Thursday, July 7, 2011

News from the west

Tony sent this report from Nevada.

Carol and I decamped this summer, 1-35C trailer in tow, seeking an alternative to Vermont and Florida soaring weather. Friends recommended Air Sailing ("ASI"), a glider club northeast of Reno which holds a six-day XC Camp in mid-June.

ASI is in the high desert at 4700 feet where rocks and sage brush predominate (Click on the photos to see the full size versions).

Mountains on either side reliably generate ridge, wave and even convergence lift from strong southwesterly winds.

Fourteen pilots participated in the camp. Prior experience ranged from little cross country to a half dozen 300km OLC flights but no declared Gold distance. Chalk talks started at 8:00AM and covered local conditions, land outs, weather, hydration, thermaling, wave and ridge flight and XC in the Sierra Nevadas.

Afternoons two students flew paired with an instructor. Those with little experience got one-on-one mentoring. We started with short XC and ridge flights, extending the task legs each day.

For Friday's graduation flight some of us declared a Diamond Goal out-and-return south in the Pine Nut range of the Sierras to Mt. Patterson/Lobdell Lake and return. The terrain is beautiful but rugged and remote. This picture south of the turnpoint gives a sense of the route except that it did not cross the large landable farmland visible in the foreground.

Unfortunately, I forgot some sound advice from Paul Natkiel, or was it Rick, and placed my turnpoint 10 miles into what developed to be unlandable terrain. That proved costly as I had to turn back just short of the goal when the lift softened.

Now that I know the area and conditions, I can't imagine flying in the Sierras without something like the ASI camp. I know, you're thinking that the biggest challenge in the land of booming thermals is filling out a proper Diamond distance declaration. And yes, many aspects of soaring don't require week-long training. For example, if dust devils tear up the flight line don't check Dr. Jack, just jump in your ship and launch.

Nonetheless, western conditions create a host of challenges we never experience in the east. Most of the desert and the Sierras are unlandable. Outlandings on roads are strongly disfavored. That leaves widely-spaced airfields, occasional alfalfa fields, and dry lake beds, most of which are still wet.

Strong winds generate tremendous wave, ridge and convergence lift. But they blow until sunset so returning flights battle stiff head winds. Ridge turbulence can be far greater than say Franconia or Mt Washington. Afternoon winds also create venturi effect and huge sink in west facing mountain passes between the Sierras and ASI.

But my current source of heartburn is something well known in the east-elusive soarable conditions. So after hauling my ship 3,000 miles based on reports of Diamond and Gold mines in the west, it has been tied down for two weeks. That's because there have been no days with the marker CU's I want for my first XC flights in challenging territory and strong winds have been breaking up the blue sky thermals.

They claim this weather is an aberration. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I don't know whether to be jealous of Tony, or pity him.

Rick said...

Don't pity Tony. He has a long way to go to catch up to my miles driven/miles flown ratio.

PMSC Member said...

This is interesting:

The internet is a strange place.

tim said...

Thanks for the write-up Tony. We have seen your flights on OLC but the post is much more interesting. Are you coming thru VT?