Skyport Westbound to the VOR Spine
Eastbound to Twin Peaks (Ojai)
Westbound back to the Round House (SB)
and out to land in town at the Park on Cota Street next to SBJH
~ 5 miles + 34 miles + 29 miles ~ 68 miles
34 mile leg ~ 33 LFDS points (currently first place)
Bonanza (weathered, worn, and holy)
I think this may be a new out and return mark for SB, but I'll need to get acknowledgement from the HG pilots to confirm. Long soaring window for early February. No morning inversion at dawn, so it was probably soarable an hour before we got to launch, but I don't think I could have gotten through The Pass earlier due to low cloudbase (Diablo tried). Slow time, but had a lot of upwind glides with full bar.
When you have small kids and try to do the home office thing, you need to get in some work while everyone is check out. Had been working for a couple hours by 7 am when I took a look outside and noticed it was fairly clear with no clouds. That prompted a quick weather check which got me in the go mode. So much for making progress on the do list. Made a few phone calls. Diablo got back from the gym and said he would grab Edward and collect me about 8:45. They arrived at 9 and we were underway. Morning traffic slowed us down.
The day had dawned clear, but by 9 a street was already setting up. Cycles were strong at the Rock, but weak at the Skyport. Got off a little before 10 am. Pulled a good glide uphill from only a hundred over and connected to cloudbase in the saddle between the R&R and the Tit. Cloudbase was in the upper 3s and coming down. It was getting darker, but the foothills collected spotty sun all day. James was camped at the Alternator as I hit cloudbase at West Bowl.
No Name was too dark so I arrived at the VOR spine just over the lower rock field. It had a little sun but was dark out front. After loosing altitude on a couple of trolling passes I opted to play downhill toward the T for the south side of the shade. Got to the sun line over the power lines next to Hwy 154 and latched on to some scraps at 1,800 msl. The scraps got better with altitude and I climbed back to cloudbase drifting from the SW.
Pretty easy going east bound for awhile. Got impatient with the weak lift in the shade at the Factory so I played for the sun over Parkers which was a lot more active. Cloudbase past Ramero was in the lower 3s and Diablo was giving eastbound reports through the pass way below my minimum go altitudes. The east end of Castle Ridge was dark so I had to fall off to the last front Castle Point.
Decision time. The high route wasn't even in the equation. Normally, I'd run out to Snowball and try the low front route up Hwy 150, but that rarely works. I've tired it numerous times only to have cloudbase lift and be left too far out front and down low. The forecast was for thinning clouds as the day aged and it looked like it was trying to break up. There was a low street along the Cate School face, but it was spotty and thinning. The sun line was down the middle route half way between the back ridge and the front foothills. Numerous other pilots have successfully navigated the middle route but I hadn't attempted it because missing just one connection in a PG results in a long hike. I haven't landed out in the Pass in a PG, but Diablo was pressing the pace and I figured it was a good day for a hike.
Took a bearing below base over the last front Castle Point and climbed into the mid to upper 3s. With no GPS I couldn't get greedy. I needed to do in small steps to stay on line. Getting out of position by a quarter mile with minimal working altitude would result in a flush, so I needed to hit my triggers without overshoot or missing them left or right. On the third cycle I was at the SE tip of the SE spine coming off the Power Lines. With a better view into the Pass I could see the clouds were thinning and base was lifting. Got to Noon Peak out front but opted to slow down and bench up.
There had been a little east here and there. The forecast was calling for east up higher, and the clouds were all leaning from the east, but it had been from the west down lower back in SB. The ocean was flat. At Noon Peak, the drift was from the SE with more headwind at higher altitudes. Left Noon with close to 5K, but the glide was poor against the east flow. Got up into the low 5s in front of the West Divide Saddle, but the increasing headwind made for poor sledding across to East Divide. 12:45.
Got back in radio range of Diablo who was a little too early and decked it at a ranch in the foothills on the east side of Chismahoo. Diablo reported he had wind from SE through the Pass. The clouds at East Divide were boiling up on the west side and leaning from the east with base a little over 4K. Was able to climb up the windward side into the upper 4s and got on the bar for the low point below the SW spine at White Ledge. Got there a few hundred below, but was able to wiggle up and found a good core on top that was drawing up the spine.
Felt like I was in the lee along the SW side of White Ledge. Passed on some strong cores and dolphined around the corner. Figured I'd make better time staying low and kept going. Almost got too low NE of the Taft property. Overflew several low front points and was down to 2Kish before I finally got lucky on a low point below the east side of Bump 2. Got back into the mid 3s and took the glide across to the Nuthouse. Got there midway between launch and the ridge line.
