Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow in St Andre

This weekend definitely feels like the start of the winter. Although there was already snow higher up the mountains, St Andre has stayed clear of the snow. But all that changed over the weekend.

Saturday looked as though a super-cold hike and fly might have been possible; the start of the day was cold and clear but with bad weather forecast to move in during the afternoon. However, things happened a little quicker than the forecast; as soon as the first clouds appeared it was clearly very windy at launch height. So I had a snowy hike in the Thorame valley. I used the hike to test some new gear. I now have electric gloves and they were very good - but only for the first 4 hours of the hike, by then the batteries were exhausted! I've also been breaking in some new boots, and it seemed a good occasion to give them a longer hike; they were fine, but my feet were happy to see the end of the hike. I saw a couple of boars and a fox; the fox played for about 5 minutes before he realized I was watching from about 400 meters away - then he run away very fast.

Overnight, a lot of snow fell on St Andre. I had a short tour on my XC skis, but my feet were a little painful from the day before, so I didn't stay out too long. I'm back in the warmth now, about to light a fire.

Pics of the hike and St Andre under the snow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hike without Fly

When my cleaner arrives, I try to get out to make things easier for her - hike, fly, cycle, whatever. I debated flying this Wednesday, but cloudbase, mountain tops and freezing level were all forecast to coincide. Then I thought about a hike and fly; but the predicted meteo wind wasn't really from the best direction for the hikes I fancied. So I decided to go for a hike that I could start from my front door.

The hike was very nice; it started in the mist. The mist burned off and I had a nice climb up to a ridge. Some very pleasant ridge walking, with the last bit over a dusting of snow. I ate my lunch on the peak, which was just flirting with the clouds. Afterwards, a gradual descent back to St Andre. While I was very happy with my day, I realized I should have taken my lightweight gear and flown down; even in November, the anabatic wind was overcoming the meteo wind pretty easily. No big deal, good data for next time.

And then I came back to a wonderfully clean house!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day Flying

Twentieth century wars have made a big impact in France and today is a national holiday. The day dawned clear but cold in St Andre; there was ice everywhere. It would have been flyable here, but it looked just as flyable nearer the coast and a whole lot warmer. Unusually, I decided it was worth driving to go flying. Greolieres or Gourdon?

I stopped at Greolieres and found a bunch of Nice based pilots - all enjoying the national holiday - debating whether to fly there or at the Col de Bleyne. The group split and I joined the majority at the Col de Bleyne. From a warmth viewpoint, this was only a small improvement over St Andre (launch is essentially at the same altitude, even if it's a little nearer the Med).

I was really careful to keep my fingers warm on launch and launched near the front of a group of 12 or so pilots. Initially the wind was fairly strong from the East, but it changed (backed?, veered?) to the S and later the W. The thermals were amazing for November (7 m/s or 1400 ft/min) and it wasn't too hard to stay up; but base was low (2000m was as high as I got) so it was hard to make any real transitions. I wasn't surprised when my finders got cold and I decided to head to Greolieres, hoping to get a decent mini-XC out the day before having to land. I got too low to make the last transition and ended up landing. After warming my fingers and eating my lunch; I started walking back and got a lift from another pilot.

My electric gloves are in the States; I just need to get them through customs so I can fly in the cold weather!

Pics and Tracklog

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Late Fall in St Andre

There is a definite 'winding down' feeling right now. Some of the shops in the village have closed till the end of Nov. I'm assuming things start to get busier in December with the ski season.

The melezes (pine trees that change color and lose their needles) are just magnificent and the weather is still good. In fact, blue skies, cool air and warm sun make this time of year great for hiking but sometimes a little chilly for cycling. 

The sheep are gradually being moved out of the mountains; right now, most are back in the plains, but there are still some herds on the smaller peaks. Here, lambs are born in the fall (when the mothers are fattest) and some are really tiny.

I've been doing a little less flying than earlier in the fall, but still getting some airtime.