Saturday... I finally did the flight. A flight I'd been waiting to fly for years. My flight club limits pilots to landing at airports less than 3000 MSL unless they have a high altitude / mountain check out first. That rule has limited my flying. Not that I haven't had plenty of places to fly that meet the below 3000 feet criteria, but just knowing that there were some spots I couldn't, shouldn't, fly, always chafed. Not only that... I spent my teenage years in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the mountains have had a special place in my heart since then. Real mountains, with thin air, cliffs and rocks and desolate wilderness where no one would find you. I love the mountains and have long wanted to fly them.
Saturday I climbed into the Cessna 182, 88HQ, with my CFI for my mountain check out flight. The same 88HQ that my husband flew us to Lake Tahoe in a couple Decembers ago. The flight was 3.4 hours on the hobbs, closer to 4 hours between take off and landing back at home base. We flew from Reid-Hillview to Placerville, then along Hwy 50, in the mountains to South Lake Tahoe airport and landed there. A quick taxi back and we flew over Lake Tahoe itself to Truckee airport and landed there. Then back along Hwy 80 towards the lowlands and home.
I got to experience updrafts and downdrafts over the ridges. The impact of the venturi effect that the valleys have on even light winds turning a 3 or 4 knot surface wind at an airport at the mouth of a long valley into a 20 knot tailwind in only 10 miles. How much longer it takes to take off with a density altitude of 8500'. How fast you really move through the air to get the same airspeed. How to start up a plane when really leaned for best power. How to use updrafts to get 1500' climb rates and how downdrafts could result in no climb at all. I wondered if I would be OK flying so close to terrain and it turns out, I was. Lake Tahoe and the Sierras were beautiful. However, I have to admit, the thing I enjoyed the most was riding those updrafts and downdrafts. That was flying!
With that one flight and some ground instruction the previous week I am now approved to fly the mountains and land over 3000'. And, if I am careful and keep in mind all I was taught and experienced in that one brief trip, I will have a lot of fun flying the mountains and my new horizons for years to come.