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Assault on Santiago, Part 2

by Kevin Perry (#212)

April 13, 1996 - 34 miles

Mark Luedtke was in the club 1-26 (#231) and already circling at 5700' MSL when I got off tow over the microwave towers. I was in the tried but true #212, one of the threeships that Bill Cleary used in the 60's to get the first Gold and 3 diamonds in a 1-26. I released in lift and was shortly up to Mark's height (6400') and we headed out on course toward Santiago Peak.

We flew north over the hang-glider launch areas until we were over "The Lookout" restaraunt which sits at the top of the Ortega Highway. We thermalled in some turbulent bubbles of lift for about 15 minutes when a para-glider found a boomer and the three of us went up to 7400'.

It was pretty much a "blue thermal" day for most of the Elsinore-Hemet valley, but there were about 4 cu's forming, disappearing and re-forming over Mt. Pinos and the ridges that run over to Santiago Peak.

I left the thermal first and headed toward a big, fat cu that was sitting right over Mt. Pinos. Mark turned back to the field to fly back and let the next person in line use the ship. I pushed on, alone, toward Mt. Pinos a mile away and the lift I hoped to find there.

When I arrived under the cloud, I immediately hit strong lift and had to dive out from under it and into the lift on the upwindside. Cloudbase was 6400', a thousand feet less than the previous thermal. I worked it for all I could and sped out at 80 mph toward a line of 4 cu's spaced a mile apart along the ridge leading up to Santiago Peak. I'd been airborne for 35 minutes and was 12 miles from the airport and leaving it behind.

I ran the cu's at 80+mph and arrived at the peak real quick, bu tbelow the top by about 400'. I worked the upwind cliffs for about 8 minutes but found little more than zero sink. Turning downwind and looking back along my previous course, I saw that the line of cu's was gone now and it was obvious that I wouldn't clear the higher ridges blocking my path back to Riverside County. As I sped east in moderate sink, all I could see was Orange County! No place for a 1-26!

I cleared the top of the ridge at Indian Horsethief Canyon by about 200' and looked at the altimeter: I was at 3900' MSL and about 16 miles from the airport. Another out-landing? Not this time: I skimmed some boulders and found two crows doing barrel rolls and loops in a 6-8fpm whirlwind! I cranked it back up to just over 6000' MSL and put the nose down toward the microwave towers at Elsinore Peak.

Using "porpoise" flying techniques, as described by Helmut Reichmann and others, I managed to use all of the previously used thermals and scream back 15 miles to my point of origin in less than 9 minutes. It was bumpy but fun - one of those flights that are more fun in retrospect, more of a challenge at the time.

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