The Solo Vol Biv Crossing Of California & The Sierra Nevada Mountains Is Complete- 510 miles DONE!

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(Click here to go to the trip’s home page with all updates and the complete story)

The trip has been completed- I have arrived at the end of the Northern Sierra after 510 miles (820 km’s) of solo adventure!

What an amazing time I have had along the way. Big thermals, demanding flights, steep hikes, heavy pack, sketchy conditions; all were encountered on this south-to-north traverse of California and the High Sierra. I started out from the beach at Ventura, California, on the 19th of April and traveled alone and unsupported to my destination 30 days later, up at the northern end of the Sierra in Verdi, Nevada. I travelled 510 straight line miles to arrive there, with 55% of that distance covered by flying my Ozone LM5 paraglider, and the other 45% by hiking my ass off through the rough and remote terrain.

I am extremely happy to have finished the complete traverse of the Sierra Nevada by vol biv flying, and extending it even further by starting on the Pacific Ocean down in Southern California. It was the first solo and first unsupported traverse of the range, it was a great adventure for me. It was much harder going solo and unsupported instead of having a chase car or using help for re-supplies and logistics. Having no support or assistance forced me to carry more supplies than I wanted, and to make safe conservative decisions while out there. It also created a blank canvas to create whatever route and adventure that I wanted. Pure freedom.

The first third of the adventure was mostly hiking, with a few short flights thrown in. It was unusually bad weather for the first half of my trip, with very few opportunities to fly. Once I arrived on the northern Mojave Peaks and eventually the Southern Sierra, I was rewarded with decent weather and made most of the remaining progress by air. All in all, I was very happy to have flown more than 55% of the distance, otherwise it would have been more walking than I would have been happy with. If another party were to repeat the entire route in say, late Spring or early Summer, I’m sure you would be able to fly over 75%+ of the route without too much trouble. That is, if your up to taking on the big conditions of the Sierra at that time of the year!

I had some very ‘spicy’ times up there when the conditions proved to be challenging. The LM5 glider just plowed right on through most of it, only getting my feathers ruffled a few times. One thing about flying in the Sierra is that it is usually big, strong conditions with plenty of turbulence associated with the lift. Our prevailing wind is from the west, creating large helpings of nasty rotor most afternoons since we are flying on the lee side to the east of the crest. Welcome to paragliding heaven, just be aware of what you are getting into.

 

I had originally intended to go about 45 more miles north to Honey Lake, but upon summiting the Mt Rose massif and looking north over the last few peaks, it was obvious that they were much smaller and more heavily forested than the peaks I had just come from. The last of the big peaks had been crossed, the trip was over. I hiked down to goal at Interstae 80 and called it good.

Now I’m gearing up for another big adventure starting in two weeks- a solo vol biv traverse from one side of the Alps to the other, and back. Life is good.

 

I want to thank my sponsors, they really helped out by supporting the trip. Big thanks go out to:

 

Ozone Paragliders

Patagonia Clothing

Black Diamond

High Adventure 

Asolo

 

I will be creating a video of the trip, stay tuned as I’ll try to get it posted before I head to Europe.

 

-Dave Turner

May 21st, 2014

 

 

Here are my updates from the field as it happened, from where I last left off in Mammoth Lakes-

 

May 11th-

Only 110 mph on the summit of Mammoth this morning. Anyone want to go ridge soar your jacket? Direction looks good.
Photo: Only 110 mph on the summit of Mammoth this morning. Anyone want to go ridge soar your jacket? Direction looks good.
The weather is clearing this morning on the 12th of May. I’m headed up towards Mammoth Mountain to get some XC action in for the day. Huntley is also along for the adventure today, having met up with me at the parking lot of the ski resort this morning. We are on our way up now by foot, looking for a take off.
Hike and fly high Sierra. — with Dave Turner.
Photo: Hike and fly high Sierra.
Getting some miles in, trying to put Mammoth Mountain behind me-
 
Very stable blue sky out here, we just bombed out. Huntley came up with me today, but we just struck out. I’m gonna hustle up to another peak and try again it looks like.
Photo: Very stable blue sky out here, we just bombed out. I'm gonna hustle up to another peak and try again it looks like.

