Let's tell our own stories about the fastest climbs ever experienced!

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flinote

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Joined
Oct 23, 2010
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29
Location
Coarsegold, CA
Hello fellow soaring enthusiasts:

I thought it might be interesting to relate fabulous non-motorized climbs, as experienced by all participants.

I'll relate mine first--and I invite others to add to this thread:

My best climb occurred in a thermal in the Owens Valley of California, on the White Mtn (east) side of the valley, on a summer afternoon in July of 1981. working north out of the Lone Pine Airport, I experienced variable conditions and was not in the most desirable location at or near the top of the ridge. As I passed over the highway heading toward Westgard Pass in the White Mts I saw Black Mountain ahead and began thinking about whether I might be able to make Bishop Airport ahead to the north.

Instead, and just as I approached the Black Mtn area, I suddenly felt a soft, smooth increase in my (apparent) weight; at the same time the vario came to life and the audio just kept increasing its tone. I decided to bank into this area which I did gingerly, all the time the vario is singing its siren song higher and the needle just keeps rising. I told myself this couldn't be a thermal, it's not turbulent.

Bottom line is, the vario needle finally just disappeared at the top limit of the scale, and when I looked out the window I had the feeling of being on board the fastest elevator in history, with Black Mtn receding below me at an amazing rate. After finding that the thermal was something like a mile wide and getting some (welcome) altitude I decided the only way to get some accurate idea of the strength (the vario as pegged was totally useless) I zeroed my Casio wristwatch in timer mode and then started it when I passed a notable altitude as indicated on the altimeter (tapped THAT sucker, continuously). A 60-second result revealed an achieved climb rate of about 3000 ft/min.

It's still amazing to me after all these years. The smoothness of the entry and while fully under the influence of the thermal is totally opposite to similar experiences in the high country soaring environment east of the Sierra Nevada range of California. There was definitely no wave action to augment the lift.

An experience to remember, and to share with others IMO.

Bill
 

Topaz

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A smooth 1,400fpm (pretty much bouncing the needle on the peg of the vario) up to about 8,200'MSL from entry at about 2,400'MSL in an SGS 1-26C on a late summer afternoon at Lake Elsinore. A very tight, narrow thermal so I was fairly cranked over, but it was so smooth it was like an elevator. Popped out the top and flattened out, and found a spectactular view of the sun heading down on the ocean with Catalina Island in the distance. An amazingly clear day, and the Pacific looked like it was on fire. Danced along on the thermal tops for about twenty or thirty minutes before the whole system collapsed and I had a nice glide back to the airport.

On this one it was the view at the end, not the climb rate, that was the best. I was focused upon staying cored and the other gliders and didn't get a chance to really appreciate the view until I popped out the top.
 

flinote

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Oct 23, 2010
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Location
Coarsegold, CA
A smooth 1,400fpm (pretty much bouncing the needle on the peg of the vario) up to about 8,200'MSL from entry at about 2,400'MSL in an SGS 1-26C on a late summer afternoon at Lake Elsinore. A very tight, narrow thermal so I was fairly cranked over, but it was so smooth it was like an elevator.
Topaz:

Nice!! Thanks for participating, I was afraid I would be lonely here. I learned at Crystalaire, and flew a 1-26 there quite a lot. There were some nice days when I got to 12K feet or so there, and looked down into the LA basin.

I have a soft spot for the 1-26 and I can understand how others do as well.

Bill
 

Topaz

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Topaz: Nice!! Thanks for participating, I was afraid I would be lonely here.
I'm rather surprised we haven't seen Autoreply here. He flies gliders regularly, and some nice ones, too. Probably has a good story or two to share. There are a few glider pilots around here, and I imagine we'll hear from them eventually.

