Nephi Safari – 2003 report by Dale Taylor (extended
This year’s Nephi Safari, hosted by Morgan Valley Soaring
was a very enjoyable event. It was
moved to June, rather than May to improve the chances that we would have good
I had determined that this year I would actually fly a
cross country flight! Last year
Lynn Alley was kind enough to invite me to fly with him in the DuoDiscus as a
training event. It really helped
prepare and introduce me to the advantages of a flight computer and GPS system
when considering your options and determining your progress on route.
I had studied the maps, knew the alternate airports, even driven to them
to familiarize myself with the areas. I
was ready and itching to fly. Nephi
to Mt. Pleasant to Manti and back, just over 100k was my goal.
Saturday morning it was looking nice so I pulled the 1-34
out early and got it down to the end of the runway where I would be the first to
go. I realize that being the
“wind dummy” was a risky option, but I really wanted to have enough time to
fly the 100k task. At about 12:30
things were starting to look good, but nobody seemed itching to get up in the
air just yet. They were starting to
get lunch going as I decided to get ready and give it a try. David Lane and Kristy (my wife) helped me get setup and
“plugged in” so to speak. With
a parachute, GPS and Palm system, food and water, O2 and canula, headset etc,
there’s many connections to verify. Strapped
in and ready to roll, they pushed me down to the front of the parked gliders as
the tow plane approached. Take-off
was nice, though the tow was smoother than I had hoped for, there was a decent
bump at about 1400’ AGL, but I wanted a better safety margin as I just
wasn’t going to the back of that line and spending my afternoon on the ground.
Since I was first, the tow pilot-Joe didn’t know where the lift was and
it was a pretty smooth ride up to 3000’ AGL.
I radioed for Joe to turn around and head west over to the ridge and
figured we would find something there… sure enough lift was there and I
released after a 4000’ tow. It
took just a circle to center it, and then I was headed up.
As I headed through 10,500’, I got a radio call from Tom Meecham who
was next in line asking if I found anything.
I knew that once I told him it was working and where it was, they would
all be excited to head on over and the tow plane would be very busy as everyone
rushed to get going. Paying for the extra 1000-1500’ was the price I paid for
being first to go, at least I was able to find the lift. I had passed through 13,500’ and was headed to Mt. Nebo
when Lynn Alley radioed to verify conditions as he was ready to go.
The valley was still, but both sides were working, I recommended starting
on the west ridge, climbing up and jumping over.
Over at Nebo, I headed for the SW ridges and found
something nice in the area of the J on the hillside.
I rode that up until I had plenty enough to make the peak, where I headed
next. There were several groups of
hikers on the ridges and I enjoyed giving them photo opportunities as I worked
my way along and up. At the very
peak there was a boomer which I took to 16,500 before I figured things were
working enough for me to start on course. As
my turn opened up to the south, I headed across the gap to Salt Peak.
I was surprised at how far I flew into the area before I found anything,
and what I found wasn’t that well formed.
I took it up a little and was still confident I would find better, so I
continued on course. By the time I
had flown over 17 miles south of Mt. Nebo, I decided to make a run for Mt.
Pleasant and the eastern edge of the valley as this area just wasn’t working
yet. There were clouds south of my location on the ridge, but I
would rather use what altitude I had to cross to the eastern edge of the valley
which had many well defined CU’s than risk what I had left here.
I was below 13,000 and turned east.
I hit a small area of lift, but after a few turns decided to press
forward. I then became shocked as
in the valley, instead of occasional lift, I found increased sink and really
little to no lift. I began to
ponder the idea of landing at Mt. Pleasant. As I surveyed the area, I noticed some eagles circling to my
right, went over and sure enough, something small was working there.
I had reached 10,000’ and was only about ½ way across the valley and
really needed a boost. It was small but I worked it up about 1000’ until I was
confident I could make the eastern edge and get out of the valley.
Heading out I realized that this was a very serious commitment, I
verified several times with the flight computer and visually that I had the
airport.. As I passed over the Mt.
Pleasant airport, I was going below 9000’ and while I had a few more miles I
could hunt for lift in, my options were slowly focusing on landing at Mt.
Pleasant. While it would have been
my first landing away from the starting airport, I really wanted to keep trying.
