Nordhoff Peak to Back Step to Santa Paula
8 miles + 20, 3 hours 40 minutes
Nice clear day, slightly better than average lapse rate, surface temps in the low 80s, light wind with some high pressure Santa Anna type drainage. Diablo's crew of HGs got turned away at the gate and had to go to Pine. We had 2 trucks of PGs. Taliban was the technician about 11:15, and I was 5th or 6th off around 11:20. Weak lift and climb to about 5K.
Scouted west along the back ridge, but had to come out front at Spine one. Gained a thousand on the east point and got back into the mid 4s. Took it across the river and came in on the middle ridge a little below Lower Bump One. Some wind from the SW, but it was working good enough to get over to Bump 3 ok. Connected back up into the low 4s, and pressed uphill for the back ridge. The ridge lift was working, but got stuck in the saddle below the Back Step until a cycle rolled uphill and was able to get on top of the Step. Climb to 52 and take the light tailwind back east bound.
Took a couple of skips and came in on the Nut House a couple of hundred over launch. Chris Paul had re-launched on my way over and was climbing up the spine, but as I arrived, he was sinking back down. Very little wind, so there wasn't sustaining ridge lift. Finally found a thermal that tracked up the west side the 26. Took the altitude and forced my way eastbound toward Spine One. The lift got better and I reconnected back up into the mid 4s. 5 at Nordhoff, 5+ at Twin Peaks and 56 at both East Repeater and Puckers.
Edward was checking the computer and it looked like a convergence was pushing upriver past Saticoy, with downriver flow further east. Chase was kicking back at the college, so they weren't much help. I should have been more insistent about pushing them out to the river to find the convergence edges. Had some drift from the east on the way over to Santa Paula Ridge. Got there out on the point with plenty of altitude and turned uphill. Found some lift down lower on the upper half. Thermaled up to into the high 4s and pressed upwind on the speed bar around the corner, but got blown off from the NE and retreated. Climbed up again from the same spot to about 52 and tried higher. Had enough to push up above the main high ridge, but got blown back again. Fell back and climbed to 52 once more and ran out southbound fishing for the seam toward Santa Paula.
The drift shifted to slightly from the west so I angled for 126 a couple miles east of town, but a couple miles later it shifted out of the SE so I angled for town again. At the mouth of the Santa Paula river I boated into a big fat convergence with weak smooth lift all over. Climbed from 18 back up to about 25. My drift was from the SE and I could see the trees shaking pretty good down below. I was a little concerned that it could be blowing hard Santa Anna (it can blow 40+) but was reassured because Edward had given me good reports. Kept eying the airport trying to see which runway they were using, but no traffic. Since the last report from the airport was SE, and I was drifting pretty good from the SE, I erroneously assumed the surface wind was also SE when it was actually upriver from the west. The lift was weak and the climb rate was better going straight. Thinking the convergence would get stronger toward the west, I faded west and took the slow smooth climb.
The cooler onshore flow from the west was plowing under and lifting upper level SE. I went too far west and fell into a turbulent sheer zone and finally into the lower level west. I had been eying potential downwind LZs west of town, but finally realized they were upwind. Took me about 60 seconds to realize what was going on and confirmed it by getting a better lower look at the trees. Turned tail and ran back upriver toward the east. The wind was blowing pretty good almost to the east end of town, but no wind in my LZ on the grass at the Mobil Station on 126 just off the east side of the Freeway ending. 3 PM
Tom P's truck with Christian for crew grabbed me. Tom P hit the east wind over the College and tracked back across the full length of Sulfur Mountain to Creek Road. We got Chris Paul on the way back at the College, and went to Tom & Debbie's house for the Super Bowl game. Got settled in with Beer & Chips at the start of the second quarter with the game tied at 3 apiece.