Friday, July 14: Barry McGarraugh & Karl Sommer, Austin, NV 352 miles

Barry’s report:
On Friday July 14th, Karl and I made it to Austin, NV. After some debate, we decided to head north rather than toward Las Vegas and subject Sue and Rose to the heat in Las Vegas. We waited for a late start to allow the thermal heights in the desert to get above 8,000’ and I launched at 11:45. After a quick climb to just under 13,000’ over Mt Lewis, l headed out across the desert about 10 minutes behind Karl. I caught up with him at the southwest corner of Rosamond dry lake where we worked nice thermals between 8,000’-10,000’ to Cache Peak. There I dropped down to ~7,000’, and struggled a bit to stay on top of the ridge in some turbulent lift as Karl climbed out to 11,500’ on Cache Peak. I finally connected with Karl’s thermal and headed into Kelso Valley and on to the Rock Pile where Karl had reported another thermal. I left Cache Peak lower than Karl, arrived over the Rock Pile at ~7,000’ and found more turbulent lift that got me up to 8,000’. There were some nice-looking clouds working about 3 miles to the west that I headed to, and I finally got a good climb up to 14,000’. This got me on my way to Walker Pass and on up the southern Sierras where things got significantly better the further north we headed. I connected with a nice cloud street near Olancha Peak and followed it north to Coyote Flats where I crossed over to a better looking cloud street on the Whites near Schulman Grove. After a good climb up to 17,000’, that was the last time I had to circle until I got to Mina 70 miles later. One last good climb to 17,600’ to the south of Gabbs and I was on glide to Austin. There was good lift between Gabbs and Austin and I crossed over the airport at 12,000’ just as Karl landed. I glided about 10 miles to the north to burn off the excess altitude and allow Karl to clear the runway, and landed about 25 minutes later at 7:21. Sue and Rose got to Austin a little after 9 PM, so we camped on the ramp at the airport that evening. Again, Rose had dinner in the ice chest, so we ate under the stars and drank a few cold beers in the cool evening.
The next morning we took the gliders apart and headed to the Toquima Cave after breakfast in town. The Toquima Cave was a temporary dwelling used by Native Americans about 2,000 years ago that is covered with pictographs. This is another interesting out-of-the-way place that is well worth visiting if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Karl’s report:
We watched the weather closely and came to the conclusion to be nice to our crews, not to chase them out into the HOT and humid directions and try North. Started 11:40, via second ridge to Mt. Lewis, topping out at 13.2K. We knew not to push off to early. At 12:30 I radioed, “Barry are you ready to dive into the smoke?”
“Might as well”.
The brownish smoke layer was stretching W – E, turned out it was not bad at all and visibility improved. Crossing the desert worked well. We circled short of Rosamond dry Lake in some week lift and bagged about 200’. Short of Mojave I got 10k, on the ridge 11k, arrived at Kelso Rock pile at 8k- 9k clawing up to the plateau, wow 12k, short of walker pass 14k.
Sacatar 13.6K, cruising along up the ridge to the switchbacks, trying to find the sweet spot under a not so good looking 1st cloud, still 13.6K. The Inyos showed one or two wanabe clouds. What the heck, crossing, connected abeam Manzanar 13.7kK. More and more clouds formed up ahead, and the Whites looked good.
My first cloud Mazurka Pk 16K. Oh what a life. Westgard 16k, White Mt 15kK up to 17K, passing Boundary Pk 16.5 at 5PM. Hawthorne looked discouraging, nice clouds towards Austin. Passing Luning Dry Lake I got under a growing CU back to 17K, landed at Austin short of 7 PM, flight time 7.14 hrs. Fire dept. was present with flame-retardant and several trucks. Base for the fires in the surrounding area.
By about 9 PM our crews showed up with the most welcomed food and drinks, we set up camp on the new transient parking and had a nice dinner under the stars topped off with a bottle of wine to calm the nerves.
Saturday morning Barry served freshly brewed coffee, to box up the flying machines. We all piled into the van going Down Town Austin to get gas and breakfast. The unanimous excursion decision was Toquima cave and maybe the castle on the way back.
The castle lost out to lunch and a bit of window rock shopping. We then picked up our gliders said goodbye to the firemen and headed south passing Fritz’s dry Lake, the scenic route.
It got kind of late to trek all the way home and Sue was able to secure rooms in Lone Pine, where a shower felt good. We enjoyed a nice dinner which the Ladies organized nearby, in the Hotel Patio.
After a good night’s sleep and more coffee, we drove up the switchbacks to the Horse shoe Meadows for a breakfast picnic with all the trimmings and cool fresh air, pine tree scents and sunshine. Back at Lone Pine, the girls window shopping, the boys went to the airport to chat with the 1-26er group finishing a week of flying vacation. After Lunch at the Grill, got home at 6 PM. Very enjoyable outing again.

