Pine Mountain to Red Mountain in a 7 hour flight on Sunday August 7, 2005.
Bo on launch around 11:45am waiting for a cycle. Dean had launched 15 minutes ahead. Photo by Mike Preston.
Dean got a picture of me in my Gin Nomad climbing over launch.
Dean up over Pine Mountain, what a day.
Dean taking it OTB (Over the Back).
Dean bypassing the No Man's Land.
Dean heading to Giermo and the Lockwood Valley.
Tom Truax flying tandem with Sharon. Tom has flown 121 miles
from Pine solo, and today flew 94 miles tandem!
Tom, Sharon and Dean leading the charge.
Looking back at Pine and the great clouds.
Tony Deleo aka "Diablo" on his ATOS ended up going 110 miles today.
Diablo holds the paragliding record from Pine of 135 miles.
Headed for Frazier Mountain under ensuing development.
Coming up on Frazier Mountain. The red dot is Mark Forger - Military Test Pilot.
Looking towards I-5 and the Antelope Valley.
Passed by a hang glider over Frazier mountain. It's the tortise and the hare thing.
Looking for lift to make the jump across I-5.
Looking back at Lockwood Valley. Ron Meyer is somewhere back there
behind the rain waiting to come and play.
Crossing the I-5 and heading towards Quail Lake.
Coming up on Holiday Valley with anvil development to the southeast.
Dean crossing the Antelope Valley.
Dean and Mark out in Antelope Valley.
Leaving the paved roads and clouds to cross the valley.
Looking back across Antelope Valley and Frazier receeding, Dean hot on the trail.
Picking up more clouds along the convergence line.
Getting low over Soledad Mine. Tehachapi and windmills off to the left.
Back in the game as we approach the race track south of California City.
Big development and rain forced us south of town.
Edwards Air Force Base and the Space Shuttle runway off to the right.
Forger and I tanking up over California City and the prison.
2 Buttes and more desert.
Looking towards Garlock.
Following the 58 to the 395. Red Mountain off to the left.
Forger passing Edwards Air Force Base.
Dazzling Sky back towards California City.
Approaching Red Mountain. Forger landed just before Red Mountain at 106 miles.
Dean landed 2 miles further just around the corner of Red Mountain.
Getting over Red Mountain and encountering a northwest wind.
Leaving Red Mountain and following the bypass. The desert is beautiful.
Looking back at Red Mountain.
How did I miss those clouds?
Up once again and now on final glide.
It wouldn't be complete without the foot shot.
Thanks Gin Nomad for a spectacular 7 hour, 118 mile very memorable flight.
The sun sits low upon landing at 6:50 pm.
Late Boomers. A cloud street heading due south into no man's land.
A bit worked, but well worth the 10 year wait of breaking 100 miles.
The TEAM - Mark Forger 106 miles, Dean Stratton 108 miles, Bo Criss 118 miles, Fast Eddie 337 miles.
Thanks, I couldn't have done it without you guys!
Now ladies, don't come running too fast. We were worked! Got back to Pine Mountain
at 12:15 am and Santa Barbara an hour later. (6 hour retrieve going home).
Bustin the 100 Mile Mark
August 7, 2005
There was a buzz in the hang glider and paraglider communities near Santa Barbara that this weekends weather might be good for XC flying from Pine Mountain. Dean Stratton had flown from Pine to East Beach in Santa Barbara on Saturday and everyone was coming out of the woodwork to get a taste of Sunday's flying. I retrieved Dean on saturday and took him back to Pine Mountain saturday night for some camping before sunday's main event.
We got up slowly and put down some breakfast before shuttling cars up and down between launch and the landing zone. We got to launch around 11:00 and winds were light with small cumis starting to pop. Game On!! Tom Truax, the California state record holder was first to launch tandem with another local pilot - Sharon. Tom climbed slowly into the sky as the cumis started to form. Dean Stratton stepped up to the plate and launched his Gin Zoom around 11:30. He sank off launch and headed to the house thermal and struggled to maintain his altitude. I was on deck and waiting for signs of life and the next thermal to roll in. At 11:45 I launched in a small bubble and headed out to meet Dean, still struggling. After a few passes we finally connected and started a very nice climb upwards towards the clouds.
Mark Forger, a military test pilot launched next and started to climb right off launch. 4,000 feet over launch we all met up and headed out down the range and over the back towards Lockwood Valley. The air was perfect - soft edges and consistent lift as we ventured into no man's land up near cloudbase. The development was quietly building and Lockwood Valley was starting to shade over as we approached the nearest paved road in the 8 mile crossing.
Tony Deleo, flying an ATOS passed us by committed to the sun line out in tiger country. All 4 of us para pilots drove on, each taking our own line coinciding to how much risk we were committed to flying in the outback. The closer to the sun and further from the road, the faster the flying was going. Tom Truax had taken the lead with Dean Stratton hot on his tail. I and Mark Forger were climbing slowly in the shade and kept pushing towards Frazier Peak.
The development continued as we pushed hard towards the peak ever climbing. From Frazier Peak it was decision time. What line do we take to cross Hungry Valley and I-5 to connect with Antelope Valley? As we started our glide we realized we were sinking and it is time to adjust our line to the south at a 90 degree right turn. Tom was low but climbing well ahead of us and further off our desired course line. We tried to push ahead but realized Tom had made the right decision and we turned further right off course line. Mark and I found some welcomed weak lift and start our slow accent. The thermals are tracking back towards Frazier Mountain from where we had come.
We get reports of pilots further back on course dealing with heavy rainfall in the Lockwood Valley. Ron Meyer was behind the rain and pinned against tiger country. Hansford Cutlip had safely landed in Lockwood Valley as sprinkles started to turn towards heavy downpore.
