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Nordhoff Peak, to home (Carpinteria)
Strong gradient driven Santa Anna event with gust over 40 in the funnels during flight time. There was more north on the ridge lines than a typical Santa Anna, possible because the day was more gradient driven than subsistence driven. The north wind at altitude persisted up range to about Noon Peak, but once past The Power Line Crossing, it was drawing from the ocean on the high ridge.
Since it was blowing hard, I took the late bus to launch (TQ, Rotor, Craig, Cally & Marcia for Crew). It was gusting over 20 on the ridge line at our wind check, but launch was only zero to 10. The Sylmar Pilots were ready to go when we got to Nordhoff Peak about 11:15. 10 HGs and 3 PGs. The first pilots off were drifting from the NE, and only getting into the high 4s. I waited till just after noon and followed the gaggle west bound before connecting with a reasonable thermal on the west end of the front ridge.
Got into the upper 4s over The Pyramid, and headed across for White Ledge Ridge. The drift was from the NE, so I let it push me out to the south. I was hoping it would drift me into a convergence across the mouth of the canyon. I blundered into a reasonable thermal over the highway just north of The Diversion Dam, and climbed from 34 back up to 4K. The drift was minimal from the NNW. I thought 4K would be plenty to connect and expected to get out of the north wind once I got past the gap. I was able to follow the convergence seam all the way over to the sheltered valley out in front of Bump 3, but the north wind persisted.
Lost the convergence and had to run for the SE spine coming off the low foothills in front of White Ledge. Came in on the spine a bit below the top with 23 and tracked a small week thermal up the spine (from the SE) toward the cow pasture. It got better and I topped about 38 over the pasture. I was on a buoyant seam drifting from the SE, but if I continued to drift with it, I'd get downwind of the saddle connecting the foothills to White Ledge, so I went up the saddle.
The lower stuff was protected from the NE, so I could ride the convection up the Rocks on the SE side of White Ledge, but the NE was persistent every time I approached an edge. I was still able to work up, but was cautious and would shy away from the NE each time I encounter it. I finally climbed above 4 and moved over to the SW side. It was blocking better, but I was leery about being in the lee. John Kloer was bring up the rear and was having some success pressing upwind for better cores. I backtracked upwind toward the point, and let him guard the upwind edge. We climbed above the peak in a surging zinger. I ran downwind when John went over the falls on the upwind side.
The connection at East Divide was going to be critical. I wanted to intercept above the saddle, but had north wind at altitude on the glide. I thought I might need to run for the Chismahoo side of the saddle, but was expecting to fall below the north wind down lower. If I pressed against the north drift, and wound up on the wrong side of the action, I would be caught caught in the saddle. By the time I got to my decision point, the north had abated and I angled back to the NW for the deeper intercept. It needed to work or I'd be hiking. I was going for an intercept on the first point uphill from the saddle and would intercept just below the point. I was encouraged to start picking up drift from the SE a few hundred yards out, but was worried because I didn't find any lift until I was right on the face. I was pretty relieved after climbing the first couple hundred feet, and the thermal tracked nicely up the spine. John Kloer came in a bit uncertain and had to hang on between cycles. He finally climbed out good enough to connect over to Divide. I left in the upper 4s and played for the back peak at West Divide, but it wasn't working so I needed to fall off into the saddle. Found a smoothie and climbed into the upper 4s.
Got to about 5K at noon and tested the glide southbound. It looked iffy, so I turned for The Power Line Crossing. Worked over to the western point along The Power Line Ridge and topped in the lower 4s. The drift was neutral, but showing signs of lower level west on the water. It was a little after 2, so we still had 30 to 60 minutes, but it was getting weak. Pam and Sam were at Hanna's birthday party (2 years old) in Carp. I opted for the family and headed out. Arrived over the party with about 2 K and placed a cell call to get their attention. My aero is a bit limited by current standards, but they liked the spiral dives. The kids walked over to El Carro Park to watch the landing. Touchdown about 2:20. John followed about 20 minutes later.
The HGs tried to take the traditional route up White Ledge Ridge, rather than following the convergence seam out front. They all floundered in the lee and hit the dirt short of White Ledge.
The chatter from SB was encouraging. I heard pilots topping in the upper 4s. Hammer was down range at Ramero reporting drift from the SW shortly afternoon.