Saturday, July 15:  Randy Shumaker Hemet, CA 63 miles, Chuck Coyne, Jean, NV 168 miles, Bradley Baum, Boulder, City, NV 196 miles, Mike Koerner, Hurricane, NV 314 miles

Randy’s report:
Thanks to the coaching and advice from Peter, Sean and especially Scott Lance, I was able to make my first cross country effort successfully from Crystal to Hemet on July 15th.
After the pilots’ briefing from Peter and Sean, Chuck and Bradley made the decision to go toward NV. My decision to try for Hemet was based somewhat on the forecast but with emphasis on a business trip departure at 0 dark thirty the next morning.
At approximately 1:30 I released near the first ridge into what I thought was solid lift and quickly found myself low and heading back to the home field. Luckily, at about 4500’ over the golf course there was a nice thermal to about 9k and from there I just followed the forming cloud bases up to the Wrightwood ski resort and then up to Baldy at about 13,000’.
Already advised that there would likely be no lift across Cajon Pass, I pointed the nose at Big Bear and started the glide, arriving at the Arrowhead with Rabbit Dry Lake made if needed. After searching, unable to find lift in Arrowhead or make it comfortably to the cloud bases forming over Big Bear City, I ended up over Rabbit Dry Lake at approx. 6000’-6500’. I had just called Scott to let him know that this might be it, when I got a nice thermal that got me back over the ridge and shortly thereafter under the clouds at Big Bear City at about 13,500’. From there it just a hop to the top of Gorgonio and an easy glide into Hemet arriving with plenty of altitude to spare.
Understanding that this wasn’t a stretch as far as cross country goes, I’m definitely sucked in now and really excited about the next one. Thank you again to Peter, Sean, Scott and Art. I guess it does take a village.
Chuck’s report:
I made my third solo cross country attempt from Crystal on Saturday, July 16. My second attempt, the Saturday before, ended at Rosamond Airpark with the most beautiful and precise landing that never had an audience.
This time, after Peter’s Crystal Squadron pilots meeting, I concurred that the east route towards Baker/Jean/Vegas looked like the way to go. I launched after Bradley (ES) and was aided in finding lift in the mountains from his reports. I spent some time on the second ridge, working over to the area of Mt. Lewis/Baden Powell. Got up to about 12,500’ and left the mountains
aimed for Apple Valley Airport. En route, stopped a couple of times west of the SoCal Logistics Airport for some thermal practice, then proceeded towards the mining area northeast of Apple Valley. Stopped and gassed up a couple of miles northeast of Oro Grande, high enough to see Barstow/Daggett. Stopped again just before Slash X, then moved a bit deeper into the hills southeast of Barstow to pick up more altitude. Tanked up again east of Harvard. Another stop over the old Airmail Navigation Arrow brought me up to almost 11,000’ and beginning to feel pretty confident I’d make it to Baker. Worked another thermal in the foothills before the small mountain range south of Baker up to a bit over 11,500’ and headed for Baker. Southeast of Baker, worked more lift a few miles west to almost 12,500’ and pretty much had final glide to Jean made. Stopped a couple more times to thermal under the clouds that were in the area on the way to Jean, then had a lot of altitude to lose in order to land at Jean. Peter had coached Bradley and I about transiting the Las Vegas airspace, and I had the altitude, time and conditions to press on to Boulder, but, as Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This was only my seventh flight in 5K, and Jean Airport was the simple and easy way to end my longest cross country flight. Baby steps for me and the PIK 20D.
A big thanks to Peter Kovari and Sean Eckstein for crewing and coaching. It was a great learning opportunity and they have been invaluable help to my cross country journeys.
Bradley’s report:
I launched at 1:30, released at the second ridge and climbed in weak lift at the Work Camp. I moved South to Baden Powell where the lift strengthened and once above the summit topped out at 13,500’. By 2:00 I headed east on my first straight out flight.
Chuck Coyne and I had decided ahead of time that if everything went well Jean was our goal for the day, but Peter Kovari had more optimistic plans. Sean Eckstein, on the other hand, had money on the table that I would remain in glide distance to Crystal. The glide to Apple Valley and then Barstow-Daggett was uneventful. Truth is I never looked back. Over Baker and on to Clark Mountain where I expected to climb.
I felt confident in my piloting skills and centered thermals that I stopped for. My crew was communicating and moving well. Cumulus clouds, though not on course, were there if I needed them. Everything was working. Surprise, no lift on the northwest side of Clark Mountain or the south. Got low and my above reserve altitude back to Baker disappeared.
Finally a thermal that got me up and moving forward. Nothing like being low with temperatures at Baker 117 degrees to make for perfect thermalling technique.
Cruised on to Jean with good altitude where Chuck landed as planned. I was next in line. Then over the radio, Peter and Sean who were crewing for Chuck, offered a carrot. Achieve gold distance by landing at Boulder City. With plenty of altitude and confidence to boot, I radioed down to my crew gold alternate Boulder City.
The real challenge of the day was negotiating Las Vegas Class B airspace. Mind you airspace is not one of my strong suits. So with sectional opened I received a very practical first hand lesson on airspace and brought ES to a perfect landing at Boulder City at 5:45. My crew arrived fifteen minutes later and with glider in trailer we headed home.
Thank you Crystal Squadron for your encouragement. Sean pay up.


