in about two and a half hours in classic post-frontal conditions. The forecast called for another storm to come through Saturday afternoon to early Sunday morning, leaving Sunday afternoon and Presidents' Day post-frontal. We were to celebrate my son's birthday at the paintball park on Sunday so Monday was my day to fly.
As I've mentioned in the past the problem with post-frontal days in Santa Barbara is that often times the winds can be too strong over the back and or cloud base too low for a great flight. On Sunday the winds were OTB for most of the day. And looking at the forecast it looked like cloud base might be an issue for Monday. But the lapse rate look good to about 6k and the winds light SW. I talked Owen Morse into joining me for the trek up. Tony Deleo graciously volunteered to drive for us. We would pick up Tom Truax along the way.
Well, cloud base ended up being an issue. It was a fun short flight, albeit an expensive one.
Owen hadn't flown XC toward the east before so I played tour guide. I got up to cloud base (3500ft) above the Thermal Factory and then flew out to the Antenna Farm where Owen was getting established. Cloud base was low, but the lift was pretty much everywhere. Because of the low base, I had to take a line to Shadow Peak before making my way over to Montecito.
Back at the Antenna Farm I assumed that Owen saw me go on glide and followed behind. However, that wasn't the case so I hung out on the east spine of Montecito waiting for him to catch up.
Another quick climb to cloud base at East Romero and then off to the east with Owen in tow.
Back at launch it looked like base was high enough east of Romero to at least give the Casitas Pass a shot; by the time we got to the area things had filled in, however. East of Castle Ridge I had hoped to skirt along the bottom of the clouds, but the lift was just too prevalent and so I had to bail off to the SE to avoid getting whited out. Owen was still back a bit so I got on the radio to say that I was forced off of the range and that he might want to consider turning around. However, right after that, Tom, who had launched before us, transmitted that he had climbed to 7200 ft up the face of the clouds just behind Cate school. That prompted everyone to head out to the front points, including Robert Millington and John Hesch who were just behind us on the range.
After getting back to base at Snowball I pushed along the front points east hoping to find the same lift as Tom. Barring that the idea was to work my way up Laguna Ridge, which was still below base. I'd get to cloud base there and then peek over the side to see what kind of glide I would need in order to get to the fields north of Lake Casitas. Unfortunately, I didn't find lift at the base of Laguna so I decided to go for and out and return instead. But I got stuck in a hole, along with Owen and John Hesch (Robert turned around at Snowball), and never got high enough to get back on course. Owen and John landed in the big field just south of the yellow portion of the track log. The LZ was someone's personal polo ground. I wasn't sure how we would be received so I opted for Cate school instead. It turned out that those guys were more welcomed than I was.
Cate School. The tracklog is cut off a bit. I landed in right center field, only this isn't an updated image. The school has added new landscaping. See Below for my crude rendering:
I indicated earlier that it was a fun but expensive flight. I took out two downtubes and a corner bracket dodging the newly added trees.
Distance: 14 Miles
Max Alt: 3,600 ft.
Tom would end up landing in Fillmore. Let's just say that he didn't actually climb up the face of the cloud when he reached 7200 ft.