Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall already?

A group of us went to the Women's Fly-in in Washington, one of the last (if not THE last) event of the year. Being at the end of October it's often more about seeing friends and the costume party than the flying. This year it was quite windy, but most people ended up flying once on Saturday and then grabbed a chilly flight Sunday morning before heading home.

I was trying to convince one of my friends to come but he said it made him too sad. Fall shows it's full splendor in Chelan, complete with the cold temperatures and the dim lighting in the sky that announces that autumn is here. He said that going down there reinforces that the flying season is over and he'd rather not have it shoved in his face. Fair enough. It was still fun to fly out over the lake & do a bit of acro (only to get down to warm up, of course). Heh.

We did manage to squeak in a flight here at home a few days ago between fronts. It was windy & a bit gusty on launch and even with long underwear, down jacket & balaclava I was still shivering. We played around, dodging the cloud's grabby tendrils and exploring the whole ridge in the abundant lift.

Fun, but a little sad too. That flight left no room for doubt that summer was definitely over and the only hope to find happy thermic flights is to fly far, far away.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Naming Trees

Summertime rocks. I love the sun, the heat, and the easy-going attitude everyone seems to have this time of year. The flying can be good, and even when it bakes out and you're spending your whole flight bobbing around just below launch at least it's warm & beautiful.

Last night I had a flight like that. Took off, got just above launch height & flew off to the next ridge hoping to do a mini x-c along the range. Spent 20 or 30 minutes trying to get back up to launch height & finally had to surrender and go tank up at launch. The "knob" at launch is pretty much a guarantee to get back up, but on certain days it can involve about a million passes back & forth until you can scratch your way back up. Worth it in the end but definitely an exercise in patience! Yesterday I must have spent 20 minutes trying to gain 200 metres of height, so along the way I decided to start naming the trees. After the 846th pass, I had a whole story made up. See that tall tree over there? That's Princess. She's being watched over by the evil scraggly tree Prince Na-thorn-ial. If you can fly over to rescue her she'll reward you with a beautiful thermal, but if the Prince catches you he will release the dragon & slay you & send you back to the dungeon.

Ok, so maybe I was going a little crazy, or maybe just dizzy from all those figure-8's I'd done to try and stay aloft. I could've just given up and flown out but I wanted to work on my endurance too. My goal is to do big x-c's and enter more comps, and I can't expect to stay up for 3+ hours when I'm only doing 20 minute flights in the stable air at home. So instead I'm working on improving my scratching skills, endurance & patience (and of course, my story-telling ability).

It looks like it's time for a real-life adventure. Soon. Before the trees start talking back to me!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rat Race 2009

I'm back at the Rat Race at Woodrat Mountain in Southern Oregon. Doing better than last year already, good thing since I've put in so much effort trying to improve my flying skills in the past year!

So my shiney new wing is making me fall in love with it more & more each day. I got discouraged after the first 2 competition days after not tagging a single turnpoint, but I wasn't the only one. The field was split with the top pilots getting away from the hill & a bunch of us pouting at the LZ. Day 3 they finally made the first turnpoint easy and the rest progressively harder, so those of us in the mentoring program could boost our egos by hitting at least one turnpoint, and the more experienced comp pilots were still challenged by the end. I tagged 3 turnpoints on Day 3, and even got more points than a couple of other pilots who did the same because I took a bit more risk by flying a little further down the valley before doubling back to the landing field.

Day 4 we were all pumped from a day full of personal bests, but the weather wasn't as epic as predicted. About a dozen of us sunk out, but with enough time to go back up and relaunch most of us decided to give it a second try. So glad I did! Tagged 3 turnpoints again (!) and felt like bouncing off the walls. Derek almost made goal but did something funky to his gps and missed the 3rd turnpoint by 50 meters, so he didn't get the points. What a bummer.