South wind down lower with plenty of up air. Stayed low to avoid the upper level east flow and kept going. Did a couple of turns at Spine One and the Pyramid. Kept my distance in front of Nordhoff Ridge and went around the corner at Bruce's about even. Came into the Stooges needing to tank up and went to 5K plus drifting from the SE up higher. Full bar over to Twin Peaks.
The headwind wasn't unmanageable, but in a PG it's tedious. I probably could have gotten around the corner into the Santa Clara, but Twin Peaks seemed like a good mark for a turn point. I'd discussed an out and return with the Edward and Diablo on the way up. Chase was on task to extract Diablo so Edward could only offer words of wisdom, and he informed me Hwy 150 was closed between the Summit and Santa Paula. It was only my second or third flight in my new harness and something was wrong. I couldn't get back into it so my back was aching. At 2 pm I'd been in the air about 4 hours and was tired of fighting upwind. Didn't seem like I'd have enough time to get back, and cloudbase was lowering again, but I was done with the upwind stuff so I climbed up to the high route and went downwind.
Ojai was SW in the Valley and Edward was reporting SW through the Pass, but it was definitely downwind from the east at cloudbase. Figured out how to press back into the harness. Must have it packed too fat in the bottom of the back luggage compartment. I'll try to distribute the bulk next time. It would still push me forward over time, but it was good to be off the bar, in the harness with some back relief and going downwind at cloudbase. Well, in theory anyway. I only got to the mid 4s at Twin Peaks and missed the thermal at Stooges so I came into Bruce's about half way up and was down in the light west wind. Wiggled around the corner and finally connected to base at Nordhoff.
Crossed 33 a little below 4 and got on the bar east of Bump One. Typical flow from the west down lower, but was able to wiggle over to Bump 2 & 3 for the bench up. Back in the SE up higher and easy going. Got to base in front of the Back Step, but it was getting late and cloudbase was 3 or 4 hundred below the peak behind White Ledge. Got to 51 in front of the High Step and dove for the soupy saddle. It was clear on the east side, but the clouds were boiling and leaning to the west from the lip. It was a little scary being able to see the twitchy air going into the lee. Hugged the back wall until I was low enough to see across and evaluate.
I wanted to take the back route to stay out of the lower SW, but it was too dark. There was sun out front so I went for the low point below the SW spine of White Ledge and got to base. East Divide was still boiling on the west side at the lip and leaning from the SE. Base was below 4, but I was able to climb up the leading edge to 43 and pull a glide to the front side of the West Divide Saddle. That worked and I came in to Noon in front of the saddle with 35. Got back to base at 4 and went for Power Line Ridge. Came in on the east end even with ridge line.
Started picking up some west at Power Line Ridge. Couldn't hold ridge line and had to get across the lines out front where they are lower. In the hole on the west side of the lines, thinking about Benson getting pinned a couple days earlier, but got lucky and worked back up. Kept working west in the late day air, trying to stay high to avoid the light flow from the SW down lower.
I could see the finish line, but it was upwind and I was running out of time so didn't know if I could make it. Didn't get up on the east spine of Montecito, and came in below the little peak behind the power lines on the west spine in the low 2s. It was weak, smooth, and fat. Took a long time to get to base at 37. Pulled a good glide west and got to the Antenna Farm a hundred over. It would have been nice to top land at the Skyport, but it was real dark in back and the day was on it's last gasp so I adjusted my expectation to reality. The Round House would have to do, and I'd take the beach if I could get there.
Got to 28 on the first pulse. Fished around looking for more, figuring I didn't have enough to reach the beach, and I could make Parma if needed. Topped about 27 on the next weak pulse at 4:15 and took it south hoping to get lucky over Parma or the Riveria. Pulled a poor glide quartering against the light west wind. Crossed the break down tree and cleared the Riveria with 1,100 msl. Town was buoyant. I might have reached the beach if I'd fallen off with the drift early on the glide, but I was stuck in the middle of town. The Junior High had after school soccer. Light NW on the deck. Fun downwind sweeping approach into the Park on Cota Street. Got it around most of the way into the wind on the flare for a stylish touchdown at 4:25.
Called Sharon to see if she was still at work. She wasn't, so I figured I could catch the #20 bus, but Sara Webber was heading to Sharon's and she gave me a lift. Got out at the tire shop to collect my Toyota. (Jim, Josie's dad, had torn a tire on the way down from the Skyport on Sunday)