Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Santa Barbara 58 Miles

Geez, no flights through the Casitas Pass in at least five years and now two in two weeks. And I wasn't even planning on flying. Bates was showing some potential for Sunday, the 5th so I was thinking that I would fly then. After a nice long XC flight two weeks ago I was looking for a change of pace. Saturday looked OK for the mountains, but not all that spectacular. The plan for the day was to do some yard work. I was actually at Home Depot picking up some sod when Tom Truax called to tell me that I should be heading up to Santa Barbara instead; that it could be a record setting day.

I should note here that even though I didn't think it looked like an epic day, I did text another pilot before heading to Home Depot that he should consider flying this day rather than wait to fly Bates with me on Sunday. Of course, the pilot, Todd Quayle, called me too to get me to come up.

Let's see...It's 7:30 now...realistically, after dropping off the sod and getting ready, I wouldn't be out the door until at least 8:30...an hour to pick up him and at least another hour to launch...half hour to set up...hmm, 11:00 launch...that's not so bad...I'm in. Wait, do we have logistics? No. While contemplating whether or not it would be worth the hassle Tony Deleo called to tell me how good it looked and that if worse came worse he would be willing to pick us up at the end of the day. About the same time another text came in saying, "Don't worry, we'll get you back to your truck somehow."

With such short notice, I didn't have the time to charge my radio properly. A fact that may or may not have cost me a longer flight (more later).

About half-way to picking up Todd, Tony called to let me know that an earlier appointment that he had to attend was postponed and that he would be able to drive for us.

I don't know what time it was when we finally arrived at launch. After making a couple of sidetracks it was at least an hour later than what we were thinking. Tom had already gotten a ride up with the PGS and was just getting airborne when we arrived.

I don't know if it was caused by the scramble to get out the door or the political discussion in the truck on the way to launch, but I found myself really distracted setting up. Because of that I probably launched at least a half-hour after the first pilot, Robert Millington punched off.

Launch was good for a couple of turns, but I didn't see the point of hanging around so I took what I had and headed to the Thermal Factory. There I found a nice thermal that took me to just below 5k. Out in front, Robert and the early PGS were reporting good altitudes over Montecito Peak and the Saddle. TQ had been dealing with harness issues and was just climbing out at the Antenna Farm. No other HG planned to fly XC. For that matter, Robert wasn't going to join us XC preferring to fly an out and return instead.

Launch, Thermal Factory, Momtecito, and The Saddle
Despite getting to a nice altitude at the Thermal Factory and the reports from the pilots in front of me, I found nothing to stop for at Montecito Peak. Because of that I came into the Saddle well below the road cut, which oftentimes means a short flight. And that's despite the fact that the Saddle is one of the most reliable spines on the range. Of course, if a short flight was my fate there wouldn't be this blog entry. Even though I came in lower than my last flight I left higher. Somewhere in the high 4s.

Castle Ridge
To be honest I didn't find this flight all that fun. The air was very choppy in spots with punchy thermals. No more so than the stretch between Castle Ridge and the Powerline Crossing. I never really got high. Only gaining enough altitude in broken lift to make a play for the next spine down the line. Along the way Robert past me heading back the other way from his Whiteledge turnpoint.

Powerlines, Noon Peak and Divide Peak
Things did open up a bit near the Powerlines and I was able to fly over to Noon Peak comfortably. There I had a quick climb to 5k, before heading to Divide and the start of the Casitas Pass (at about the same time my radio went dead). Divide worked great as did Whitledge (note on my track where I found the thermal).

On my last flight I had one of my best climbs just short of Bump 3, the usual go to spot; I was able to make it all the way to Nordoff on the glide. Not only did I not get up at the same spot on this flight, but Bump 3 wasn't working either. It would take four thermals on various spines to get to Nordoff this time...and at a much lower altitude.

Bump 3 to Nordoff
Whereas on my last flight I opted to not spend a lot of time working the turbulent lift found here, I had no choice but to stop this time if I wanted to continue on. As it turned out I made it to the Chiefs' spine in about the same position for both flights. But, instead of flushing off this time Chief's was producing more like a typical a day. Soon I was over West Repeater topping out close to 8k, the highest point of the day. High enough to head to Santa Paula Peak directly (I did fly over the Bluffs but didn't find anything worth stopping for).

Getting High at West Repeater
I past my first PG near the 33; I met up with my second one on the west corner of Santa Paula Peak (most landed in Ojai) where we shared a nice thermal, but one that didn't get us very high. My last flight spoiled me. Having gotten up to close to 9k just a bit east of where I was I didn't feel the need to go searching for the lift when I lost it. I was high enough to get to where I found my thermal during my last flight. Only this time it wasn't there. I ended up flying off the mountain below 5k. Instead of flying all the way past Piru on a glide, I would now have to work the lift over the foothills above Fillmore if I wanted to continue.

No Love at Santa Paula Peak
Nothing on the west end of the foothills, but as I worked south toward the 126 I found a low leaner right before the start of the river basin. Down below 1000 ft AGL I managed to make my way back to the mid 4s.

In Piru I found another low leaner, but instead of drifting me due east it had more south in it and was taking me back to the lake. Not liking my trajectory I opted to head east on a glide rather than search for the lift again after falling out of it. At this point I was actually higher than I was at the same spot during my last flight. Despite the different ways of getting there I actually hit the same spot where I found my last thermal of the day during my last flight at the same altitude. Only this time I didn't connect. There was lift there; I just didn't make it happen. Not long after that I was on the ground.

Comparing the end of the two flights

Not to make excuses, but I wasn't feeling all that well toward the end of the flight and I just wasn't up to doing what it would take to make it work. But this is where not having a radio didn't help matters. Tom had been in the same area at the same altitude right before me. But he hung in there and found enough cohesive lift to eventually take him to over 7k. He would eventually go on to fly into the Antelope Valley and break the site PG record with a 94 mile (straight line) flight. Had I heard his progress I might have been a little more focused. Having said that, I would not have attempted to follow him into the Antelope. Interstate 5 would have been it for me. At 58 miles I fell 4 miles short.  


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