N131CP wrote:I fly the Owens valley to Bishop and back from L.A. about 6-8 times per year - here are a few observations:
- The valley is one of the most visually spectacular flying routes anywhere in North America. Doing it in winter with snow on the ground is just breathtaking. I've flown all over North America, and this is one of the best routes I've seen.
- The wave is no big deal, because its relatively rare and completely predictable. I have two things I check before I fly the valley: (1) the winds aloft at 16,000ft over the sierra - if they're above 20kts I get worried - and (2) the pressure difference between China Lake (high desert) and Lone Pine (mountains) - if its more than a few points different I worry about mechanical turbulence around the south end of the Owens dry lake. There's also bad thermal turbulence in the summer around that lake bed. I also check for haze, not because its a problem but because the valley is most spectacular with 100-mile views.
- There are lots on interesting destinations beyond Bishop. Independence is a classic small town, with an old hotel and a fancy french restaurant. Lee Vining is a very cool little mountain town (but with nasty crosswinds at the runway and a high DA). Lone Pine is a great airport, with fuel and a courtsy car and easy access to Whitney and Cottonwood lakes by road. Tonopah (about 80 miles east of Bishop, in NV) has fuel, an old and interesting town and some great hotel/casinos with free shuttles from/to the airport. Bishop is a very cool place too - great airport, great town and lots to do and see. I've never been to Mammoth.
- Traffic is generaly not a problem. I talk to Joshua approach up to Lone Pine to get some comfort re miltiary traffic (including Reaper drones). North of Bishop you can get radar following from Oakland center. Between Lone Pine and Bishop you're on your own, but its not a big deal if you look out the window and listen to the local ctafs.
- The valley is huge - no worries about restricted flying space, etc.
In general its a lot easier, safer and simpler to fly the Owens Valley than it looks from the sectional.. Good luck, and enjoy an amazing flight!
I don't consider myself an expert on the Owens Valley by any means, but have A) been up and down it a number of times, and B) have an interest in seeing more posts on the subject so I figured I would contribute mine!
My destination is always Mammoth, and we've made the trip from Los Angeles something less than 10 times over the last two years. In my experience, for the most part, the quoted poster above has it right on. I think under certain circumstances, it can deserve it's nasty reputation and I have seen a little of that, but with a little flexibility about when you travel and a little thought about the weather, it can be completely manageable.
A couple of comments: the only thing I disagree with is that the winds aloft at 16,000' are almost always over 20 kts in my experience. I am particularly careful with the direction of the wind (the more westerly, the worse), and am really paying attention when it forecasts winds over 30 kts at 12,500'. I get my weather from weathermeister, primarily, and use Lone Pine as a proxy for the Sierra, but also look at the MMH and BIH as well as well as the overall weather "picture". On a good, low wind flying day, I often have found that the winds aloft at 12,000' are actually northerly when forecast otherwise. It actually makes sense that the winds would swirl and run down the valley instead of over the ridge line as they might have been forecast.
If it's precip'ing, I scrub. If it's windy, I scrub. However, a lot of times the weather is clear and calm and the flight can be made without a problem. The only time I did have a problem was when it was known to be windy - very windy in this case, and more or less directly from the west. We did get some big turbulence and one notable downdraft, but we kind of expected as much given the winds that day. We flew a higher route with more clearance and options and were fine, if a bit uncomfortable.
DA gets very high at MMH in the summer, usually well over 10,000 feet during the day. I have since sold the plane and purchased a turbo'ed 182 partly for this reason, but we had been flying a Grumman Tiger (180hp, normally aspirated) and it's a dog at that altitude. The runways are mostly long - I believe Mammoth is over 7,000 feet. This helps get off the ground, but isn't good for much else. More than once we had to circle the airport to gain altitude before departing on-course. Some people talk about this being no big deal, but I always felt that it was a bad sign. In the Tiger, we'd try to fly the Owens in the 10-12,000' range. I look forward to flying the 182 up there much higher if the winds are agreeable. Keep in mind that at 12,000', you're still straining your neck to see the top of the peaks towering over 2,000 feet above you.
I have a decent amount of 172 time, but not much experience at these kind of altitudes. I seem to remember seeing posts about how they couldn't get their 172s much above 10,000, period. If this is true (and I'm not saying it is), I would proceed carefully. The Tiger pretty much puttered out at about 13,500', for reference, and I didn't really think it was all that great for the mission although we made it work for a couple of years. By the way, in the Tiger we did the trip with half tanks and only one light passenger - max.
Anyway, this is a much longer post than I originally intended, but it's an interesting topic, at least to me. Hope to hear if anyone thinks I'm all wet and look forward to more comments on the subject!