Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rat Race - Day Seven

I am EXHAUSTED! Usually paragliding competitions are held for 7 days and they only expect about 4 to be flyable due to weather. We flew every day (except that one windy day) and my flying endurance has been pushed to a new level. Wow.

Today was a cat's cradle course around the valley landing at a local winery so that retrieve would be easy for the last day. I had to spend a lot of time over at Rabies Ridge again, we had 3 points to hit over there and I flew out to land early about 4 times because of some nasty rough patches of air. But each time I left I would end up finding a really nice, gentle thermal that would take me up high and I'd go for one more turnpoint. On my last low save of the day my friend Vikram joined me and helped map the thermal that took us high enough to get to goal together. It was so much fun flying with a friend - we were hollering at each other as we flew into goal.

Overall standings: I was 4th woman out of 10 and 18th overall out of 77 in my wing category. I'm still a little overwhelmed I made goal 2 days in a row and 3 times total this whole week after coming here for years and never making it farther than about 15 km along the course. Hopefully I can retain all the skills & knowledge I received this week and keep flying well at home.

Rat Race - Day Six

I did it again....GOAL!!!

Today's task took us over to Donato's, a local pilot's home/Landing Zone that's been a personal goal of mine to reach one day as the locals always talk about flying over there. The course was 22km from cylinder-to-cylinder and I think I was the 11th one in out of the 22 who made it in. It was a pretty good day for points so I'm sitting in the top 20 overall right now and I think I'm second woman, which is a far cry from 2nd from the bottom where I usually end up.

One of the girl's on my team threw her reserve parachute today, right when it was my turn to launch. Someone called about the deployment over the radio and although her ride down looked great it was really unnerving to watch. She threw it in a spot that's known to be fairly rough (I've seen a couple of reserve rides there over the last few years) and she supposedly landed in the only good spot around on the back of the mountain. I felt better when I heard her voice on the radio saying she was fine, but later heard they were taking her in to get checked out. One of the guys in the Race also threw today, I saw him at HQ last night so he's fine but haven't heard how my girl is.

So today was full of mixed emotions - ecstatic to make goal again but sad since I was supposed to make it there with my team mate. I did get greeted when I landed at goal by 2 other good friends who made it there first and we couldn't stop hugging & wouldn't be the same to make it to goal & not know anyone.

Alex and I beside ourselves (and each other!) at goal

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rat Race - Day Five

This one's for Veronica....the Dreaded Rabies Ridge got me again!

It was a tough day weather-wise with sharp-edged bullet thermals & no way to get high unless you had the cajones to cross to Burnt ridge low & scratch out of there. I never got high enough over launch to get to Burnt at a height that felt safe to me so I went on glide directly across the valley to Rabies with a couple of friends. We spread out to attack the ridge side-by-side so if one of us found lift the other two could also get saved, but we hit that invisible windshield right in front of it & slid down to the Hunter's landing zone. I found the 3 of us a little thermal over the LZ but the winds had picked up & the thermal just pushed us back towards Burnt low so we had to admit defeat. We weren't the only ones though, it ended up being a low-scoring day due to a lot of pilots bombing out & not many making goal (I think only 12 did).

The task was pretty exciting though - the "baby" Sprint group's task was 93km! It was a cat's cradle going to Mount Isabella behind Rabies Ridge, then back to the mountain behind launch, and then a pass over Burnt ridge. We were supposed to do the course twice then land at Longsword Vineyard, and the Race group had to do it 4 times so everyone was going to fly together. The cylinders around the Sprint's group were huge though (6 km around the 2 big mountains) so the course only ended up being around 30 km when you flew it cylinder to cylinder. We all got a big adrenaline spike looking at the task board in the morning though!

It was disappointing to not even get the first turnpoint today. There are a few of us who have made goal for the first time on different days this week and we're all pumped to do it again. With the weather and conditions switching every day you can really see who the best pilots are and it's fantastic getting to fly with the top guys. Both Nick Greece and Matt Beechinor flew their whole course plus did a tandem with local camera crews right before or after flying their races. That's a level of endurance beyond me right now, between the physical & mental workout of even trying to fly the task I can barely crawl to the keg at the end of the day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rat Race - Day Four

Not much to report today. The wind picked up progressively after the first group (Race) launched, and after most of the second group (Sprint) launched they cancelled the Sprint task. The Race continued for a while longer but was eventually stopped.

That's it. The winds are still blowing but are supposed to die off by tomorrow bringing those cooler temperatures & maybe some instability. Time to go put aloe on my sunburn...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rat Race - Day Three

The TV crew interviewing the organizer of the Rat Race

It was forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far and I'm hoping that the weatherman is right and things will cool down a little. It hit at least 35 C according to one thermometer I saw. For flying here that translates into a high pressure day, which essentially puts a lid over the whole sky squishing the thermals down and compressing all pilots into a zone 1000 feet high over launch. Not a lot of room when there are over 80 of you in the air at once!

