Pine SS to Trona Road
121 miles, a little under 7 hours airtime
LFSD Challenge Score ~ 39 points
Pilot reports indicated the weather had been good for Paragliding. The forecasters thought we were likely to get one last good day on Saturday before the event moved off the east. Rob Sporrer had my suburban scheduled for his clinic, but I caught a ride in Diablo's truck with the two Rons and Edward for crew. 9:30 meet at NHS. At launch by 10:30. Took my time getting ready, and pulled up about 5 past 11. Had to pause the pull up for steering and then give it another pump. Fumbled or stumble turning around and the canopy got in front. Thought it was going to tuck, but a lot of break while stepping forward and I was off without having to pick it out of the brush in the heat.
Went left to the first short spine to test the air. The wind was light and I was able to 360 on a thermal at the spine that was drifting slowly from the ESE. Stayed with it and topped out above12K in the same thermal (but not the same core) about 15 minutes later. Took a glide east in buoyant air from a little NW of launch. Dolphined through a few weak broken cores behind Rayes. Considered pressing upwind, but opted keep my line for the north side of the Chute Ridge.
Got to the peak behind Haddock with 10 plus and picked up a couple hundred, but the weak cores didn't seem like they would go much higher so I continued deeper to the last peak hoping for something better. Encounter some sink on the way, and no luck over the last peak. I was down in the low 9s and considered my three options; continue deeper hoping I find a core, bail south to the reach upwind for the SE side of Haddock, or backtrack west to the peak I had pass over. I opted to back track. Got there with 8ish, found a core, and climbed to 11. The thermal petered out. There were clouds to the north, so I went downwind toward the 50/50, but before getting very far I found a flew into a core going to cloudbase. Topped at cloudbase about twelve five.
Angled NE toward Guillermo. Worked some lift along the way and never got below 11. Shared a thermal with Diablo on the south side of the peak. Topped again a little past the peak, close to 13K. Diablo left me standing still as he pulled a glide toward the SW side of Frazier Mountain. He took a fairly southerly route. I tried to keep and eye on him, but once he was 5 or 6 miles east I lost him. Didn't see him stop for anything, so I tried a parallel route about a half mile to the left of his track.
Came in on the NW side of Frazier with 75ish. Fished around but it was mostly small punchy cores that were only good for one or 2 turns. Tired to look toward the spine, but I was in the lee. Edward had reported NE wind on the deck at the ranger station, but it was south up higher. Figured the north was feeding something. Finally looked toward the quarry and connected from 7K. Stepped upwind to the SW spine and went to 14K.
Pulled a good glide to the VOR spine, getting there with comfortable altitude abreast of Gorman. Started picking up some wind from the SE. Didn't feel comfortable about reaching for the Cement Plant, so I continued on toward Booster Junction. Edward had reported north wind about 10 to 15 blowing down the interstate. Diablo had gotten to 11K SE of the cement plant and was reporting localized wind from the NW in places along the Tehachapi Mountains. Quayle lake was blowing from the south. With north wind blowing down the road at Gorman, and south wind further south, the conditions seemed right for Booster Junction, and I had seen a CU earlier. Pulled a bad glide against the wind. Passed on an opportunity to take a core about mid ridge, and got to the junction with about 6K. Found a twisty core and climbed back to 75, but lost it and was back down to 6. Finally pressed upwind through some more sink and found another core that went to twelve five.
My thermal had initially drifted from the SE, but up higher, it was tracking slightly from the SW. Initially got a good glide going downwind to the east toward the middle of the valley. There was a cloud street about 10 miles ahead that seemed to start NE of Nenanche and continue toward the NE. Getting lower, but close to the start of the cloud street, I angled a little to the south to try and get under the point cloud. Down to 4,200, found some scraps, and finally something better that went to cloudbase in the mid 12s. The climb took awhile. Normally, you can cover some ground drifting in zero sink, but the wind was light and I only tracked a mile or two in 15 minutes. The thermals seemed to get weaker as the day wore on. Pilot reports indicate there was more west wind in the Antelope Valley later in the day.
I followed the cloud street angling 45 degrees across the valley toward the NE, but halfway to the Tehachapi Mountains it started breaking up. There was a big blue hole to the east all the way to Hwy 14, but there were clouds over the Tehachapi Mountains, so I angle straight north. After gliding for several miles, I realized I'd get to the mountains low, so I opted to turn NE and parallel the mountains a mile or two south of the foothills, hoping I could stay up and dribble along down lower. I didn't want to play into the mountains and then have to come limping back out.
Got down to 5ish and worked what I could. Got back to 7, down below 6 again, up to 8ish, another glide and finally a core that went to cloudbase south of the mine near the windmills. Base one last time for the day in the mid 12s a little further east.
