A sectional chart would probably help as you review this information. Klamath
Falls Sectional covers the Contest envelope. There are no restricted areas in
the Contest area.
Montague task area landability notes
The following airfields do not appear on all charts, but are generally suitable for gliders. But note that the responsibility for evaluating the safety of any landing place lies with the pilot. Coonrod Ranch (#108) Planted in thin wheat; probably acceptable for 18-meter-span gliders. Dry Lake (#18) Subject to flooding, but probably acceptable based on recent rainfall amounts. Longbell Ranch (#108, aka North Tennant) Has metal posts, but probably acceptable for 18-meter-span gliders. Landing a south end is preferable. R-Ranch (#39) Currently in good condition and easy to reach with a trailer (but not acceptable for an aerotow). With normal winds, land uphill to the north.
The following airfields appear on some charts, but are not recommended for glider operations and not eligible for an airfield landing bonus. Lefko (#29) Listed as an airfield, this is actually an alfalfa field, currently with bales. Consider numerous fields in this area. Pinehurst (#36) Rock wall on south side of runway; barely wide enough for a 15-meter-span glider.
The following are problem areas worthy of note:
South Tennant (#45) Narrow; has rocks on bolt sides; may have buildings under construction. Marginal for a 15-meter span glider, probably unacceptable for wider spans. Alternates fields to the north and Longbell Ranch 5 NM to the north.
Valley of Death¹ (several valleys east and northeast of #9 Callaghan) The low areas here look as if they should be landable, but they aren¹t. Plan to skit this area or have plenty of altitude to glide across it.
Willow Creek Canyon (east of home, between Willow Creek Mtn and Goosenest Mtn) This is often the path of least resistance for final glides from the east, but it includes about 10 miles of trees over terrain that has a shallow gradient.
The 2005 18-Meter National Soaring Championships
A Pilot’s Perspective
When a soaring sight sits in the shadow of a fourteen thousand foot volcano that’s poised to convulse into a spastic, pyroclastic eruption equal to or greater than what exploded from the seemingly quiet Mt. St. Helens, there’s bound to be some questionable lore surrounding the turnpoint database. I heard that Montague, California was a beautiful place to have a soaring contest and that it was also an “interesting” place to soar. “Interesting”. From a pilot’s point of view that’s certainly a loaded description. When I decided to attend the 18- Meter Nationals in Montague, I made sure to pick the brains of a few that had experienced racing there. Sure, the pilots who’ve flown here love the quiet Siskiyou County Airport and the soaring conditions that surround the Shasta Valley, but when I’d ask them the typical questions about an unfamiliar soaring site the answers and advice were always prefaced with; “Stay out of the valleys. Take the long way around. Yea, it looks great over those peaks but there’s never any lift. Don’t ever try and cross the Shasta Valley unless you’ve climbed to at least 11,000MSL.” And then there’s my all time favorite, “Stay away from Mt. Shasta!” Stay away from Mt. Shasta? Why? It’s so beautiful and appears to have the topography to generate great thermals equal to what’s found on most high peaks in the west. Maybe the local Native American Indian spirit, chief “Skell” is to blame. Indian legend has it that he descended from the heavens to the mountain’s summit, maybe to calm the restless magma beneath. I imagine that when the Indians see the beautiful lenticular clouds capping Shasta’s ragged peak, they believe that something other-worldly is buried beneath the vast lava beds. One thing is for certain, when you get close to Mt. Shasta in a glider you’re humbled and in awe of something very powerful and you’ll often work your ass off trying to connect with any reliable lift.
The American Indians aren’t the only ones who consecrate the mysteries of this storied mountain. Today groups like the “I am Foundation”, the “Radiant School of the Seekers”, and the “Understanding, Inc.” have also been drawn to this mysterious energy as well. Then there’s us, the running on empty “cult” with our sleek NASA-like sailplane trailers that show up occasionally. You can only imagine what thoughts run through the heads of the locals in the nearby town of Weed when they see a sailplane trailer drive by. Whoa! But if you eliminate all the metaphysical stuff, the Shasta Valley is a beautiful landscape rich with green pastures, quaint little storybook towns and fertile farmland surrounded by pine-covered foothills. From Montague you can almost throw a rock into Oregon. There isn’t anymore Northern California left. It’s very calming.
