Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Thermic Flight of the Year

The weather has got much colder in the last few days. It has stayed dry though a high cloud layer and gusty N or E winds have curtailed flying. But today was predicted to be sunny. The Nice pilots had decided to head to their local site (Gourdon) and I was tempted to join them. The local forecasts didn't look too good, with an East wind, which is hard to exploit at St Andre.

But… , I have to leave for the States early tomorrow and didn't fancy the drive today. Then Meteoblue came up with a better forecast and I decided to risk flying locally.

No-one else bought into my logic; conditions seemed excellent but launch was deserted. It's a bit spooky to find a premium flying site deserted when you think conditions are good… I ate my lunch, layered up and took off - and conditions were as good as they seemed, if a little turbulent. I last flew strong thermals 10 weeks ago; today seemed bumpy (even by St Andre standards), but maybe I'm just a little rusty. But 6.5 m/s (1300 ft / min in old money) isn't bad for January!

Top of lift was around 2700 m (9000 ft) where the temperature was around -15C (5F). I headed N and got established on the ridge of Costa Longue. At this point I'd been flying for just over an hour but I was too cold. I could easily have kept flying but it was no longer fun and I didn't want to land somewhere with difficult logistics. So I landed between Thorame Basse and Thorame Haute (it's a lot harder to pick out a good LZ when they are covered in snow) and hiked part of the way home before getting a lift back. 

I left a lot of flying on the table today, but it was very nice to have a mini-XC in January!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Summer in January

After so much snow in late November and through December, there is now very little to be seen from the valley bottoms. There is still snow and ice low down in a few shaded spots, but the general snow level is now 2000m. The sun is very strong; on clear, windless days, it is warm in the sun but still cold in the shade. It gets cold very quickly when the sun goes down.

I had intended to do more skiing, but instead I've been hiking a lot, normally with a flight down from some peak. This weekend has been exceptionally warm and pleasant. Both days involved walking up in shorts and picnicking on launch. Unfortunately very high pressure suppressed any really useable thermals but it was still nice to be out in the sun.

I will probably be visiting the States shortly and will return to St Andre in early February - I'm hoping by then the thermals will be a bit more useful!

A few pics

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sorting out the Paperwork

I've been sorting out all sorts of french bureaucratic issues over the last 9 months or so. It's been a slow process but hasn't been anything like as bad as I feared (french bureaucracy is notorious). I recently received my french driving license to go along with my social security number, a health insurance card, business cards, bank account, car registration, FFVL (the French 'free flight' federation) membership etc etc. The big remaining one will be paying both US and French taxes (which I will have to do from now on), with 2010 being an especially complicated year.

Cliff Launch

The weather was beautiful today, so I headed up the Crete des Serres for a hike and fly. As I got higher, the snow got deeper and deeper and progress slowed (sometimes literally) to a crawl. I reached my intended launch point; normally this is a steep launch from a flat set up area. At this time of year the snow forms a big cornice, so it was a cliff launch. 

It was hard finding a point where I could set up safely that wasn't in the rotor. Several times, the rotor pushed my wing towards me and I had to lay it out again. I couldn't set up right on the edge without risking falling through the cornice. Eventually I found a workable spot, inflated the wing, got it nice and stable and jumped off the cornice. I soared the slope briefly, but couldn't quite stay up on my speed wing so ended up landing at La Mure after a short but pleasant flight.

Not too bad a way to start the year - some pics.