 

I had high hopes for today’s flight from the Mammoth area, but the day did not turn out as planned.

I hiked from town early this morning after having coffee with my mom Beatrice, and made my way up to the Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain. Once there, I met up with Huntley Badger, who was psyched to come along and get some XC action for the day as well.

We hiked up to the top of the peak, and suited up. The wind was fairly strong, but the bright blue skies and and lack of birds made me suspicious. It seemed like it could be high pressure or too stable. But cycles were coming in, so I punched out first.

It was ok soaring at first, but I couldn’t get much above peak height. I pushed on to the next peak, and Huntley launched after I turned the corner. I found no real lift, just some punchy crap ridge lift, but kept scooting to the next peaks. I finally had to put it down just short of June Lake, up on the peak. He had to land in the valley below launch, but did so safely. Good thing too, as it was bumpy!

I am now at a great little bivy site, tucked in between beautiful peaks and tall pine trees. A great take off for tomorrow is close nearby and looks great. I hope tomorrow has some actual thermals.

I spoke with Mitch who is flying up at Copper Peak with the Tahoe crew, and he reported the same conditions up there today- no lift above peak height, just wind and soaring.

Tomorrow is gonna be great! Tonight’s Sierra campsite, a room with a view-

Photo: I had high hopes for today's flight from the Mammoth area, but the day did not turn out as planned.  I hiked from town early this morning after having coffee with my mom Beatrice, and made my way up to the Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain. Once there, I met up with Huntley Badger, who was psyched to come along and get some XC action for the day as well.  We hiked up to the top of the peak, and suited up. The wind was fairly strong, but the bright blue skies and and lack of birds made me suspicious. It seemed like it could be high pressure or too stable. But cycles were coming in, so I punched out first.  It was ok soaring at first, but I couldn't get much above peak height. I pushed on to the next peak, and Huntley launched after I turned the corner. I found no real lift, just some punchy crap ridge lift, but kept scooting to the next peaks. I finally had to put it down just short of June Lake, up on the peak. He had to land in the valley below launch, but did so safely. Good thing too, as it was bumpy! I am now at a great little bivy site, tucked in between beautiful peaks and tall pine trees. A great take off for tomorrow is close nearby and looks great. I hope tomorrow has some actual thermals.  I spoke with Mitch who is flying up at Copper Peak with the Tahoe crew, and he reported the same conditions up there today- no lift above peak height, just wind and soaring.  Tomorrow is gonna be great! Tonight's Sierra campsite, a room with a view-

Wow, last night was cold! I’m not sure if there was an inversion holding down the cold air in this high cirque I’m camped in or what, but last night was considerably colder than any night of the trip so far.

I awoke to very low temps around 3 am and could not go back to sleep. By 4 am I couldn’t take it anymore, and built a raging fire right next to me. It definitely warmed things up! But since I fell asleep at nearly 8:30 last night due to a lazy afternoon, I couldn’t get back to sleep as I was already well rested.

I am looking forward to climbing this next peak and getting back in the air today! I’m fully addicted to this sport like a drug, and need my fix for the day. Hopefully there is a big fat hit of some chronic flying up there today! Ha!

Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.

It’s looking kind of crappy up here on the summit again for flying conditions, but the views are great. It’s not only high pressure again, but bullet blue sky, weak lapse rate, and a weak east wind. Perfect for sled rides and speed flying, but not vol biv.

But you know I’m gonna fly anyway and make the best of it! With any luck I’ll land in June Lake or just past. With good luck who knows, it could turn out to be an unexpected XC day. Fingers crossed.

Time to throw some nylon in the air!

From the hike-

Photo: It's looking kind of crappy up here on the summit again for flying conditions, but the views are great. It's not only high pressure again, but bullet blue sky, weak lapse rate, and a weak east wind. Perfect for sled rides and speed flying, but not vol biv.  But you know I'm gonna fly anyway and make the best of it! With any luck I'll land in June Lake or just past. With good luck who knows, it could turn out to be an unexpected XC day. Fingers crossed.  Time to throw some nylon in the air! From the hike-

May 13th-

Crushed it, another 50 mile flight! Woo-hoo!

