On Saturday, June 17, Chuck Coyne made his first ever cross-country soaring flight – with no one else up there to share information with – and did well to reach California City. Then on Sunday Karl Sommer made diamond distance to Gabbs, NV, Barry McGarraugh got nearly as far, to Mina. Here are their stories of that weekend.
Thanks to lots of coaching and encouragement from Peter Kovari and Sean Eckstein, my first solo cross-country soaring flight was successfully conducted on Saturday, June 17, from Crystal to California City. Evidently, I was the only ‘Crystal Squad’ attemptee that day.
After launching around 12:45, I released from tow over the second ridge. After working my way up the ridge and then towards the Wrightwood ski resort, lift seemed to fall apart at 11,500’ so I decided to head out towards Rosamond dry lake. It looked to be a long way from where I was. In past flights I had edged out towards Rosamond, but always with plenty of altitude on tap for a retreat back to Crystal. This time, there would be no going back once the decision point was reached and off I went.
Having been forewarned about ‘sucker’ thermals on the route from Crystal to Rosamond, my inclination was to ignore any bumps along the way; nonetheless I couldn’t resist a few times. Luck- ily, those attempts worked out and I arrived at Rosamond at over 8,000’ and from there aimed at Backus/Silver Queen. Climbed to 2842 meters over the Silver Queen mine, then aimed towards Cache Mountain. Before getting to the mountain, I tried my luck first along the foothills south the mountain while contemplating my next leg.
After some consideration, I decided to call it a day and land at Cal City. I was a bit less familiar with the territory to the north than the route from Crystal to where I was, and making a longer flight on my first cross-country attempt didn’t seem necessary in order to feel successful. I had flown in and out of Cal City in the past, and the long, wide runway seemed like more of a sure thing than what might lie ahead if I pressed on.
So, after a 2 hour, 22 minute flight, I found myself on the ground at Cal City, feeling very happy with the flight. Les- sons learned; stay in better contact with my ground crew – seems like I forgot to tell my ground crew, Sean Eckstein, that I was leaving the mountains and heading for Rosamond. Also, plan any landing at Cal City to roll out at the cross taxiway – Joe had to push my PIK 20D a long way in the 103 degree heat to get off the runway. Thanks, again, to Sean for crewing and his advice before the flight.
Barry and I where planning to fly Sunday, fitting better into our plans and also looking more promising. Our crews where all for it, hope- fully getting somewhere to camp. Rose bringing dinner and Sue breakfast.
Dr. Jack, good going N, Sierras OD, Altitudes dropping to 11k Haw- thorne area we thought Austin could work. Anyway looked good for team flying with 2 301 Libelles. About 10:45 we pushed our Libelles into the staging area. No one else going XC. Barry got a tow at 11:00. By about 12:10 I got my tow. (Lucky for me that Rose shaded us with our umbrella)
Got up quick on Mt. Lewis, connected W of Mojave 10k. One of my Batteries decided to quit. Struggled via Kelso up to Boomer, up the ridge 14k, crossing to the Inyos at Olancha Pk, finally clouds, flying straight 14k Black Mt., dark looking cloud street up to Boundary, arrived 11k White Mt found strong lift up to 15k.
Sierras blowing up, spreading cirrus E. Few clouds on the way to Mina. Barry was about 7M short of Mina not finding much when I left Boundary at 14k. The clouds not much help, the sun just about to sink into the cirrus, I arrived NW of Mina in the hills 9k searching for the saving thermal. Just felt some bump, enough to maintain the 9k, when Barry reported he has to land at Mina, darn this does not look good.
Full concentration and clean flying, my Altimeter showed improvement, thank you thank you 12k is enough (not to be greedy) to counter 6 kts from the N. Landed 18:30 Rose was at Gabbs 10min later, glider in the Box, Barry and Sue arrived at the same time.
We set up for camping with all the trimmings, thanks Ladies. No stars, only lightening in the Sierras. Monday morning after Breakfast with fresh coffee and a beautiful sunrise we all got in the Van and headed to Berlin, but could not find anybody to practice our German. Finishing up with Lunch at Whiskey Creek in Bishop. Another nice weekend.
On Sunday June 18th, I landed at Mina, NV, after 6 1⁄2 hours of flying. I launched at 11:15 and took a high tow to the middle ridge and promptly climbed up to the ridge line. I pushed away from Baden Powell at 13,800’ and was pushed across the desert with a nice tailwind that produced 100+kt ground speeds. I settled down to ~7,500’ to the west of Mojave where I found some scrappy/moderate lift that got me up into Kelso Valley. Just to the north of Kelso valley I connected with clouds and had a good climb up to ~14,000’ that got me up to Boomer ridge.
The wind was now coming out of the east and the lift along the ridgeline was pretty choppy, but I was able to fly between 10-14,000’ up to Olancha Peak. I crossed the Owens Valley just past Olancha Peak and got up on the Inyos after a quick climb to ~15,000’ on the plateau east of Lone Pine. Conditions were strong, but cloud bases were fairly low along the Inyo and White mtns and I was not able to climb much above 15,000’ all the way to Boundry Peak. I left Boundary at ~14,000’ and headed to some clouds to the north with the intent to head toward Gabbs and Austin. Conditions softened considerably and the clouds that I was counting on dissipated as I approached them, and I sank lower into Mina/Lunning valley. I headed to the sunlit hills to the east of Mina, but only found sink that dropped me well below the ridge line. All I could find in the valley was zero sink and I eventually succumbed to gravity and landed at 5:45.
Karl managed to cross over the valley and find some lift to the north on Mina that got him over the mountains and into Gabbs. Sue got to the airport about 20 minutes after I landed and we got the glider put away and we headed off to Gabbs. We had previously agreed to meet Karl and Rose at Gabbs where we had a fantastic dinner that Rose pre- pared and we camped out at the airport again. Monday morning we drove over to the Berlin–Ichthyosaur State Park and spent some time investigating the numerous mine ruins and the Ichthyosaur fossils. This place is way out of the way, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood stop by and check it out!