I kept my easterly heading and as I flew below 8700’, knew I was
quickly running out of time… I thought I found a bump, it was small but after
a circle, I didn’t have time to waste if it wasn’t right there, so I
continued east. I hit my safety
limit and decided I better head back towards the airport to assure that option,
when boom, there was that bump again. I
was very careful and worked it, making sure to verify with ground references
just where it was in case somehow I got blown out of it.
I worked the lift which slowly got better as I went up.
After I gained a couple thousand feet, I had more options and decided to
go back with my plans to head east to the well defined cloud street running
along the ridges. I flew 3 more
miles east when boom, I hit the kind of thermals I had left over on Nebo, really
strong well defined ones. I knew the entire ridge would be working as it looked the
same for at least 50 miles to the south west.
I took this boomer up to over 15k and headed out back on course.
The flight was nice and I just couldn’t help but stop and circle in a
couple of the really big ones… unless they really rocked me, all I did was
pull up to slow down in the lift and then speed up in the sink.
The few 1000+fpm thermals I did circle in took me up into the 17,000 asl
range. It’s amazing how the view is so much better at 17,700 than
it is at 8,700 over the airport!
With plenty of altitude, I was playing with the flight
computer, seeing which of the local airports I could make as I flew away from
Mt. Pleasant. Once I had Manti in
view and well within range, I checked and sure enough, I also had Salina, which
was another 25 miles beyond Manti! The
cloud street went all the way there, so I knew that would work.
I decided that 100k was enough as the hills between me and Nephi still
didn’t appear as nicely as the area I was in.
There were a few clouds there now so that gave me some hope, and I
figured that the additional hours of sunlight since I started had to be helping.
I took a boomer up to 17,700’ where I had Nephi made with a 2000’
margin of safety and then headed out. I
flew as smoothly as possible and quickly realized that the valley was perfectly
still, nothing. It reminded me of
being on a jumbo at 33,000’ as it was perfectly smooth and quiet.
I had flown about 13 miles before I hit the first bump, I decided to
increase my margin of safety from 2000’ to 3000’ and took it up a few
circles before heading back on course. I
was now flying up the spine of the ridge between 89 and I-15.
After another 10 miles I hit another and took it up a couple thousand. At this point I had Nephi by over a vertical mile of margin
and was very comfortable with my return glide.
I flew the next 20 miles to back over Nephi and decided to continue to
fly past before circling back and slowly winding down in the valley.
I flew around playing a little since I wanted to be sure and break the 4
hour flight mark, as a personal best. It
was a wonderful flight and something I really learned from.
I kept my cool, kept my options opened and felt I had a verified save to
my credit as a new XC pilot.
Before everyone signs up for the next soaring camp, I want
to discuss some of the difficulties of such an event. It’s hot and dry, the weeds were tall and you couldn’t
keep those dang stickery things out of your socks and shoes. You have to be prepared with proper clothes, sunscreen and a
cooler full of drinks to stay hydrated. Probably
the most frustrating part is that once the day turns soarable, everyone wants to
launch at the same time! Nephi is a
single runway with no taxi-ways, so you have to tow out on the runway.
To help accommodate this, everyone tried to stage down at the end before
any actual aero tows started. Even
though we tried to prepare as best as possible, it still takes 12-20 minutes to
get each glider up and the tow plane back.
As you can see, with 12+ gliders wanting a tow, it takes hours to
accomplish the task. That means if
the first guy takes off at 1pm, and you’re near the end of the line, you
aren’t going to be in the air until after 3pm, and that can be very
frustrating as others thermal out and soar away.
It can be devastating to not find lift quickly as a re-tow places you at
the end of the line and can consume much of the day.
Somehow we need to work on the efficiency of the system to make it flow
as quickly as possible.
Thanks to Jay and Janet of Morgan Valley Soaring for doing the leg work to pull all of this together. It was very enjoyable. Great soaring, great people to visit with, great food and fun sharing times with fellow pilots and their families. A special thanks to David Lane for his help, equipment and more. A special thanks to my wife for allowing me the time, I realize just how much work the kids are and appreciate the times I can sneak off to the airport! It was a wonderful weekend.
This page was updated Wednesday, June 16, 2004.