I launched from around the Ski Resort at June Lake, and just landed at Highway 108, aka Sonora Pass. Such a nice flight, getting to fly over the high snowy peaks and not have to hike them! Bam. How the tables can turn.

I’m quite close to Lake Tahoe now, and there just happens to be a nice peak with a launch-able summit right above me….

Today’s flight was great. It started off fairly difficult, with light lift up to only 11-12,000 feet. As I flew over the community of June Lake, it started to seem like it might be a decent day for distance as long as the north wind did not increase too much.

 

Looking towards June Lake, the ski resort on the right-

 

Looking west towards the Ritter/Banner Range-

 

I made my way over Mount Wood, Parker Peak, and Mt Dana. I could see into Tuolumne Meadows and all of the rounded domes of the high country. Awesome. As I passed over Tioga Pass, I got forced out front to Bazooka Ridge because of the low ceiling. I couldn’t pass behind Lee Vining Peak, because I couldn’t get over it and had to go around.

Looking through the gap at Tuolumne Meadows, Mt Dana on the right-

I cruised over Lundy Canyon and then Copper Mountain- where I could see the Tahoe guys’ truck going back up to launch for another go. Mitch and them got to fly, but I’m not sure if they had any good flights.

 

Here is a shot of an F-16 Falcon jet zipping past, well below me. Click on the pic to enlarge, he is in the bottom left of the image with his shadow on the small snowfield-

 

Once I passed Copper, the climbs became stronger and higher. It felt like I sped up a bit, and I made progress north towards Tahoe.

Lundy Canyon-

I approached Highway 108 and the Sonora Pass but started getting low past Mt Emma. I could see the peaks lining Lake Tahoe, but it was still about 50(?) miles away. The north wind was kicking in and putting a halt to the days flying. I landed at highway 108.

Photo: Crushed it, another 50 mile flight! Woo-hoo! I launched from around the Ski Resort at June Lake, and just landed at Highway 108, aka Sonora Pass. Such a nice flight, getting to fly over the high snowy peaks and not have to hike them! Bam. How the tables can turn.  I'm quite close to Lake Tahoe now, and there just happens to be a nice peak with a launch-able summit right above me....

Since landing, I’ve already hiked up almost to the next launch- Little Cannon. I hope tomorrow has good conditions, I’m loving this non-stormy weather!

Here are some pics from the day-

 

 

 

Ready for takeoff! Huntley Badger has hiked up with me this morning, and the day is looking good. The cycles are building and hopes are high. Good times up here on Little Cannon Peak.

Oouuugghh!

Photo: Ready for takeoff! Huntley Badger has hiked up with me this morning, and the day is looking good. The cycles are building and hopes are high. Good times up here on Little Cannon Peak.  Oouuugghh!

Sweet flight- I made it all the way to Minden, Nevada, which is next to Lake Tahoe!! Yes!

Huntley Badger launched with me, but I think he might of had to top land in no mans land- I lost sight of him shortly after launching. (turns out he made it to Markleeville)

Looking down at Huntley (bottom left) and out at the snowy peaks-

 

Committing to the deep line-

 

‘No man’s land’-

 

Land here and it’s a two day hike out-

 

Or keep going and land somewhere nice-

 

Great flying conditions to start with, but another strong NE shut me down once I got to Nevada. All good though, I’m close to the Kingsbury Grade launch, I’ll be there for tomorrow’s flight most likely. But there are some nice peaks directly above me here in case I don’t want to hike (likely).

On a more serious note- I had a full speed frontal today, and got the risers twisted up. Bad. About ten twists were between me and the wing as we bucked around for probably 90 seconds and about 3,000 vertical feet. It was the worst cascade I’ve had so far, but I just kept calm and kicked and forced the twists out. I was pulling on my brakes so hard at times to stop myself from going in the wing that I broke the sheath of the brake line.

