Hurricane and Long Distance Flight (also known as XC for "Cross Country")

 
 
 
 
Legend:
General information in color yellow
Hang gliding specific details of the long flight in color blue

 
THURSDAY

 
The quick summary of my bigger flight: Launched at 3:00 pm local time from Hurricane Ridge, landed about 14 miles South East of Page, AZ, flight time was 5 hours, max altitude was 14,846', straight line distance from launch to landing was 115 miles, distance with three turn points (as calculated by FlyChart) was 134.8 miles, and distance traveled (MapSource) was 200+ miles of amazing scenery to include Little Creek and Gooseberry Mesa, Zion National Park from the South, the Canaan Mountain buttes including the Smithsonian, Kanab, the Vermillion Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam and the Kaibito Plateau. Light winds and relatively weak lift for the desert in July made it prudent to work little bumps and glide downwind slowly. With the really late start it's amazing it turned into a good XC flight.

 
I am looking forward to hearing about everybody's adventures and flights but here is mine. The group was: Ken, Dana, Igor, Mike/Kathy/Aly, Katherine, Dave, Greg/Nurit, Chad/Andrea. Plus some Arizona pilots. We also ran into Powerline Mike and Ilona and Danny Black/Lia on the ridge.
Andrea and I got to Hurricane, UT in time for a glass off (evening, smooth air) flight on Thur afternoon, but the wind was the wrong direction so Ken and Igor joined us for a drive to Gooseberry Mesa. This is a world class place to mountain bike. Andrea and I biked and Ken and Igor hiked. Absolutely incredible mountain biking with views like no other place. Andrea and I got to the campground in Kanarraville late.

 
FRIDAY

 
Friday we all went to Hurricane Ridge. Both the storms the day before and the forecast indicated that today would overdevelop too (clouds would mature to rain storms too quickly) and would cut our flying time short. I launched first and got REALLY low for a really long time and out of view from the folks at launch. Andrea asked a local pilot if he had ever seen anyone get back up from that low, and he said "no". But, then my early birthday present was delivered, and I was able to SCRATCH my way back up to an applause from the folks at launch. In the end, a good flight, and I went over the back to land in Apple Valley and get the glider broken down quickly in case the gust fronts from the the nasty storms in Colorado City arrived. A person on an ATV approached me shortly after landing and before I had the chance to say anything, he said "Amazing. Would you like any help taking it apart". Super nice guy. Flight time of 1 hr 20 min, up to 8000' MSL, and Flytec gives me 15 miles with three turnpoints.
 
Four pictures follow.
 
 
 
 
The picture above is my flight trajectory colored by altitude as viewed by launch. I quickly fall out of view of folks at the launch.
 
 
 
The picture above is my flight trajectory viewed by the side of the ridge. I sink down to the top of the bottom cliff and then PLUMMET from there. Alot of scratching, and back up. Yeah.
 
 
 
The picture above shows the flight out toward Colorado City. At the leftmost (East) part of the view I start getting some lift but evaluate the conditions and head back West to get down and land in Apple Valley ASAP.
 
 
 
Above: Breaking down the glider before the storm rolls in. See why I turned around ;)
 
 
  In the afternoon the group converged at the Virgin River to play in the water and relax. So nice.
 
 
 
Above: Andrea took this picture, but neither of us can remember what we were pointing at. Any guesses? The water was just the right temperature this time, not as cold as last year.
 
 
 
SATURDAY

  On Saturday, the potential fun of a full day of mountain biking overcame the urge to head to Hurricane Ridge. Andrea and I had an incredible day of mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa. I won't tell all these stories, but a few pictures to follow.
 
 
 
Above: some of our route on Gooseberry. All the riding was top notch, whether on the edge or middle of Gooseberry.
 
 
 
Above: I stop just off the trial. The twisty technical trails roll through forested areas and sculpted rock trails like the Slick Rock trail in Moab.
 
 
 
Above: Andrea stops along the trail near the cliff. When on rock, the trail is marked by painted dots.
 
 
 
Above: Chad considers something stupid...
 
 
 
Above: ...and does it. Andrea captures on camera (nice work).
 
 
 
Above: Happy riders. When we get home we learn that all the footage from my helmet mounted camera is bad as the camera was pointed too low (Andrea was right). Ah well, have lots of still pictures, some incredible movies from Andrea's camera and the great memories.
 
 
  On our way back from Gooseberry, we decided to stop by Hurricane Ridge. No one was there, but the wind was coming in, and a bit too strong for me to feel comfortable doing a tandem self lauch. About 1 hour before the sun was to set, Ken radios to us to sit tight because Powerline Mike and Ilona are heading to Hurricane Ridge to camp for the night. They could help us launch. We set up the Falcon Tandem quickly and got about 1/2 hour of incredible smooth ridgelift to 5200' MSL. Before the lift died down, we took that opportunity to head over the back and land on top near the old horse corral to prevent having to beg someone for a retrieval from the LZ's down below in front. A very short XC flight tandem, which was really an exciting new experience for Andrea and just totally fun for me. We were lucky to pull off a three step landing in zero wind in the wonderfully docile Falcon. I hiked back to launch to retrieve the truck while Andrea searched to improve her collection of cool rocks/sticks from the desert.
 
 
 
Above: our tandem flight trajectory.
 
 
 
We saw the end of the fireworks in Hurricane on our drive down the ridge. When we got back to Red Ledge Campground, we learned that Jeff Johnson had gone XC and landed just short of Fredonia in the Indian Reservation and was threatened by an angry ranger with glider confiscation, was lucky to walk away with a warning to all hang glider pilots. "Don't land there - you have now been warned". We discussed other route options but it seems to be about an 18 mile by 18 mile square in a place that's hard to go around. I adjusted my goals of a flight only to Colorado City (before the Indian Reservation) and figured my preparation and research for a flight to Big Water (near Lake Powell) was a pipe dream anyway.
 