Mike’s report:

I landed at Hurricane on Saturday. Didn’t launch until 11 A.M. and still had to dump my water to stay afloat, but the lift improved quickly thereafter. l left Mt. Lewis at 12,600 feet at 11:50. The desert was soft at first but kept getting better. I topped out over Boulder at 16,000 feet.
This was my first time east of Vegas in many years… I still like the west side better.
Overdevelopment blocked the way north and west of Hurricane. A corridor in between looked nice, but lead directly into the giant TFR for the Brian Head fire.
Though the finish was the same as my last outing, the flight was not. I did a much better job of centering and thermal selection this time. I still need to work on cruise speed but avoided the mental lapses and equipment problems that plagued my earlier flight.
Fran and I will be off the next couple weeks.


We’re into the height of midseason now, with essentially perfect soaring conditions every day.  The coming week will probably be entirely cloudless, so you’ll need to find those thermals by braille…  Last week, six pilots flew cross-country from Crystal, two for the very first time.  Their write-ups of those adventures are all included below on our SOARING IS LEARNING page.


June 30, 2017
On Friday June 30th, Karl and I made it to Yerington Nv again. After studying the weather, we decided that Friday had less forecast wind and a better chance to make 500K than Saturday. I launched at ~11:45 and saw Karl working up in the vicinity of Mt Lewis. I topped out just under 12,000’ over Baden Powell and chased Karl across the desert to Rosamond. There, we joined up and worked some really tight thermals up to around 7,500’. In order to achieve any sort of reasonable climb, I found that I needed to bank >450 to maintain a positive rate of climb around a turn. One last thermal to ~9,000’ over Silver Queen got me up to the mountains north of Mojave where things got a bit better with climbs to ~10,000’ in Kelso Valley. Conditions steadily improved as we moved up the Sierras, and I eventually topped out at 17,300’ over Mt Whitney. Karl had decided to cross over to the Inyos at the switchbacks, but I continued to follow the clouds up the Sierras until they petered out abeam of Independence. Clouds were forming on the White Mtns near Schulemann Grove, so I left the Sierras to the southwest of Big Pine and angled over to Black Mtn where I met up with Karl again. Karl reported that he was in a good thermal to the east of Black Mtn, so I pushed further into Westgard Pass when I finally spotted him several thousand feet above me. After topping out at just under 16,000’ we connected with the clouds and ran up to Boundary Peak in fairly short order. While heading to Boundary Peak, Sue was reporting trouble starting the truck after getting fuel in Bishop. I was ready to turn back to Bishop just after I maxed out at 17,900’ over Boundary Peak when she reported that she gotten it started. At this point, Karl was way ahead of me under an awesome flat bottomed cloud street that headed directly from Boundary Peak to the Hilton Ranch. Once Sue got the truck running, we declared Yerrington as our destination and I started chasing Karl to the north west while Sue teamed up with Rose and caravanned to Yerington via Hawthorne Nv. I pushed the speed up to burn off excess altitude and I caught up with Karl about 20 miles out of Yerington. Since I was below Karl at this point I landed first at 6:55, and Karl landed shortly after at 7:10.
