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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Slide Mt. to Surprise Valley Flight Report

 Matt Dakin getting ready to go. He and I drove up together, not that bad a drive with Freeway for most of it. We left Calistoga where I picked him up at around 7am and got into North Lake Tahoe about 10.   Lots of snow in the mountains this spring and lots of Reservoirs over capacity.  Washoe Lake is right up against Hwy 395 but the bailout LZ is still dry.

 Steve Grattan and another pilot I didn't know. Maybe 10 hangs total flew. Matt said somebody broke an arm in the bailout when he was there.  I think it was the first pilot off the hill who was on a topless Moyes and said it had been 13 yrs. since his last flight.  Not a fun way to begin again.

Lake Tahoe as I climbed up over Slide Mt. Radio was giving me the weather stations and I had to pull it out and get it back on channel after I topped out around 12k. and glided back to Mt. Rose. Also turned on my InReach Sattelite tracker at this point so it doesn't show my takeoff at Slide. It's set for 20 mn. gaps between track points by me, which seems good enough for flying purposes. I didn't launch till almost 1 but the winds were predicted to be SE for most of the day  so I was in no real hurry, as others were sinking out, to go.

Lake Tahoe from where I climbed out before crossing over i80 to Peavine. Mt.  Lots of virga and high clouds blocking the sun but the day had lots of promise. Winds were mostly in the 8 to 14 mph range. Predominantly S at base but lower down SE to SW depending on the terrain.

 Peavine Mt. from same local as previous shot looking north across i80. I flew straight to Peavine and by the time I got there those nice clouds were right over it and I hit strong lift to 14500' or so.  The Sierras were over developing with virga falling everywhere so knew I had to stay away from them. I flew over Cold Springs Lake and town which is just to the left of Peavine and came in on the ridge behind it a bit low.  After a few turns I decided to ridge soar up it's eastern facing flank as my flight instrument was showing SE winds around 14 mph which I figured I could ridge soar till I caught a good thermal.  I gained some alt. but never really hooked up and was slowly sinking down below the ridges top. My vario said SW at this point so I figured the westerlys had pushed into this locale so moved over to the other side of the valley which had a road and good places to put down in.  I caught a thermal, after unzipping and picking out a landing zone, and rode it back to around 10k.  I was only about 30 miles out and did not want to end my flight so soon on this great looking day.

 This shot is about an hour and a half later after I scratched across a hard stretch and finally skied out to base above 16k.  Pyramid Lake to the east looking into Nevada and a soaring pilots wet dream. Around 45 miles out, here, I think.  Nice looking cloud streets all the way to the Warners down wind of me so that is where I headed.  Matt and our driver Mike were ahead of me sitting on 395 and got a visual of me here.

The Warner Range with snow covered peaks ahead and Surprise Valley to it's right.  Beautiful clouds with strong lift over 1200 fpm and big sink between them for super fast glides in the 60 mph range with the south tail wind.  Good radio reception and the guys were staying even with me on Hwy 395 to my west a few miles.  I never got low again after that one hard stretch.  Mostly stayed above 10'000 till getting to the Warners.  Had my oxygen working good which was nice to have as the air was quite cold up high. My camel back line had slush in it but never froze solid so I had plenty of water to drink.

 Last shot I took as I flew between clouds dropping virga. Got snowed on or sleeted on a few times but nothing major. I've had my arms turn white on other flights.  The virga doesn't seem to affect the air to much if you are not right under it where I imagine it can have a strong down bursting nature.  No big cunims to worry about on this day so I was not worried and flew through the snow uneventfully.  16823' max alt. near this point. Cloud base was easily above 17 but I felt uncompelled to find out and risk entering the white room.  I hit max alt. after pulling on the VG at 16500' and crossing under a cloud lifting me at 1250 fpm.

Anyway I was hoping to get up on the Warner Range and at least try to take it to Lakeview but by the time I got there they were covered with clouds dropping snow and rain.  I got to Eagle Peak which is at 9900' above it by about 200 ft. but with no lift to be found and the range in clouds glided out into Surprise Valley and landed along the Hwy.  The guys were on Hwy 299 waiting for my transmission telling them which way I would be going to land.   I could have went more east out into the Nevada back country to extend my flight, but both those guys had to work in the morning, and I didn't feel like ending my flight in the middle of nowhere.

I dropped my streamer low after pushing it to a field which still had some sun on it hoping to get up but no luck and I didn't see the streamer fall over with the ground wind.  It laid over NE to SW but I guessed it had laid over SW to NE because that's the last direction my flight instrument had recorded.

I came in over the highway and just kept going and going at a high speed and knew I was in for some pain or broken metal at least in the tailwind.  I flared with all I had and kept it from whacking but fell on my right shoulder hard and bruised it deeply if not an outright seperation. The glider was fine. A field worker came over and gave me a hand unclipping.  I stood up and tried to shake off the pain but it wasn't going away.  I took off my helmet and hung it on the wires and walked down to the Hwy maybe 75 yards where I took off my harness.  Then I tried to take off the speed sleeve and while lifting my right arm over my head the shoulder felt like it was coming out of the socket a bit.  I grabbed a fence post and knelt down and pulled on it to get it to reseat which it did finally.  I had the use of the hand and nothing felt broke so the guys and I instructing them got the glider bagged and we hit the road for home.  A killer retrieve getting back to Incline Village where we dropped off the driver about 12:30 and headed to drop off Matt in Calistoga around 4am. Home to bed around 5am after a shower and some unwinding and ibuprofen.


The start of my InReach tracklog. I forgot to turn it on at launch as this was my first flight with it this year so it starts from where I did. The points are 20 minutes apart so you can tell how well I'm doing by their distance apart. The slow stretch is obvious in the beginning after I crossed Hwy 395 at Cold Spring

 The end of it in the surprise Valley 7 miles from Cedarville. 146.2 mile flight 1250fpm max lift. 5hrs.30 mns. of SkyTime. Landed at 6:30. One of the best soaring days of my life which could have been 200 miles easily with a little different conditions and without the slow section at the start.   Thanks again Matt for joining me, and awesome driving as always Mike, you rock.

Here's the Delorme page for the track if you click on the track points it gives you my alt. and speed and gps coordinates. This page is in the members section of Sonoma Wings web page under the About heading.  If on any given day someone calls you to get my last position just click on that days track and go to the end and get the info. and give it to them.
https://share.delorme.com/highhuber   Thankyou.

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