Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Flying in St Andre

For the first time this year, I've been able to fly quite a bit for the last 3 weeks. As summer moves into fall the flying day starts later and that (together with a flexible work schedule) has allowed a number of late lunchtime flights. Most of those have been little loops or triangles allowing me to land in St Andre and get back to work.

Peak climb rates have stayed high - between 8m/s and 13 m/s (1600 - 2600 ft/min in old money). But, especially towards the end of the month, it has been weaker and you've had to work noticeably harder to stay up, sometimes getting stuck for 30 minutes or more on ridges. At first, I found this a bit disappointing. But I quickly came to enjoy it; it makes the flying a bit more satisfying. 

I flew a nice little loop today; nearly 3 hours, on some seldom flown peaks out to the west of the 'trade routes'. These smaller, rounder peaks give much less lift than the standard highways - especially at this time of year. I was stuck on the Mouchon for 20 minutes before I could transition back to Chalvet and then St Andre. Not very far, but challenging and satisfying, 

 Tracklog and pics.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Yet Another Allos Flight

I've flown to Allos 3 or 4 times earlier this year. I had another flight there today, but I can safely say I worked harder for my flight today than in all those earlier flights combined. Instead of cruising above ridge height, I was below ridge height for quite a while. 

When I got high afterwards, staying out of the clouds was the problem. I landed in Allos with a group of Swiss. One of the pilots had got caught in the clouds and was very relieved to be on the ground; he told us stories of all his lines freezing up as he sat in a puddle of cold water. 

I hitched back and got a lift right away from a lovely couple from Avignon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

C'est la Saison

Sometimes the explanations are so simple they escape us. I was on launch, hoping for a 2 hour lunch time flight, but conditions were very weak. Those who launched, struggled.

I waited, hoping for an improvement and a little puzzled. I talked to a local, saying things were a little slow today. "Oui, c'est la saison" was the reply - that's the season. I'd kind of forgotten it was past the equinox and the season was drawing to a close! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Big Clouds and Storms

As I'm writing this, it's 7pm and a big storm has just passed through St Andre; the thunder is still rumbling. Every now and then there is a flash of lightening, often accompanied by a two second electricity break. 

The day was predicted to get stormy in the late afternoon, so I had planned on an early flight. The clouds started forming early; growing tall with little cloud caps. Higher up, there were waves of lenticular clouds. After an hour of flying I decided fly over to Maurel from L'Allier (a little transition I've never made before) and land at La Mure.

I got onto the summit of Maurel and there was plenty of lift, big clouds and blue sky. But there was also a great big cloud covering all of St Andre, Meouilles and Chalvet. In a few seconds, it developed vertically and La Mure was also in the shade. I hurried to land and just had got my wing packed before the thunder and lightning started. You can see the cloud growing here

Surprisingly it didn't start raining for another 3 hours; though we had thunder and gusty winds all afternoon. When it finally arrived, it was sudden and heavy. This all worked out very well for the Foire Agricole - and for me.

La Foire Agricole

It's the farmers fair in St Andre today and all the streets (ok, both of the main streets) of St Andre are covered with little booths selling all sort of 'artisanal' goods. There are a lot of people attending and - especially in the very center - the booths are crowded. There's not enough room to swing a cat in St Andre today!

From my front door, I stepped straight into the market where I found a paraglider pilot selling his olives. With all the crowds, it took me an extra 10 minutes to walk to launch today!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Triangle

Because of my son's visit, I hadn't flown for two weeks and was very keen to fly. The forecasts were good but not stellar. By the time I got up the hill, I found a lot of grumpy pilots on the S launch. It was a long time before anyone got above launch, but pretty much from then on it was working.

In the air, the meteo wind was roughly SE, so I took advantage of this and flew over some seldom flown, lower, rounder mountains out to the W. After a while, I got high over the Sommet de la Sapee and looped back to St Andre in a triangle and then did a couple of out and back ridge runs before landing in St Andre just short of 4 hours. 

Conditions improved as the day went on and I could easily have flown for another couple of hours, but I'd had my fix. I didn't go very far but it's always satisfying to land back in St Andre after a long flight.   

Friday, September 9, 2011

Etienne's Visit

My son has been out visiting for the last 10 or so days. He's doing very well in the rowing team at college and wanted to use the trip for some pre-season training. So we did a lot of cycling and a little bit of hiking.

The first problem was finding a road bike that fitted him. We were really lucky and found an excellent early nineties bike; it needed some TLC but for 200 Euros we had a bike that new today would be over $6,000. 

We used to cycle together 6 or 7 years ago but hadn't since. As I expected, our "performance curves" have crossed some time in the last few years. He probably hadn't done a ride over 1 hour before coming out, but he took to it very easily. 

We had some long, hard bike rides (of course, they strangely seemed longer and harder to me). The weather was reasonably cooperative - warm but not too hot. Of course, we're in the Alps, and there are lots of steep 10 - 15 Km climbs. And we're in France, so lots of nice restos for lunch. I appreciated the latter more than the former. On the last day - accompanied by Ray - we had a 7+ hour day that left us all nicely tired - the perfect preparation for Etienne's cross-atlantic flight!