The cross-country soaring season has wound to a halt until sometime this coming spring. The pilots’ final effort two weeks ago carried them terribly far (87 miles to Inyokern), but their write-ups are diamond quality:
Having flown Friday I had my climb out strategy pretty well in hand for Saturday’s cross county flight. Add to that a healthy dose of overconfidence having flown cross country for over two months. I launched immediately after PK and expected to out climb him and be leading the way north to Silver Queen. After all I had a newer, higher performance ship. As insurance I towed a bit higher than usual to hedge by bet. Boy did I get owned. I gave it all I had for over an hour and managed to lose 2000’ off tow. It’s remarkable how many cuss words one can utter in an hour. I promised myself to never again think that I am anything other than a neophyte in this sport.
After being taught a lesson I managed to climb to 12K at Williamson, call Silver Queen as my first alternate, and chase PK now 40 miles North. I was able to climb to a comfortable 9K at Silver Queen and call Cal. City as my next alternate. This time I had enough altitude so I headed for the hills towards the Three Sisters and Cache Peak. Here I found thermals topping out at 10K.
The coolest part of this flight was flying with a flock of thirty or so migrating Turkey Vultures. They were flying in single file West of Cache Peak. Bet I “wasted” 20 minutes marveling at their beauty and grace. Migratory birds have evolved to use next to no energy as they cruise along effortlessly.
As I worked my way north, it seemed the best lift was in the foothills rather than over the high ground. East of Chuckwalla Mountain I climbed in smooth thermals to 11K, which was enough to call IKY as my next alternate. Looking down at Cantil, the Wide Spot and Hede’s as I headed north, they looked doable as land out locations. But, I promised myself we would become better acquainted during the off season.
About now I heard Peter, north of IYK in rough air, calling to his crew that he would be landing at IYK. With plenty of reserve I reached Boomer Ridge and headed north of IYK. That was all I needed to hear and decided to join the Peter and Sean for dinner and some glider pilot comradery. So I let down at IYK. Besides, I was in no mood to try to outdo PK anytime soon, at least this season.
I want to thank Sean, Peter, Barry, Karl, Chuck and the rest of the Crystal Squadron for nurturing me along this season. I’ve had loads of fun and gained a couple more grey hairs, but have enjoyed every moment.
I’m looking forward to continuing my apprenticeship with these truly talented and remarkable pilots in 2018.
I have given it a try once again along with Bradley (ES) last Saturday. Although some of the other regular Squadron guys were smarter than us, and had thrown in the towel for the season. Both Bradley and I launched right about noon. I took my usual higher tow on a cross country day, and released over the second ridge.
Not much there but than I connected with a nice thermal just north of the Chimney, climbing to about 9K, than heading toward Mt. Lewis under some growing cu’s, working up to cloud base – about 12k- and on my way north toward Backus.
Down to 6K I encountered small thermal activity just south of Backus, and then over the Silver Queen to about 7500’- enough altitude now to push into the Three Sisters. Arrived way below ridge top level and the usual struggle began but once on top of the ridge, good strong thermals were encountered. Nevertheless it took a lot of precious time this late in the season.
Got to 10K at Catch Peak and 12.5K near the Rock Pile, easy glide to Boomer Ridge. I did not encounter anything to write home about near Boomer or Owens Peak as a matter of fact, not being able to get much above 9K. The air was rough and choppy with an unusual easterly component. There were some clouds forming over the lower part of the ridge closer to 9Mile Canyon, so I headed that way. Sure enough the valley below seamed to be working well, probably a shear line in the making.
I looked at my watch and lo behold it was 3PM- really too late for any sensible distance, maybe Lone Pine or at the very best Bishop. We have driven back from Bishop and Lone Pine at least three times this season… no thanks to getting home after 1 a.m. in the morning, it is getting old. ( As Karl (C3) would say “I don’t need any more exercise, I had plenty in the past).
So I decided to call it a day, and put it away at Inyokern. Bradley ( ES) followed as well.
While breaking down, we had a call from Karen and Tom Serkowsky as they heard us land over the radio, and wanted to have dinner with old friends at the local Mexican joint. We all gladly got together and had a great time. (As a matter affect, celebrated my birthday as one can’t keep any secrets any longer due to the social media.)
At least for me, the cross country season is over for this year, and “the dark ages are upon us” (a John Gonzales proverb)..
I’d like to wish everyone a safe and healthy off season and hope to see you all enthused and ready to do it again in the spring of 2018 .