Friday, August 30, 2013

British Open

Almost every year, there's a paragliding competition at St Andre. Last year, it was the Europeans and this year it was a week of the British Open (the other week was in Portugal, earlier in the summer). Apart from an early morning hike and fly to test new gear, I didn't fly during the comp, but I took my girlfriend up to watch the pilots launch one day.

Conditions for the week weren't too bad but early afternoon overdevelopment limited the flying. As a result, only 3 tasks were scored in 7 days but the competitors I talked to were pretty happy with their 3 tasks. Hopefully, they'll be back next week.

Friday, August 23, 2013

British Open Practice Day

Cheval Blanc, big clouds
over the Dormillouse

The British Open starts in St Andre tomorrow so launch was busy with pilots hoping for a practice day. As I headed N, I saw a big gaggle ahead and below me, stuck on the Meunier. Great, I thought, lots of thermal markers!

As I headed towards them, they started rising in a thermal. I thought I would get in above everyone, but underestimated the thermal. I was messing around taking pics and by the time I realized I needed full-bar, it was too late. They escaped just before I arrived, the thermal was gone and I was stuck on the Meunier with half a dozen other frustrated pilots.

Sommet de la Sapee
So it took me some time to reach Cheval Blanc. I tried for some time to get high enough to warrant pressing on to the Dormillouse. But it didn't look like a sure thing, I was flying by myself and I didn't really fancy an epic retrieve (it's an easy place to wimp out!). So I flew back to St Andre by a nice little loop - Sommet de la Sapee, Mouchon and Maurel. I could easily have kept flying but I'd had my 'fix' and landed after an entertaining 4 hour flight.
Over Maurel, with the Coyer beyond

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Close Enough Encounter with a Patou

My son has been with me for the last week - he's a worker now and learning the real meaning of vacation. We've done a bunch of cycling, but today was a long hiking day up Coste Longue. 

The summit is at the end of a long ridge and we discovered a big herd of sheep between us and it. Sheep in the mountains come with patous, huge dogs that protect the herd against wolves. 

We ducked down the other side of the ridge and popped back up near the summit. From 2 kms away, a patou broke from the herd and started following us. He seemed to be going slowly but he still caught us up very quickly. He stopped around 250m away and lay down on the path just as we reached the summit. 

We had a nervous lunch on the summit and decided to take another route down!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A hot dry spell

A student gets ready; in
the background the approaching
valley wind can be seen on the lake

The last few days have been pretty hot and I've been out in the sun a lot (flying, cycling, hiking and, worst of all, some parawaiting). I felt pretty bushed this morning and I normally don't fly when I feel tired or not very keen. Maybe my brain has been fried, but I decided flying at least isn't physically very tiring and I'd be cooler 'up there' rather than 'down here'. 

Dressed in minimal layers, I flew for nearly 3 hours, not going any further than Tartonne, and getting back to St Andre via a little transition I hadn't done before. I headed to La Mure to land (it's a safer LZ) and dropped in to see Ray. He was headed for a swim but served me a beer before dropping me off at my house first - what service!

It's due to cool down in a couple of days. In the meantime I'm looking forward to working in the cool indoors tomorrow!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Cloud from Hell

The cloud is at least 20 Km away and
conditions are almost soarable as
the tandem pilots get ready

Today's forecasts varied but all seemed to show XCs as possible but probably unspectacular. Up on launch everything seemed fine with cycles slowly building. But far out to the NW was a strange wall of cloud with some embedded cumuli. It wasn't like anything I'd seen before - it looked more like a front than a cloud - and I was a bit wary.

After a while, people started launching and were getting above launch easily. Just as I was ready to go, I noticed a big flush cycle. I waited a couple of minutes, and the wind dropped and then, a couple of minutes later, started coming over the back. The cloud was now nearer and was reversing the wind direction - it still looked strange but not threatening in a cu-nim way. A whole group of pilots were stranded on launch.

The cloud is causing a flush cycle and will
soon reverse the wind flow
After about 45 minutes of this the cloud passed over and the wind slowly started coming up the hill again. 5 minutes later it was clearly blown out. Launch conditions after 1 pm are typically strong and the added cloud suck put things over the top.

Frustrating but also interesting...

Friday, August 2, 2013

South Winds

Trying to cross the Bleone valley
In summer afternoons you almost always use the W launch at St Andre. But today the meteo wind was SSE - an unusual direction here - and the S launch was the place to start from. With a tail wind, it took hardly any time to get to Cheval Blanc, but I failed to pick up a thermal there and struggled down low for 15 minutes before finally getting up again. 

What next? I decided to try the Montagne de Coupe, a sharp ridge out to the west. It went well initially, but I got lower than I was comfortable with in a 'limited LZ' zone. So I decided to fly on towards Le Brusquet and then hopefully towards Sisteron. I knew crossing the Bleone valley would be tricky, and so it proved. I ended up landing at La Javie after a very entertaining 2+ hour flight. 

Looking back at Cheval Blanc (top left)
and the Montagne de Coupe 
A lift back to Digne, a refreshing high carbohydrate recovery drink and the tourist train back to St Andre completed the day.