We had a nice early spring weekend coming up and while I was pissed off for not being at kirkwood enjoying the fresh powder last weekend, I made plans for flying to Mammoth this weekend.
I owed Arturo a flight there since he had never gone, so that was a good time to make good on my promise, and thankfully he was able to come that weekend, so it was a plan.
plane was quite loaded, getting the snowboards in was 'fun' :)
The conditions at Mammoth were typical spring: a mix of icy, corn, and slush. The second day was actually pretty icy due to some pretty strong winds which kept the temperatures low and prevented much the ice from melting.
Honestly, the conditions weren't great and Mammoth would totally rock on a powder day. It's however unlikely that I could fly there just around a storm without getting stuck there, but I plan to try one day :)
Anyway, Arturo had a great time discovering Mammoth with snow, and as a piece of advise don't play the "name this peak" game with him: you will lose flat out :)
We covered most of the mountain, except some really boring/icy parts (although we did do some other very icy parts too :) ).
All pictures are georeferrenced. You can just click on them to see their location on a map.
nice view, but a sucky icy ride down
Cloud 9 Express was shut down but we got on top of it
Here are the snow days stats for Day1 and Day2.
Here are a couple of runs off chair 23:
The flight back was interesting: we had 50mph winds on the peak of Mammoth and wind was due east, which meant potentially sizeable mountain waves over the Sierras and we were on the wrong side of them (mountain waves can smack your plane down much faster than you can fly out of them).
Mountain Waves, how to recognize and deal with them are subjects of entire books, but on that day they were hard to see due to low moisture (no clouds to give clues) and the wind was strong enough that they could potentially cause up and downdrafts of 1000fpm or more (note that in our case we were flying against the wind, which is much harder).
Anyway, I called the FSS folks (flight weather forecast), and watched a few planes crossing the Sierras without being smacked on the ground, so I felt confident enough to go up and try crossing back to go home (with a backup plan of coming back if things looked bad).
We first headed north towards Mono lake for a scenic flight and so that we could come back via Yosemite and lose the "name the peak" game with Arturo :)
I was able to pick up some nice updrafts from the mountain wave while flying up hwy 395 and with 15,000ft of altitude in the bank, it felt reasonable to start crossing. I basically was pitched up flying at 90kts and the downdraft was gentle enough that it allowed us to mostly maintain altitude (it would go up and down 500ft, which was reasonable).
The flight back made for some nice pictures:
the nice crater by mono lake, much nicer as seen from the sky
lenticular/rotor cloud visible on the leeward side of Tahoe
not quite maintaining altitude with a good pitch up and 45kt headwind
Despite the strong headwind over the Sierras and the scenic detour, the flight was 1h45. It was quite nice to be on my couch, stuff unpacked, having dinner and looking at my pictures a mere 3 hours after we left the slopes.