There are some great reasons to come to a comp: flying every day and seeing your skills progress daily, watching your confidence grow and your circle of friends increase. Unfortunately the learning curve is just that...a curve. Your skills don't go up indefinitely, and sometimes they take a dip. My dip came on day 6. I just made bad choices all day and barely left the hill, landing well within the 5 km minimum distance cylinder. A lot of pilots had personal bests and I had to face them all when they returned from their various exotic landing fields. "Sucking it up" is not something I do well. So a few others who sunk out early came into the pool at HQ and we had a Pity Pool Party. Things looked brighter after that.

I'm having my morning coffee before the last competition day. I'm hoping my learning curve swings back up and I have my best flight yet. Flying with all of these really great pilots is an amazing, invaluable experience and I'm just trying to sop up as much knowledge from them as possible before starting the drive home tomorrow. And hoping my name isn't at the very bottom of the score sheet at the end of the day. ;)

----Back home now. Last task of the comp was cancelled due to strong winds. My final standing was 8 out of 11 women, and 56 out of 65 overall. Not last, and nowhere to go now but up!!!----

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Officially an Addict

I got a new wing...3 weeks ago. And for 3 weeks I've been sick with one of those colds/coughs/sinus things that just won't go away. Still, I've managed to get 6 flights on my new Ozone Addict 2 and after yesterday's flight I can finally declare that I love it.

They say you learn something on every flight. On my Addict's 5th flight I learned that if you fly with a head cold you're not going to have much fun. Unfortunately I didn't figure that out until a week later. It was one of the most frustrating flights I ever had, like I couldn't do anything right. I was angry after landing...mad that I couldn't "figure out" my new wing...mad that I didn't bond with it right away. My emotions (that I swore would be left behind while flying...oops) resurfaced and when a couple of people asked how my new wing was I went looking for sympathy and told them. No, I didn't throw a big fit this time but did express my frustration at not being able to understand my wing.

Fast forward one week to where my head wasn't quite so stuffy. I flew yesterday and it was amazing. THAT was the flight I wanted! I sunk down to 400 metres when it shaded out and scratched my way back up over launch. My new wing turned tightly and quickly and I loved it. After landing I realized the reason my last flight had been such a struggle was because of my congested sinuses. That's why I had trouble 'understanding' my wing. It made perfect sense and I was happy to figure it out and excited about my awesome flight. Then a pilot came up to me at the LZ to congratulate me on my nice landing and see if I liked my new wing 'yet'. Since she hadn't been there to hear me moan about it my last flight I asked what she meant. She said that she heard that I was having "DHV 2-itis" and wasn't ready to fly a higher performance wing. That really bummed me out, especially since that comment came from someone who is always telling me I'm a great pilot.

So that's my rant and rave today (isn't that was addicts do?). Ranting at colds and gossip, Raving at loving my new wing. Lesson learned? Stop caring so much what other people think and just have fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Breaking Free!

I've gone and done it. I've gone and flown x-c and now want more, more, more!

Thursday afternoon we went to Bridal launch, hoping to scratch around the hill for an hour or so. Conditions seemed light and only one pilot was in the air. We took off anyway and found the one thermal working near launch (yay!) so we topped up to get high and go somewhere. Derek got up first and waited patiently for Martin & I so we could fly east together to Gloria (a small peak about 6 km from launch). When we finally groveled our way up, Martin & Derek went for it while I hung back hoping for one more thermal. I caught one (yay again!) & headed x-c while the boys came back, too low to make the trip. Crap! I'd been hoping to follow someone my first time over and all the help I got was Derek telling me on the radio that he'd found nothing but sink where I was headed. But Lady Luck (who, BTW, abandoned me in Las Vegas earlier) showed up and placed some happy little thermals along my path. So I tagged Gloria, hollered a little & flew back all by myself. It was amazing.

Two days later we're back at Bridal, although by now everyone had heard it was ON so launch was crowded. That same thermal was waiting so with my new-found confidence I hooked it and pushed east to see what the other end of this range looked like. At the 2nd ridge east of launch I was about to radio Derek to come over & show me where to fly when I saw him following one ridge behind. Due to my lack of patience and his desire to be as high as possible I still ended up leading about 90% of the time.

