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Sat, 04/20/2013

Josh, Adrian, and I launched from the Switchbacks around 1:30 and immediately got good climbs.  We headed back towards the Nature Center finding good lift the whole way and staying relatively high.  Got up close and personal with Raina peak trying to get some lift off of the few rocks that weren't covered in snow but didn't find much more than a few beeps.  The bulk of the lift appeared to be over the valley with a light NW drift.  Josh got stuck for a while down low over the old airstrip and while he worked his way back up, Adrian and I headed back towards Echo Bend.  I got boosted on the lower flanks of Nantina Point high enough that it seemed reasonable to make the glide to the ridge leading back to Yukla. The air at this point was feeling weird but I kept pushing back hoping to get a monster climb on Yukla. Adrain didn't make the connection with the thermal on Raina peak so he was scratching low while I pushed back to Yukla. When I got to the ridge that leads up to Yukla all I found was weird turbulent air over terrain that would have made a reserve ride certain death so I turned around and headed back getting drilled along the way.  At one point a hike back to the Nature Center seemed likely but my glide leveled out and I found some light lift that I didn't care to work too hard in what now seemed like weird air.  On the way back to the Nature Center adrian and I briefly crossed paths in some of that light weird air and shortly after he headed out into the valley looking for better lift.  I pressed on along the south facing slopes but I didn't find much lift until I got over the air strip and then I quickly climbed back up and had an easy flight back to the Switchbacks though the air at this point seemed weirdly turbulent everywhere.  Once I got to the switchbacks I got a reasonably good climb that took me up over Meadowcreek where I topped out at about 5,900ft.  From there I went on a long 8.5 mile, 25 minute glide all the way to the base of Bear where I hooked into a slow but seemingly endless climb from 700ft agl to about 3,900 asl for long smooth glide to the Knik River bridge where I landed exactly four hours after taking off.

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