We have two personal narratives of this past week’s cross-country soaring flights, a noble effort against impossible odds by Peter Kovari on Saturday and diamond distance on Monday by Karl Sommer, peering through smokey vizibility nearly all the way.
PETER KOVARI (6PK):
Predictions for Saturday 22nd did not look great as of late Friday, mainly due to the smoke being blown in by westerly winds into the Owen’s valley going north. However this direction looked more promising than any other.
By Saturday morning all had changed again; winds were predicted much stronger and the buoyancy/sheer ratio looking like a Swiss cheese. The direction toward Vegas appeared to have improved by a lot, forecasting 11k in the desert and 13k around Vegas. This all proved to be not the case unfortunately, as I came to find out. One of the rare times where both Dr. Jack and XC Skies got it wrong.
I launched just before noon and took a high tow to about 7200’ without feeling a single bump around the mountains. After release I sniffed around all the usual places without success, only to find myself 5500’ over the airfield, contemplating landing back.
Stepping into a 1kt thermal finally over HWY 138 I staggered up to 6000’, called Crystal as my alternate still, and started tiptoeing toward the now closed Krey field hoping to connect with the sheer line and the usual house thermals. At 1500’ AGL, pretty much where the downwind leg used to be, after much sniffing I finally stepped into what I was looking for and climbed to the staggering height of just above 6000’. And that is the way it went; more or less low and lower, all the way to Baker, the highest about 8500’ right around Slash X! (031 Dry Lake like in Mike’s previous report last week, was still full of water with Mike’s alligator basting on the shores.)
By now, although I like the challenge and the exercise, the heat was
starting to get to me. I made it north of Baker to the microwave towers and even had Cima dry lake made on my flight computer ( 20’ over my safety margin ). However I opted to turn around and land in relative safety and civilization at Baker.
As we were braking down, an ambulance appeared sirens blazing, meeting a medivac helicopter to transport a patient. The first time I seen anything other than a glider at this airport.
We had dinner at the local Denny’s (Sean had the largest ice cream sundae I’ve seen). As we left Baker, around 6 p.m. the famous thermometer still showed 106 F. I have no idea what it was earlier, I’m sure much worst, but this flight was no fun to say the least.
KARL SOMMER (C3):
Monday the 24th looked promising on the Blipmap so I lined up my crew Gus McCarthy who mentioned being available whenever I thought the weather will be the most favorable. The 24th it was N with some smoke?
TFR over Las Vegas.
Got a tow a bit later than Hi Noon but did connect quickly, up to 14K and off we went, smooth across the valley with few bounces. Cache Creek up to 11k, via Kelso to Boomer 14K, along the ridge a few thermals but a good one short of Olancha Pk to 15K.
Crossing over to the Inyo’s (Sierras toooo smokey) connected on the S slope 14K, no Sierra’s visible from that viewpoint. Lots of position reports on the White’s from the group flying out of Bishop doing zig zag’s, heard up to17K with 15M visibility and thought to myself “things are looking up.” Not so fast, Charlie Brown.
Smoke was thicker from Independence to Big Pine. Lift, what lift? “Mazurka soft” came over the radio. You’re not kidding. Chasing towards Black Mtn thinking might have to go for Bishop, passed Zurich found some lift, not great. 300’ got me to the pass E of Black Mtn thinking might have to chase through that narrow canyon into the open, a relatively lazy thermal luckily spoiled that idea.
With the encouragement of Brian Neff reporting still good lift to be had, I was able to climb up towards Schulman and into the thermal Brian pointed out. Yahooo! nice indeed 17K, I nearly started to yodel, (not that I know how). My first cloud over Boundary Pk pulled me up to 17.7K, circling with no horizon just the view of the ground, hm.
Turned on my “auto pilot” cruising to Gabbs while enjoying ground reference points coming into view one after an other, about 7M out I could see the airport. I think it was a combination of old smoke and haze drifting to the SW. Further S, wind out of the SE kept the smoke on the Sierras, and I wondered if the folks that climbed Mt. Whitney got a “Smoke check” or maybe the EPA prohibited access? Did not smell any smoke during the whole not so good “sightseeing” flight.
My crew got to Gabbs around 7:40. Glider in the box we concluded on camping on the field makes sense (Hawthorne NV, to many negatives).
Got the chairs and table out, beer, stove and food etc. and dined under the stars, feeling good making it this far and talking about old times.
Thanks for that, guys!