GUEST COLUMNIST (Three Holes In One?)

This week we welcome Dave Raspet’s wonderful description of his cross-country flight last Saturday, memorable not for how far it took him or where, but because it was unusually challenging!  Dave’s call sign is SAS, and he team-flew this day with Karl Sommer (C3).

Despite a marginal forecast, Friday night C3 and I talked each other into flying Saturday.  Dr Jack showed marginal conditions at Crystal and the Antelope Valley with weak lift (2-300 ft/min) in the southern Sierras but great lift in the area around Hawthorne, NV.  SAS launched at about 11:40 and struggled on the second ridge but climbed well just south of the Punchbowl.  Went over to Mt Lewis, got to 11,500′ and left at about 12:35.  
My style of flying varies from Dick Johnson’s advice to “Get high and stay high” and efficient cruise, where I work only the best lift and I fly close to the MacCready speeds between thermals.   Saturday I had troubles shifting between the two.
Got to Sliver Queen, climbed near there to about 7500′ and left for the ridges.  No luck in the Tehachapi Pass and at about 5200 I flew into my first hole.
Hole #1- I had to return to Mojave airport where I got a scrap at 4200′ {1400 agl} that carried high enough to head for Cal City.  Working anything I could find I got to the railroad tracks east of Cal City airport at 4500 and got high enough in a thermal there to stretch for Chuckwalla and finally good lift to over 10k’ and I was out of my first hole. I had spent about 45 minutes getting 12 miles up the ridges.
Cruised up the east side of Kelso Valley not finding anything good till I was just about to the Rock Pile. C3 called to say he hadn’t found anything there and had pressed on.  I did not have enough altitude to follow him.  Second hole.
Hole #2- I was looking up at the top of the Rock Pile from about 5800′ and contemplating a landing at Kelso Valley, the retrieve from Hell.  I went to a low ridge that runs east-west at the north end of Kelso and managed to work up some, then moved west and worked up some more and moved west again.  And so on until I got up on the ridge on the west side of Kelso at about 7500′,  I connected there with a small cu that got me back over 11 k’ and out of the second hole.  
Cruising up to the southern Sierras went well, working lift in the 2-400 ft/min range.  Did well until one peak before Olancha Peak where I fell off the mountains and into my third hole.  
Hole #3- Glided over to the Haystack east of Lone Pine where I found some lift but only to about 8500′, not enough to get on the Inyos.  This time I tried the south face of Inyos and worked up to about 9500′, not enough to get on top.  Back to my PLAN A, I bumped up the west face of the Inyos using what lift I could find close to the mountains until I got to Mazourka where I could work some weak lift on the gentle slope to climb to 11 k’.  From there SAS was on top of the Inyos and finally out of the holes.   
The Inyos didn’t work really great, but ok, and I could speed up some.   Crossed Westgard Pass and things changed dramatically, the Whites were great, as good as I’ve ever seen – good strong lift in the 500 ft/min plus range and cloud bases well over 17 k’.   Easy run up to the Luning area with C3.   There Karl and I had a conversation – there was still well over an hour of daylight left and the lift was great, but I was drained from staring at too many really big rocks from way too close and the 22-degree temperature had me shivering.   We agreed to land at Gabbs.   To dispose of altitude I flew 12 miles north of Gabbs and back, straight the whole way, no spirals – left at 12 k’ and returned at 12 k’ – didn’t lose a thing in the whole 24-mile junket.    
Like last week was more character building than I wanted, but this time a very satisfying flight.

Thanks for that, SAS.    GREAT STORY, GREAT FLIGHT.  Let’s hear MORE!