The film crew who caught me getting into goal were on launch today and right after the pilots meeting they came over to interview me. They asked some good questions and I think I answered about 80% of them fairly professionally. The other 20% of the time I was a total spazz so hopefully they edit it enough to keep me from looking like a complete dork, ha ha. It was kind of funny, every time I turned around on launch there they were - filming me hanging with the girls, setting up my gear, and then they followed me all the way through the launch line. Just before I took off the camera man ran to the edge to get footage of me taking off and flying over him. Luckily I had a good launch and climbed out pretty quickly.

Only 4 people made goal today and no, I wasn't one of them. It was hard flying - only 31 pilots out of 83 got beyond the 5 km minimum, and only 17 of them got into double digits for distance. It was challenging in a fun way though, I had a great crossing to Burnt, a few low saves & just missed the Rabies turn point. The guy in front of me who dove in to the cylinder ended up with the same points as me so that's a nice validation of my decision to not push in there low and potentially end up in a tree or outlanding on the ridge, which happened to about 5 people today.

Overall I'm doing pretty well, definitely my best results so far. I'm 5th out of 10 women (CJ is beating me by 1 point!) and 27 out of 83 over all. There are still 4 days of flying left, plenty of time to accumulate more knowledge and put it to use.

My view of the first turn point (Burnt Ridge). Lots of gliders below me still at this point!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rat Race - Day Two

Goal beer!

Well I've completely redeemed myself from yesterday...I made goal today! Todays task was harder & longer than yesterday with a lower inversion ceiling, and I still managed 3rd place woman and 14th out of 83! And if anyone doesn't believe me, it's all documented on TV.

A tv program (Oregon Field Guide? I think) is here to do a documentary-style show on paragliding. There was talk this morning of the tv crew wanting to fly the race on tandem while filming and explaining how it works, strategy, etc. I had forgotten all about it until landing at goal. After touching down & walking towards the other pilots packing up, one of my friends recognized me & started cheering. I let out a "woohoo! first time at goal!" and as I turned to put my wing down there was a tv camera in my face. So embarrassing, especially when they interviewed me right away & I was babbling a million miles a minute. But still cool that my first time in goal is well documented.

The flight itself was about 30 km and for those who know the area the task was Woodrat-Rabies-Burnt-Rabies and then a new landing zone near Purcell (in the valley on the way to Applegate Lake). With each valley crossing I was sure I'd sink out, but just kept repeating my mantra of the day "Never Leave Lift". It was really hard to battle my natural impatient instincts of just flying on when I feel I'm "high enough". I have to thank Sandy who I overheard on launch...he'd said that if he got over 6000 feet he would go directly to goal from Rabies without stopping to tank up at Woodrat. Little tidbits like that are invaluable and the reason I fly here with my vario set to feet (even though the course is measured in metric). I actually got my best climb of the day right after the last turnpoint (actually over China Gulch) and when my altitude read over 6200 ft I held my breath, stepped on my speed bar (which I had a good talking to before launch) and flew down the valley towards goal.

Of course my camera batteries died as soon as I tried to get a picture (boo!) but that's the worst thing that happened to me all day. I think I can handle the disappointment :)

Rat Race - Day One

Stupid stupid stupid.


On the bright side, I got all my stupid mistakes out on the first day & have 6 more flying days to redeem myself.

I wasn't even rushed on launch. I was one of the last people to take-off because I wanted to just have a good flight & make goal on the first day and not get caught up in the "racing" and bomb out. Had a perfect take off, found a thermal right away and took it to 700 meters/2000 feet over launch. After topping out I noticed I was kind of uncomfortable in my seat & tried to grab my stirrup to adjust, but that didn't help. It felt like something was digging into my was my speedbar. Somehow I hadn't noticed that my leg loop had been threaded through the first step of my bar when I took off and now there was nothing I could do about it. Well, I briefly considered undoing one leg strap at a time to release it but falling out of my harness sounded like a worse option than flying around uncomfortably.

By now I had lost some height from losing focus but thought I was still high enough to make the first crossing. I hadn't realized how much I relied on my speedbar until I hit some massive sink & couldn't speed up to get out of there. That, and there was no way I was going to arrive high enough at the next ridge without my bar. So boo-hoo I landed at the field below take-off and chalked it up to experience. At least I'd gotten out of the start cylinder, and I was interested in downloading my flight to see what my flight looked like anyway.