What a gorgeous, adrenaline-filled flight this was! I learned so much, like that the hunger for a thermal when there's no LZ beneath you is so different than the hunt for some lift when you're just bobbing around launch. We got beamed up in a mean, scary thermal that made my vario squeal and was pushing & tugging & trying to kick me out the whole time. From there it was an easy glide to Ludwig at the end of the range.

Of course as soon as I tagged it & turned around all I could think about was how bad I had to pee. It was 11 km's to the LZ so depending how often I had to slow down to thermal it could be a while until I'd be able to do anything about it! I kept my mind on making it back & waving at the 2 or 3 other pilots who were also flying towards Ludwig. A thermal took me in close to the hill and overtop of a beautiful waterfall, whose soothing sounds did NOT help the bathroom situation AT ALL.

But I made it...a 23 km out-and-return flight! Some nice congrats from other pilots on leading out (and amazement from one pilot who couldn't believe I'd done it on my 2nd x-c flight ever!)made the day even sweeter. There were fist-bumps all around (yeah, I'm trying to establish the fist-bump in Canada, heh heh) and adrenaline coursing through my blood for 3 hours after. Just when I thought I'd come down off my high I'd notice that my body was still twitching (seriously) and the words coming out of my mouth were still speeding out of control.

And I thought I was addicted to paragliding before...

p.s. Thanks to Karin for driving me to the nearest washrooms as soon as I landed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring is springy

Ah...spring. The first thermals hit and...boing...up you go! And just like a bouncy spring...thwang...down you go! It's been an interesting start to the season. I planned to out-fly everyone since I'd stayed current by getting in my sledders during the winter. Reality? Slightly different. Pilots standing on launch, nervous because they haven't even touched their wing since the fall, take off & fly x-c their first day out as I watch from the LZ of shame. WTF?

Ok, it only happened once or twice. The last time it happened though I actually threw a tantrum. A 5-year-old-denied-their-favourite-sugary-treat-type tantrum. I was close to tears as pilots were gushing to each other all around the LZ about their epic valley crossings. Luckily a calm, calm pilot began talking very gently and put everything in perspective. The details of his speech aren't necessary, let's just say the outcome was that I calmed down immediately and decided to stop being so emotionally invested in my flying.

The revelation came a bit too late though as my tantrum was fodder for some "good-natured" teasing during para-waiting moments over the next week. Ha ha, very funny everybody. :)

And even though I am not emotionally invested in my flying anymore (well, to the point of tantrums at least), I'm excited to report that my subsequent flight to the one the sink monster claimed victory to was a personal best. I flew home! Not a long flight (it was just over 8km) but it was my first time committing to the task & making it. Check one resolution off my new years list!

So...yeah...flying still makes me super-duper excited. The lessons learned this year are the basic life lessons we are presented with time and again - don't compare yourself to others, focus on your accomplishments and not your failures, always do your best. Still, it's so much easier to abide by those words after a good flight than after a bomb out!

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Year's Dreams

Happy 2009! This will surely be the year of epic flights, adventure and world travels. After last year's sub-prime local flying we all deserve it!
I'm gazing out my window to where there should be a mountain (the one that I'm launching from in the above photo) but instead there is a sheet of white hiding it that is probably dumping more snow on the hiking trail up there. Sigh. Yesterday after a c-c-cold short flight I was contemplating how absurd it is that I live in a tempermental rather than temperate climate. Really, why am I somewhere cold and have to travel to someplace warm if I want to fly? Shouldn't I live where it's warm & flyable year round and if I really want to experience some nasty weather I can hop on a plane & go there? Time to google "the best place on earth to live to fly all day in the sun". (whaddya know, there's a website called, although the only activities they classify that with are surfing, skiing, climbing and diving).
Anyway, most of the paragliding websites have their comps, fly-ins & clinics for '09 set up, and if I go to every one that I'd like to this year it should only cost roughly $568,000.00. That gives me about a month or 2 to work before I take off, so all that's left is to find a way to make half a million dollars before then!