For those interested in flying south along the highest section of Hat Creek Rim, the map below can be useful.
Glide Angle Map - Use the 'open map' tab to see the glide angle map
You will note near the center map the 'Gap Crossing area'. This area is a the route I use for getting to, and returning from, the southern portion of the rim. It is by no means the only route and pilots should use their own judgment when venturing to and from the south ridge.
While it might look easy to simply follow the south rim by joining it directly behind the main launch, it's not advised. If your low, you risk entering a healthy rotor area with no way out. It is advisable to stay away from this area.
Keep in mind that once you head for the south ridge you may not be able to penetrate back to the main ridge. This is why we created the #3 in 1993. It IS your security once you depart on your southerly adventures. As with any flying site, it's always a good idea to keep an LZ within easy glide. Personally, I've never had to land in the #3 LZ but I did choose to land there recently to document the experience. I rate the #3 LZ as much better than the #1 LZ in size and approachability (it doesn't have huge trees around the perimeter :). The road into the LZ is rough however but 4-wheel drive is not necessary.
In my H5 opinion, flying south along the Rim is straightforward and safe as long as pilots consider some basic 'rules of the road' and have considerable soaring experience.
For the basic tips on flying south, click 'more info' below.
Flying South Continued, click more info.
Wind direction and buoyancy. Strong wind with poor air buoyancy can make getting to, and returning from the south ridge, a real problem.
The best days to head south along Hat Rim are those glass-off evenings when the whole area is producing buoyant air and the airflow is westerly.
Heading south. Do so with plenty of altitude. Thermal up, head south across the gap and keep the security of the #3 LZ within an easy glide. I like a grand or two before I head south.
Low returns. Never risk a low return from the south ridge. The #3 LZ is a spacious bailout LZ and was created in 1993 so pilots don't have to risk their lives attempting a low return!!
And most importantly - EXPERIENCE!! DO NOT attempt flying south along the ridge if you don't have the maturity and judgment to understand exactly what you are getting into. This is not a coastal site with smooth air and predictable lift. If in doubt don't go.
Always remember - check every LZ before flying the site.
Here's a little history of the way things were before the #3 LZ was cleared by the Shasta Sky Sailors in 1993. The few of us who ventured south did so knowing that we had no place to land. Back in those daze we were risking serious injury or worse just to explore the highest part of the rim. In order to stack the odds in my favor, I would climb to a couple of grand over the main launch area, drift south along the ridge for a mile or so to the general location of the old Forest Service Lookout. If, at that point, or anytime during the flight I dropped below 1000' over the main launch elevation, I'd immediately head through the GAP to the security of the main ridge and the landing areas directly below.
Flying the south ridge is no longer the risky business it was in the past...
The #3 was constructed to provide a safe place to land for those who enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Rim. While getting there still requires you to drift back from the main ridge, unless you use the South Launch, you no longer have to hope the ridge/thermal lift extends 1000' above the ridge in order to stay there. The south ridge offers outstanding conditions and rewards those with patience (my opinion, based on numerous great times back there).
REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE PILOT IN COMMAND AND SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE OF YOUR ABILITY AND HAVEN'T THOROUGHLY FAMILIARIZED YOURSELF WITH THE SITE BEFORE FLYING...DON'T FLY.