My first thought when descending into the Shasta Valley down Interstate 5 was how similar the landscape appeared to the Carson Valley in Nevada where Minden, arguably one of the greatest soaring spots in the world, is located. But appearance is the only thing Montague shares with Minden. After you fly a few days out of the Siskiyou County Airport it becomes quite clear that Montague is no Minden. Sure there are the days when temps reach near 100 degrees and 300+ mile tasks can be called with winning speeds that’ll flirt with 100 MPH. But if you race here for over a week, it’s more likely that you’ll experience the more aberrant side of Montague. There’ll be that crystal clear morning you awake to find the curious marine layer creeping over the mountains to the distant Northwest. The stuff doesn’t stay there long, but it does implant a very real cognizance in the very best of pilots. After a few days gliding around in the “cooler” weather here, I guarantee that you’ll tap into all that you’ve ever experienced or read about sailplane racing and still be left in awe of what you’re experiencing in Montague. Let’s just say that it’s a challenging place to soar. Having expounded on the more challenging aspects of Montague, I have to say that I’ve also become one of many who absolutely love to fly competitively in Montague.
The Siskiyou County Airport is huge due to it’s military origins and the local soaring community has laid out a nice tie down area and uses an old county building for it’s clubhouse. But like the mellow landscape dotted with old Andrew Wyeth barns, Gary Kemp and the Montague regulars are quite laid back. There’s no hustle and bustle, just a friendly, welcoming environment with some easy to follow operational rules. One of the most experienced and colorful guys there is John “JJ” Sinclair. No matter what the weather conditions, he’s always got an enthusiastic smile ready and willing to drag a few green soaring pilots around the mercurial task area.
Curiously, the 2005 18-Meter Nationals struggled to attract only 22 pilots. Is it just too far away? Does the Indian lore or the uneasy thought of Mt. Shasta blowing her top scare people off? Or is it the “interesting” soaring conditions? Who knows, but regardless of the small field, some of soaring’s heavyweights like Ray Gimmey, Rick Walters, Gary Itner and Rick Indrebo always seem to show up there for a good race. I believe that 22 of us showed up here because we wanted to leave the routine behind and fly creatively over staggeringly beautiful landscapes. In this regard, Montague’s a tough act to follow. Here’s how the contest played out from my prospective.
After a fairly strong practice day with puffy cu’s and an easy glide across the Shasta Valley, we all looked forward to an aggressive first day of racing. But the looming umbrae of Mt. Shasta decided otherwise. The first contest day’s weather was poised to challenge the entire field. Competition director, Charlie Minner, fresh from a very challenging CD job at the Open Class Nationals in Ephrata, Washington, and his task committee, Gary Itner, Rick Walters and John Sinclair, decided the best call was a Modified Assigned Task. So, we were on our own to choose a course that would jibe best with the fickle ways of Montague. Two who courted Montague in previous competitions, Rick Walters and Sam Zimmerman found a way to get through the day with average speeds around 61 MPH. Sam won with a 189 -mile flight at 61.66 MPH and Rick was a fraction behind at 61.41 and 184 miles. However, the day proved a struggle for most with a few land outs and some average finishing speeds as low as 30 MPH. None of us was able to cross the Shasta Valley to the east and a collective respect was gained by all for places like the Scarface Ridge, Duzel Rock, Craggy, Fasic’s Furnace, and Gunsight Ridge. The next day’s weather was even more marginal, so the contest day was cancelled.
On day 2 the weather picture wasn’t much better. The day wasn’t strong enough to head out east towards Mt. Shasta, so Charlie laid out a Turn Area Task that kept us in the mountains to the west of Montague where the most promising forecast for decent soaring weather existed. It was another day-spent fishing around through the local mountain ranges for lift. Knowing the wind direction and paying close attention to sun angles on the ridges was key to staying in the lift bands. Falling off those ridges into the valleys made things very difficult. We all learned how quickly Montague turns its back on any soaring pilot if there’s even the most-subtle shift in relative winds. The local axiom, “Stay in the mountains and avoid the valleys”, held true to form. Dick VanGrunsven somehow made it look easy by finding a way to blaze around 205 miles at 80.24 MPH to win the day. Gary Itner was close behind in second with a 208-mile flight at 79.78 MPH, which put him in 1st place overall, a position he never relinquished.