I learned at Crystalaire, and flew a 1-26 there quite a lot. There were some nice days when I got to 12K feet or so there, and looked down into the LA basin. I have a soft spot for the 1-26 and I can understand how others do as well.
I'm still a bit of a fledgling without a lot of time yet, but I'm loving the sport. And the 1-26 is great. Like a little glide-fighter. Fantastic for down in the weeds on the Ortega Ridge at Elsinore. You can crank and bank around the nooks and crannies on a ridge day and have a ball with it. :gig:
 

ulgric

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Sep 25, 2008
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Let's see if my english wil work here:
I'm in Brazil and once, flying an Olympia Meise, in 1990, in a mild winter day, I was rocketed up by a sugar cane plantantion on fire. They used to burn the cane fields before cropping, to reduce the weight (less water and leaves), I think. I was flying at 80 - 90 km/h and when I bumped in that beast the glider stalled in the hot thin air and I was trashed inside the cockpit. I got the belts tightened and nose down, circling, I remeber seeing in awe the vario needle freezed in the top of the scale. And the altimeter going on and on...What a ride! I was fairly high but start worrying about being seated in a bunch of dry wood sticks covered with dope and fabric with all that fire under my seat. The thing had throw me at about 3000 agl, above the inversion. Nasty.
 

flinote

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Oct 23, 2010
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Location
Coarsegold, CA
Hi Bill,

If you live in Coursegold, where do you fly now? Avenal?

Bruce (in Fresno). :)
Bruce:

Sorry for the slow reply.

I've been out of soaring for some years now, after having been so heavily involved "back then". It's just too expensive for my retirement budget.

I "ricky-raced" with Mario (CM) and others for years in the valley. The contests in the spring there became my favorites, and I flew them out of Tulare, Delano and Shafter. I have the speed trophy for the Shafter contest from '89. I sure do miss it--but there's no way, now.

Mario and I flew a diamond distance in the valley, in early '89; we were all set for a record attempt into Arizona, chasing a frontal passage--but we ended up trapped in the valley and flew low altitude shear lines against strong NW winds all afternoon to return to Sequoia Field from Grapevine. Fun day!

Do you fly @ Avenal? BTW I was sure sorry to see what happened to Loyal--he was a good friend and a great tow pilot among other things; I'll bet the club misses his consistent presence.

Best flying to you!

Bill (R3)
 

Yogi

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Jun 9, 2010
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121
Location
Commerce Georgia USA
The God's were smiling on me that Autumn day 1987 in rural Arkansas my friends . I had been flying about an hour in minimal conditions and was heading to the LZ. At about 500' the vario zero'd. I hang in the almost lift for a minute or two and it finally begins to rise. It was in the afternoon about 4:30. this feels promising I thought, the last gob-off of the day. The needle of the vario slowly crawlled upward in the positive arc. By the time I arrived at 1000' the upward speed had increased to 500' p/min, not a spectacular rate but smooth as glass ( or finely finnished Finnish Birch plywood ) Ever slowly increasing ,the strength of the thermal pegged the vario at 1000' P/min at 2500' At 5500' I was at cloudbase and still climbing, right up the side of the cloud!
This I had never experienced before! I finally topped out at 7500', approx. 1500' above cloudTOP. The view was almost endless in the clear air above the clouds and the lakes and ponds were shining like mirrors as they reflected the evening sun. I was told when I landed that they could hear my yells of delight at the launch. This was my 15th flight on my recently completed Mitchell B-10 and though it wasn't a 3000'/min grabber to FL 20 or a wave or even my personal best, it is definately my most memorable. Thank you Don Mitchell RIP.
 

flinote

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Coarsegold, CA
This was my 15th flight on my recently completed Mitchell B-10 and though it wasn't a 3000'/min grabber to FL 20 or a wave or even my personal best, it is definately my most memorable. Thank you Don Mitchell RIP.
Great story! Yes, evening thermals are fun--they're usually smoother.

I almost BOUGHT the Mitchell Wing kit manufacturer, in 1979 or 1980. The guy had been licensed by Mitchell to sell kits and had a helicopter repair/inspection operation near Porterville airport, so he had the room and the cash to start with Mitchell. I think he found out there wasn't much money in it. Luckily for me, I didn't buy him out--the Mitchell has been an excellent high-performance ultralight/rigid HG but hardly a commercial success. BTW I met the guy because I had bought a MW kit from him; I sold it in partially complete condition to another builder.