Edward had reported light SE on the deck earlier, and Diablo had stayed in the mountains and gone up Barren Ridge. It seemed light from the WSW now, so I played straight east, passing north of Mojave and directly over the intersection of 58 & 14. There was heavy dark development to the SE, but it was blue to the north. The thunderhead was moving slowly north, and CUs were starting to develop extending 5 to 15 miles north of the dark mass. Climbed to 10K half way to Cal City under a cloud and again a little further on. There was a good cloud to my ESE over Cal City so I quarter into the wind and angled toward it. Got under it and dolphined upwind to a nice core. Kept extending the upwind leg to stay centered, but the cloud overhead was drifting north, and I ended up out in front of it, still 1,500 below cloudbase.
Terry Taggart flushed from the pass crossing Tehachapi and landed a few miles NNW of Mojave. Kathleen had him loaded. They offered a ride but it was still early and I was hopeful. I had sketchy contact with Diablo and Edward 50 miles up the course, so I thanked them and let Edward know I was taking my altitude and following the two roads running ENE out of Cal City. Got under a cloud near the 100 mile mark and climbed back to 9. Tried to glide east but encountered some east wind. A dilemma. I could take my altitude and plug into the wind to land on the road and be assured of crossing the 100 mile mark, or I could turn north and run downwind toward the Redrock Randsburg Road about 12 miles away. It was too early in the day to throw in the towel, so I turned north and gave ground taking drift from the east and tracking NNW. I little concerned about leaving my last confirmed retrieval route, dropping below radio contact, but my best option for getting back in the game was downwind along the SE/SW convergence line.
Down to 7K, I bumped into a weak core drifting from the SE that got me back to 8. Searched further north and found a better core that went to 12K, but still couldn't quite reach cloudbase. The drift at altitude was light from the WSW so I angled toward Trona. I didn't know the roads well, but knew there was retrieval on a road that cut off 395 to the NE toward Trona. The NE route was blue past 395. The leading edge of the advancing clouds in front of the growing thunderstorm were to my west, but I knew that retrieval routes that direction were tricky and chase probably wouldn't be reachable once I got low. Edward was pretty good at pointing out the landmarks.
I angled ENE for awhile, but ran into the east wind again. Went straight north toward the radar ball and got back to 12K. Seemed to get out of the east and headed NE once more toward Trona. It was pretty buoyant, and I flew through a lot of 100 a minute up, but I started skipping the weak stuff about a half hour earlier because I was running out of time. Went out from under the clouds into the blue about 1,500 below base a couple miles past the intersection of the Garlock Road and Hwy 395. Hoping for more, but it was final glide.
Flew over the RV Park along Trona Road with about 300' agl and continued downwind, downhill, slowed down for min sink. Got a couple of skips, but nothing to turn in. Diablo had been reporting he was about to land for 20 minutes, but I think he was holding on to make sure I was on the ground first. Stretched it a couple miles down the road and hooked into the wind with 50 feet left for a smooth touchdown into a 10 to 12 mph breeze on the deck. 5:55 pm. Diablo landed about 5 minutes later a little north of Ballarat in the Panamint Valley (156 miles).
They were having rally motocross races in the desert that weekend, so the campground was full and I got plenty of curious visitors after touchdown. Several offered assistance and or rides, but I didn't have clean contact with chase and so I didn't want to leave my last confirmed landmark. I did accept an offer for a ride back to the campground to wait for chase to come back through. Bob's family gave me dinner and fluids. The sunset was spectacular with colorful thunderheads to the SSE and also over Death Valley providing the light show after dark. Diablo and Edward showed up about 8:30. Edward said the trucks GPS read 120 miles so I added another for the buoyant glide past the campground.
I was please with my flight. Enjoyed the views and scenery. When I climbed up near cloudbase past Nenanche, I could see Bony Ridge and the Topa Mountains, comforting me with a feeling that I was in my big back yard. There is an inviting spring about 10 miles past Cal City surrounded by green foliage. I'm glad that I choose to follow the air rather than dive for the 100 mile mark. On my 145 mile flight from Walt's, I was faced with a similar dilemma and opted to take the upwind glide for a record rather than tracking across the course line attempting to reconnect. My first hundred plus mile PG flight also ended after a failure to properly read the scenario. Perhaps a more aggressive pilot may have gone faster and a few miles further, but I felt I flew well, made good decisions, and got lucky when needed to.
My personal best from Pine Mountain on a PG. Diablo (Tony Deleo) holds the current Pine Mountain PG record with a 139 mile flight as a P2 rookie pilot on a Firebird Flame. My prior longest PG flight from Pine was only about 75 miles, so I was confident I had a shot at a personal best if I could reach the Antelope Valley from Frazier Mountain. Tom Pipkin bettered my old personal mark by a mile or two a couple days earlier, so he got to claim 2nd place till I bumped him back to third.
I've had a number of longer flights from Pine on a hangglider, but back than we didn't understand the nuances of the local meteorology so there was a lot more luck involved. I've grown to better visualize what's going on, having learned a lot from Diablo's flight stories, so I'm confident we can go further on the right day. Diablo has 12 one hundred plus mile flights this season. I've been lucky to fly a lot this summer with 7 days from Pine. More than the 4 days I went to Pine in 2003.
Not the best downwind day for maximum miles, but the lighter wind and weaker conditions made for low anxiety and the ability to plug upwind when necessary.