On day 3 the weather continued to follow it’s weaker pattern favoring the west, so Charlie set a 219-mile Assigned Area Task, which covered three turnpoints that we would fly around twice. You’d think that after the first lap around a prescribed task area you’d be able to take mental notes and avoid the rough spots. No such luck in Montague. Sometimes it worked, but I found that an open mind was the key to improving on the second lap. The air moves around the mountains here in mysterious ways and when the sun angles move off the various ridgelines the lift just vanishes completely. Driving headlong into the air that worked well 30-minutes earlier and expecting to bang into a precious thermal, doesn’t always work here. You’ve got to look down at all of the nooks and crannies, the shape of the landscape and its relationship to the wind and sun. My second lap around was very different from the first and it seemed to pay off. When I finished, I thought I’d won the day, but Gary Itner beat my second place speed of 75.15 MPH by getting around at 77.75 MPH. I had dinner that night with Rick Walters and he casually muttered, “It’s now time for me to get some points on Itner.” Anyone who knows Rick knows that when he puts on his race face he’s tough to beat.
The next day’s weather proved even more challenging than day 3 with Charlie calling a Turn Area Task with 4 turnpoints. He was smart setting the various radiuses, especially the 15-mile radius around the second and more unpredictable northern turnpoint, Dutchman Peak. Once I left Gunsight Ridge, well to the south of Dutchman Peak, things got very quiet. It was an uneasy, max L/D glide to reach the outer edge of the turnpoint radius. The day was falling a part early and most of us turned back just after sticking our noses into the outer edge of the Dutchman Peak turnpoint. Even then it was a gamble to get back to the ridges west of Montague. I had just enough altitude to slam back into the guts of Gunsight Ridge less than 100 feet above the ground. I knew that if I bailed out into the Valley towards Montague the day was over, because that’s how it works here. Fall off the ridges on the weak days and you’ll surely land in one of the valleys. Go deeper in the mountains and you risk a dangerous off field landing. It’s a delicate balance of patience and good judgement. Sam Zimmerman fell off the ridge west of Montague and he was at risk of not even being able to glide back to the airport. Miraculously, Sam defied the lessons of Montague and grew a thermal from a baby in full view of all back at the airport. With an enthusiastic cheering section and a lot of sweat, Sam pulled it off and made it around the course. The rest of us who managed to finish the day did so by tiptoeing around the task, working hard in very weak and difficult thermals for several minutes to get high enough to press on. Rick Walters proved his racing prowess and got around the task at nearly 60 MPH for 209 miles, when most pilots who completed the task did so at average speeds 10 MPH slower. He was indeed racking up the points and coming closer Itner. Ed Salkeld in his ASH-26e finished in second place with 201 miles at 56.38 MPH.
After a well-deserved rest day the weather finally looked promising for a longer task into the areas east of Mt. Shasta. Charlie turned us loose on a Turn Area Task with 5 turnpoints that worked the west and eastern task area. Today gave us all a taste of Montague’s potential for strong soaring conditions. We were all treated to the dreaded glide across the Shasta Valley from Mt. Eddy. I could only climb to 10,000 feet MSL, not to the recommended 11,000 prior to the smooth glide east towards Shasta. When I finally reached the intimidating volcanic slopes of Mt. Shasta just a few hundred feet above the lava flows the varios started to respond to lift. All I needed was a thousand feet or more to get off the mountain and head northeast for the more dependable Whaleback Mountain. But whatever thermals were popping off the steep and scarred north face of Shasta were impossibly narrow and not very strong. It was nerveracking to gaggle up in such a tight and precarious spot. Another challenging spot during the task was the glide over Clear Lake Reservoir and the wet farmland into the Bonanza turnpoint. The clouds just stopped. The smart ones went wide and further east into the 15-mile turnpoint radius avoiding the wetlands all together. Once clear of this area it was textbook cloud flying all the way home. Bill Gawthrop followed the pre-race day advice of Rick Walters and had a fast and uneventful day winning with a speed of 86.93 MPH over a distance of 354 miles. Rick Idrebro was close behind in second place for the day with a speed of 85.70 MPH over a distance of 343 miles.
