Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Hiking, No Flying

The weather has been unusually poor in France for the last week or so; we had one day of full Mistral and just a lot of unsettled weather. Given my son has been here, I hadn't really intended to fly more than a day anyway, but I didn't even do that. We've managed to hike most days and when we haven't we visited Marseille and Sisteron.

Yesterday we visited an old climbing friend of mine, Murray Hamilton. Murray has been living in France for the last 15 years, working as a guide. After we had lunch we did a Via Ferrata - great fun! Today we are in Grenoble, tomorrow Paris; I will be visiting my mother in Scotland before returning to Portland.

Some pics ->

Sunday, September 13, 2009


No flying for the last few days. I've been looking at possible accomodation, a little cycling (on a bike Ray lent me) and hiking with my son. Today we had a nice, long hike and got back just in time to see the start of the Italian Grand Prix! We are now at L'Épine, which is a little to the NW of Laragne, and will be walking here for the next week or so. I'm also hoping to sneak in a day's flying at some point.

Some photos ->,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rainy Hike in the Thorame Valley

I spent the morning looking at accomodation in St Andre. As predicted, gray clouds appeared and some showers moved in at the start of the afternoon but there were enough clear spells to make a hike attractive. So I had a three hour hike in the Thorame valley with a 50-50 mix of sunshine and showers. The shepherds are spending a lot of time moving their sheep from field to field. I was surprised to see lambs at this time of year - I thought that was a spring-time only thing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheval Blanc or Bête Noire

Today I had a flight very similar to yesterday's flight; I worked hard to get to Cheval Blanc and then wimped out into the Thorame valley. I had tried to get a map for the terrain N of Cheval Blanc, without success. Lift wasn't that easy to find and it took a long time just to get over Lambruisse. And I ended up making the easy decision and landing in the big comfortable valley, rather than going over the high montains.

I have had good luck in France with lifts; for the fifth time I got a lift back to my car from a local.

This could end up being my last flight in France this year - indeed it could be the last XC of the year (that makes me a little sad). The mornings are getting noticeably chilly, even if the midday sun is still very hot. On Thurday my son arrives and we will be hiking most days. Tomorrow I will be looking at accomodation in Saint Andre.

Pics ->

Tracklog ->

Monday, September 7, 2009

Learning St Andre

I've really only flown St Andre by myself and I've been gradually learning how the flying works. There is a classic XC north about 50K to St Vincent (it can be done in either direction) that I'd like to do. I've done the first third or so from St Vincent, and today I managed to do the first bit from St Andre. The problem is that the middle part is over pretty high-mountains and I don't know the terrain very well. If you sink out in the middle, you can expect an 'interesting' hike out.

I made a decent start; although I was flying by myself, there were enough gliders around to help finding the lift. However, after around 5 miles, they all seemed to turn round together and fly back towards launch. I continued a little further, but when I got to the start of 'tiger country' (the Cheval Blanc mountain) my radio was announcing wind maximums of 30k, so I turned into a nice broad valley and landed at Thorame Haute.

I really enjoyed my flight and had a nice little hike before a local stopped for me and gave me a lift back to Ray's place. Tonight I will buy detailed maps for the middle part of the XC and study them!

Tracklog ->

Pics ->

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bumpy Flying at St Andre

The forecast was reasonable for flying, but it turned out to be a lot windier and more turbulent than that. I went up on the Aerogliss shuttle late in the morning and (for the middle of the day) it was pretty windy. A lot of pilots didn't launch, but after watching the ones in the air I launched. The wind (predictably enough) was breaking up the thermals and high pressure was making life a little harder.

I didn't really want to leave the broad valley below launch, so I flew around for about 30 minutes or so before deciding to land. I didn't use the main LZ (it is dangerous in the middle of day, as it is 'conveniently' placed where three valleys meet). Landing was easier said than done; it took me 30 minutes to get down. The whole valley seemed to be giving lift; you could easily spiral down, but then when you set up to land, up you'd go. Eventually I managed to keep out the lift long enough to land.

A nice hike through Moriez and then I got a lift back to the main LZ; the driver was a pilot that had I'd talked to at Laragne the week before. As I was watching a football match at the main LZ, a hang glider came into land and ended up in a tree. The Pompiers and Genedarmes arrived and got the pilot down - he was unharmed - leaving the wing in the tree; the next morning, the wing had been released from the tree.

Went back up for an evening flight; the wind was strong on launch and some parawaiting ensued. Conditions gradually lightened and I launched first and had a short flight before landing back in the main LZ - safe at 7.30 in the evening!

Tracklog ->

Pics ->

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Courradour Hike

I arrived at St Andre and got installed Chez Ray ( The accomodation is simple but comfortable and Ray is very friendly. But the Mistral hadn't quite disappeared, so Saturday was a hiking day. I did a little triangular hike that starts from Peyresq; the hamlet has been bought by some Belgian community and has been nicely restored. On the outskirts of the hamlet is an 'open air sculpture show'.

The hike was very pleasant; I met Alex, an English woman that does long distance hikes and races. She had already been walking about 10 miles before I met her and she was embarrasingly fast. We left the trail and went to the summit of the Courradour; some simple rock climbing lead to a beautiful peak. On the way back I stopped in the walled city of Colmars; very scenic.

Pics ->

Friday, September 4, 2009

Saint Cyr Hike

The last couple of days have seen the Mistral return. No flying, but the chance to look at some property.

I went a hike on St Cyr - a climb through scrubby oaks and a ridge walk - before driving South to St Andre. It looks as though the tomorrow will not be good, so I expect to go for another hike.

Pics from today's hike ->

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sneaked Flight

A surprise this morning - low clouds and we can't see the mountain. We know this will burn off, but still it's a bit of shock. All forecasts indicate bad weather coming in from the NW - the issue is when and how bad (e.g. showers or storms). Not a day when the locals chose to fly; I had missed yesterday, tomorrow didn't look great, so I thought I'd maybe sneak in a short flight.

I went up with one other pilot, Chris. Launch was clear but the cloud base in the Buech valley was below launch. All the peaks we would normally fly over had very low clouds over them. There was a thick layer of cirrus or alto-cumulus stopping the sun from doing its job. No other pilots on the hill. Hardly encouraging.

The surrounding clouds lifted a little, Chris launched and sank out. I was going to drive down, but noticed the clouds were a little higher on the nearby peaks. I launched into a thermal, quickly climbed 1,400 feet but was then being squeezed by clouds and headed N. On the next peak, the same problem - a low cloud. So I decided to try the valley, but that didn't work. So I flew back towards Laragne to minimize the retrieve, landed and got a couple of lifts back to HQ. There I borrowed a bike and went up and retrieved the car - it was a DHV1 bike but a DHV0 rider!

In fact, the bad weather never really arrived; after I landed base continued to rise and if I'd launched 30 or 45 minutes later I might have had a much better flight. Anyway, not a great day, but not too bad either.

Tracklog ->

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Exploring Day

Today would have been perfectly flyable, but I went exploring some of the nearby villages and areas. The goal here is to better understand where it would be good to live. There are so many factors (scenery, weather, flying, hiking...) it's hard to know where is best - there are lots of very attractive places around here.