Thursday, September 03, 2015

Battle to Survive The Owens

I was starting to prep my gear for the up coming Owens Valley PG Nationals, while Kalei was taking these pictures she said, "You look like your going to battle, you look like a gay storm trooper". Well, unfortunately I think she's hit it right on the helmet. We will be launching around 6,000 feet and have potential altitude gains to 17,999 feet. It will be cold and the ride up to these elevations could be fast and furious. The more I have been gathering information and gear for this trip the more I wonder, What the Hell am I doing??!!!

Alex started to stir the pot on Owens quite sometime ago. I have heard about the Owens and read things like what was quoted in Cross Country Magazine, "The Owens Valley is not for the faint-hearted, but pick your season, and the valley’s rocky peaks pump powerful climbs up to 6,000m over the deepest valley in the United States. Strong mountain thermals and mountain desert flying. Light winds are critical. Only go flying during the suggested months, as the desert floor heats too much in mid-summer for sane or safe piloting." Everything I have read or heard about the Owens is ominous. But after a successful Chelan adventure last year and Alex's famous words, "I think we got this".  I was getting slowly won over.

Pete Michelmore was going to be the Safety Retrieve Director. Every comp I have done so far, Canadian Nats, Rat Race, Chelan he has been there, for some reason his voice at launch and on the radio and knowing that the Bronco will be there to rescue me no matter where I end up is super comforting. I had great adventures when Pete was at the helm.

Chris Langan and Scotty Gee from the Big Island were on the list now too. Alex kept proding but I didn't think he was serious until he booked our flights. Ok, I guess I am throwing my wing in the ring. Now, I am committed to go.

SDTom lands in Oahu, he started to give Alex and I the low down. There's a place there called the Valley of Doom, it's not written but it's there. That was not comforting. After paying for the comp I found out you will need to fly with Oxygen..............What? Ok, we arranged it and thankfully I will be borrowing Tim ONeill's kit. Another thing is you must stay hydrated, which means of course, you must also pee in flight. Remembering last years Chelan flights of 5 to 7 hours and my aging bladder, I had to get a special relief system. Along with a puffy coat to stay warm at possible 32 degree temperatures.

I finally decided to try some of this stuff on and now my pre-flight checklist is huge. All the regular buckles etc. but now I have a pee tube and an Oxygen tube which I am going to color code cause hooking these hoses up to the wrong ends could be painful. Urine into the nose and O2 into the, well, you know, it just would not be pleasant.

I thought of just wearing diapers but Quentin tried that once and he just couldn't do it. Just reading this I have to go but there's no tube for that..........Yet!! I know gross.

Now the inside of my pod is got more stuff going on. I open the skirt and there are hoses and wires. Oh, forgot the wires. Due to the extended time in the air a battery back up is in the flight deck with a wire up to the phone which is now also and instrument on the flight deck.

I am committed to go, got the travel plans and extra gear. Then, Kari calls and tells Pete she doesn't need him.....So Pete's NOT Going!!!!!............Doesn't she know that alot of pilots go just cause Pete's there. This was not a good sign.

Alex, Chris, Scotty and I will be hoping for your moral support and prayers. We will try to blog the events as time and energy allow. The count down is on, we are still hoping that Fireman Dave, JK and even Ike will show up out of the blue and there's always the chance of SkyGod Doug showing up.

It Will Be Time To Fly, Get Your Gear and Then Some and Try to Survive The Owens.


Marco said...

Get a flight-suit, Thom! This one I use myself. You can check it out tomorrow if you want.

Unknown said...

Looking good my man!
Flew Pine this weekend.
Freezing level was 9000' and we froze our butts off.
You may also want to consider
1. Long pants instead of shorts, even in a pod, at least have a pair you could use it you freeze in the shorts.
2. Layers, this weekend I wore a t-shirt, Under Armor base layer, a long sleeve shirt, a dow jacket and a SOL lycra top....still cold
3. Practice with the gloves and make sure you have some thing to push buttons with, i use the eraser 1/2 of a pencil but more recently find myself needing a stylus that will work on the touch screen.
4. Food find a good snack you can get to in the air, I carry power bars, cliff bars or chewy Gerona bars, some get really hard when its cold and can be hard to open if the containers aren't pre ripped. Pack a few extra just encase, some have spent a night on the hill.
5. Back up water, if your camel bag leaks, rips or bursts its nice to have even one small bottle when you land out.
6. Remember - the Owens demands respect be particularly conscious of not doing anything but flying the glider until you have some clearance.
7. Practice peeing, I can only manage it on glides that are smooth....stage fright :)
8. Make sure your well trimmed it sucks to get the short hairs in your adhesive (LOL!!)
9. No lotion before use.... a slipped off catheter can ruin the whole day.
10. When its cold there can be some significant shrinkage....Ever tried to put a condom on a scarred turtle....its cold on launch take a cold shower and practice. This one keeps on giving....
11. Bring some trunks there are a few cool hot springs to soak in after a long task.
12. Remember Paragliding is FUN! Try to relax, you fly better that way.

Looking on seeing you guys there. Currently planning on showing up on Saturday and doing some volunteering, hoping to wind tech for you guys as well.

Geronimo John said...


Many SUMMER trips to King Mountain flying in the 16K - 17K range taught me that winter long john's and long pants with full on Snow Ski gear are a must if you are going high Think January Ski Gear.

Combined wind speeds and temperatures in the 20's gives you wind chills could be easily be in the single digits. Hard for a Hawaii pilot to imagine, but launching where it is 85 degrees and flying at 17K brings with it issues to consider. I found it better to over dress and to then enjoy the flight vs. having to land due to frost bite.

As Doug advises, long jeans with thermals under them is a really good starting point. Also full on ski gloves mean that a stubby pencil on a string is your only way to use instruments. Don't forget the string part of this.

Best of luck!


DaveZ said...

Holy crap Thom what have you gotten yourself into?!?! I can't wait for the stories that are sure to come. Cheers!

Bill said...

Check your reserve and Go!!!!!!!!!!!!


firedave2 said...

Thom: You will be fine, don't add to any stress, you can always head out over the valley and land. Do practice getting the O2 kit squared away before you fly. However you launch is how you will fly the rest of the day. Over dress for day one, and adjust for the next day.

If the place is on, there are the best thermals around. 2k/m is real, and it only takes 3 minutes to climb a mile.

If you have to land in strong valley flow, remember the sage brush will stop you from getting dragged.

Oh, launch as early as possible, the winds go from 0 to 20 at Flynns fast.