Saturday, March 19, 2016

Chilly Flying

Le Cousson from my landing spot at Mallemoisson
It was cold and somewhat cloudy, but the flying forecast was good so I headed up to launch. The wind was from the E (actually ESE), an unusual direction for St Andre, and although it wasn't very strong it gave a choice between flying locally or a 'downwind dash' towards Digne. I knew my glove batteries would run out after 2 hours, so whatever I did the flight wouldn't be very long.

Recovery drink in Digne
Conditions were excellent. Up at cloud base it's always hard to gauge the size of clouds you're flying under and I spent quite a bit of the time on full-bar and even using big-ears to stay out of 'the white room'. I crossed over the Mouchon and the Montagne de Coupe pretty quickly and headed onto Le Cousson (a mountain above Digne). Here I was hoping for some convergence as I hit the valley wind in the Bleone. But I got the opposite - mega-sink - and of course a head-wind.

I arrived low on Le Cousson but climbed back up again easily enough. I had a few choices now - head N up the Bleone valley and try to get onto Blayeil, head W over the valley onto la Bigue, land in Digne or try heading down the valley to my sail-plane club at St. Auban. 

The last was the least logical decision because if I got low I'd be flying against a strong valley wind. But if I could stay at cloud-base the wind would be ok. And my glove batteries would run out soon anyway, so whatever I did I wouldn't be flying much longer. 

Things started fine and after a couple of climbs my destination seemed, in the absence of wind, at a reasonable glide angle. But I flew under a couple of promising clouds that didn't deliver. And I was out of the mountains, so cloud base was lower and I soon found myself in the valley wind. I had one low save, but drifted so much with the wind it didn't help much. When I saw my glide ratio stuck at 0.6 for what felt like five minutes I knew it was over. I turned round and flew with the valley wind to make the retrieve easier and landed at Mallemoisson. A bus to Digne, a beer and then the train took me home to St Andre. 

About as much fun was you can have in two hours on a winter's day... Sorry, no in-flight photos, my camera froze up in the air...   


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Greolieres Expedition

Launch is the bald spot in the center,
LZ the grassy field below
When you get a decent flying forecast on a winter Saturday, you'll be sure to find a bunch of eager Nice-based paraglider pilots at Greolieres. Nigel and I were a bit fed up with the cold flying in St Andre and decided to join them. It felt positively balmy on launch and Nigel and I watched pilots climb out easily before getting ready.

Up on the ridge
In fact, we were a little complacent. It was Nigel's first time at Greolieres and I had warned him about a couple of safety issues, but (given how easily everyone was getting up) I didn't bother giving him any tips for climbing out. Just as we were ready to take off, it clouded over. At this point, the smart thing to do was to wait for the sun to come back, but I went ahead and launched and Nigel followed me a few minutes later. 

Arriving over Coursegoules
Launch is only a couple of hundred meters above the LZ at Greolieres, so you don't want to lose a bunch of height straight off launch, but that's exactly what we did. We grovelled around for 5 or 10 minutes before the sun returned and - with sighs of relief - we got high. We flew for a couple of hours and both made the standard XC to Coursegoules and back.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Looking over to Le Grand Coyer
We've finally had a decent dump of snow this winter. I waited patiently for a couple of days for the snow to stabilize before heading of to the medium mountains for a snowshoe hike. Blue skies, sun, snow, no wind and a big lunch on the summit - lovely!