Thursday, September 24, 2015

Task 4: Bermuda Triangle

Today they called a daunting triangle task around the valley, with a start cylinder downwind and then a tough upwind leg to Black Mountain, followed by a long flatland line across the Owens Valley to the Buttermilks at the foot of the Sierras, then back across the valley to a point way downwind of launch, and another tricky upwind jog at the end just in case you didn't bomb out yet. Thom and JK and I were all working together after launch, trying to break through a pretty low inversion a thousand feet above launch. But I had a terrible problem. My speed system was detached on one side and possibly broken.

I tried to diagnose and fix it while thermaling but I couldn't figure out the problem. For a brief moment I considered trying to fly the task without speedbar. Then I came to my senses and just landed at the bomb out LZ to fix the problem and try for a relaunch. I landed pretty hard in a switchy cycle at the LZ, possibly bruising my heel, but as of this writing it feels okay so nothing serious.

I managed to fix the speed bar and caught a ride back up to launch just as the valley winds picked up to nuclear speed. I used all my high wind launch skills to get off of there cleanly, but I was pretty parked right away. I found some thermals but they were leaning almost straight horizontally back from launch. I frisbeed my way downwind to the start cylinder and then found myself parked again, punching speed bar hard to creep forward through the sliced up thermal bubbles.

It didn't look like I was going to be able to climb up at this late stage of the start. The valley wind was super strong and the thermals were blown out and stuck under the inversion. I saw tons of pilots sinking out to various spots around launch as I inched my way back in there. I could see that one of them was Thom. And I heard over the radio about a reserve ride somewhere upwind, but the pilot was okay and was gonna hike out from a deep canyon. Finally a reserve throw to avert injury! I didn't know at the time that it was JK.

I ended up landing just short of the bomb out LZ, almost blowing backwards in very strong wind. Thom borrowed a truck from the bomb out LZ and picked up me and Destin to bring us back to a better fold up area. Over the radio we heard a top pilot at the Black Mountain turnpoint calling conditions Level 2. Then another pilots chimed in with a Level 2 call. Later we heard that there were multiple calls for Level 3 on the other side of the valley. But the task was not called off. Pilots were landing all over the valley, in super strong wind, and later we heard that one sole tenacious pilot actually chugged his way through the entire task and landed at goal just before it closed, almost at sunset. I know he is glad the task wasn't called off!

When we figured out it was JK that had thrown, we shuttled into town to grab some nourishing refreshments (a growler from the brewery!) and then pointed our poor Hyundai Sonata towards the canyon where he'd come down. We found our way to the gnarly 4WD road and burned our way up that dusty trail like we were in a hopped up offroad vehicle, casting a huge dust trail of smoke behind us. We intercepted the retrieve truck driven by volunteer Mike who had found JK walking down the canyon. They were quite surprised to see our little white car in a place like that! We grabbed JK to plug him into the growler IV and replenish his fluids. Of course we shared with Mike too!

JK recounted the details of his experience, which are well worth hearing, but I am going to let him share it with everyone firsthand when he is ready. Hopefully that's soon!


  1. JK lost his virginity, has to happen sometime. It is good it all went well.

    I assume the reserve handle was lost, hence the need for replacement harness. That is why I tie mine off.

    1. Yeah, handle and diaper lost, we're trying to round up replacements, but in the meantime how nice Kari has a spare set for him!

  2. Wow, good going JK for tossing laundry and hiking! Hope it was a smooth ride to terra firma. Glad you're ok. Live to fly another. Mahalos monkeez for taking good care of him.