Tips from Pilot-X about flying Indian Valley
I’ve been regularly flying I.V. for over 20 years, and it’s one of my favorite places to mountain thermal. Over the years, I’ve figured out a number of strategies for staying out of the bailout and getting up – something that’s become more important in the past year, with the changing status of the bailout LZ. All of the following tips will have exceptions given specific conditions of the day, but they really work for me – I haven’t taken a sledder in IV for a long time.
Tip #1 – Don’t linger around launch. Typically, nothing good will come of it. I’ve occasionally seen a random pilot find decent lift in the burn area in front of launch, but I see many more who find nothing. And absolutely DON’T fly to the right of launch unless you are high enough to cross the saddle area – I won’t try it at less than 8,000′. This should go without saying, but the area to the right of launch is an infamous venturi zone, so stay away.
Tip #2 – Fly directly to the spine to the left of launch. Don’t mess around with bits of scrappy lift along the way – fly straight there. The spine is the first likely area to find good thermals pumping up the ridge. For single surface or low-performance wings, the spine is the best place to find lift, yet be in close proximity to the bailout. But this leads me to one of my personal favorite strategies…
Tip #3 – Don’t waste altitude on the spine. For intermediate and hi-perf gliders, this is a big deal. If I don’t immediately find good thermal lift on the spine, I head straight to the next bowl to the east. No fishing around for something that might appear – just move on into the bowl. There is typically more lift in the bowl area than on the spine. It’s got plenty of bare rock and few trees, making it a thermal generator. On a typical day, the far east side of this bowl where the treeline begins again is one of the best thermal collectors in the immediate area. It’s also plenty close for higher-perf gliders to make it back to the bailout of necessary.
Tip #4 – If you’ve only gotten up a few hundred above launch alt when you’ve gotten to the far eastern edge of the burned bowl, and you haven’t yet found anything solid – consider moving on. Yes, you’re leaving the security of the bailout option, but you’re halfway to the zone where you can make it to the valley floor. Typically, you’re feeling a bit of tailwind if you continue east down the ridge, and you’re even more likely to encounter thermals around the spines in front of you. If I haven’t gotten up yet, this is the area where I really dig in and work. There are a number of spines with rocky outcroppings as you head east, and you can always diagonal across the descending terrain to work the lower ridge areas if needed. There are a number of good LZ options in front of you, and you can focus on scratching back up to a good comfortable altitude.
Tip #5 – Be aware of sun and wind direction. This is something that is important to every thermal site, not just I.V., but newer thermal pilots may not be aware. If you’re flying in the second half of the afternoon, the sun angle is going to be shining more brightly in the western-facing side of spines and bowls. Focus on these areas when searching for thermals. Also, the prevailing wind in I.V. tends to shift more from the west in the later afternoon, making the thermals drift toward the east. Don’t fly into the leeside of spines if you’re working low into the terrain.
Tip #6 – One of the very best thermal locations is a bit further east, just over halfway down the ridge. There is a small clear-cut meadow, just behind the ridge-top – the spine in front of this meadow is almost magical. Frankly, I’m not sure why it’s so good – it has no more obvious thermal triggers than the other spines, doesn’t seem to face in a superior direction. But it’s a terrific zone for rocketing to the highest alt of the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone from mediocre alt to top-of-the-stack in this area. Plus, it’s very close to one of the valley’s designated LZ’s – Camp Clement. Even if you’ve had no trouble getting up on you’re flight, it typically pays to visit this area!
I love soaring I.V. and I hate to see others sometimes not having similarly good flights. I hope you find these tips to be useful as the I.V. season kicks into full gear.