Back to Marshall :  Cross Country / Vol Voyage

A flight description by Matthew Carter ( E-mail ).  May 23, 2001

Wednesday: From my bed it looked good and the buzz on the net was saying the same.  Good day to go over-the-back and get it.  Tim “Hi-Octane” Nelson and myself launched Crestline at 12.45.  It switched fast and hard.  Not much at Crestline so we buzzed over to Pine where it was a little better.  The nice climbs seemed to be coming out of the lee side holes.  The back side was looking tasty, so after a little period of waiting for it to get better, we just dove back to Cleghorn Ridge together with 6K. Bubbles there. Tim broke NE towards the Hesperia, and got super low in the ridges above Summit Valley.  An aggressive play for the cloud shadow coming from the East.  Last I saw of him he was at 150 feet AGL and I thought he was down.  Meanwhile I worked another heat front right up against a ridge in the valley, got about 6 or 7K.  Weak widespread climbs but nothing to really get you up.  Getting established somewhat over Hesperia I look up to see Tim "Lazarus" Nelson 6K over me, from being 4K below me.  A monster low save that he took to over 15k for a gain of over 10,000 ft !  By the time I popped through the weak inversion at 8, he was on his way over Hesperia, running a nice line.  Wow, so much for the virtues of patience.  I got to a little under 16K, and spent the majority of the next 5 hours over 10K, with long periods over 14K.  It wasn’t super fast conditions, and you couldn't make aggressive glides because if you got low you had a north drift to deal with.  I seemed to spend an eternity climbing in fact, leaned over, eyes closed and listening to the happy chirping sound.  Basically spent the whole day telling myself to SLOW down, and it was nice to be on final near sunset.

Tim flew to Barstow before the agony of a swollen bladder got the best of him.  Tried spinning in the harness and pulling the old feller out, but it got shy at the cold and 14K of altitude underneath.  So he burned off some serious altitude to land by a Dairy Queen like any sensible person would, 50 miles with a tour of the town tacked on at the end.

At this stage I was about 5 miles east, pushing towards the clouds developing over Ord Mountain.  Big blue hole to the north, so after 50 km I made a waypoint before doglegging east.  Found the first really nice climbs from the virga pushing through off the back of the San Bernardino's.  Got to 15800 before starting a 30K crosswind final glide to Ludlow, over the lava fields.  The desert was really beautiful in the evening air. The north wind made logging miles away from Crestline hard, so I crabbed NE to intersect the 40, landing on the road a couple of miles before Ludlow. 140K's with the turn point, and 112 Km's {70 miles} straight line from Crestline.

Here is a yahoo map with my route from the track log. Blue line is the flight, red line is the 112km. straight line distance from Crestline. The 29 Palms Air Base doesn't extend out quite as far as shown so I wasn't cutting it THAT fine! So at least I stayed legal.

Amazing how far apparently close things actually are on the ground, esp. in the desert.  Thus began an epic walk out up the freeway, getting thoroughly ignored by passing cars.  Next time, will carry a "glider needs ride" sign, and having decent communications on my part would be a plus as well.  Michelle and Tim were needless to say concerned by the time I had hiked through the boonies- many apologies and thanks for all the waiting and big ass drive, guys !  Next time I'll be first in line at the Dairy Queen,  leaving the other follow-the-cloud dumbasses to sweat it out back there !

2001/5/24 - Comments

6K wasn't ideal to go over-the-back.  We clung to bubbles and actually got to Cleghorn plenty high.  It didn't look like it would get any better so it was worth a try.  It will get trashy back there though, obviously, and tight landings if you don't make it over Cleghorn ridge.  8K is probably wise over-the-back advice.

