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Wednesday, 4/7/10
Nuthouse to Nordhoff to Crash behind Montecito Peak

Leg 1 ~ 3 miles
Leg 2 ~ 22 miles
total distance around 1 turn point ~ 25 miles
~ 2 hours 40 minutes airtime, 12:20ish to 3 PM
crash landing behind the east spine of Montecito Peak

Flight Report, see also [Weather Archive]

Wanted to test out my bad ankle and got more than I bargained for.

Picked up Susan and started up the hill a little before 10 am.  The ankle was problematic, but the real hindrance was my poor cardio fitness.  Used to do the hike in 50 minutes, but took about an hour 35.  Not much left of the trail, and the launch is a bit overgrown also, but still usable.  Susan hiked up for the view, and the bugs really like her.  Rather than coming down the spine, she dropped into the canyon on the east side and took 2 hours to get out.  A bit scratched up.

Cycles were a little light, but still able to get 1500 over climbing back to the ridge above launch.  Worked east to Nordhoff Ridge out front and got into the low 6s.  Tried the tower, but it was NE and didn't find anything.  Back out front again and boosted up to 65.  Easy downwind crossing over 33, arriving half way up the ridge toward White Ledge (Bump 3) with about 3K.  SW down lower but still NE up high.  Climb back to 55 and dolphin downwind up the back ridge behind the Peak.  Opted to press out to the Peak itself and got to 6+.

Just some bubbles at East Divide, and finally got above 5 at West Divide out front in the saddle.  Not much at Noon.  Still east, so I kept going to power line ridge with 42.  Ran into some west and couldn't get around the power lines a couple hundred below ridge line.  No LZ within reach, so fall back to the east end of the ridge and over to Noon.  Scratch up, hang out, and finally boost into the high 5s drifting from the south.  Back in the upper level east so cleared the power lines easily.  Down in the west again lower on Castle Ridge.

There wasn't much wind on the water.  The ocean was showing big glassy areas east of Santa Barbara.  There was an annoying west in the mountains at the low to mid altitudes and also strong thermal draws to contend with.  You could get above the west about 45, and above 55 it was from the east.    On the upwind legs, you could avoid the west somewhat by going deep in the wind shadows, but that has it's hazards.  Out front without wind shadow cover, it was hard to get around the corners.  Most off the thermals were coming off the lee side so you would hit them while still in the lee.  It could be a bit intimidating to stop and work them, so I dolphined through many.

Castle is ridgey enough that you can bob along upwind and just slow down in the lift, but once you get to Ramero, the topography changes from ridge to individual mountains with longer upwind canyon crossings.  Did ok getting to Ramero, and it initially looked ok on the way over to Montecito, but the upwind glide deteriorated and the wind got worse down lower.  Could have bailed earlier to Carp, but wanted to get to East Beach.

Was on the bar trying to get around the corner of the east spine of Montecito, down in the saddle above and behind the power lines.  Just rounding out of the lee over a short ridge running ESE off the main spine, and got whacked.  Not sure of the exact sequence, but I think it did a frontal to a full stall and then some sort of helicopter thing with the lines on the left side going slack and draping across my legs.  Only had a hundred or so clearance, so didn't want to go for the reserve.  Fortunately, the slack lines didn't snag on anything and my canopy popped open, but in a left spiral dive.  The wind had blown me back to the north side and the spiral was going to swing me into the back of the ridge, so I cranked hard right to exit the spiral and brushed the brush with my harness seat going pretty fast (50ish?).  I was momentarily relieved not to eat it at high speed, but the hard exit from the spiral flipped the glider into a wingover and it came back at the hill.  Flared hard and rounded out the bottom before crashing into the brush on an uphill slope, going maybe 20.  3 PM.

Got lucky on the impact.  The brush and harness absorbed most the energy.  Broke some branches and thumped into soft dirt.  Happy to be alive and not badly hurt, I laid there for a minute to settle down and catch my breath.  My back was a little sore, and my head hurt.  Took the helmet off and got a hand full of blood from the right side of my head.  I think a stick must have poked through one of the air holes.  I started feeling progressively better and the head stopped bleeding after wearing a ball cap.

Checked in with Susan and phoned Pam to let her know I couldn't get Tess to her softball game.  Removed the flight suit to shed the warm weather gear, then put the flight suit back on along with the ball cap for protection.  Bagging the canopy was going to be difficult.  It had come down in front uphill, so the lines were exposed to the 12 foot tall brush tops.  The slope was about 40 degrees.  The brush wouldn't support my weight up top, but you could bend several together to make a nest platform half way up to work.  Put the break handles in the biners, got the stuff sack out and started on the right side.  Fell out of the nest several times and hit with a thud on my back, lucky not to get speared by any of the broken off stubs.  Fashioned a second stuff sack from my jacket to work the left side toward the middle.  Took 2 hours of steady work from multiple nest to get the canopy stuffed and on the ground.  Another 20 minutes to finish packing up.  5:20

Diablo phoned and said he was a Lake Casitas.  He had flown from the Liminator to Santa Paula Peak and part way back.

The brush was ridiculously thick.  I was on the NE side of the ridge.  Initially started to traverse with the pack on my back in an attempt to get around to the front side off the ridge, but only got about 10 yards before I needed to re-evaluate.  I was about 100 yards below the ridge line.  I had to get down and crawl on my hands and knees, pushing the pack in front.  That's difficult to do across the hill, so I opted to go up, figuring I might be able to spot a trail from the ridge line.  Took about 40 minutes of crawling and pushing to get up there.

No view on top.  The brush was still 8-12 feet tall.  It was 6 PM.  Seemed like I'd be spending the night, but even in the morning, I couldn't conceive how I'd be able to make reasonable headway.  I needed to find a trail.  Figured I try up the ridge to the west where the east ridge I was on joins the main east spine behind the saddle.  Pushed ahead about 20 yards, but I was out of gas.  Need to find a plan C.

Used my cell to dial 411 and asked for search and rescue.  No listing, so I asked for the sheriff's department (search and rescue is part of the sheriff's department), but got a recording saying I should leave a message or dial 911, so I dialed 911.  They got me in-touch with the Montecito Fire Department.  Patty at the fire department was able to triangulate my position from my cell phone.  She told me I could head straight down hill and would hit the Edison road.  The brush was pretty thick, but the hill was steep, so I could make reasonable time.  Maybe 3 or 400 yards down to the road in 30-40 minutes.  Eric from fire department drove up and gave me a ride back to their station on San Yisdro Road.  We met up with tow guys from search and rescue in a second truck on the way out.

Susan was at the station when we got there and we were southbound a little after sunset.  Home by 8.  Put the clothes in the laundry and hit the shower about 8:45.  Laid down for a short rest.  My head has a bump and my back was a bit sore getting up, but not sure if it is from the hit or all the lugging around.  A little slow getting it all working in the morning, stiff and sore, but it seems to be loosening up.  Glad to wake up in my own bed.

Eric says none of the firemen live in Montecito.  He commutes from Pismo.  Has 2 boys, 6 & 9.  They like to boat and free dive off the Channel Islands.  He's been there 8 years.  Transferred from Pismo because Montecito pays better.  Had a military background before the fire department.










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