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Summer's End: Warner Springs to Las Vegas

by Doug Levy #317 (aka “Hangman”)

To the 1-26 fanatics at Warner Springs’ Skid Row, the Y2K cross-country soaring season had been something of a disappointment. Although our cross-country attempts had resulted in several 200+ mile flights, none had matched the 300+ distances Hawkeye, Two By Four and Hangman had flown during the three previous seasons. This year we had been denied any new straight out diamond distance claims.

August had been a particularly disappointing month. Over or under- development were getting the best of us. So when the cu’s started to form over Warner Springs on Friday September 15th I started calling around looking for a crew. Unfortunately none was available for Saturday, so I gave up on any hopes. Then Greg Sperbeck called Saturday afternoon and offered to crew Sunday the 17th.

We set #317 up at Warner and I was the first private glider to launch at 10:45. I struggled for awhile as the 12k.clouds were forming and a little after 11:00 I was at 11k on my way to Lake Riverside. I followed the small forming clouds over Lake Hemet then climbed to 14k over Mt. San Jacinto. The crossing to San Gorgornio went smoothly and the crew was not far behind. Over Big Bear and at cloud base I eased east to the last clouds and headed for Apple Valley. The glass pilots that had gone south were now following me north from San Jacinto. I radioed Joshua approach to get the status of restricted area 2515, thinking I might head north toward Inyokern, but after several minutes of waiting without reply, I changed my plan. The only clouds to be seen ahead were far to the northeast. I couldn’t tell if they were over the Colorado River or closer, but that was were I was headed.

Between Apple Valley and Barstow I was getting down to 8k when I hit a series of thermals to 13k.. I looked back toward Big Bear and noticed a huge dust devil, perhaps a ¼ mile in diameter going up to 12k. I radioed the glass pilots that there was plenty of lift for them to turn Barstow and heckled the whiners. Greg was now getting close and would soon get ahead of me.

Heading across I-40 I got low in the hills near Ludlow. I keep finding lift that keep me working hard between 7 and 8k. Greg was looking for landing areas along the freeway. Finally I got up to 11k and dove for the expected lift over Granite Mt. But this time Granite wasn’t working and I continued to the first of the clouds I had spotted from over 50 miles away. A quick climb from below ridge top at 7k to 12k over the Providence Mountains and I was under a beautiful cloud street.

The clouds lined up just south of Las Vegas and off I went getting to 14k at times. I had Greg turn toward Searchlight and then north for Boulder City. I flew around the class B airspace then headed out over Lake Mead. Two x Four (Garry Dickson) and I had visited this area by car in June after a Goal Strike cross-country flight and were very intimidated by the rugged terrain, but from this comfortable altitude it was serene and beautiful. While burning off my altitude, I snapped pictures of Hoover Dam and surroundings then glided in the smooth evening air into the Boulder City airport landing at 6:20 . Greg had arrived about 15 minutes before me.

We loaded up as it became quit dark about 7 p.m., went to dinner and drove home. I was in bed just after 2am. Almost 800 miles on the truck, and. 210 straight line miles of very memorable 1-26 soaring. Thanks again to Greg and all the crews that have helped us in our antics.