5/9-10 2022 volbiv - Mission to San Antonio Valley (via Henry Coe)


I’m thrilled this kind of volbiv adventure finally happened. This has been a long time coming! Lots of top landing and rough launch practice the last few years, advice from local pilots who are more experienced, some soft volbiv in the Alps last summer, Ben and I worked out our latest bivy systems a few weeks ago with a tour in Sunol Regional…

123km in the air, ~20km on the ground

Hamilton Range


none while flying unfortunately… my hands were mostly too cold


8am. The forecast looks strong windy. I want to join the crew at Diablo, but I don’t think I will be able to make it early enough because I have a meeting at 9. I spend 40min of indecision looking at forecasts. My morning meeting cancels. Diablo still looks strong. It might back down as it does (it does), but I’m not relishing the idea of climbing out of there. And my goal this season is lots of OTB volbiv, so I bail for mission. Maybe it will be less windy. And Tuesday even better… maybe I can triangle. I grab my cheese and granola and tent. But I forget my sandwich.

I take the express lane, pretending I’m 3 people. I hike fast. It looks so on. I pass George D. He has a pee tube question (it’s his first time)...I tell him don’t worry it’s just a little water. Crap, no sandwich. I launch low down and climb out. I’m over alum rock in 40min, noon. This is crazy. Cumies are amazing, and way out over the urban sprawl too. I clip RHV arispace (nvm, I forget it’s only 2kft). I keep an eye on the drop out over Almaden…it’s not moving fast. It’s so cold… the hardest part is pumping my arms and breathing to relax to maintain good circulation. Low past mt misery…i forget it’s important to go slower here. 5 up to cloudbase. Things are starting to OD south of me. Cloud aspect ratios near me are still ok. It looks good OTB. Here’s my chance.. I chicken out and push west instead. Sink of course. I feel more W wind. At least I make it to the W facing ridge. I can soar til the sun comes back. 25min. Back to cloudbase. It’s much lower now. I dont understand. I chicken out again and push south instead. Sink. I screw around and bomb out. The SW monterey flow is already pushing in. I didn’t update fast enough… should have chosen the SW face near me to die on. 


launched 11:21

landed 1:34


I’m glad to have a rest on the ground to warm up. Damn no sandwich. I nibble some cheese but I want carbs. I pack, check my maps that my intuition for relaunch is right, then hike for an hour to the SW face of Nesbit. 

near the first relaunch (Nesbit peak). kinda right behind the proposed Coyote lake launch. 

Easy launch. I work it for an half hour before finding my ticket to base. Third time’s the charm…I commit OTB. I push SE away from a cell, sinky, then I find a drifter. Lots of landing down there, but it’s low angle… I don’t see great relaunches. Cloud flying again. Feeling more confident as the terrain gets sharper. I can launch those. I’m so satisfied! I’d be happy to land anywhere now. Still getting high, cells over the central valley… let’s push north to start the loop back and make tomorrow easier. Whoops, didn’t account for the venturi in that canyon. I almost bail downwind, but stick to the plan and get rewarded…1200m in 16 circles…the 300ft hill in one 360. Slow NW push now, but this is all gravy. My solar vario thinks it’s dead even tho it’s got sun all day. Ok fine, time to land. Just below the steep E facing slope of Mike’s peak will do. 


launched 3:19

landed 5:34


landed safe. I stretch my hip flexors for like 20min.

bivy. I take way too long perfecting my tent setup. The setting is perfect but the ground is annoyingly hard for my stakes.

I drank half of my 3 liters today. Time to get water and eat. The cow pond is gross, but I scoop a couple liters. I’ll filter it tomorrow… best to postpone when I starting drinking that stuff. 

I study maps for an hour before sleeping. Reconsidering launches, I think I can walk pretty far before it turns on tomorrow. If all my options are unappealing when I get to them, I can probably get to the Del Puerto launch.


6:30am good morning! Wing as sleeping bag was some warmth at least, but needs more organization. Thankful for my thick pad… slept well. Rolling by 7. 

not all water troughs are collecting:

Hmm looks quiet..

