Sunday, June 30, 2013

Well Equipped…

Gliding down the S ridge of Maurel
 back to St Andre

Two helmets, two sunglasses, 3 pairs of gloves, 2 balaclavas, 2 varios. I wasn't short of equipment for today's flight. All in all, it was a little embarrassing. 

Last weekend I landed with some local pilots as overdevelopment threatened. There was quite a lot of socializing as we packed up and as I went to close my pack, I realized my helmet - complete with vario, gloves etc  - was missing. Searching and inquiries were all in vain. 

So today I arrived at launch with a bicycle helmet and replacement gear. As I prepared my wing, a lump transformed into my old helmet. Somehow, I had wrapped my helmet up in my wing! I packed the spare stuff in my harness and had a nice flight (the standard triangle back to St Andre over Cordoeil). 

From now on, I'll pack my gear away before starting on the beer…

Monday, June 10, 2013

Barre des Dourbes

Hike or fly? The forecasts indicated marginally strong winds and so-so conditions but it seemed safely flyable. Normally, I'd have done something else, but this year has been poor enough that it's hard to turn down flying opportunities. Just before hiking up to launch I checked the winds on launch. 15K gusting to 25K (or 10-16 mph in old money). Hmm, ok for noon, but a bit spicy for 9.00…

So I did a hike I've been looking forward to for some time, along the Barre des Dourbes (aka Montagne de Coupe). It's a high, isolated ridge that isn't used by sheep in the summer. This means lots of vegetation, including alpine flowers and shrubbery. It gets very few hikers (it's flown more often than it is hiked) and there's a big drop on one side, so it was pretty slow going.  

The wind wasn't terribly strong on the ridge, so it may well have been flyable but I didn't see any paragliders in the air. Towards the end of the ridge walk, 7 sail planes flew about 100m over me and headed straight to Digne and then home to Chateau Arnoux - none of this turning in lift nonsense, their performance is amazing.

Right at the end of the hike, I could see my car. As I neared it, the sound of flowing water got louder and louder. I turned a corner and there was a substantial river I'd never seen before. I'd hiked this trail before but it must have been at the end of the summer. Wet feet or extend my hike by 4Km? Wet feet!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Puy de Rent

Saturday's forecast was a little windy, a little cloudy and a little thundery, so a hike seemed a better choice than trying to fly or even a bike ride. I had a long hike, climbing the 2000m Puy de Rent, then layered up for a chilly ridge walk. Right as I reached my car, the first drops of rain started. Launch was visible almost all day, so I couldn't help checking if I'd made the right decision. There were some very early flights, but no-one was in the air after 11.00, so I think I made the best use of the day. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Early overdevelopment

There's not much point complaining about flying conditions, but… We've gone straight from a 'Mistral' (strong N winds aloft) to an 'over-development' (midday thunderstorms) weather pattern. I arrived at launch before 11.00 on Friday morning, hoping for an hour or so of airtime before having to land, and was immediately greeted by a rumble of thunder. A lot of pilots looked at each other, surprised just how early things were starting, wondering what to do. The occasional rumbles continued; it didn't look ready to storm but who knows for sure? One or two pilots packed up, most - including me - launched and flew quickly to the LZ. There a found a group of pilots packing up, disappointed the day's flying had finished well before noon but relieved to have at least flown. I was safely home watching the tennis when the rain started.