Monday, June 11, 2012

The Whaleback June 11

Photos are here and tracklog is here.
Mighty Mt. Shasta in northern California

Down in southern Oregon for a few days to escape the rain and gloom of Vancouver.  Initially we were planning on flying Woodrat, but we got the word that a group of pilots were heading to Whaleback, in northern California, so we decided to join up with them instead.

Whaleback is a flying site right next to the Mt. Shasta volcano, east of the I-5.  The local club has recently done a bunch of work on the launch to smooth it out and make it larger so it is quite buff at the moment.  Both the launch and LZ are 2-wheel drive accessible, although the launch road still had snow in spots.  Launch is at 2270m!

Up on launch we took some time to enjoy the view of Mt. Shasta right in our faces and then it was time to fly!  Winds in the air were a bit on the strong side from the SW by Shasta but more NW by Herd Peak, which is another flying site just to the north.

XC over the back is possible; pilots have flown to Lakeview from here, and Klamath Falls is quite reachable (83km, although you have to land short to avoid Klamath Falls airspace).  The conditions weren't really conducive to over-the-back XC so a bunch of us decided to fly to Herd Peak and Sheep Rocks which are to the NW of launch.

I was able to get high enough at Herd to make it back to Whaleback while everyone else landed and went up for flight #2.  Fortunately for me :) I got to 3590m while they were driving back up, as a slight convergence had set up with the SW wind from the I-5 hitting an up-high East wind coming from Klamath Falls.  Something was definitely happening conditions-wise as clouds were starting to form, lenticulars as well, and I could feel the wind picking up in the air.  By the time I went out to land it was definitely on the strong side with pilots landing going backwards.  At the same time we observed a cu forming on Shasta, but shortly thereafter the winds died and it reverted to the "normal" wind (according to the locals) for that time of day.

Whaleback is definitely a very scenic flying site and there is excellent XC potential, so long as you are committed for the first hop over the back before you can connect with highway 97 headed to Klamath Falls.  But you have to respect the fact that it's a high mountain desert site, with wind, strong lift, and turbulence associated with such sites.  Best to connect with a local to make sure you get all the pertinent information.  Local flying information is here.

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