Shooting range. Bracing for an encounter.. 

Phew, all quiet. 

8am cumies. Hiking is pretty easy along road cuts.

830am thick cumies! I’m at Peak 2720. 3-4 miles. I rest and eat breakfast. That’s the last of the food… have to get out today, which severely constrains options (what moves I’m willing to commit to).

9am.. thicker… hoping this is an early phase to the day that passes. I slow down. I was hoping for a launch here, but the E faces aren’t great and I’m feeling more W early. I push on. 

ridgecrest water collection, but fenced?

I take a use trail from 2720 to 2620. 1-2 miles. Now squall to windward. I do a quick pitch and huddle while it passes. 

1030am. That’s what we wanna see. Birds climbing out. 1km N along the ridge from Peak 2620. Perfect launch.. NW facing bowl and steep E face and nice glide out to the road. 

I hope to get up and push W as far as possible until the W wind picks up, then ride the Mines Rd valley north to Livermore, then W if possible that late. It looks good downwind into the central valley, but today was supposed to be lighter winds and I wanna take advantage of that to try for a circuit. I think about WSW to Hamilton along 130, but I think the landings are worse there (not true in retrospect), and I don’t think I’ll be able to push N after I get out to the Bay flow.

I end up launching E. 5-6m/s up to 1500m cloudbase at 11am! Smooth too. Only 5-10kph headwind from the NW. Feeling so good! Cells dropping out to my N and S but clear to windward. I get some super fine snow/hail for a couple minutes. I’m moving faster than expected. That’s good because I’ll make more progress before the West comes, but I tell myself it’s so early still, I can afford to go slower.


launched 11:15

landed 12:04


But I’m too excited and don’t pay enough attention and don’t take the time to think and I make a mistake. I go for the valley crossing because it looked temporarily sunnier over there and it was a shorter route. The safer bet was waiting high for sun, then going SW, hooking around Red mountain from the south. The W is suddenly super strong, probably venturi again, and a nasty climb. I think my problem is I need to get to the other side of Red, so I push into the wind and land in a burned patch on the backside where I see a trail up. In retrospect, pushing onto the ridge to my N might have worked, but I thought odds were pretty high I would land there anyways, so I decided to shorten the hike. 

Now I need to hike fast. I’m missing the best part of the day.

started hiking 12:25  2,080ft

reached peak at 1:23  3,630ft

steep old tractor fire trail:

No great launches up here. It’s gently sloped at the top, and scrubby. I find an open rocky area that might work, but there are tall burned trees out front. Have to get the cycle right. It takes 50min to get away. I have to start with the wing carefully arranged so that my lines dont snag, but the cycles dont give me enough time and I get cravats because I cant let it fully open initially. I abort several launches. Lines get snagged on dead bushes. I’m getting frustrated. Maybe this is the lack of full dinner and breakfast catching up to me.

In the air, I get a solid 5 up, but the headwind is now 25kph. Progress is going to be so slow. I dont find the next climb where I expect it and things are so broken anyways, I have to be very picky. This is not fun anymore. Time for a safe landing. I get popped, but manage to avoid the tree. 


launched 2:30

landed 2:51


I hear gates and a 4x4. Uh oh. They pull up. Sorry I’m on your property. Ah phew, just a father and son fencing contractors, Mike and Miles. They tell me the landowner would have flipped his shit, were he home. They were watching me thru binoculars. They’ve got a ranch in Del Puerto too. They’re going to Livermore… sweet! 


more food means I can commit

the road suck runs deep

still need to get better at awkward launches and landings

better gloves still (i thought spring season was over and the upgrade could wait)

still need to improve packing and setup speed

get better at cloud monitoring and lingering

Things that i tried that worked:

my filter worked on awful cattle pond water (i didnt get sick)

find launches that are grassy, steepish, facing into wind, and sun, and have decent bailouts, and a longish glide

downloaded MapBuilder Topo and Global Imagery layers on Caltopo were essential

nuun electrolyte tablets

https://caltopo.com/l/8EBN link to this cool logarithmic caltopo elevation shading my friend made

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