Friday, April 16, 2021

Longest Out-and-Return to the North?

Visibility: 40 miles in haze   
Wind: Generally north/northwesterly flow less than 15kts at all altitudes
Altitudes: 6-8k typical.  9-10k in exceptional convergence areas
Time Aloft: 6hrs
Max Lift: 11kts
Temperature: Comfortable
Comment: Excellent spring convergence day
Tow pilot: Logan

Thanks to Logan for coming out and providing tows mid-week.  Apologies to all of our members that can't take a day off in the middle of the week when the forecast doesn't align with a weekend.

Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures as conditions were very hazy and did not make for great photo opportunities..

There were five of us that could fly gliders, with Logan in the towplane.  Zach, Eric, Ethan, Philip Lee (Bay area pilot) and myself.  Zach launched first with a partial load of water.  Then Philip and I was third off at about 12:30pm in XD. For fun and challenge, as well as to get some experience using tasks in the LX9000, I declared a 530km out and return from Tar Peak to Mt. Diablo and back to Tar Peak.

Spotty cu were forming in the mountains by 11:30 and were more defined by 12 when Zach launched.  I think the three of us all took a tow to Tar, releasing right around 3000.  The lift was on the backside of Tar, so it was worth a few extra minutes on tow to get across the ridgeline and established in a climb.  

While Zach and Philip had reported 5kt climbs, I found 2-3 initially but stuck with that until about 4000 when I could push a little deeper comfortably and pick up a stronger climb.  Zach and Philip were well ahead of me by then.  Zach was already 20+ miles NW and Philip about 10-15 out from Avenal by the time I was getting up closer to the 5000ft cloudbase.

It was a classic convergence day.  The line was on top of the ridges and relatively well marked with cu every 4-5 miles.  In between the cu the line was energized with good air, netto positive much of the time and let me proceed without too much need to circle.  A few turns up by Pine Canyon in preparation for crossing over to the ridgline leading southeast from Center.  By now the clouds were well defined and the line was clear with cloudbase varying from 5000-7000ft with the eastern side of the line having the higher base cu.  

I caught up with Philip around EL4 where we had a nice climb to over 7000 before beginning our run up towards Panoche which was working well and only when nature threw a very strong climb at me on the south side of Panoche did I stop for a few circles.  

Nearing the southern shores of San Luis Reservoir there were two paths to the north.  One up the San Antonio valley that appeared to have relatively low bases over generally higher terrain with only one landout (hellish retrieve) option.  And similar bases to the north out closer to I5.  I chose the more conservative and indirect route.  That cost me some time as it wasn't as organized as it looked and it took some effort to get connected back up towards Mt. Oso.  But north of Mt. Oso the cloudbase rose to 9000 and a good looking line connected all the way to Diablo 40nm to the NW.  It seemed like a rare opportunity to bag Diablo so I pushed on, knowing that it would be very late when I turned.

Nearing Diablo the direct line had clouds, but they weren't well connected to the ground and the windmills and lakes showed strong surface winds.  A good line of cu was 5-10miles north of my line, but thankfully I found a few decent climbs that got me to my turnpoint at 3:45.   It took 3:15 from my launch to make it the 143nm to Diablo.  I felt it was possible to get to within final glide before the day shut off completely.  Would I be right?

The convergence was well marked still, but spotty.  Larger gaps required more climbs and less continuous runs, but deep in the San Antonio valley was a monster convergence zone with a strong climb to about 10500 and 3-4k above the cloudbase to the east.  That forced me to work may way around the western edge of that airmass, but gave me the altitude to cut across a completely washed out (as expected) Pacheco Pass.  I downshifted hard and just stretched my glide with a slight tailwind component.  I had Mercy Hot Springs made and a nice cloud line started near there if I could get there high enough.  

I was rewarded with a 6kt thermal which got me high enough to reach Harris Ranch if that became necessary.  The line went east to the Panoche Hills, then south across Idrea towards EL4.  A strong looking line, even at nearly 6pm started between EL5 and Coalinga and after an unsuccessful circle in 1kt lift I pushed farther east to find a 4kt climb which gave me final glide to finish the task back at Tar peak.

I finished the task at about 4500 and just followed the clouds for a bit down past highway 41, passing up a 10kt thermal after 6pm.  I suspect it was strong enough that I could have made it down to Wonderful and back before sunset, but I was cold, stiff and tired with the rest of the crew waiting for me on the ground, so I dove back to Avenal at 115kts landing on 08 and rolling out to my trailer at about 6:30pm

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