[Home] to paraglide.net [SD Log] [Amigo] [Activity] [Photo] [Comments] [Incidents] [Weather] [SBSA] [SCPA]

Tuesday, 4/7/2020 [Weather] and [Flight Articles] by [Logan]  [Chris Garcia] & [Sundowner]

Tom Truax (aka Sundowner / SD) Flight Report, see also [Weather Archive]

Tuesday, 4/7/2020
Oat Mountain in Fillmore to Santa Cruz Creek ("out landing" north of Lake Cachuma)
Launch at 9:51 / Land at 1:21 PDT / 58.4 miles SLOFD
Niviuk Icepeak 7

Reference: [IGC Text Data File] and [Google Earth KMZ File] or [Ayvri Web Animation]

I love the energy of the younger pilots shaking the tree and expanding our possibilities.  Logan and Chris lined up logistics and were gracious enough to invite me along.  Mark Pratt was concerned the road might not be passable after Sunday night's heavy rain, so he brought a quad ATV in the back of his ranch truck for insurance.  The road was actually in pretty good shape after drying out for on Monday so we got to launch without delay.

Launching into the SE bowl form Oat early in the day is easy, but unlike Santa Barbara where you can sense the air you are going to soar, you won't know if it is soarable down lower across the Sespe until you get there.  We needed to launch early to stay ahead of the pending OD, but if you launch too early your day is over before it even turns on.  Solid cycles were coming through on launch when we arrive about 9:30.  We took our time setting up, but didn't "kill" or waste any time.

I was off at 9:51, followed by Logan at 9:52, and Chris at 9:53.  We had Edward for crew (sort of like cheating?).  Having pulled up in what I perceived to be a weak but building cycle, I gained almost a hundred feet on my departure but opted to boat south along the N/S ridge then turn right to cross the river rather than turning back in an attempt to climb.  Logan and I both got good glides across.  I arrived with 2400 and Logan got there with 2340.    Chris did OK but that 2 minute spread seemed to make a difference as he came in with just over 1800.  Higher is better (especially early), but you can get up from lower.

I opted to milk my first thermal,  but it quickly became obvious it was going to be and easy transition up San Cayetano Ridge.  I initially considered following the back ridge east of San Cayetano, but changed my mind due cloudbase base clamping our altitude and opted to fly around the front of Santa Paula Peak.  I was expecting to get drawn in, but the cloud tops were curling from the north and my drift was away from the mountain.  I had adequate altitude, but my past experience was usually to go up and over the peaks rather than around them, so I was a little concerned that I needed to get up somewhere to cross the big gap into Upper Ojai, so I tried to make a couple of broken thermals work that didn't.  I finally encountered an inward draw on the west side of Santa Paula Ridge and boosted to cloudbase for the reach across Santa Paula Canyon.

Ojai was fast and fun.  By now we had a feel for the day and were racing across familiar terrain with plenty to spare.  Keeping an eye on White Ledge to gage if we had enough time to get through before cloudbase lowered.  I wasted a few minutes at Nordhoff detouring up the spine toward Nordhoff Peak because it had an alluring fat cloud over it and a street from the Peak to Spine One, but before climbing all the way to cloudbase I realized base was too low to reach across Hwy 33 directly from Nordhoff , so I'd need to get up at Spine One anyway, and following the cloud street was the long way around and unnecessary, so I angled back out front to continued on to Spine One.

Thermals are easier to work up high, but easier to find down low close to their trigger release.  Got to Spine One high-ish, but not high enough to cross Hwy 33, so I fished up the spine to the back ridge without any bites.  Logan came in low and hooked one right away.  Our new sheriff had taken the lead, but at least I'd have someone in front to mark the thermals?

