The goal of the weekend was to fly to Panoche on Saturday. BBQ, BS and camp with the BASA and Hollister pilots and then fly with them on Sunday before landing back at Avenal.
For a 3 day weekend with unsettled weather, Avenal was pretty dead. No formal tow pilots on the schedule, just a couple of students and one other glass ship ready to fly. Kevin drove out with me. He was flying with me on Saturday and would then drive our truck back to San Luis Obispo on Sunday morning. Julie was driving up with the truck and the camping gear on Saturday afternoon after dealing with some other activities. Complicated, but at least we had a plan.
We rigged the Duo. Small cu were popping early, though they had a distinct marine influence look to them. Kind of grey and not real vibrant. Wave clouds were visible up on the San Benito range and it was looking quite cloudy to the NW. So despite the markers, I wasn't in too much of a rush. Dan and Harold both told of howling winds in Fresno and the valley and it looked like that might be the case for the day. We did some work around the gliderport and bought a new battery for the tractor. By 12:30, things were building substantially and it was looking more and more interesting. Wave clouds were moving closer to us and the convergence line over the mountains started to fill in.
We launched at 1:00 with Steve Schery towing us into pretty active skies. We climbed out fairly quickly over the power lines and then pressed into the mountains. It took a little searching, but we connected in the mountains and got up to over 6000 before pressing towards the west to see what was on the western edge of the clouds. Upon reaching the western edge, it looked like there were wavelets running down the valley with small hazy clouds forming on each of the bars.
They really didn't appear to be ground based though and winds weren't showing very strong. Only about 12-15knots. I climbed in the last thermal near the edge of the cloud and used the climb to build up a little energy to pop up along the edge of the cloud and into weak wave. 1/2 to 1 knot was it, but we found ourselves 500+ above the bases of the clouds we'd just left. The line extended to the SW towards Paso Robles about 5-10 miles. We worked out the little wispy markers, playing the glassy air but not really going anywhere. We turned and explored a bit more back around the main clouds. We could maintain and gain a little bit, but there wasn't anything strong to work to a significant height.
Having had our fun and hearing from Buzz and the Hollister crew that they were working weak wave at Panoche, I opted to dive back under the clouds for a bit more conventional run to the South. Kevin hadn't been on an XC flight in a glider yet and a run down the temblors seemed like a good introduction.
The run south was pretty good with the first 30 miles or so ticking off quickly under a solid convergence. Near the north end of the California Valley, the clouds started looking very wave like and were quite sculpted. We worked around a little bit trying to see if we could connect with anything. After a few vain attempts at getting into non-existent wave, we continued south under thermal power and good climbs when needed.
|Nearing our Southern turnpoint south of Soda Lake.|
Nearing Panorama Point we turned SW and started to cross the CA Valley on another convergence line headed towards Caliente Peak. Half way across and checking the time, I decided to turn around after a decent climb under a good cu. The run north was pretty easy. Some patches of heavy sink, but generally consistent climbs. Nearing Paramount the line shifted east and then bent west. After a line of strong sink exceeding 15 knots we connected with a ripping core going up just as fast. 3 turns and 1500ft later we were back at over 8000 and pushing NW towards the Hollister pilots calling out wave near Panoche. From that climb we went 87 miles before making our next turn.
|Afterburners lit and running fast to the call of wave near Panoche.|
|Kevin guides us across to a powerful convergence line running north from Avenal. Can't ask for more beautiful energy lines than this to run.|
Never even a hint of rotor or heavy sink. As we climbed through 8000 the climb rates picked up. Climbing through 11000 I tossed Kevin his canula and turned on the EDS. Only instead of a sharp burst of O2 it was an anemic puff. Hmm, not good when people are climbing to 18k above you. The feed line to the EDS had been pinched by the canopy brace. A few tugs and the line was free and normal O2 flow continued. Good thing as we'd hit nearly 10 knots of lift as we approached 12k and in only a few minutes were climbing through 14500.
Reports from Buzz as he approached 18k were that winds were showing 80+ knots. We were climbing fast and as we climbed through 16000 our groundspeed was down to around 10knots while flying at 60IAS. Climbing through 17k I momentarily was able to hold the glider stationary with 0.0knts indicated groundspeed. 87knots true airspeed and balanced straight into the 87knot winds over a point on the ground. Stronger than any wind I've seen in wave before, even during a March wave event to over 25k out of Soaring NV in Minden.
|2.8knots, almost parked.|
|A blurry 0.0knts ground speed|
After topping out at around 17100 we poked our way NW a few miles before turning SE over filled in skies below us and burning off the altitude to get down before the rain filled in at Panoche International.
|Looking north towards the lennie we'd been over 20 minutes before. Heading down at 100 knots in a race against the rain.|
More Photos Available at:
Flight Trace on the Online Contest: