Sean Eckstein:

My turn to fly again, Peter has been nursing a back problem for the last few weeks.

This Saturday looked good for a long flight, the weather blip maps showed there would be high altitudes all along the route, and also some weather to deal with.

I got air born at 11:15 thanks to Chis. I took a high tow because the mountains were mostly in shadow, and the light grayish clouds that were developing were looking like they would soon let loose with some virga. I climbed above 13k and headed toward the upwind leading edge of the clouds on course. As I was leaving the mountains the cloud above me let loose with some heavy rain but I was close enough to the edge I didn’t loose much altitude.

Gliding across the desert was very smooth, but I made good time with the tailwind. Arriving at Silver queen at 7k there still wasn’t a bump, not even a teaser bump. I could see all the clouds in the mountains straight ahead just out of reach, and only one wind turbine turning on the desert floor indicating lift. I flew toward it hoping there would be a thermal, and as I arrived it stopped. (Murphy’s law) Luckily there was still lift that allowed me to get into the mountains.

I climbed above 11k close to Cache peak and headed toward Kelso airstrip in the high ground. The hills SW of Kelso had virga and I ran into some heavy sink until I connected with a thermal east of Kelso, climbing above 13k.

From Kelso to Olanch peak was a blast, strong thermals, cloud streets with no turning required. The Sierras ahead had heavy virga and pilots were reporting some lighting. I left Olanch peak above 15k and angled across the valley towards the Inyos arriving just below 12k.

The Inyos were working great. I connected with a thermal, climbed above 15k and headed to Westgard pass. Now heading toward the Whites I could see some virga, easily avoidable by staying on the west side of the cloud street. Arriving at Boundary peak above 17k, I had to avoid some virga and pick my path toward Mina.

On course to Mina I kept looking toward the west, it was solid gray, and I couldn’t see any sunlight reaching the ground. To the NE was clear and sunny with more good weather. Arriving at Mina I had Gabbs made and headed head toward Pilot’s peak hoping I could connect with a cloud and take a straight line towards Austin. Well that didn’t work, and now I’m lower.

I decided rather than risk a sure thing, Gabbs, I better head towards a small line of decent looking clouds in the hills north on Luning dry lake. The virga to the west was not an issue yet and was moving very slow. I worked a thermal that took me from 12k to above 17k, I had Gabbs made and altitude to try to work my way past Gabbs.

With everything in shadow, gliding toward Gabbs was smooth as expected. Once I arrived at Gabbs I looked toward Fritzs dry lake which I had enough altitude to reach. Smiths and Fritz dry lake were in the sun, but the hills north of Fritz had a line of Virga, and I would need more altitude to make Austin. I didn’t want to land on Fritz with the chance of a gust front, so I pulled spoilers and landed at Gabbs at 5:27.

Temperatures during my flight were very comfortable, I kept my vents closed most of the flight because being at cloud base in shadow got cool. A big thank you to Peter (6PK) for driving during the heat wave, over 100° on the ground.


Richard Smolinski:

Day looked interesting from the beginning.

Thanks to Julie and Chris to get me in to air around 11:30 just ahead of the rain that start when I was taking off.

I got to Mt. Lewis and started my claim but was interrupted by thunderstorm coming from the east. I made mistake going west and it caused me to end up at 10K on Lewis again. Big loss of time.

I got up to 14.5K and start the desert hop. On the way not even a bump. Get to Silver Queen at 7K and after making another 1k, head up toward mountains with nice clouds on top.

Another little lift by Cross Mt. got me to 9k and keep moving north. At Smugglers, finally got to 12k and keep going toward Inyokern. North of Owens peak lift got me to 16K and overdevelopment start growing so I made my jump to Whites by Lone Pines. Conditions were excellent. I climb to 16k and start racing Whites toward north. Lots of Virga and other gliders on the way.

Past White mountain and seeing that weather deteriorate fast, I decide to go toward Mina before reaching Boundary Peak. There was Virga coming from the north and from the south so I sped up. Unfortunately I got pulled into the clouds and hit hard by hail and rain, and after10 minutes have to dive to the deck feeling ice start building up on the controls. I lost few thousand but made it to the sun part. Behind me a wall of clouds.. Got to Mina at 11k and kept racing Virga from the south east. Finally decided that with margin of 2K it was not worth the risk to push forward to Gabs.

I needed to wait out wall of dust storm on the ground, and my crew warn me about strong gusts on the ground, so I waited it out and finally landed.