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Hammer (Robert Millington)
Saturday, 2/14/04
The Elminator to the VOR (N34° 30.181', W119° 46.096') turnpoint ~ 6 miles
eastbound to landing 2 miles west of I-5 on Hwy 126: (N34° 25.579', W118° 37.844') ~ 67 miles
60 LFSD points, Second Place for 2004

It was the first day of EJ’s “The Contest”.  Lots of pilots were out to participate and all of them excited.  The day had potential for some down range action but first we had a speed run task.  We all knew that Scotty was the man to beat so the challenge for the rest of us was to not get totally blown out on the first task…not easy!  Then it was back up the hill for the XC for turn point task.

This task was no slam dunk for anyone since there were any number of pilots who could “take the day”.  The scramble back up the hill left me bringing up the rear.  Being in catch up mode has only one advantage…you can see what other people ahead of you are doing.  The day was beginning to come on as I launched so I was able to make good time although it was a bit discouraging to be slogging towards the VOR while watching all my friends heading east.  I made the turn, headed east and was very surprised to be catching the leaders by the time I reached Montecito Peak.

Up to this point cloud base had remained safely above the main points on the range.  As the day progressed the clouds increased and the bases were beginning to drop.  This is never a good omen when you are headed towards the “coffin corner” of our range.  That area west of the power line crossing but still east of Chismahoo can be quite daunting no matter what cloud base is.  These days it is much easier, with a high performance hang glider, to keep your safety options open.  So I pressed on.

Then something entirely unseen and very unfortunate happened.  Dan Keyser went down on Divide Peak.  As I came into the area Ron Faro began the distress call.  The heroics of Ron and the rescue of Dan off the mountain is, I am sure, is a whole story in itself.  Since I did not have the option of landing the next best thing I could do was clear the area.  I did that by heading east through the pass with an altitude of approximately 2,300 feet. thinking that the fields around Casitas Lake would be reachable.  At this point, since there was no real west push, the air turned out to be very buoyant. As I rounded the southeast quadrant of White Ledge there was an unexpectedly large fat thermal.  This gave me enough altitude to assure a landing at Nordhoff.

Thinking that this might be the end of the day for me I relaxed and enjoyed the view.  Ojai was fairly clouded in but the bases were above the front points.  The scene was as lovely as you could imagine…and the air continued to be buoyant.  With these fine conditions and a lot of patience I was able to pick my way through the valley and finally around the west end of Santa Paula ridge.  Once again cloud base had dropped considerably.  It was obvious from my vantage point that I had Fillmore on a glide.  At this point the thought occurred to me that I might “have the day”.  Immediately I discounted that thought since there were guys like Little John, EJ, Scotty, Taggart, and Diablo who could be lurking in the clouds just behind me.

As I approached Fillmore I realized I had enough altitude to make a pass over the satellite dishes in the hills north east of Fillmore.  This area is a very solid “go to” point on the way up the Santa Clarita river valley.  I was not disappointed this trip.  The climb was slow but solid.  It is beyond this point that the conditions begin to disintegrate for me.  This is always the most difficult zone for me to negotiate, the area where my luck runs out.  I have been on the ground between Piru and I5 so many times I could write a book about it.  Come to think of it Little John, Scotty, Craig (Triple Digit) Warren, and SD should collaborate on that book since they are the only ones to succeed in making it through that hole.  I would love to know their secrets!

So once again I am on the ground a couple miles west of Interstate 5.  Phoenix is right there with the truck, an adult beverage, and a big hug.  A very nice way to end a good day of flying!


Editors Note

Our Contest curve for 2005 was adjusted from the 2004 curve to give more advantage to flights in winter.  If Roberts second place 67 mile flight on 2/14/04 was scored according to our 2005 curve it would be worth 62 points (vs. 60), and Diablo's first place 108 mile flight on 3/20/04 would be worth 51 points (vs. 69)

 

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