Welcome to another wings-eye-view write-up of the Crystal Squadron’s adventures, this week by Peter Kovari, whose radio call sign is PK. (Notice that, hidden in midflight Peter fails to mention accumulating well more than a gold altitude climb.) Here’s guessing that twenty years from now, the bloody kneed lowest moments of this tale will be the sweetest part of one of his all-time favorite flights. Miraculous climbs may be taken for granted, almost, but only by one who can execute the low save… So here in Peter’s words:
My friend Sean (PT) and I often talk about some of the “character building” challenging flights, even if sometimes much shorter, being many times the most memorable and rewarding. This was certainly one of those.
I launched around 11:30 behind Dave (SAS) right on schedule (thank you Crystal ground) and towed to the second ridge.
SAS reported good climb around the chimney but he must have released a little higher as I could only find scrappy lift in which I did scratch my way up and sure enough a few hundred feet later it got better taking me to 9000′. Moving to the north slopes of Lewis I climbed again to 10700′. Topping out and flying on the ridge between Lewis and Baden Powell, not finding much, I set a course to the north of the Apple Valley mines.
The air was kind over the desert and with only a couple of turns near So. Cal. Logistics I finally arrived at the mines and sure enough as anticipated there was maybe a 1-kt thermal that gave me a few hundred extra feet to about 7000′, barely enough for Barstow but enough to push forward and still have safe glide back to Apple Valley.
A few miles north on the south facing low ridges I climbed again to 8200′ and just south of Barstow/Dagget airport once again to 7700′. Once north of the airport and over the flat terrain all went quiet and smooth, time to conserve. Other than a couple of bug fart thermals I arrived just east of 031 Dry Lake at 3800′ (1900 AGL). I was thinking about wind directions and landing when I finally stepped into a ½-knotter. Working it, it got better with altitude topping out at 7400′ and I moved over to the high ground/lava rocks south of Baker.
These hills either produce massive sink or decent thermals, in this case I lucked out and got to 10000′ on my way to a slow conservative cruise to Cima. With the help of a nice little thermal on the way just south of Clark mountain I climbed again to 9500′, having Jean made on my glide computer and seeing nice cloud streets ahead, I did get impatient and sped up ignoring some good lift to get under the clouds.
This haste (not the first time) nearly cost me; when I finally reached the first cu I was down to 5500′, I suspect much lower than the workable bottom of these thermals and I encountered nothing. I had to turn toward Jean airport, gear down at 4000′ (1200 AGL) and make one more attempt to save the day over the rocky hills just east of the field. Low and behold I did run into strong lift, so strong and violent I thought the stick was about to come out in my hand. All I could dare to do is figure-eight so close to the rocks. Eventually circled up to 6600′ and ran to the nearest cu to the east which produced a good climb but at 7800′ my “airspace warning” came on, warning that I drifted and was nearing the Las Vegas class Bravo to 0.2kn.
Moving away to southeast to another cu went well, climbing to above 9k then moving over the top of the Bravo and under an extended cloud street, climbing to 14000′. Just about this time I started to worry about my ground crew Sean, as earlier he reported a bad accident on Hwy 15 and it appeared that I way out ran him and lost radio contact. About the same time I noticed a menacing overdevelopment a few miles east with lightning. Fortunately the winds were out of the south and the OD was heading in a parallel direction, not a factor. Coming out from under the cloud street near Echo Bay I encountered rain, quickly loosing 2000′ in what seemed like seconds… Finally managed to contact Sean via text and at least he knew our plan.
Nice cruise to the Virgin Mountain range and once again climbing under a cu to above 15k got me glide to Hurricane, UT. By now Karl (C3) caught up with me and since he was lower he landed first, reporting strong winds and turbulence. The winds were out of the east on the surface, gusting directly across the runway about 15kt. What made this worse, the hills directly east parallel the runway, produce rotor-like turbulence. Needless to say the approach and landing was an “E” ticket ride but all worked out.
(In his own account, Karl described the landing as ‘sporty’.)
Once on the ground we contacted our crews, finding out about a five-hour delay they encountered on the 15. They did finally arrive around 10:30, we disassembled with flashlights and congratulated ourselves with Cervesas, compliments of the Sommers. Finally got to bed around 2 a.m.
What a memorable day!
Memorable indeed. Thanks Peter, for another wonderful yarn! Now, who’s next?