We returned earlier this week from Hat Creek Rim, an annual camping and flying trip near Mt. Lassen, in California. Something like a hundred thousand years ago, give or take, the volcano erupted and the massive belching of lava from the cinder cones in the area caused part of the valley floor to collapse about 1,000 feet, leaving a rim.
The volcanic rock fields absorb tremendous heat during the hot summer days, and in the late afternoon, between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. the rim begins to "glass off." That is, a steady band of lift forms across the entire length of the rim (miles and miles). On good days, the band goes out better than a mile, and extends up several thousand feet. It can last until after sundown. I’ve landed in twilight many times over the years.
It’s our eighth consecutive year, 2nd weekend in August. It has become our premier family camping outing of the year, with mom, dad, brothers and their families, a cousin or two, and the odd guest(s) now and then.
So, thanks to my brother and dad, I have some video this year. I’m flying a perfectly docile intermediate wing. About as forgiving as you can get, very much unlike the high-aspect-ratio ATOS, which I recently sold. I’ve settled into country-club style flying.
The launch is at about 4,200 ft. MSL, and the LZ is about a mile upwind at 3,200 ft., so a 5-to-1 glide. This glider, at about 12-1, would make it easily, except for the headwind. If you don’t gain at least a few hundred feet over launch, it could be tough. The 2-1 bailout LZ is a lot smaller, with more trees, and lots of brush. In eight years and dozens of flights, I’ve yet to have to land there. I always get up. One time, a few years ago, I climbed to 8,500, a 4,300 ft. gain.
The video begins with me preflighting my harness, then launching and doing some crowd pleasing maneuvers near launch. Then, when the video crew leaves, I head out and spend some time trying to get high. I manage about a 1,300 ft. gain. Once everyone is set up down in the LZ, about 45 minutes later I head out so they can catch the approach and landing on video.
At 3,200 ft. MSL, 90 degrees, and a monster wind gradient (notorious for eating downtubes), flair timing is critical. I show you how it’s done here, though this is a pretty easy glider to flair properly.
Click here to watch.