Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bill Levinson: Soaring Glacier Divide from Bishop, with Google Earth image of Bishop area glaciers

Soaring Glacier Divide from Bishop


Geologists first settled California.  They didn’t know they were geologists.  They called themselves prospectors and later we named them 49ers.  Nonetheless they discovered that gold always occurred with quartz underground.  More than a hundred years later college educated geologists explained the science behind the miner’s observations.  In the molted soup created by the friction of plate tectonics, the first rocks to crystalize at the highest temperatures where iron, aluminum, copper and other metal bearing silicates.


Unlike other metals, gold does not incorporate into the crystal lattice of silicon.  When the molten mixtures has cooled sufficiently, only gold and pure silicone dioxide (quartz) remain to solidify in the cracks of the existing granites forming veins of gold bearing quartz.


These early prospectors also discovered and mapped the diried-up, millions-of-years-old so called Eocene rivers of California.  They had enough data for many a dissertation.  But is wasn’t degrees they were after; it was the gold: placer gold just like in the modern rivers.


About 12 years after the discovery of gold, the California Legislature decided it needed to know the breath of California’s mineral wealth.  They hired college educated, Josiah Whitney, author of the acclaimed book, Mineral Wealth of the United States, as Director of the California Geological Survey.


When Whitney was doing his geology, John Muir was doing his natural history studies of the Sierra Nevada.  In 1869, the same year that saw the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the arrival of John Muir in California, Whitney published his travel guide to Yosemite Valley, The Yosemite Book and claimed that the Yosemite Valley was formed by the sinking of the valley floor.  John Muir contended that the valley was formed by the action of glaciers.


To discredit Muir, Whitney claimed that it was impossible for glaciers to have created the valley because the Sierra didn’t then and never did contain glaciers.  John Muir demonstrated the existence of Sierra glaciers by demonstrating the movement of permanent blocks of ice, completely undermining Whitney’s theory.  The public, to this day, accepts the theory that glaciers carved Yosemite Valley, even though there is scant evidence that glaciers can do the massive carving required to create such monumental features.


Soaring from Bishop, you can view the namesakes of these historic figures.  Josiah Whitney got the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states named after him, while Muir was honored with a hiking trail, a mountain pass, and a peak next to Whitney’s 479 feet lower.


About 20 miles south west of Bishop, Glacier Divide houses about six glaciers in a series of cirques -- huge steep-walled amphitheater-like features.  As you fly down the ridge,




you encounter several more glaciers – Goethe, Darwin, Palisade, Norman Clyde, until you reach the mountain peaks named for the opponent and champion of Sierra Glaciers.













Sunday, July 11, 2010


The weather was hot, near 100deg for Biff's FIRST SOLO. His take off and
landing were excellent and he had the longest and highest soaring flight
of the day - almost an hour, climbing to 4,200'. Fritz was ready with a
'surprise' cooling shower to initiate Biff into the 'post solo'
community. Maja was Field Manager and was waiting to Biff to land so she
could have the last flight of the day. Thanks to Tow Pilot Steve Yoder
and to all those who helped push gliders. We had 4 solo pilots who flew
yesterday. Both Biff and Maja will be participating in the WSPA soaring
week at Air Sailing next week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mark Violet's 4 days of spectacular soaring at the NSA Bishop Encampment

I spent 4 days excellent days last week at Bishop, CA with the Nevada Soaring Association.  They bring down their tow plane to Bishop and invite members to come and fly at one of the world’s premier soaring sites.  I went with Bill Levinson, another club member, with whom I planned to share a glider, which meant I would fly 2 of the 4 days we would be there.  As you may know, Bishop (el  4100’) is located in the Owens Valley between the Sierra Nevada and White Mts.  The backside of the Sierras rises very dramatically up to 12-14k ft peaks.  It reminded a lot of the Grand Tetons.  The Whites are nearly as high, with White Mountain ~12k ft.  They slope up more gradually than the Sierras, but are still steep with deep canyons.


The first day Bill had the plane so I took a flight with an instructor, Rob Stone (Stoney), to get familiar with the area.  It was a great lesson.  The wind was coming from the south and was flowing over the White Mts.  Stoney explained how thermals don’t work very well in these conditions, and the best strategy is to fly figure eights close to the ridges and then move further up and into the range.  It’s quite a feeling to fly right at the ridge and feel the plane rise rapidly as the ridge passes below.  We made it up to the top of the Whites to about 14k and flew just below the face of White Mountain Peak, back to the south end of the Whites, across the valley to the Sierras, and then  back down to Bishop; total flight time ~ 2.5 hrs, most of it spent with me trying to climb up the ridge.


Second day was my turn with our sailplane (Grob  102, SS).  I released at nearly the same place as the previous day’s flight with Stoney.  So I just did all the same things I had done before and made to the top of the ridge & up to 16k ft.  That’s a personal best max altitude for me; total flight time ~2.5 hrs.