Another day that promised great Montague soaring, one that also had Charlie salivating to call a task that would achieve 750K. After a later launch than normal, Charlie called a Modified Assigned Task, which started out at the southwest Callahan turnpoint and headed way out east to Schonchin. Then we were on our own for 4 hours to line the cloud streets up to best fit a turnpoint selection. The cloud streets this day were fantastic with the occasional 10 knot thermal! Staying out east of the Cascade Range and figuring out a racetrack pattern of turnpoints over the Madoc Plateau was the key to racking up the miles and speed. Once Rick Walters recorded Schonchin in data logger, he lined up what proved to be a perfect turnpoint selection in this area that enabled him to fly as fast as he could under the clouds without ever stopping to circle in thermals. When he crossed the finish line his winning speed was a blistering 96.32 MPH over a distance of 400 miles. He nearly went the coveted 750K distance. Dick VanGrunsven also had a great run for 370 miles at 92.74 MPH for second place. Walters was flying like a man possessed, closing the point gap between he and Itner at an impressive rate. He had first place squarely in the cross hairs.
Another strong day was forecast, but after the launch a haze layer crept into the task area and Charlie called a back up Turn Area Task with a 4-hour minimum. The turnpoint selection would force us to cross the Shasta Valley three times. Out on course the thermal strengths were good, but it wasn’t as strong as day 6. There were good cu’s, but we didn’t have the well-organized cloud streets like we did the day before. Crossing the Shasta Valley was also a bit more challenging. On the way back from the first turnpoint, I saw what looked to be a fantastic cloud forming against Mt. Shasta with a cloud base that looked like around 11,000 feet. I know that more often than not these can be “fools clouds”, but this one just had to work and I really needed it to cross back over the Shasta Valley towards Carter, the third turnpoint. I flew right into the side of Shasta below 8,000 feet MSL, which was very near to the ground. Just when the fear was beginning to set in, bam! I was rewarded with an 8 knot thermal that hugged the northern slope of Shasta. The climb was spectacular! Being that close to the mountain made the ride upwards feel greatly accelerated. I was in complete awe of the mountain’s size and grandeur. At that moment I felt that familiar presence of something very powerful radiating from Shasta. The mountain was giving back what it more often takes away from the soaring pilot. I was sucked up to 12,000 feet and before I headed out across the valley, I had an intimate and rare glimpse of the dramatic summit. It was truly a spiritual encounter that I’ll always remember. Again, Rick Walters creamed us all. It was his birthday and he gifted himself with another win at 80.87 MPH over a distance of 324 miles. He was now only three points behind Gary Itner, who placed second for the day at 79.02 MPH for a distance of 325 miles.
Unfortunately, the last contest day was to be a wash, literally. A thick cirrus deck shadowed the grid and the rain started to fall forcing Charlie to cancel the day. The 2005 18-Meter National Soaring Champion is Gary Itner, but brilliant flying by Rick Walters in the final few days placed him a mere 3-points behind Gary Itner! What a great race! Walters’ and Itner’s consistent flying was inspirational. I was honored to fly with them and witness their dominance at this year’s 18-Meter Nationals. As our 2006 US team representatives, I’m certain that they’ll make a strong showing in Sweden next year.
In July 2006, the 15-Meter Nationals will be held in Montague. Maybe this little passage from Chris O’Callaghan, who flew here in the 2003 Standard Class Nationals, will help to lure those of you who have doubts about Montague.
There are better “pure” racing sites…Hobbs, Uvalde, Tonopah. Perhaps this dissuades some. But since only one guy gets to win, isn’t it worthwhile to come away with your own set of trophies, regardless of where you place? Strong lift, dependable cloud streets…those are nice, but watching the world unfold as you climb your way out of a box canyon, revealing snowcapped peaks, cinder cones, stoney monoliths projecting hundreds of feet above the pines, snow-fed lakes improbably perched on steep slopes, lush valleys… Montague’s an extraordinary place!”
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