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Kristi Bechtold
Friday, 3/15/2013

Skyport to Matilija Canyon (Ojai)

First Flight to Ojai

I heard that the rest of the crew was meeting at Parma around 9:30am but I had a client and wasn't able to leave the house until 11:00am.

I drove off to Parma thinking that I was too late to catch a ride with anyone and planned on going up alone.  Fortunately, Kevin and Tom Beidler were on their way up when I arrived at Parma.  So, I packed my gear in the back of the truck and we were off.

When we arrived at Skyport, Mike was preparing to launch.  A few other pilots before him hit a lull werenít able to make it up and already landed.  Mike launched and unfortunately had a similar experience.

There was a lot of skepticism at launch but I brushed it off and noticed that Christian was laid out but didnít look like he was in any hurry.  So, I got my gear ready to go.  Tom Truax arrived within minutes encouraging us to get off.  With that I chose the next good cycle, pulled up and took off.  I worked the house thermal then left for the East Ridge.

I soared awhile on that ridge then took off to the next.  The west winds were pushing through, as soon as I felt I was high enough to make the connection and or topped out of the thermal, I ran for it.

The last flight I had was a few weeks ago following Tom Truax to Montecito, I landed in Shotgun Farmerís field.  I didnít know what this day was going to be like but I certainly wasnít going to do that again.  I saw a paraglider ahead a few ridges and worked my way over there.  It seemed as if he was waiting for the rest of us.

By this time, Christian launched and skied out and Tom Truax was working his way to the East Ridge.  I was a few ridges down range from Tom but felt confident having him on course with me.  He was right there encouraging and offering guidance to me as well as the other pilots that were making their first time journey to Ojai.  THANK YOU, TOM!

I hit a few really challenging thermals with a few collapses and thermal rotor but as soon as I had enough altitude I took off for the next ridge.  There were a few low points where I had to work my way up the ridge but it was fairly big air that day so I didnít have a lot of scratching or ridge soaring to get up.

I did fairly well until I passed White Ledge Peak.  I knew Brendan was at the Nut House and we had a discussion the night before about the uncomfortableness of flying together.  That was playing on my mind and I wasnít sure what to do but I forged ahead with Tom behind me warning me of the strong southerly wind blowing up the canyon just passed White Ledge.

Even with the awareness and warning from Tom, I still got caught in it blown back over the ridge.  I thought I might be able to penetrate with my speed bar but it was too strong.  I kept going back and down towards Matilija Reservoir.  I was preparing for a challenging landing given the Easterly winds were blowing strong through the canyon.  While I was setting up and trying not to get blown further down the canyon, I ended up being blown back into rotor behind a ridge and dropped down in the canyon.  I came down softly near the riverbed.  However, my wing was sprawled out over several trees.  I was fine but I needed some help.  I wasnít getting very far hanging in the trees trying to work my way through.  Chris, who landed near the Highway 33, and Eddie, finally found me.  Chris stayed behind to help with the wing retrieval.  THANK YOU, CHRIS!!

The funny part was carrying the incorrectly loaded top-heavy harness out to the road down and under bushes along the riverbed.  If I wasnít completely balanced the harness would swing to one side or the other or even worse fall backwards and Iíd lay there like a upside down turtle.  Chris was right there lending a helping hand.  It was pretty funny given the drama earlier that day.

When we made it out to the road, we were fortunate enough to have a short hike before a really nice couple, Bi and Sylvia, picked us up and drove us to the Nut House where we saw Brendanís truck.  I figured Brendan would need to get his truck back to Nordhoff.  Just as I was calling him to let him know where we were and my plan to drive the truck back, Tom Pipkin drove up with Brendan in the passenger seat.  It was so nice to see them and share our experiences.  They have been my flying buddies for such a long and it was great to celebrate with them.

Brendan was nice enough to offer to drive Chris and I back to Santa Barbara as we were pretty much stranded there in Ojai.  THANK YOU BRENDAN!!!

Sarah Char Comment:

You Go Girl!


It is awesome to see women like you, Jill and Irene takn' on the skies with such ardor and skill!  My thoughts will always be with you ladies that you will be safe and free from injury in you XC endeavors.


Casey Rodgers Comment:

Women's SB Record

If I am not mistaken, Kristi is the first female through the 'Pass'. Congratulations!

You passed me on the way to the Power Lines and never looked back. Impressive.

-- Casey


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