Friday, October 21, 2011

Optimism Pays Off

My girlfriend arrives tomorrow for a 10 day stay, the morning's forecasts were good so grabbing a lunch-time flight was an easy choice. 

But as soon as I left the front door, the signs weren't so good. The clouds were screaming out of the north (a bad direction for strong winds at St Andre) and the trees were moving a lot. Near the summit I encountered a pilot walking down with his gear - the signs can't get much worse than that!

We talked and I decided to continue, if for no other reason than to have my lunch on the summit. I was hoping the winds would weaken as the inversion rose. At launch, the wind was strong but seemed manageable and a couple of HG flew. I checked the wind carefully for about 30 minutes before launching. The flying was interesting; at this time of year you sometimes have to work a little harder to stay up than in the middle of the summer, but things are still plenty spicy in the air. After just over an hour I headed back to work just as pilots started arriving on launch.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sharing the Sky

I flew Sunday, but not for terribly long; it was bumpy, cold and hard to get high. After an hour or so I decided to land.

At one point I encountered around 12 vultures in a thermal and couldn't resist joining them. The vultures live in a big colony in the Verdon gorge just to the south and fly the paragliding trade routes in their search for food. If you see them flapping you know it's going to be a slow day.

They didn't really seem to care about or even acknowledge my presence. They circle very smoothly, but are obviously a lot more maneuverable than a paraglider. At one point a vulture turned sharply in some lift and was heading towards me. I knew he could see me and my wing, but I was worried he would fly into my lines. But no; full air brakes on, he dove under me and glided away, doubtless cursing amateur pilots.

PS Maybe I treated this too lightly. A few days later this article appeared on the paragliding forum and you can see the action in this video. I don't think I'll join any vultures in thermals any more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My New Baby...

I have a new wing and I'm just starting to put her through her paces. It's a Factor 2 (the blue one) and so far, so good. 

I've been flying a Factor 1 but my new wing brings two big differences. It's a a 3 liner, rather than a 4 liner, and should fly a little faster and glide a little better. And, more important, I'm now flying a Small rather than a Medium wing. 

I have really liked my Factor 1; reasonable performance, tons of feedback, very few collapses and (like all Novas) very agile. It has seen me through thick and thin. But, due to personal and equipment weight loss, I'm now only 30% of the way through the weight range. For the flying I do, that doesn't make sense. With my new wing I'm at 80 - 90%, and that's much better for St Andre!

I had a hike and fly yesterday (the wind was predicted to pick up in the afternoon, so I flew early) and all seemed well. Today's forecast looked really good, but reality was different. What looked like a 3000m platform turned out to be 2000m - and it was bloody hard to get that high! But all the better for trying out my new wing; it performed very well in difficult conditions. A little more speed, lighter controls and speed bar, easier to spiral, big ears that work, no collapses when other pilots were having them, working weak lift over the LZ - not bad! There's still plenty to learn, but so far, so good.

A not very impressive tracklog.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hiking Weekend

The Mistral blew strong on Friday and Saturday and was still strong enough to stop any flying (except early morning sledders) on Sunday. What's bad for flying is great for hiking and I took full advantage this weekend. Blue skies, big views and just the beginnings of fall colors - lovely.

It was strange to see no snow at all on the highest peaks - the end of the summer has been very dry. The sheep have left the high pastures and are making their way back to the lowlands.  Back home, I put the central heating on for a few minutes on Saturday night. There's definitely a feeling of the seasons changing.