Across Hwy 33 Logan latched onto a good one directly over Bump One.  Being old school I picked one out of the smaller pond out front due my historical experience with the gap venturi at Bump One, but with the cloud tops curling from the north, Logan's choice appears to have been the better call?  I guess I wasn't really believing the cloud tops because both the skew-T forecast and the winds aloft forecast were predicting a south component to the upper wind, not a north component?  Behind White Ledge I started angling for a back ridge route while Logan opted for the big canyon crossing to East Divide.  East Divide got me to my peak altitude for the day (5700), but the dramatically lower cloudbase west of Casitas Pass force me (and Logan) to angle out front to the south to get around the clouds.  We were well above cloudbase and dolphined about 10 miles (descending about 2K from West Divid) along the leading edge of the clouds to the west end of Castle Ridge (best part of the flight?  Definitely the most scenic).

Logan was climbing at the RnR when I arrived lower at limbo altitude.  Wasted some time fishing along the lower spine before giving up and simply moving out over the Tit which I should have done straight away.  Logan was voting for OTB and I was willing to reach out of my comfort zone and try something a bit more challenging also (and we had Edward for crew), but I was now positioned along the front points so I opted to go OTB from the VOR rather than transitioning from the front points to the back ridge.

On my glide across the river I potted Logan climbing behind Sage.  Got to Sage with a couple hundred over, but had to fish in the wind.  Sage was in front of the clouds and in the draw path to the feed line.  A little rocket finally rolled through so I hung on and took it OTB tracking over the ridge running NW.  We has switched from a race course to an obstacle course, so I double stepped a couple of times and milked it all the way to cloudbase (5623).

Looking west there was a small cloud out front but the better development was deeper so I angled NW toward what looked like a good cloud over Santa Cruz Creek (coming off the hill between Horse Canyon and Santa Cruz Creek?).  The line was much deeper compared to my 7/19/2015 flight and I'm not a good hiker, but in the moment it seemed like the best line.  On my glide, Logan reported he was climbing from his low altitude of the day (2234) one canyon east of Happy Valley, so I was about 6 miles and a dozen minutes behind, but I didn't have a visual.

No luck passing under the fattest part of the fading cloud.  I felt I could continue straight and reach into the next drainage (one canyon short of Happy), but not enough to make Happy Canyon directly.  I didn't think the next drainage was retrievable via public road.  I thought I had enough altitude to reach the meadows to my SW just past Cachuma Creek along Aliso Road, and the smaller cloud was that direction, so I angled 45 degrees left toward civilization with 4K.  Unfortunately, my ground speed deteriorated and the sink alarm was nagging as I appeared to be going upwind against a draw from the SW, so my glide was ratio was poor.  There was a hill between me and the Aliso meadow with some fluted canyons on the south side that didn't look LZ friendly.  The green cow pastures in the Santa Cruz Creek canyon to my left looked much better, but would result in a 5 mile hike.  As I approached the back of the hill on bar my ground speed dropped into the low double digits.  It was getting a little scary behind the ridge and I need to either stomp on the bar harder or bail.  I made a quick decision to reduce the anxiety and live to fly another day, despite the consequence of having a longer hike.

After making a 90 degree left turn to the SE I was still hopeful I'd get lucky and boost back up, but I was on a bad line running parallel to the upwind ridge and getting a really bad glide.  My prior draw from the SW now seemed to be wind from the SE.  I wasn't confident I could even cross the creek to better fields on the east side, so I made another left to fly up the canyon to a SE facing spine, where I found a small thermal that I wasn't able to center.  A little concerned about landing in the poppy air with variable wind direction and obstacles to navigate, but it was calm down lower so the landing was uneventful.

We do a lot of focus management during flights, so I deliberately didn't dwell on the pending extraction task.  The LZ was lush and green, very scenic and tranquil, so I took my time packing up to soak in the ambience.  As I finished pleating the canopy I heard a snort behind me and turned around to a dozen cows only 10 feet away.


