Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brief review of soaring in the "Great Basin".

 Soaring in the Great Basin can be  very rewarding. High cloud bases
along with fantastic thermal climbs, offering long distance flights,
can only be found in a few places of the world. The late Steve Fossett
felt, along with Ray Lynsky(World Champion NZ), that the Great Basin
has the best in the world for homogenize soaring conditions. Steve
Fossett's 1250 K FAI  World triangle speed record confirms this.
Several word's of caution must be followed. With very limited cell
phone coverage, a personal tracking device, such as a Spot, must be
carried. With this, you have a good chance of survival in case of a
land out or god forbid, a bail out. With the higher altitudes, if a
bailout occurs, your going to hit the ground very hard. If you come
down in 8-12 foot high brush, you will have a better chance of being
found. Also, in an emergency, spot will get help to you.

Now what to expect. Every flight you do just figure your going to land
out/have no cell phone and get no help until the earliest being late
the next day.  Simply pack accordingly.

Blue/gray sage are areas that Carl and myself have looked at over the
years. Few rocks are found and generally can be landed out in ( gear
door damage likely). What you will find are few roads that will get to
you and your glider. Dry Lake beds are good, but keep an eye out for
rocks, etc, that seem to pop up in areas. Try to land close to the dry
lakes edge and hopefully where a dirt road is near.  Landing on paved
roads can be dangerous. The snow markers are high enough and spaced
close enough to cause major damage/ground loops.
Flying from airport to airport is difficult (they are a good distance
apart). Flying from lift area to lift area is whats done. Making sure
you are confident that when you arrive your altitude will be
sufficient to find a climb.
Consider blues days as laundry days. Enough said on that.
Weak days are any days with bases less that 12,000 msl,/with no
clouds.  Good days 13-15,000 ft. with CU.  Best days, which we see a
lot of mid-June thru July, 15-18000 ft with CU's. Southwest winds will
provide long cloud streets which run mainly over the high mountain
ranges. Between the mountain ranges will be valleys that require
sufficient heating for the thermals to break thru the inversion.
Most of my soaring days out of Ely, where I have been soaring now for
over 15 years, have covered most of the Great Basin. On these days,
with 17-18,000 cu bases, when I get down to 14,000, I shift gears to
find something and get back up. Below 12,000 and whatever I find I
stay with to get back up.( don't leave a 3-4 knot climb thinking you
will find something better). Below 10,000 I am in survival mode with
places picked out to land safely in.
Long glides, are sometimes required, to get to a new climb/lift area.
Clouds are extremely reliable sources of lift, but a search area under
the cloud can result in more sink than you might expect, along with
not finding anything. If plan A doesn't work,  have enough altitude
for Plan B, then for Plan C. Plan C is an area of land ability.
Land ability being a airport, near roads, etc.

On virga, skirting thunderstorms, etc. If this is new to you, get a
mentor and fly together with them. A group has a good chance in
gaining experience and really enjoying the day.

More notes on land outs. Some ranchers are friendly, others are not.
They might show up with guns cocked. Yes, this has happened. Some
retrieves have taken 3-4 days and several 4x4's  went thru. An area
south of Current, should be avoided. These folks are so extreme the
local sheriff won't go out their. The road from Mt. Wheeler (Baker)
Hwy 21  to Milford is very deserted. You will only see a few cars
during a days drive.

On some of the ranges (like the Mentor range out of Tonapah) running
SW-NE, few, if any roads, will be available. Its best to really look
these areas over via goggle earth to get a idea of where you might be
flying over. Also, use IGC replay ( and
find flights on the OLC from Ely, Minden, Tonopah, Parowan, and review

But, with a few safe guards and  with proper planning, the Great Basin
offers soaring conditions sometimes beyond belief.