The #3 LZ (AKA Buttonhook LZ and Stump LZ) was cleared of dozens and dozens of stumps and tons of debris to provide a safe place to land for those who fly south along the Rim. While flying the south ridge still requires you to access it 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 safely stay there. The south ridge offers outstanding conditions and offers pilots with patience a rewarding experience. The picture shows the suggested approach pattern into the LZ. It was erroneously posted that pilots must fly directly at the ridge to land here - this is bad advice. Click on the picture for a larger view.
A brief look back at the way things used to be for the early pioneers of Hat Creek Rim, before we had an LZ below the south ridge, illustrates the importance of this LZ. The few of us who ventured south, did so knowing that we had no place to land. Back then, 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, I'd immediately start heading north, back 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... our negotiations with the Forest Service lead to the 1993 clearing of the Buttonhook LZ and its subsequent maintenance. (shown here).
I was at the South Launch on Labor Day Weekend and saw the huge gaggle of hang glider pilots (34, I was told) that were dealing with the each other above the main ridge. Only 3 pilots ventured south along the ridge even though conditions were booming. The umbilical cord that binds many to the main ridge must be severed. We need to start thinking about spreading out on Hat Creek, not just on crowded days, but anytime we fly there. There's a whole big ridge out there that only a few are taking advantage of.
You should visit and carefully inspect ALL LZs before flying at Hat Creek Rim.
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Buttonhook LZ Particulars
Elevation: 3,865' MSL
Size: Approx. 12 acres - LZ runs north to south
Coordinates: N40°48.650' W121°25.733'
Prevailing wind (summer afternoon): South and West. Morning/late evening; light and variable.
Permanent Windsock: Yes. But always check before flying, they have disappeared.
Vertical Obstacles: Tree-lined and brush boundary with some fallen/dead small tree remnants around the edge.
Surface Irregularities: Minor. Some very sparse debris.
Water: No., Shade: No., Toilet: No., Trash: No.
Vehicle Access: The road in is not improved and requires good ground clearance but not 4-wheel drive.
Parking: As you enter the LZ immediately swing right and park against the edge of LZ (see map).
Cellular Service: Depends on provider - spotty service with Verizon
Ham repeater: 147.030+ You can also try 146.415
Landing before 6pm on a hot, windy summer day can be a real demanding task - are you ready to rumble?!?
Altitude density is the actual density of the air you are launching, flying and landing in. On a hot summer day, the altitude density in the landing areas (ranging in altitude from 3,485' to 3,865') can routinely exceed 6,000 feet and above!
Do not drive in the LZ.
Avoid travel when roads are muddy or soft.
Cattle sometimes graze in the LZ.
Risk Mitigation Plan
You will be landing slightly uphill.
There is a 540' ridge (part of lower Hat Creek Rim) 2,481' west of the Buttonhook LZ.
It's a 1.2 mile drive from the main '22' road to the Buttonhook LZ.
Camping and Campfires
Be fire safe and leave no trash
If you plan on camping next to this LZ, please comply with all fire regulations and/or restrictions. Your free REQUIRED campfire permit is available at the following places; The USFS center on Hwy 89 (just south of Fireside), the Old Station Visitor Center and CDF in Johnson Park. NOTE: Campfires in the LZs (and outside all established campgrounds) will most likely be banned by the end of June due to fire danger.
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Seasons Greetings Phil;
I thought that you might be interested in hearing a great Hat Creek flying story. I’ve found that there is nothing like a hot summer flying adventure to warm up your cockles over a wet miserable winter. Afterwards, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts I’ve had along the lines of what Mr. Engler wrote to you earlier this year.
It was during the smoky hot days of late September when I had decided to get an early afternoon flight on a busy flying weekend. The wind was blowing slightly from the north. I launched off of Hat Creek rim around 5 pm with Page Perrin and Jim Kennedy. The lift was heavy, but I found the rim topped off at about 1000 feet over launch. After milling around the rim for a while I caught a well-defined thermal right over launch and stayed with it, climbing all the time over the rim, to the back ridge.
I’d flown the back rim several times but never very daringly. I would always get spooked and make my way for the front ridge not wanting to get stuck low on the back ridge and have to land in the stump LZ. Anyway, back to my story.