I didn’t want to throw my reserve over the big snowy peaks again, so I just waited for the twists to come out- for a long time. Once it did come out, it was super cravatted on both sides, almost five more full stalls to get it out. Holy shit, god damn.

I was about 800 feet over the top of the ridge when it all came back, and I finished the second half of my flight like nothing happened.

Fun times in the Sierra- be ready, it’ll get ya!

Photo: Sweet flight- I made it all the way to Minden, Nevada, which is next to Lake Tahoe!! Yes! Huntley Badger launched with me, but I think he might of had to top land in no mans land- I lost sight of him shortly after launching.  Great flying conditions to start with, but another strong NE shut me down once I got to Nevada. All good though, I'm close to the Kingsbury Grade launch, I'll be there for tomorrow's flight most likely. But there are some nice peaks directly above me here in case I don't want to hike (likely). On a more serious note- I had a full speed frontal today, and got the risers twisted up. Bad. About ten twists were between me and the wing as we bucked around for probably 90 seconds and about 3,000 vertical feet. It was the worst cascade I've had so far, but I just kept calm and kicked and forced the twists out. I was pulling on my brakes so hard at times to stop myself from going in the wing that I broke the sheath of the brake line.  I didn't want to throw my reserve over the big snowy peaks again, so I just waited for the twists to come out- for a long time. Once it did come out, it was super cravatted on both sides, almost five more full stalls to get it out. Holy shit, god damn.  I was about 800 feet over the top of the ridge when it all came back, and I finished the second half of my flight like nothing happened.  Fun times in the Sierra- be ready, it'll get ya!
Mr. HiKe and Fly Turner. Northern Sierra.
Photo: Mr. HiKe and Fly Turner. Northern Sierra.
Damn, just bombed out. Gonna hustle up and give it another go.
Photo: Damn, just bombed out. Gonna hustle up and give not anther go.
 May 15th-
All right! Made it past Kingsbury Grade before the wind became too strong. Got some rotor action again, flying close to the crest Some stalls and spins was what I was rewarded with! And yes, this time I got it on video.
Launching from bushy hillside-
Trying to hide in the lee of the eastern escarpment to be below the worst of the rotor from the west-
Getting that rotor from the west anyways-
It can’t make up it’s mind which way it wants to go!-
Gliding past South Lake Tahoe on my way to Genoa, Nevada-
Genoa LZ-
Photo: All right! Made it past Kingsbury Grade before the wind became too strong. Got some rotor action again, flying close to the crest Some stalls and spins was what I was rewarded with! And yes, this time I got it on video.
It’s been nice these last few days of flying, looks like bad weather is coming though. Almost no hiking through this section-
Photo: It's been nice these last few days of flying, looks like bad weather is coming though. Almost no hiking through this section-
A short clip of some turbulence while making a solo vol biv flight across California and the High Sierra. This is on the LM5 paraglider by Ozone, great wing to take turbulence on!

Today was a no-fly day because of the strong west wind. It started up around 10 this morning, and is still pumping hard.

I hiked up from where I landed yesterday in Genoa, up to Spooner Summit to where I’m at now. I’ll descend down to Lake Tahoe in the morning, and head up towards Incline Village and Mount Rose. I could of hiked faster by staying in the flat Carson Valley, but it’s not a very nice place compared to Tahoe. So I hiked back up over the crest, and here I am.

Dave Turner's photo.
 

 

Anyone in the Incline Village Lake Tahoe area want to meet up for lunch?? Or any recommendations for a good restaurant with big, tasty portions?

Looks like I’ll get there just after noon or so, as long as I stop sipping coffee and get my ass up and start hiking this morning!

Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Even photos can’t capture how beautiful the Sierra is, but here’s a few pics of Lake Tahoe anyway-
Dave Turner's photo.
With no food or water in the pack, it sure feels lighter!
Photo: With no food or water in the pack, it sure feels lighter!

All right!- I’m already past North Lake Tahoe and partway up Mt Rose this morning. I’m headed up towards the summit to make it through the high pass between Rose and Mt Houghton, while on my way to the Peavine/Verdi area. From there I hope for some better weather so I can get back in the air and keep pushing north.