2001/5/25 - Question and answers

1. How common of an occurrence can a flight like this be ?

Sailplane people or anyone who flies the desert sites a lot would know better than I, but from what I can see it seems to be great back in the desert a lot, obviously because the mountains around the L.A. basin typically block the cruddy marine air. Question is, can you get back and established over the 4,000 foot high "hot plate?" Not easy, as Jerome has found out a couple of times. You have to be prepared to work everything, and get out in front of the marine stuff that filters through the Cajon. Even on nicely balanced "switching-N-to-S" days, the marine haze will weasel its way through there. It sheared pretty good over Hesperia as a result, and that's where Tim took his monster climb. I headed over and got up good in the same place, and as I hit base looking back the convergence was setting up behind, with the big hazy "heaven's gates" as well.

What also helped us out- yesterday morning, I looked up on intellicast, the windcast said convergence running basically up the 15. It was definitely happening, and Tim had some good lines and climbs in blue, but I wanted to play safe and stick with the clouds so broke east. The north wind seemed to disorganize the E/W convergence about mid-afternoon. We both latched onto some helpful clues, like watching the cloud shadows converging, then jumping into the line through the middle of them, between the heat fronts. Tim pushed west further, got low and slow and I caught up to him at that stage, although I was 10 miles east of him. For me, going east was the safe bet given the clouds there, and the big blue between the 395 and 15. Slower maybe but less risk, probably. If Tim hadn't had to burn altitude and land we would know whether the blue was working. My suspicion is that it would have been battling a headwind, hence my dogleg.

2. What about this lapse rate thing and the conditions, how did it factor into the flight and the decisions ?

Saw the good lapse rate early on in the soaring forecasts, one reason why we were ready to go the moment it switched. Saw many big-ass 1000-2000 ft high dust-devils back in the Mojave, and flew through the remnants of a couple. Obviously lapsing well, but the booming clouds could have told us that. Early on it was pretty cold at base, obviously. Comfortable later if you were bundled up.

3. Was it the typical day at Marshall/Crestline or was there something special about it that you took more risk to go over-the-back ?

-Lapse rate, ripping early clouds behind the mountains, dry air with high base and less risk of OD, and the windcast from intellicast. I think that many people could tell right away it would be nice, the air was super-clear and had that certain feel, one look out the window and I bounced out of bed.

To get to Silverwood or Cleghorn isn't hard. Just take a decent climb back at Pine and stay with it. Question is, what do you do next? What's the sky doing back there? Pressure systems? Inversions? Clouds? Convergence? Is there reason to think that climbs are good enough to punch through the general subsidence on the back side of Crestline, or are you going to get lowpoxic and scratch your way all the way down to the heat and dust of Summit Valley? [I'm glad I didn't land until 7.20, as even then it was hot as hell] There are some good desert sites {Avenue S, Parker Mt} that take this all out of the equation. Or even better go tow on one of the millions of roads back there.

4. How does the inversion, marine layer affect you when your over Cleghorn, or Pine and making the decision to go over-the-back ?

-Has it got through the pass to Cleghorn? If so probably forget about it. If you can get ahead of it then you might expect good desert climbs eventually, with some shearing to improve things a little.

5. Was there clouds or cloud streets?

-Yes, oh hell yes! :-]   Big Bear and Baldy CuNimmed and dumped virga behind us later.

In the desert, there were nice long lasting Cu's that even forgave me all my zigzagging around in pursuit. Multiple wide cores that kept lift around for while. Only got really hosed under a cloud once. 1200 fpm down for 4-5 minutes.

6. Was there a lot of wind in the Pass? Out in the Valley near Victorville?

-Plenty of wind at launch and Pine. Not a windy day back in the desert, which made for nice climbs but cuts down the distance a lot on a PG. Constant wind so you can keep going all day is a big mileage bonus.

Seemed slightly SW up high earlier, slightly north down low. Then later on it switched to NNW the whole way through.

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Its a bit of a crapshoot, takes luck and patience, but the rewards are sweet. With a Swing/Arcus, have 7-8k and very light base wind at the back of Pine. Have a good look at some topos, we scouted the route pretty thoroughly. On the plus side if you sink out a lot back there I hear the Silverwood Lake Swimming beach sells season tickets!