Meanwhile Forger and I were finally starting to get up and we slowly started our push over to I-5 getting a nice glide. Dean was slightly ahead and much lower but making his way as well. By now, Tom had pushed out in his tandem and had left our party.
As we crossed I-5 we started to connect with some nice lift just south of Quail Lake. Dean and Forger pressed on as I slowly climbed to their level. Our chase driver, Fast Eddie, had gassed up and was in prime position to give us wind reports on the ground. We followed Highway 138 out to the small town of Holiday Valley where there were reports of dust devils. We seemed to be getting a good glide and connected with some lift as we started drifting northeast across the valley and away from the paved highway.
Now, Dean, Forger and I were all pretty close with Forger leading the charge to Willow Springs and our next bit of lift. This was enough to push us out to Soledad Mine, just short of Mojave near the windmills of Tehachapi. As we approached the mine, we started sinking and getting very low. I would estimate that we were 600 feet AGL as we circled in very light and windblown lift. Eddie was giving us reports of 15-20 mph winds on the ground. It looked like we might be able to stretch it out to a retrievable dirt road a mile and a half further. As we went along the lift started to increase and all of a sudden we were back in the game.
Forger was a half mile ahead of me and climbing very well. He radio'd that cloud base was at 12,000 feet. I saw that the cloud was getting darker and decided to leave my thermal at 11,400. As I straight lined, the lift increased and soon I was near the cloud pushing hard to a southeast direction to stay out of it. This put us on a course for the race track just south of California City. Dean was behind but doing well as we started our long glide to the track sinking. At the track, we heard from Tom, who was getting low 6 miles east of California City, just beyond the prison. He had pushed on into an area that was beginning to get sunlight, but he was too low as he approached the slowly heating terrain. He didn't have enough altitude to wait for good thermals to form and landed 94 miles from launch for his longest tandem flight.
Forger and I found some very light lift over some desert buttes that drifted us towards the prison. By now we were 90 miles out and the elusive 100 mile mark was within reach if we could just continue to climb and drift in the later part of the day. Dean was now much lower and in a desperate search for lift. It just wouldn't do to come this close and not cross the 100 mile mark. I offered encouragement, but he needed silence to find even the lightest lift. We were all relieved to hear that he was climbing and back in the game.
Forger was pushing out ahead and following highway 58 confident that he would reach the 100 mile mark out near the junction of 395. I was a bit higher and further behind but following his tracks. It was decision time - continue straight out to a dry lakebed and a dead end, or head north along the 395 to push further. We all agreed to head north and we were all on a collision course with each other at various altitudes and angles of convergence.
Forger was now low and happy to land just short of Red Mountain with a 106 mile flight - his personal best and the first time to fly from Pine Mountain in a paraglider. I caught a bit of lift and followed its drift due east towards the south side of Red Mountain. Dean had taken a different line slightly north of me and was now finding himself lower where the 395 diverges onto Red Mountain Bypass. Dean was reporting strong winds near the ground and was in no position to follow the low rolling foothills of Red Mountain in this much wind. He landed on the northwest side of Red Mountain with a personal best of 108 miles, having only started flying 2-1/2 years ago.
I was now directly over Red Mountain and feeling a strong northwest wind. I didn't feel confident in taking the lift much higher as it was taking me further back into tiger country. I pushed on thinking I'd make my final glide. I was trying to relay my location to Dean, but my GPS wasn't showing the paved road that I was following. It made me wonder if I would have to have a long walk behind a gated road? I pushed on, feeling like whatever the distance to walk, it would be worth it to extend my personal best.
As the road did a slight weave through some undulating terrain, I felt a little disturbance. I started to hear the faint beep on the vario and worked up wind to find a decent bit of lift to turn in. This gave me some nice altitude, but the drift was taking me further from the paved road. I climbed 2,000 feet and decided to push on so I could land near the road. I was getting a very good glide and starting to make my way back to the pavement. As I got to the road with a 1000 feet I realized that I was on my final glide to an epic flight. I stretched it out as far as I could and came around into the wind with 50 feet. I landed softly in a 5 mph wind on the side of the road 118 miles from launch at 6:50 pm. I thanked my Gin Nomad for a great flight and took a few more pictures to document the monumental moment of reaching beyond 100 miles with good friends on a beautiful summer day in the Mojave desert.
Believe it or not, I had perfect phone reception. I was able to leave a voice message for Fast Eddie giving him my GPS coordinates. After downing a Gatorade and Cliff Bar, and taking care of nature after 7 hours of flying, I was still in the process of packing when the chase truck arrived. A perfect retrieve - thanks Eddie, and thanks to Mark Forger and Dean Stratton for team flying our way across the desert.
It was a long drive home and we stopped in Mojave to grab dinner and share stories. Forger was due to fly an F-16 in the morning at 7:00 am, so he decided to take a nap in the back of the truck. I took over driving as Eddie had driven all day. Dean was snoring like a baby as we drove into the dark night with a quarter moon and Venus off to its side looking like a paraglider doing a wingover.
We were back at the Pine Mountain turn-off at 12:30 am and parted ways. I arrived back in Santa Barbara at 1:30 am, worn out and grinnin ear to ear.
This is Dean Stratton's GPS Track Log. When the line is green, he's going up, when it's red, he's sinking.
When it's purple, Dean needs to change his shorts. Thanks Chris Grantham for helping us with this image!
Click Here to view Pilot Forum reguarding our flight.
Click Here to see Dean Stratton's photo journal of his flight.
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