Third day, my next scheduled day off, I was invited by another pilot to fly with him in a DG-1000, a high performance 2 place glider.  Its glide ratio is about 46:1.  He did most of the flying, especially climbing the ridge, but he let me fly as well.  We went up the Whites to Boundary Peak, back to Bishop, across the valley over to the Sierras and down to Lone Pine.  At that point we turned into the Sierras toward Mt Whitney (14,505’).  At first we flew past Whitney, it doesn’t really stick up much higher than the surrounding mountains, but it is recognizable by the stone hut on the peak.  We flew back and found Mt Whitney and could see hikers on the peak by the stone hut.  We did a pass over Whitney and took pictures of the hikers while they took pictures of us as well.  From there we crossed the valley again to the Inyos and flew back to Bishop.  Total flight time ~5.5 hours.  Cool.


Fourth day was my turn in SS again, so decided to try for the Silver badge requirement of a 5 hour flight.  Again I released in the same area as my previous flights and managed to climb up the ridge to the top of the Whites.  I flew along the top of the ridge trying to stay where most of the lift is found.  After several runs up and down the crest I ran into sink and had to turn toward the valley and quickly descended.  I flew along below the ridge looking for lift without luck until I was down to about 8600’, less than 1000’ higher than my initial release.  Finally I found lift and climbed back up.  I flew along the ridge again and tried taking some video from the cockpit, which is not easy.  Mostly it consists of pointing the camera toward the window and pressing the record button for 30 seconds or so, and hoping it captures something good.  At the southern most end of the ridge I hit sink and again fell off the ridge to about 9600’.  I finally hit a strong thermal which I stayed in and climbed up to over 11,000’.  For the remainder of the flight I managed to stay over 10,000’.  Five hours came, but I wanted to make sure I had more than enough time, so I ended up flying for over 5.5 hours.   Another personal best for me….


See photos from Mt Whitney flight at:



See flight recorder trace graphs in attached jpg files.  The graph shows altitude vs time, with the dark mass below representing the ground altitude.


Great flying and hope to return next year.



Monday, July 5, 2010

CHANDLER LOUGEE writes of her passion to fly

The Place Above Me

            Freedom to explore. I want to explore and the best way I have found to do that is to fly. I want to see the world in any way I can and the experience I gained from flying a plane for my birthday has stayed with me for two years. The experience of seeing the world spread out below me and the feeling of myself being almost alone above a world with so many people in it is something I will never forget. By flying I feel like I am more than just an average girl looking at things at only one level, at only one height.

            I have always thought that the fact that a tin can with wings and heavy metal motor and seats can fly was fascinating. But unlike some, who fear to get into those metal cans, I always thought that looks so cool. I still do. I want to see the world in a way that not many others can. I want to fly so that I can feel like I have something special. When I am flying I feel like everything is quieter and simpler. I don’t have to worry about the problems on the ground when I’m up in the air. The feeling is peaceful and I feel slightly powerful when I see the world spread out below me. I want to explore, feel free, at peace, and calm.

            I also have an absolute fascination with space. My dream is to become an astronaut and I figure what is a better way to start a dream of space than with the sky. If I can get into the air, I can get into space. I want to be off the ground in any way possible and this is a great way to start. When I look up into the sky at night I see stars, the moon, and everything that is bigger than us, but makes up everything we have. When I look into the sky in the day, I see the gateway to getting there. I see everything beyond just the fluffy clouds and the birds. I see a place I want to be in.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

CONGRATS to all! Recent BADGE legs and other ACHIEVEMENTS!!!

Mike Voie wrote: "A well deserved solo. Maja worked very hard and earned
every bit of this solo. I'm very happy to have been the cfig to sign her
After three flawless landings in a row, I felt I had no choice but to
send her on her way. She was very nervous, but settled down and showed
us all what a landing is suppose to look like.
She was glowing when she left the airport."

SETH DUNHAM was also in THERMAL CAMP and reported "My thermal camp
flights worth sharing would be: my first contact with ATC, my first land
out on a dry lake, and my near miss with another glider"
'SILVER'DISTANCE (160 miles!)-landing at Tiger Field- and
Well done Taylor!
This completes requirements for SILVER BADGE for MARK !!! (
approval)by PAUL MCDONALD!!!, Paul reported:
"XC Camp was good. It took about a day to reacquire some competence in
thermalling technique. Although weak, I was introduced to wave (at
about 12,000' over the north Dogskin range). I exceeded my previous
personal best performance in all three areas: duration, distance, and
height gain (achieving 15,700' MSL (a 9,000' gain) on one flight, 5.5
hours off-tow on another, and over 63km (Pond Peak to Flanigan Dry Lake)
on a third. I think I satisfied the requirements for Silver duration
and distance. I previously earned Silver height gain, so maybe I'll get
the Silver badge. I found that I'm conservative, and not that
interested in landing out. I'll have to grow into this concept of
glider XC slowly. On Monday, I ended up at 5,800' MSL 20NM north of Air
Sailing (elev. 4300'). I had Flanigan Dry Lake in glide, but was
woefully below the 12,500' MSL or so minimum required to start back to
Air Sailing. It was by the end of this flight that I improved coring
skill ... enough to claw my way out of the weeds up to 13,000'+, and a
return to ASG. I guess that's called a "low-save".