Hiking along Lake Tahoe has been beautiful. I was not only rewarded with amazing vistas, but I was also lucky enough to have lunch at T’s Grill with Mitch Neary and Corbin Usinger. After that, CorbDawg and I went to the lake to soak our feet and catch up on standard Monkey business.

After a second helping of tri-tip steak from T’s in the afternoon, I said goodbye to Corb and hiked up out of town after stocking up at the Raleys.

Now I’m sipping coffee and bumping the shit out of some hip hop while bivied at the base of a small sport climbing crag- Trippy Rock. And yes- it’s all trippy up here!

A few more pics from yesterday-

Dave Turner's photo.
Goodbye Lake Tahoe!
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Overlooking the scenic Truckee Valley-
Photo: Overlooking the scenic Truckee Valley-

I’m trying to find a launch to glide down to Interstate 80 right now, but it’s extremely bushy and full of trees. Also, there is a big forest fire (!) immediately to my east, and I’m totally getting smoked out in a bad way.

Also, I’m going to maybe re-think where this trip will end, the peaks in front of me are much smaller, forested, and spaced apart. I always knew I-80 was the northern end of the big peaks of the Sierra, I’ll make the decision today where my finish line will be.

Smokey times up here, and getting worse-

Dave Turner's photo.

Well I was hoping to land in goal today at the highway instead of walking, but a big forest fire to my east has closed down the airspace I’m in. Either way, I’m totally psyched to be on my last two hours of this incredible journey.

It has been almost exactly 500 miles (800km) of straight line travel by only foot or paraglider. I started out from the beach in Ventura, and have had the time of my life.

I had wanted to travel the last few miles north to Honey Lake, but the peaks that lead there do not look anything like ‘Sierra’ peaks- they are low and forested. Heading for Interstate 80 now, will be arriving in Verdi, Nevada, for GOAL!!!!! Hell yes!!

Anyone driving from the Reno/north Lake Tahoe area headed towards Sacramento or the Bay Area today? I’m looking for a ride that way from Verdi around noon or so.

Photo: Well I was hoping to land in goal today at the highway instead of walking, but a big forest fire to my east has closed down the airspace I'm in. Either way, I'm totally psyched to be on my last two hours of this incredible journey.  It has been almost exactly 500 miles (800km) of straight line travel by only foot or paraglider. I started out from the beach in Ventura, and have had the time of my life.  I had wanted to travel the last few miles north to Honey Lake, but the peaks that lead there do not look anything like 'Sierra' peaks- they are low and forested. Heading for Interstate 80 now, will be arriving in Verdi, Nevada, for GOAL!!!!! Hell yes!! Anyone driving from the Reno/north Lake Tahoe area headed towards Sacramento or the Bay Area today? I'm looking for a ride that way from Verdi around noon or so.
Waking up and not having to hike anywhere or fly of something high,
definitely feels weird. As soon as I woke up this morning, my mind was all ready to hustle up the peak and fly off.Two weeks until it’s back on in Euro-landia; gives me time to rest my feet from this last adventure:
Photo: Waking up and not having to hike anywhere or fly of something high, definitely feels weird. As soon as I woke up this morning, my mind was all ready to hustle up the peak and fly off.  Two weeks until it's back on in Euro-landia; gives me time to rest my feet from this last adventure:

 

This trip was excellent. It showed that you do not need to travel half way around the world to find big adventures, sometimes they are waiting for you in your own backyard. I hope that more people take up the exciting sport of vol biv flying, but be careful out there. This game is for real, and it can bite. Make sure you bring your ‘A’ game when you come to the Sierra- she has teeth!!

I am headed to Europe in two weeks from now for another big solo vol biv trip, details can be found here. It’s going to be another great adventure, I hope you guys follow along on that one as well. I will be updating my website and facebook as I go, hoping for another great outcome.

If you liked following along on my adventure and checking out all the posts and updates, please consider making a donation to my vol biv fund if you wish. These trips are difficult for me to fund on the wages of a paragliding instructor and tandem pilot, but I love it anyways. I have set up a donations page to make contributing easy, please take a look at it. Click here to go to the donations page.