Also, 2 more quick Mitchell Wing things: When driving up the Owens Valley above Bishop one summer afternoon, we spotted a 'Wing down in a nearby field, and the pilot standing by the side of the road. Stopping to make sure he was OK, we found that it was none other than George Worthington; as usual he had launched from his favorite takeoff site at the southern end of the Whites. The Mitchell Wing we saw that day was the one he had flown to several world records in the same area. Also, you probably know who Brian Porter is; he built his Easy Riser in my garage and went to the first HG Worlds in Orange County where he won the contest. We also got to see the dentist (forget his name) who commissioned Mitchell to design and build the first 'Wing do a demo flight; it was the one with the spoilers for roll control. Anyway, he launched from the same hill the others had been using--and the L/D was so good he just sailed right over us in the landing area and kept going. It was so much better than anything else there that day and still stands out as a great design.

FWIW stuff, hope it's interesting.

Bill
 
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dino

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Sep 18, 2007
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698
Location
florida
Returning from a cross country flight in 1999 flying a DG400 I encountered wave lift near Lamia, Greece. I called out the position of some strong rotor lift that transitioned nicely into the secondary to the lee of Iti mountain, you know that mythical mountain were Hercules was said to have died. Soon a friends ASW24M contacted strong lift, in fact much stronger than what I was experiencing even though we were less than 1km apart. All our varios were screeming pegged off the scale with the altimiter hands winding while the ground rushed away. To make it short follow this link to a barogram and map of the climb:

Wave Flight Lamia - J. Dimas 18-04-1999 .

18m/sec (about 3500 fpm average over one minute) over 1000m climb. Winds were 150km/hr (83knots) from 250 degrees.


Dino
 

Workhorse

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Mar 6, 2010
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400
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Southern Spain
I had some training in an engine worn out 152 we called the 'millenium falcon', millenium for her hull hours. While flying solo in summer, around 35ºC or more her climb performance was so poor I had to seek for vultures to get a thermal to soar to my cruise level while explaining ATC what I was doing. Yes, those were climbs.
 

flinote

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Oct 23, 2010
Messages
29
Location
Coarsegold, CA
I had some training in an engine worn out 152 we called the 'millenium falcon', millenium for her hull hours. While flying solo in summer, around 35ºC or more her climb performance was so poor I had to seek for vultures to get a thermal to soar to my cruise level while explaining ATC what I was doing. Yes, those were climbs.
Your 152 story reminds me of the time I drove to Lone Pine CA for a weekend of soaring. We arrived about mid-afternoon (long drive) and I decided not to fly that day. The tow pilot (who was flying the "acro" version of a 152) checked in with us, and then decided "to go flying" for fun.

Bottom line is, he returned after about 1.5 hr flight time--and told us the engine had been running less than 10 minutes during the flight! He had contacted strong lift on the western slopes of the White Mts. and was able to soar the entire length--a round trip of something like 160 miles.

Oops--that's yet another soaring story about the famous Whites!

Bill
 

Jonas

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Dec 23, 2010
Messages
6
Location
Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada
I was flying from Sangudo to Whitecourt, Alberta, in an ultralight Challenger II. It was a completely calm summer day, I was at 4000ft ASL, suddenly my seatbelt was keeping me from smashing my head into the roof, then I was pushed into my seat so hard I was worried my wings were going to rip off. I had no variometer, and I didn't even have a VSI, but my altimeter was climbing like crazy. I couldn't tell you how long I was in it, probably about 8 to 10 seconds, but I did gain 2200 feet.
this was 15 years ago, and since then I have built a pipistrel Virus SW 100, not quite a glider, but close enough (15/1)
we'll see what I can find this summer...
Jonas
 

Buckwheat

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Jan 14, 2011
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Ammon, ID
I caught a promising thermal flying a I-26 in Prescott Valley AZ. I had spotted a little puff of a cloud developing just before I took the wire. I came off the winch at about 2000 agl, and headed right for it. The cloud was much bigger by then. I caught the lift and started going up like a rocket. Vario screaming and the needle was pegged. Before I knew it I was sucked up into the cloud. I stopped circling, popped the spoilers and pushed the nose over. I held the speed near what I figured was Va, and the vario was still pegged. I ended up blowing out the side of what turned out to be a developing thunderstorm. It was quite the ride!
 

