Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lazy January Thermals

Today's forecast wasn't great but, when the first soarable day of the year falls on a Saturday, some flying is in order. I could have flown at St Andre, but flying here in winter is a pretty lonely activity (the road is blocked by snow, so only lunatics that walk up get to fly). So instead I headed to Greolieres, where I expected to see a bunch of Nice based pilots.

Something seemed to be wrong with my logic. Conditions seemed good if a little weak but I arrived at a spookily deserted launch. What does everyone else know that I don't? I'm re-evaluating my flying gear, and was flying with an old wing and harness, so I did some kiting to get used to it again. Shortly afterwards pilots started arriving, and I took to the air.

It was pretty easy to stay up, but it took a long time to build any altitude. I slowly got higher as more and more pilots launched. I eventually got level with the summit ridge (around 600m above launch) but, just as I was hoping for a mini-XC, conditions started weakening, and there was a long, slow flush cycle. The skies slowly emptied and the LZ filled up.

I managed to stay in the air long enough for the cycle to pass but I never got back to the same height. After about 1.5 hours I was too cold to pretend it was fun so I landed. I enjoyed flying with my old gear, especially with a non-pod harness (much simpler and more direct, if a little chillier). All in all, a nice relaxed start to the flying year.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Springlike conditions - well, almost

We seem to be caught in a period of dry, sunny weather. No snow or rain for the last 2 weeks, and none predicted for the next two weeks. There is still lots of snow on the mountains, especially where it is shady and sheltered. 

It's more like spring or even summer, but with one important difference - the air is super-stable right now. Even at 4 o'clock, you can see the inversion trapping the smoke in the valley. Down in the valleys, there is almost no wind; even on the summits, it is almost calm (even when you can see lenticular clouds higher up).

Soon, of course, this will change and thermals will work their magic. I can't wait...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Summer Snow-shoeing…

The holiday period at St Andre has been warm, sunny, dry and stable. Unusually for this time of year, I've only managed one hike and fly - a couple of days before Xmas - but I've done plenty of hiking. I got back yesterday from a week away and decided to go snow-shoeing today.

As I drove up the Verdon, the temperature in the valley hovered around zero. As soon as I left the valley, the temperature soared - talk about an inversion. I parked the car in 14C (57F) and headed up my mountain (the Pic du Courradour) in shirt sleeves. Sticky, wet snow made for slow going (or that's my excuse), but the views more than made up for it. A long day but a lovely one. 

Some pics