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Flight Articles from Friday, 3/15/2002 [Weather
Archive] [Craig Warren] [Sundowner]
[Chris Grantham] [Chris Paul] [Kristy Becchtold] [Ron Faoro] [Casey Rodgers] [Tom Beidler] [Tom Sorce] [Tom Pipkin] [Brendan] [Mike]
I'll make this as brief as possible because.....well...I'm tired. Got
to Skyport with Christian just after 10 and sat around on launch for a bit.
Watched alot of people tank out and some sky out and disappear. We knew
from Tom's report at Cieniguitas that West wind was about to crank through but
we were too late off the launch to miss it.
Launched, headed for the Thermal Factory and after much scratching took a boomer to 8300. All the pilots were already downrange from me except Beidler who wasnt far behind. In the distance I could see Truax at my altitude, Kristi, Chris P, and others working a point. Downrange I went with a mindset not too dissimilar from a kamikaze. I was going and i didnt care if i landed out. In fact that was an event that was more than likely to transpire. I expected a long hike.
Beidler and I worked like a well tuned machine on all the small points we eventually had to scratch at. Never got more than a few hundred over the ridge which was frustrating. Most of the little bit of lift we got was purely ridge lift. Every once in a while a freak boomer would come through. Just enough to get us to the next bump.
At a point just before hitting the power lines I made a bad decision and stayed toward the back spine instead of coming out. Beidler stayed out and found lift. Top landed on the back and walked the 40 yards around to the other side where I was able to relaunch. Wing came up wicked fast but straight the first time. Beidler had disappeared and I knew that with the altitude we had there was no way he would have made it to civilization. I also later found out that he didnt have a radio which explained the silence. So there I am, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, no idea where i am, where the thermal triggers are, or how I'm supposed to get to Ojai and I'm absolutely alone. Didn't have much choice but to keep going. Either that or get hiking and i hate hiking.
Things started getting wild from there. I had already had a few collapses and such but nothing compared to what was next. Made a bad choice and tried a 360 in mediocre lift, fell out the back behind the spine and got hammered. Wing went completely away and wouldnt come back. At this point I was convinced that my life was over. 20 feet above the spine the wing came back, twitched a few times, dove, and accelerated me over the top of the spine and back to the front. I was very surprised to not have my knees embedded in my forehead.
Turning the corner I could see Casitas in the distance but since I'd never seen it from this angle before and I had no idea where i was in relation to Ojai. I couldnt fly out and land at Casitas because of the headwind and the spines leading to whiteledge were sure to generate rotor. Stuck close to the main spine and rode it all the way back behind Whiteledge, fighting the rotor behind each step. Behind whiteledge i finally figured out where I was but couldnt do anything about it because of the 20+ mph winds. I figured that if i could follow the spine down I'd eventually end up at the nuthouse and a place to land that was actually attainable. Took another big whack (these were becoming regular occurrences) and got a 30% cravatte that didnt want to come out. Finally resorted to reeling in my outer A line which popped it out after a good 10 seconds of yanking.
Too scared, tired, and helpless in the wind to search for lift i took a downwind beeline towards the Nuthouse. I could see on the other side that there was no way i was going to get lift. The entire hill was covered in shadow and above nothing but big thick black clouds. Blazed over the canyon and connected south of Nuthouse. Even more wind here than at whiteledge but managed to put it down in a nice green field with minimal trees and an appropriate ammount of monster rotor. Easy 10 minute hike to 33 where Tom P plucked me from the side of the road in an adrenaline induced stupor.
I had cheated certain death a good 6 times, took more nasty collapses in 2 hours and 45 minutes than I had taken in the previous 8 months of flying combined, and it felt good! Next time I need to hook up with someone to show me the proper way to get across.
Sounds like Ron ended up behind whiteledge, Beidler had a hike out from near powerlines, Mike shattered his arm in rattlesnake canyon (call him to wish him well in surgery), Christian went to Fillmore, Truax took a new site record (I'll leave you in suspense until he posts his report) and a whole bunch of Pilots made the SB to Ojai run for the first time. I have no more words to describe today.
Chris Grantham Addendum:
I think it's important to add something here for those pilots who haven't done much or any XC. The only reason I attempted the crossing was 1) Everyone else was doing it and 2) I wanted to fly home. Both *enormously* moronic reasons for doing anything, not to mention flying in high winds, alone, and unguided. I made dumb decisions and got lucky. If you want to go XC because you enjoy it, great, but don't feel like the XC pilots won't respect you if you don't. Boating around over Chief is a hell of alot more fun than watching your life flash before your eyes over White Ledge anyway. We don't have to prove anything to anybody to be a good pilot.
Anyway, just something to think about that might save your life some day.
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