Aircar

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Feb 20, 2010
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Melbourne Australia
Mine was in a std Libelle in 1971 during a competition out of Mildura, Victoria,Australia (an irrigation district in the desert east of Waikerie site of the 1974 world competition ) -- after a reasonable soaring day on the last leg of a 400k triangle task and having been flying in loose company with another Libelle we watched as a small bushfire started to grow into a firestorm --right on track home and over unlandable scrub . My companion headed for it first as it grew a huge "pyrocumulus' cloud as we watched with dark smoke rising like a tornado --he entered about 30 seconds or so before I did and uttered an expletive on going so --he almost dissappeared in the smoke --there were bits of burning bark and leaves going up in it as well (from about 3000 t0 13000ft took only maybe a dozen turns from memory --but needed 80knots to keep control and felt like being in a washing machine and almost IFR -- the smell was incredible . I felt real fear getting near cloudbase and got out with enough space to avoid being sucked in --it was a boiling black evil looking mass -- a final glide at VNe got us both back home in record time and both aircraft had black streaks across the wings . The barograph trace looked like a vertical arc -- never encountered anything so violent again .
 

Cozyflier

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Jul 26, 2010
Messages
45
Location
Waukesha, WI.
Well this is a little off topic so please forgive me for listing but: I am new to soaring and wanted to share my first thermal experience.

I am transitioning to gliders from power and am getting ready for solo status. My last flight in the Blanik L-23 was with the instructor while I was in full command, my piloting skills, my decisions, my landing, etc. Poor Scott didn't touch the controls and had to sit there while I did my own thing with his supervision. We had a good day for the Midwest and the CU's were building, not so common for Wisconsin.

After tow release thermals became abundant and I had to put my new found skills to work. Upon circling for lift and running with cloud streets my excitement level was pegged. Each time we lost our lift it was found again and up we went, our climbs were anywhere from 500 to 1500', not great but fun for a newbie. We didn't exceed the cloud bases of 4500' but the initial soaring experience was one not to forget. We elected to come down after 1.25 hours but could have stayed up all afternoon. What a hoot to fly using only the power of the sun.

Cozyflier
 

Jay Kempf

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Apr 13, 2009
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4,510
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Warren, VT USA
A smooth 1,400fpm (pretty much bouncing the needle on the peg of the vario) up to about 8,200'MSL from entry at about 2,400'MSL in an SGS 1-26C on a late summer afternoon at Lake Elsinore. A very tight, narrow thermal so I was fairly cranked over, but it was so smooth it was like an elevator. Popped out the top and flattened out, and found a spectactular view of the sun heading down on the ocean with Catalina Island in the distance. An amazingly clear day, and the Pacific looked like it was on fire. Danced along on the thermal tops for about twenty or thirty minutes before the whole system collapsed and I had a nice glide back to the airport.

On this one it was the view at the end, not the climb rate, that was the best. I was focused upon staying cored and the other gliders and didn't get a chance to really appreciate the view until I popped out the top.
A LONG LONG TIME AGO :) there was a forest fire on a hillside outside of Corning, NY not far from Harris Hill, the NSM and Schweizer. I happened to be able to get up in an the old club favorite 1-26 not sure which model but it was an early one with fabric ailerons and tail. Those things climbed like crazy in tight stuff where you needed to stand them on a wingtip. I think I entered at about 1800 and got spit out around 10k. There was a flat anvil top where the inversion was. It started out broad and tightened in the middle like an hourglass and then loosened back up up high as it spread out. The lift was violent and the vario was beyond pegged with smoke and smell in the cockpit but it was quite a ride. That was the hardest I ever got hit with an updraft ever in anything. The wall between calm and elevator shaft was significant. It was very unusual in western NYS to have any lift other than wave that would go that high so I'll never forget it. I think I was 15 at the time. That and a few other notable days back then have stuck with me. I loved the old 1-26. Strong like tractor, turned like a WII fighter, very well balanced and forgiving. It would probably make a nice little cross country power plane with about 50 HP on the nose and a set of mains.
 
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