Since Sue and Rose were not going to get there until ~9, we decided to tie the gliders down and head into town to get a couple of rooms and find a cold beer somewhere. While we were tying the gliders down, a local rancher/pilot had seen us land and came out to meet us. It turns out that she had started her flying career as a commercial pilot flying twin Otters in Alaska by flying tow planes out of Minden some years ago. After some discussion about our flight, she offered to give us a lift into town which was greatly appreciated. After checking in to the motel and two beers later, Sue and Rose pulled into Yerrington at 9 and we ate a nice Korean BBQ dinner that Rose had prepared. After eating breakfast in town the following morning, we headed over to Smith Valley to visit another retired Lockheed co-worker who is building a house there. Afterward we followed Karl and Rose down to Bridgeport where we had lunch at the Bridgeport Inn, and then headed down to Bishop where we parted ways. A nice time was had by all…!


Last Friday looked more promising again compared to Sat. or Sun..
So we, 01Q and C3 opted that Friday is the day.
I got started 11:20. Thermals were narrow got lift on Mt Lewis, ventured to Baden Powell nothing good, back to Lewis, left at 12:15, 12k.
Silver Queen not in a good mood, working over the first windmills, 8k was enough to venture to the hills, Barry reported 10k S of me, while I was grinding close to the ridge getting up to easier breathing altitude at 10k.
Anyway, slow going. Left Kelso 14:20, Inyokern 15:00 up the ridge towards Olancha Pk, gusty lift hard to center. Just short of the peak got to 16k under a Cu. TFR no problem.
I crossed over, 16:10 at Mt Inyo.
Barry took the Sierra’s with some clouds, we met again E of Black Mtn where he was able to enter into “my” thermal about 5k lower. White Mtn Pk found me close to 18k good cloud, Barry not far behind at 17k.
01Q’s crew car did not start a few times while hot, again in Bishop. Radio conversation was 01Q to land at Bishop or continue, I offered to bring Barry back with us. Luckily the car started again and Sue and Rose headed together to Yerington.
About 17:40 I left Boundary Pk heading for Yerington, 90 Miles. Good looking cloud street that ended at the Hilton Ranch, some welcomed warmth from the sun.
Barry was catching up but was lower so he landed first. I did loiter around N looking at the mine, enjoying the scenery relaxing and winding down, landed 19:10.
While tying our ships down a nice Lady Pilot that saw us landing drove over to chat and then gave us a ride to the Motel.
At the Casino we found a place to replenish some of the lost fluid. Crews arrived at 21:00 and we enjoyed a nice dinner prepared by Rose with more fluid replenishing.
Saturday morning the pilots boxed up the gliders while the ladies caught up on some more earned sleep.
A visit in Smith Valley, friends of the McGaurragh’s, late lunch in Bridgeport, via 395, lot of smoke Independence to Olancha (Lake Isabella fire). Arriving home 21:00. 01Q overnighted at Lone Pine.
An other nice outing for the 301 teams



Saturday, July 1, Hurricane, UT, 315 miles
I made it to Hurricane on.
I’m happy to have the diamond but it was not a good day and I did not do a good job of flying. I made a lot of mistakes and had lots of problems. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say I have plenty to work on next time.


It’ll be hotter each day this week again, through Saturday anyway.  Some forecasts are calling for a degree of cloudiness on Saturday, which will probably amount to very high cumulus development – and (they say) no rain…

Again, our SOARING IS LEARNING page, below, will feature stories of Crystal Squadron flights from the prior week — we’ll get caught up eventually.