Fun flying XC with a California Condor

posted in: Zac Majors | 0

This morning even the National Weather Service was in the spirit talking about the April Fool’s storm (the forecast was way off). North winds still looked a bit questionable, but I figured if I dragged a bunch of people up to launch and I was wrong I could just say “April Fool’s”. Hammer and Pokey came along to fly and Jay was a saint for driving.

California Condor (1)


Conditions looked great the moment we got to the Eliminator launch and our excitement expedited our set-up. I wore winter clothes today as we were below normal January temperatures. Hammer launched moments after I did, but apparently I got the end of the cycle. I was quickly up and away headed east down the range, Hammer had to work for lift.

California Condor (2)


Below is White Ledge at the East side of Casitas Pass, a formidable jump over some tiger country to get into the Ojai Valley.

California Condor (3)


Looking ahead to the Santa Paula ridge. Tops for the day slowly increased from 4000′ to 5600′. Greg had made a good decision to not run the range and eventually landed at his car at Parma Park. Hammer was on the back side of the wave I was riding and having a much tougher time, but plodding along none-the-less.

CA Condor

On my way to Santa Paula I got a fly-by from a Red-Tailed Hawk, a bird that I feel a special kindredness to. Around the corner I saw massive log float by… the large dark mass was actually a California Condor. I’ve seen Condors from launch before, but never actually flown with them.

California Condor (5)

We got to thermal somewhat close together, but always out of sync. I was surprised how early the bird would alter course if we were heading towards each other (maybe they’re used to having their space). I missed my chance to read the tag on the wing (notice the white circle on the left front wing) because I was going for my camera. Our paths converged a few times as we were both flying easterly. It’s one thing to say “yeah, Condors are really big birds”, but to fly next to one and see both the wing span and shear girth of it’s body- awesome.

California Condor (6)


The flight ended unceremoniously as I failed to slow down and climb in some weak lift. I landed at 60.8 miles after 2hr, 45min. After breaking down I started walking out only to be told I was behind locked gates (am I in Texas?). Ed the environmental restorationist gave me ride out to meet Jay (who did exceptionally well considering the radio frequency got bumped), and then escorted us back in (gotta appreciate the adventure!).

California Condor (7)


Hammer hit his glass wall and landed at a field he’s been to many times near Magic Mountain (61.8mi). We picked him up and rallied back to SB for our local HG/PG club meeting.

Watch for another post soon about the presentation from the Ojai Raptor Center!