Thursday, May 27, 2010
Cuesta Ridge XC Paragliding
Mike Harris, Jack Grisanti, Tim O'Neill and I got to Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo at around 10:15 to do some cross country paragliding. Making it to Mike Wilson's (Creston area) was the goal for the day. Tim and I launched our first flight around 10:30 into very smooth lifty air, though not a lot of sun showing through. Tim got high first and headed back towards Santa Margarita. I was getting high over launch as he was landing by the santa margarita airport. With the knowledge there was no lift for Tim, I decided to take a different route and went south of Launch towards East Cuesta. I got there at ridge height, but eventually climbed to base (probably around 4,000 at that point). In the wispies, I turned over the back (for a short while I couldn't really see anything, I must have had my eyes closed or something). I went on glide across the valley trying to connect with the hills to the east, but had to land on the other side of pozo rd. Jack came and picked us up.
TRY 2. We went for more, Tim set up his paraglider and was about to launch as we heard a shout, apparently John Hesch (hangglider pilot) had just launched, from where he parked on the road maybe? Anyway, Tim got in the air with him, and they climbed quickly.
I launched a little while after, and found lots of wind. I wasn't that motivated to go XC because I was parked in wind, but Tim said the wind was less at 3,500, and that he was going over the back again. Jack offered to retrieve again, so there went Tim, taking a similar route to his morning flight. I was low at that point, so I had to tank up for awhile. I finally caught a boomer, and with the strong wind, that thermal took me from in front of launch, all the way over east cuesta, I was turning the whole way. Didn't get to cloud base until East Cuesta, base was much higher this time (Tim reported base at 6000, just like John H reported).
Climbing to cloud base over the 101 freeway north of San Luis Obispo
Once I reached cloud base at East Cuesta, I was still drifiting pretty fast in the wind, so I immediately turned down wind over the back. Unfortunatley, I had nothing but sink when I went over this time, and came very low, within about 100ft of landing just on the other side of east cuesta. I found a small leeside thermal, the lift was violent at best, but I was motivated to try an catch up with Tim.
Almost sinking out
After several turns, and countless small collapses and one medium frontal, the core smoothed out, and was climbing steadily towards cloud base again. That climb lasted all the way across the valley into the next hills, these things were drifting fast!
After low save, looking back towards East Cuesta
I had not seen Tim since he left west Cuesta, and he reported that he would be landing soon, 7 miles short of Mike Wilson's (he was a good little xc pilot, and came prepared with GPS, and coordinates to follow, he'll have to post the exact locations of his flight). At that point, I was climbing just north of Lake Santa Margarita (I had taken a more southern route than Tim), and since I'm not really familiar with the area, I was trying to have Tim and Jack tell me over the radio which way to go to end up where Tim was...quite a comedy since neither one could see me, or tell exactly where I was. I climbed as high as I could, then turned back into the hills heading more North this time.
As it turned out, neither Tim nor myself could pick up any more thermals in the small hills. It would only have been 1 or 2 more climbs to base to make it to Mikes, then the Valley beyond. There was lift, but the increasing winds were just making it disorganized.
We both landed near Park Hill Road, but never saw each other during the flight. Tim had made it to a landing area a little further along the road than where I ended up, and scored a ride for us back to 58 (good thing, because we both thought we were landing on 58). Wind was a little gusty on the ground, getting up to 15 or more at times. Made for an exciting landing for me...and I got it on video:)
Jack was nice enough to chase us around, even though we were giving him bad directions. Thanks Jack.
It wasn't a very far flight (though it felt far at the time), just new, over territory we hadn't been before. I find it very exciting to fly over new terrain, especially when I don't really know where I am, or where I headed, just going for it.
I think if we had waited another 40 or so minutes instead of launching the first time, we would have been able take advantage of the lifting cloudbase, and lighter winds, and we probably could have gone much further. But you just never know, so I'm STOKED with what we got. Beautiful day!