Saturday, February 25, 2012

The End of the Big Freeze

The huge dump of snow we had 4 weeks ago has almost gone. Throughout that period the weather has has been very cold (-23C one night, or -9F) and although the days have been sunny, the (untrodden) snow has stayed soft and powdery until a couple of days ago.

There's been plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities - snow shoeing, XC & downhill skiing, a couple of hike and flies. It's been hard work - one hike took almost 3 times as long as normal. It's also interesting because the snow keeps a record of all the passers by. The only human tracks I've seen on the higher peaks have been mine; I guess not everyone is crazy. Today I saw my snow-shoe tracks of 3 weeks ago. Strangely, they were higher than the rest of the snow, because the compressed snow has melted more slowly.

While it's been lovely, I've had enough of it. Roll on the spring and some proper flying! Fortunately, the last few days have been warmer and spring is obviously just round the corner. I had my first bike ride of the year yesterday and over dressed for it. Today was warm and spring like and I saw my first crocus. Hopefully some decent XCs are just round the corner!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

XC skis not skies

The lovely winter weather continued today and I went cross country skiing in the Thorame valley. Nothing special - just skiing along a hiking / mountain bike trail - but very scenic with all the snow. The forecast seemed to allow flying but not an XC but there were little clouds over many of the "standard" thermal triggers. As ever in the snow, there were lots of animal tracks including what seemed (to me) some 3 legged animals. A few pics.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snow Shoes Up, Wing Down

The very cold weather has continued, with overnight temperatures around -15C and below freezing all day. The big dump of snow we had at the start of the week is still fluffy white powder. Saturday morning was cold, sunny and clear - what to do?

Success is never sure for a hike and fly in the snow. The hike can be quite a challenge in itself and there's no guarantee you'll be able to launch in deep snow. The winds are also more fickle than in summer, with stronger winds above the boundary layer and less anabatic wind to overcome an inconvenient meteo wind direction. Added to that, Aeroweb's flying forecast mentioned the possibility of turbulence. Despite all that, I couldn't resist a snow shoe hike and fly on Chalvet; if flying wasn't possible, I'd just hike down!

With lightweight gear, I normally get to the west launch in 90 minutes. Today, it took very nearly 4 hours! The snow was lovely but very deep and, even with snow shoes, it was very hard work. I was the first person on the mountain since the snow fall; the only tracks I saw all day were animal tracks. Brushing a tree could result in snow pouring down the back of your neck. Some trees were like spring loaded traps; you'd brush them, the show would fall off and they'd jump up and whack you.

Eventually I got to the W launch and got my gear ready and stamped out a runway. There was a little breeze so I knew I could inflate my speedwing, but could I run fast enough to get airborne? If I couldn't, I would struggle to get back down before dark. Fortunately I managed to scrape into the air.

The LZ was a completely featureless huge white field. As I set up on final, I realized I had no way of telling my altitude. I was wondering how high I was when I realized I was on the ground. Not the most elegant landing!

My speedwing is drying in the spare bedroom and today was a lot of hiking for very little flying, but a very memorable day! A few pics

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snow and Sun

The last 3 or 4 days have been cloudy, gray and snowy - a monochrome existance. Today was blue, sunny, clear and lovely with tons of soft powdery snow. I didn't have a lot of time and had to spend part of it digging my car out the snow. But I had a nice hike on snowshoes up a little hill beside St Andre. A popular stroll and picnic spot was transformed into a challenging hike. 

Everyone I saw today was all smiles - it's hard to be grumpy when everything is so beautiful…. Some pics.