 
SUNDAY

 
 
Sunday, last day to fly and my 40th birthday, Andrea and I were first to arrive at Hurricane Ridge and join Powerline Mike and Ilona. The ridge had been flushing some folks out over the last few days, and was still demonstrating some wind speed lulls, so we all waited impatiently until about 2:30 pm before Powerline Mike and I suited up to launch. Mike launched first at the beginning of some stronger cycles and got up quickly. I waited for a less gusty period and (this time) quickly got above the ridge. Greg launched third and headed South down the ridge almost to sink out. Again there were apparently some pretty big holes in the lift.
 
 
 
Above: Launching late in the day - I guess you never really know when a big flight is impossible;)
 
 
 
The thermal that I chose to take over the back, took me to 10,800', and eventually joined me up with Greg. Powerline Mike was already long gone - still don't know where he went.
We topped that one out and found another over Little Creek Mesa where I took it from 7700' to over 14,000'. Here Greg and I parted ways.
 
 
 
Above: The beginning of my XC flight.
 
 
 
Greg took the more North route (towards ridges and clouds), I took the more southern route (over the valley but a bit more upwind to allow for thermal drift).
Although Greg intially radio-ed to say that my route was doing much better, he found lift and I continued on a glide to deck out in Colorado City. Dissappointing, but still amazing flying, and in any case I hadn't decided if I was willing to try to fly over the Kaibab(sp?) Indian reservation where Jeff Johnson almost had his glider confiscated the day before.
In Colorado City, I found lift at 7400' and took a few very knarly thermals up and back but each time loosing the nerve to venture over the Indian Reservation. Eventually, with my altitude finally up to 13,500', the day looking really good, and my lovely wife/driver ready and waiting in Colorado City, I went for it.
 
 
 
Above: view of Colorado City from the South. In the back of Colorado City, against a place where the cliff forms a bowl, I found some turbulent lift with slow climbs and high drift. But after a few climbs to higher altitudes, I got to better air and decided to head over the Indian Rervation.
 
 
 
Much to my relief I stayed high over the reservation topping up with a few thermals along the way eventually getting to 14,500' with an easy glide to Fredonia (past the reservation).
Regular XC stuff for a while. I maintained communication with Andrea on the radio to try to keep us from getting too far apart. Finding little bits of lift and drifting with them down route. Enjoying the views and hearing how things are going at Hurricane Ridge on the radio.
Towards the spot where highway 89 does a wiggle to get through Fivemile Valley behind Fivemile Mountain, I hadn't found much lift for a while and was trying to sync up with Andrea. Right as I was passing below 6800 (about 1400' MSL) I got a visual on Andrea who was with Jeff Johnson who had landed in a sweet LZ with a flag by 89 right before the "wiggle" in the road. And at the same time, found a little bubble, that I later proclaimed "a sweetheart of a thermal" and took it 12,000' and another to 14,800' a couple of miles later at about 6:50 pm.
 
 
 
Above: The black circle marks the landing zone and where Andrea was waiting for me. Fortunately my birthday thermal came in (the nick of) time.
I passed by Lake Powell at about 12,600'. The views were spectacular on this very clear day. All my preparation and research ended here. The last waypoint that I had researched and programmed in my variometer was a landing spot on the highway before the Lake Powell marina entrance. Perhaps the right thing to do would have been to fight my way down through the lift and land. I didn't do that.
 
 
 
Above: My flight trajectory, running from left to right, is depicted in blue. All my equipment worked fine, but I really should have had a camera for this flight. Oh well.
 
 
 
I went over Glenn Canyon and Page AZ at about 11,000'. I learned from Andrea the Greg had landed at the Page airport and that Nurit had finally found him.
The sun was setting and thermals were getting very light as I continued and was forced to head South to stay near a retrieval route (Highway 98) to a field about 14 miles South East of Page towards Kaibito.
Andrea was only a few minutes behind me but no time for celebration. Gotta get the glider packed up and on the car in case this desolate sandy field with no houses for miles is off limits for landing a hang glider :( In retrospect, the irony of landing on Indian Reservation land after the great struggle to avoid one in the beginning of the flight is not lost on me.
 
 
 
Above: the whole flight from directly above.
 
 
 
Above: The barograph view in FlyChart.
 
 
 
Above: The data view in FlyChart.
 
 
 
Above: the flight trajectory in MapSource.
 
 
 
We did a really quick and really terrible job throwing everything on the car and rolling out back to Page, AZ. We booked a hotel and met up with Greg and Nurit for a fantastic dinner and Mexican celebration of my 40th birthday. Wonder what will happen at 50;)
 
 
 
Above: Terafirma brings lots of treats. Andrea, Chad, Greg and Nurit at a great Mexican restaurant in Page, AZ.
 
 
 

As for the flight, what I did right was:
1.) made sure all gear, glider, vario, radio, harness were in perfect working order.
2.) had the patience to fly slow at times and not deck out.
3.) didn't give up, at all, ever.
What I did wrong was:
4.) Didn't drink during the 5 hour flight and was probably pretty dehydrated and maybe slightly hypoxic.
5.) Underestimated how much longer it would take to drive through Page versus fly over it so I got way ahead of my chase.
6.) Did not prepare for the absolute best case. At the end of the flight I flew over terrain and through airspace that looked very desolate but that I handn't done the research to make sure it was all legal. Number 3 and number 4 probably contributed to decision to fly on anyway.

 
 
 
Above: A huge thanks to my precious and supportive wife during the really fun Hurricane trip. Also, without all the other great folks from the Sylmar Hang Gliding Association it would not be the fun filled adventure in South Western Utah that it is every year. Thanks.