Chiefs to Nordhoff, to The Bluffs, to Summerland
4 + 8 + 28 ~ 40 miles
about 4¼ hours airtime
max altitude ~ 8,200'
Met up with Ojai John and some Owens exiles at Nordhoff about 10:15 (Sharon Sweeney, Mark Pratt, Randall McCormick, Alan King, John Kloer, Tom Truax). Mike arrived to crew about 10:30 and I was airborne about 11:45. Breezing in pretty good on launch, but not much thermal activity under the high cloud blockage. Hung on and finally got up from below Twin Peaks. Left downwind for Nordhoff in the mid 5s.
The thermals on the main spine coming down from Nordhoff Peak were drifting from the SW. Got to 65 in a convergence and drifted back out to the NE along the back ridge. Left and tried to take the back route, but there was a fair amount of South wind (and some east), so I opted to head down the spine behind Stooges to avoid getting stuck in the back of a canyon. Got back up half way down and pressed on the speed bar toward the middle bump of the main Chief's spine. Full bar for an upwind intercept below it, but the whole spine was going off and drew in from the west down lower.
Got back into the low 6s and tried to power upwind toward The Repeater. Picked up a few hundred off the bump half way across the back and got on the bar again. Too much east, so I opted to fall back. The west was trying to push in and I got over 8K in the convergence back at Chief's. High 6s at The Repeater and speed bar over to the NW corner of The Bluffs. Arrived with 55ish and got back up above the rim.
The NW corner was protected pretty good and drawing in. Didn't bother to get very high thinking I needed to get high off the SE corner for a glide over to Santa Paula Ridge, so I dolphined on upwind, bobbing between the high 5s & 65. Past the middle of the bluffs, there was less draw toward the bluffs, and the drift was increasingly away. As I approached the SE corner, there was more wind from the ESE coming around and I started to get some rotor action. Fell off but was waffling about giving up. After clearing the rotor a bit out front I turned back for lower intercept and got on full bar. Ok for awhile, but the upwind glide was poor, and I started to get back into the rotor so my only option was to turn back for the repeater with less that 5K.
Fortunately, I got a good downwind glide back across the middle of the canyon. Back above 6 at the Repeater, a bit out front, and pulled a downwind glide to Stooges. Down below 4, but it still seemed downwind toward Nordhoff, and the ponds were shimmering SE despite reports of mild west in the valley. Picked up a good thermal half way across. Didn't argue about the odd location and took it for and easy connection to Nordhoff.
Mark was climbing and I came in under him. We got to 6ish and he left for the High School. I got back up again behind the Pyramid. Thought of going up Matilija Canyon, reasoning that it was reachable, and perhaps more protected from the marine influence, plus with reports of SW on the deck, I could avoid the west wind and ride the SE flow up the canyon. I was getting a good glide, and the south wind seemed to be fading. The Matilija route looked like it would work for 5 miles or so, but I couldn't see a connection in the back of the canyon. With the better glide and less south wind I had the connection to the front ridge, so I altered course and came in on Bump 2 with 34.
Wanted a few hundred more to get to Bump 3, but didn't get it. Still downwind, so I reached across. The downwind part was good for the short glide, but if I couldn't connect I wouldn't be able to get back to the river. Struggled in the boundary layer convection below 3K on the SW side of Bump 3 for about 5 minutes and finally flushed out. Got lucky and hooked a late day smoothie on the low front point above Taft's Valley. It was encouraging to have OJ cheering me on from his front yard savoring his beer.
Back over 5 at Bump 3. Got up from the saddle in front of the Back Step. The upper air had a late day mellow feel, but some or the thermals had twisty air, sheer, and sharp edged cores so I was on my toes. Nothing to turn in at the High Step. Not enough altitude to clear the saddle behind White Ledge. Still had flow from the SE and the high ridge was in sun so I kept going. Broke even and when I though I had enough to get over the saddle I took it across.
The back ridge west of White Ledge had some twisty cores. A little late in the day. Dark shadow on the east sides. Felling a bit committed and wanting to bet back into the 5s. Got above ridge line a couple of times. Approached the saddle behind East Divide too low to clear it. Stayed in the sun as on the back ridge as long as possible, but didn't want to back track upwind, so just before the saddle, I cut across to the south and was able to get around to reach the main spine in front. Got back into the upper 5s and was felling good and enjoying the view.
High again off West Divide, and a little action above Noon Peak. Buoyant air and good seams along Power Line Ridge, but nothing to turn in. Across to Castle Ridge. Below the points, wanting a little more, I tried a turn or two, but it was better to use them as extenders. Clear air in the back, but a little hazy down lower. Tried to stay up in the back in the SE flow, hoping to stay above potential lower level onshore flow from the west.
Up behind Castle Point 3 (of 5) I was half way down between the back ridge and the front points. Wanted to tuck in, but the flow was trending away rather than in from the SE. Had to turn out in the high 2s midway between Castle Point (Point 2) and Point 3. The lower level onshore flow was light and I pulled a good glide in the late day buoyant air against the light head wind. Had enough to easily reach the practice polo fields, but I'd been wanting to land at Bret & Jeri's, and the conditions seemed good.
Pam and Jeri had been to the Pre-School auction together earlier, so I was hoping she was there. Spotted her white caravan in the drive, but they were just departing and started down the driveway. Fumbled for the cell phone and called her, but she didn't pickup. Got overhead on Toro Canyon Road, but couldn't get ahead to flash my shadow. Flew back to the house and flashed a wing shadow across the living room window and the back porch. Pam called back, but I was only a hundred over and needed to set up for approach so I couldn't answer. Jeri spotted me on approach and got the troops outside for the entertainment. Easy approach in smooth air up the drive on the back side of the ridge in no wind. Clean touchdown on the driveway in the front yard next to the Bret's tree house. ~ 4pm
Sharon passed Pam on Toro Canyon Road. Had a beer and chatted. Packed up on the grass at the end of Linden Avenue.