After packing up I checked in with Chris Garcia and Edward by phone as I had a direct line of sight to Santa Ynez Peak for a good cell signal.  The hike was ok for the first 300 yards, crossing the green cow pasture, but soon enough I encountered my first of several obstacles.  The creek was running pretty fast and deep.  It snaked back and forth across the canyon and on my side one of the bends went all the way up to a steep cliff.  I tried to go up and around but that didn't work due to a steep and deep gully blocking my path, so I returned and considered crossing the creek, but I'd need to strip down or commit to getting soaked.  Finally opted to navigate the challenging sliver between the cliff and the creek which was muddy, slippery, and only a couple feet wide in places, but I was able to get through to wider terrain and eventually another pasture for easy trekking the for 3/4 of a mile to the next obstacle.

The cow pasture ended at a fence that ran across the creek.  I crossed the fence but was choked off by thick vegetation and way too much poison oak with no passage around the edge of a ridge without getting wet.  Opted to backtrack across the fence, dodging the poison oak best I could and then crossed another fence to climb uphill in an attempt to go over and around.  It was initially a steep maneuver that reminded me of the Nuthouse.  After crossing another fence I evaluated what my options might be.  I was on a narrow steep spine that looked like it had signs of animal traffic.  The spine went up to the top of the cliffs to my SW, so I opted to go uphill.  Once I got up to the top of the spine I could see an ATV trail across another fence heading uphill to the NW,  perpendicular away from the creek which was running SW.  An ATV trail seemed better than reoccurring obstacles down in the creek, and might lead toward civilization, so I opted to continue uphill.

I checked in with Edward and he texted me a map screenshot.  I also tried Google Maps on my phone but it wasn't useful.  There is plenty of tech available to provide maps, but I'm mostly a home boy so I don't typically need maps and haven't invested the time to incorporate the capability into my kit.  Edward suggested I stay on the trail then take a left at the top of the hill, which I did.  The ATV trail turned into a reasonable 4x ranch road on the downhill leg, and eventually Teed into a maintained 4x road.  I took a right to follow the road downhill westbound into a gully and out of cell reception.

I wasn't sure where I was, but seemed to be going toward civilization.  Crossed a couple of intersections but my main road continuing downhill seemed like the better option.  Started hearing what sounded like a vehicle and the sound was getting louder.  Rounded a corner and spotted Edward and Logan with a couple of ranchers unlocking a gate.

The sky was getting dark as I packed up and started raining lightly on and off early in my hike.  By the time we navigated back to pavement it started raining harder.

Sweet day and fond memories.  I've got some rickety joints that limit my ability, and I recognized the possibility that a wrong move might mean spending the night out in the cold and rain.  I consciously managed my focus and ergonomics so I wasn't excessively sore the next day.  My hike was only a little over 3 miles, but took 3 hours to navigate the obstacles.  Facing long hikes is challenging for me so the hike was almost as rewarding as the flight, and took about the same amount of time / landed at 1:21, rendezvous with vehicles about 4:30, out to Hwy 154 at 5:30, and home before 6:30.    Not sure if I would have tried the deeper route without stellar crew that performed like pros.  I also need to send a thank you note to the gracious ranchers.

Next time?  The drainage I landed in, Santa Cruz Creek, looks like a bigger LZ compared to the next drainage to the west, Cachuma Creek, but Cachuma Creek has a road up to a ranch compound, so it is likely easier to get out of compared to Santa Cruz, which likely has questionable access during the wet season?  The lower part of the Cachuma Creek canyon just above the Aliso meadow looks narrow, but the ranch compound further up the Cachuma Creek canyon has a long strip that looks landable plus some other fields south of the compound that look adequate via Google Earth.

Horse Canyon is north of the golf course, west of Loma Alta, and one canyon east of Santa Cruz Creek.  Don't see much in the way of civilization up Horse Canyon via Google Earth.  I suspect there are locked gate and may not be retrievable in the wet season?  Google earth does have a photo that shows what looks like a well maintained road?




 [Top of Page]  [Home]