PG Site Record at Lakeview, OR - July 2, 2000
Lakeview to Iron Mountain - By Rick Higgins
Jeff Davis looked over at me. I could see the look on his face. He yelled, "let's go." At 3,000 ft above Black Cap Mt. at Lakeview, Oregon, the view was nice, but I wanted to get higher before going cross-country. We made a few more turns in the same thermal, watching each other carefully, so that we did not bounce into each other.
We were in Lakeview for the paragliding and hang gliding XC contest. Jeff had his wonderful wife, Judi, who was willing to chase him all over Lake County. I just wanted to fly a 100 mile flight and go home! It was fun flying with Jeff, and of course I did want a ride back to Lakeview at the end of the day. It never really worked out that way.
Jeff took off and went on glide to the north. We had a southwest tailwind. For some reason, I stayed with my thermal and got higher and watched Jeff hit sink as he glided above the canyon near Hwy 140. I looked at the clouds to the north and took a different route, following the clouds.
Jeff and I glided to the cliffs that were west of Bull Prairie and he was about 500 ft below me. I stayed high and worked some weak lift and drifted north to Sherman Valley. I arrived low and used the west wind that was coming up the open faces to ridge soar and to get back up. I had been here many times in the last three years and had landed here once. Jeff made it here after me and got too low and had to land. He hiked back to the road that went south to Hwy 140. I got back up and went over to Tagues Butte. I thought that Jeff had flown down to Hwy 395 and Judi was down there looking for him. She drove back to Lakeview and finally heard from someone else on the radio that Jeff was up in Sherman Valley. She finally met up with him near Hwy 140. They drove back to Lakeview and assumed that I would be fine and that I would follow Hwy 395 and hitchhike back.
I was now at Albert Rim and I knew that I had to get VERY high here to get to the north end of the Lake and the Rim. I got up to 13,700 ft and raced to the north end of Albert Lake. I was low when I got there. This is the area that everyone sinks out in. I had landed there three times before and had only gotten back up once. I drifted towards the low mountains to the north, working every bit of lift. I floated about two miles at about 200 ft above the ground. I drifted past Hogback Road in a wave of lift, but not exactly a thermal. I was not going up, just maintaining. I saw that if I could stay up, I would be drifting to a small bump that had some rocks on the face. I got there and was about 30 ft above the ground. The bump was only about 20 ft high. The bump and the rocks were enough to kick the wave into a thermal and I was able to make full circles close to the ground and get back up. It was amazing to be that low and to get back up 3000 ft above the desert.
Meanwhile, Tom Moock and Kitty Goursolle from the Bay area, were following me and on the same radio channel. Tom had flown to Albert Lake and landed. Kitty picked him up and they decided to chase me up Hwy 395. I was glad to know that I was not alone out there.
I was up and down for a while, trying to stay high and follow Hwy 395. I kept drifting away from the highway, but still thought that I could land close to my new chase vehicle. A cloud that was overdeveloping to the west of me had other plans. It was between my little aircraft and Hwy 395.
I was high and on full speed bar and relaxed when I decided to drink some water from my camel-back. I let go of the brake handles and of course I ran into a strong thermal and had a huge frontal collapse. I looked up to reconfirm my suspicions. Yea, bigger than life, a full horseshoe, and it stuck. This was not helping my glide, so I decided to fix it and casually reached up and grabbed both brake handles and pulled the wing back into the normal flying mode. I must have been getting a little hypoxic at that point, because I noticed that I had forgotten to let up on the speed bar the entire time. The APCO Allegra was stable and flew straight. Maybe that is one of the reasons that it is rated DHV 1-2.
Meanwhile, the huge cloud to the west of me was getting darker. I was at cloud base and I saw a bolt of lightning about a mile away. I wonder what would happen to a paraglider if it was struck by lightning? I was getting sucked up into the cloud and it was snowing lightly. Three years ago, I was 10 miles west of here and had lightning nearby with hail bouncing off of my wing. This year it was only snow. Maybe it was time to get down.
I kept flying north, away from the nasty cloud, and tried to get back to Hwy 395 and closer to Tom and Kitty. My GPS was telling me that I was losing ground speed and hitting a head wind. The cloud was overdeveloping and pushing me away from Hwy 395. I told Tom and Kitty that I was about 6 miles east of Hwy 395. I could not see the highway because of the dark cloud and I was actually about 10 miles east of them. I had some options, full speed bar to the ground towards the black cloud and rain and Hwy 395, or fly east to a cloud street that would take me to the middle of the desert. I did not realize at the time that the cloud street would have taken me towards the town of Burns, Oregon. I decided to go north away from the cloud and just get down safely. I told Tom and Kitty that I was landing and they said that they would come and look for me. I had flown over 80 miles from Lakeview at this point and would be VERY happy to get down safely. I landed going backwards facing into the wind. I touched down, took a huge wrap on the brakes and turned around and pulled the wing down. It was blowing about 20 mph on the ground. I was glad to be down!
I tried to contact Tom and Kitty on the radio with no luck. I was actually 20 miles from them and Hwy 395, life was not good. As I was coming down, I had looked for any sign of life, but there was not a ranch in site.
I was next to a road, with fresh tire tracks but was in the middle of the great "Oregon Outback." I looked at my options and found that I had cell phone service. I called Jeff and Judi's cell phones. They were not on. I tried to call information and get their hotel phone number. No luck. I found out later that Tom and Kitty did not have cell service while they were looking for me. They drove into the desert for two hours and finally gave up and drove back to Lakeview and told some other pilots that I was still out there.
I packed everything into a small bag that I would need for a long hike out. I would leave my glider and harness and come back later for them. I took my maps out and found that I had landed 3 miles east of Iron Mt. and 1 mile south of Big Stick Rd.
I needed to let someone know that I was OK and where I was. The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce had put on the event, but they were closed for the day. I was thinking about the hang pilot that had walked out the week before and was followed by coyotes and a cougar. I had plenty of water and food and did not mind hiking 5 miles with my pack or 10 miles without it. To try and hike out 20 miles would be foolish if I had another option.
I decided to call "911" and tell someone where I was. I talked to the
A four wheel drive SUV pulled up and I got in and they drove the 20 miles to Wagontire, Or. I told them that I was sorry to bother them, but they told me several times that they were glad that I had called and they did not want anyone trying to walk out the 20 miles to Hwy 395. They had found a dead body two weeks earlier out in the desert and had no idea who it was. I was glad that I had called them.
On the way to Wagontire, they called Jeff and Judi. They drove my Jeep from Lakeview to Wagontire and picked me up. We got back to Lakeview about 12:00 am.
I was glad to be safe and could now enjoy my new Oregon State PG XC record flight. I had flown 83.6 miles and was up for 4 hours and 3 minutes. I had gotten up to 13,714 ft. I did win the Lakeview contest for the fourth year in a row. If I had only decided to fly east and to the cloud street that would have taken me northeast, maybe I could have landed in Burns Or., and flown 100 miles. Perhaps next year.
kim"at"flyzephyr"dot"com USHPA Advanced Paragliding
Instructor & Observer