I flew up and down the back ridge and found the ridge lift excellent with strong smooth thermals I caught a giant of a thermal and drifted with it well behind the lookout. It was there that I found myself at the highest altitude I’ve ever attained at Hat Creek. I was soaring well over 11.000 feet ASL. The urge to go cross-country was strong and I felt like I could cruse in lift all the way to Susanville. I realized though that I had two good reasons not too. First off my footing was tenuous. I had mistakenly packed my wife’s size 8 sneakers and in my eagerness to fly I had cut out the tops to allow my stocking clad toes to flop out over the front of her shoes. Not a real smart decision but I have found that at times great flights take great sacrifices. Second, I had no driver.
The Sky was hazy and I could barely make out the regular gaggle of gliders miles away and below me coursing their way up and down the rim. From my vantage point it was clear to see that I was higher than Mount Lassen. I could barely see the ground through the haze. I was on top of the world!! It was at this point that from out of the blue a brilliantly white sailplane came out of nowhere. We chased each other in and out of the lift for what seemed like hours. I felt as though he was there to bear witness to my great achievement and seemed to applaud my prowess of the air.
As the thermals toped out he gave me dip with his wing and headed off towards Susanville. It was hard not to follow but the lift had turned to a slow even sink. I turned my nose Northwest slowly penetrating the wind as I descended toward the front ridge. I soared over the launch still several thousand feet over everyone else. I felt like Jonathan Livingston Seagull who after courageously flying high over the far cliffs returned to the breakfast flock as they fought and scrappled over the dwindling ridge lift. Did any other pilot flying know where I had been or how high up I had gotten? The nameless white sailplane was the only one who could testify to my great achievements, but he had disappeared into the haze.
As I flew high over the back ridge I had a good look at the stump LZ. From the air it looks like a great LZ but having driven through it earlier in the year I’ve found that it is really a rotten place to have to land. Big shrubs have overtaken the ground and the area is littered with chunks of wood and brush. A work party needs to be planned with a couple of chainsaws. In a short period of time a few good people could clear away a sweet spot that would make the LZ useable for a long time to come. As the stump LZ is now I know of very few people who have ever landed there and I can’t think of anyone who would want to.
I would sure appreciate your comments and suggestions Phil. As far as a work party is concerned I offer myself as chief organizer. I believe we need to do it after the road dries up enough to get a few rigs in with out tearing it up, maybe May or early June.
Thanks for all your work Phil.
The concern expressed in this story about the condition of the Buttonhook LZ (or stump LZ as this writer calls it) was resolved in 2004.
It was great seeing you again at another great Labor Day Hat Creek Rim flying vacations. I think this is my 18th Labor Day at the Rim - now that's a lot of Rimming. I have enclosed the kids group shot. They sure do keep growing don't they?
One of the reasons for this email is that there was some discussion of what should be the priorities for how to best spend the funds available for maintenance and improvements at the Rim in the future, and I wanted to put in my 2 cents. I also wanted to relate the story of my flight on Saturday night. Let me start with the flight.
As you know, I am an advanced pilot and I like to get high and go far when I fly. That is why after getting to 7000 feet on Saturday night, I wandered back to the back rim to check out the lift. It was great and I flew down to and past the lookout, all the while losing very little altitude. I flew over the lookout and beyond (towards Old Station) for about half an hour in good lift. All the while I felt very secure in the knowledge that the #3 LZ was there for me if the lift quit. I was in contact with Colin and Melanie on the radio so if I would have had to land there, retrieval would have been no problem. Every now and then I would look up at the front ridge towards the launch and marvel at the number of gliders fighting for space. I was back there all alone, and I was generally much higher than the gliders on the front ridge. I went about a mile past the lookout, and the reason that I went no further was at that point the #3 LZ was looking pretty far away and I really don't like to take risks when I fly.
Now for my 2 cents. As I see it, the #3 LZ more than doubles the flyable territory of the Rim. I have never used it, and hope that I never will - but then the same goes for my parachute, and I would not fly at all without my parachute. I would be VERY disappointed if the #3 LZ was not maintained in a safe, landable condition. Let's keep the Rim a flying site with challenges for all pilots, from those getting their first soaring flight to those who want to explore further while maintaining a margin of safety. I think that more pilots will fly back to the back rim when stories about flights like mine become more well known, but it doesn't happen fast - you know what they say about old pilots and bold pilots. My dream is to see lots of pilots spreading out onto the back rim and someday start exploring the possibility of identifying a site for a #4 LZ even further down the ridge so that we could open up even more of the Rim to safe flight.
REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE PILOT IN COMMAND AND SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SAFETY. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE OF YOUR ABILITY AND HAVEN'T THOROUGHLY FAMILIARIZED YOURSELF WITH THE SITE BEFORE FLYING...DON'T FLY.
YOU FLY AT YOUR OWN RISK.