Nephi Safari – 2003 report by Dale Taylor (extended version) 

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 soaring weather. 

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.

©98,99,2000&01 Dale Taylor,, contact via email.