That brings me to my gps. Somehow while fiddling with it I changed a very important setting. It must have happened yesterday since it was working perfectly in France. The way pilots are scored in a comp is that each person flies with a gps, is given a course to fly and then the tracklog is recorded on the gps so the scorekeepers can see that you hit all the points. The tracklog "drops" a point on the map every few seconds & you get a little trail. Somehow I changed my setting to record a point every 30 hours instead of 3 seconds so there wasn't even a flight to download!

Things could be worse. I could've made goal & not had the gps record it. The beer keg could've run out. I could've ended up in a tree (but that guy still did better than me today). Looking at the scores, a lot of people seemed to have bombed out within the 5km start cylinder so I'm not alone at the bottom of the list. And the best thing about being in last place (with 40 other people) is that there's nowhere to go but up!

Scores will be posted here for the Sprint:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rat Race - Practice Day

Life has continued to be an adventure since coming home from Europe. We got home around 11pm on Sunday night, and then Monday afternoon while I was sipping tea, doing laundry & planning on doing nothing but recovering from jet lag I got a call from Jim saying to come over to Woodside to fly a tandem for him. The passengers ended up bailing, but over the next 2 days I did 3 tandems, including one (see link below) with a new student. You can hear Jim on the sidelines calling at him not to sit down, and the student's wife laughing at him:

As for the flying, the Rat Race is split into 2 groups this year - the "Race" for the big dogs and the "Sprint" for those newer to competition who want a shorter course. We tried a practice task yesterday to see how it would all work - there was rain in the valley but the Race group launched anyway. Shortly after they cancelled the task for the Sprint pilots but some still chose to fly down, and the Race task was stopped soon after as the winds started gusting from the passing showers.

The organizers of this event are continuing with the mentoring program they offer every year and have educational talks scheduled each night. I'm hoping to learn a lot from all the super pilots who are flying here this week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Last Day and a Task!

Midway through my last flight in Provence

Hooray! We got to fly on the last day of our competition. It was looking dicey in the morning as the wind was already starting to blow, but our meet organizers were determined to get us a flight...well all of them except for Mark who said he would 'eat his shorts' if a task was called and was forced to do exactly that at the party Friday night...

With a strong-ish wind setting up we went to a site called Buc which is a lovely west-facing ridge across from Sederon. We had to wait for the sun to reach launch so most pilots hiked up, and we were lucky enough to have our wings driven to the top. Soon a 33km task was called with goal back at HQ and as soon as the launch window opened pilots filled the air. It's kind of crazy when you're used to a "busy" day flying in Canada being a dozen people and to all of a sudden be faced with about 90 other pilots in the air.

I was lucky enough to get a good thermal near launch & climbed up & away from the madness. My personal goals today included (1) not sinking out; (2) trying to stick with a gaggle instead of getting impatient & flying off too early on my own and (3) flying further than I did on the first task. Oh, and not to have the lowest score amoung Team Canaf because we made a small wager that the team member with the lowest points of the day had to buy the beer.

So for a little over 18 km I was able to meet all of my personal goals. I did end up flying away from the gaggle and almost dirted, but a low save over my planned landing zone (the light patch you see near the bottom right of the picture) got me back up high enough to make it to the next little valley. 18 km isn't a really long flight in paragliding (especially in a competition) so I was sure that my wallet was going to be a little lighter back at HQ. But while waiting on the side of the road for the retrieve bus I was passed by 3 vans full of paragliders, and as they passed I saw 2 of my team mates. That made the wait a LOT more tolerable, hee hee. It turns out a lot of people got foiled by the shade and my flight was good enough that I ended up having the 2nd highest score out of the (10) women that day, a personal best for me!

Our Venezuelan team mate won the day in our group by landing 1km from goal (go Emilio!) and the day's flying was soon forgotten as the party got going and the raffle started. Ozone had donated tons of prizes including the most coveted...a crispy new paraglider. I was so close - they pulled my name right after they gave the wing to someone else! I happily ran to the front anyway to accept my prize from the mayor who was having fun pulling names from the hat. In proper French tradition kisses were dispensed along with a "C'est bon!" from his honour when I remembered the right amount of cheek turns (3 kisses if you're in Provence, FYI). I proudly walked out with my cozy fleece beach blanket, which joined my other prize of an Ozone wallet. Chrissi & I had both won prizes for our walk down the mountain on Thursday and got a hilarious speech from Jockey about being abandoned orphans on the mountain.

We're now homeward-bound to rest up for a few days, do some laundry & pack everything up again for 10 days at the Rat Race Competition in Oregon. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends again but already miss the new ones I made here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Day Five (no task)

Another day of excessive wind! So far on this trip we experienced the "boora" wind in Croatia, the "foehn" in Germany and now the "mistral' in France. They're calling it a petite Mistral because it's only blowing 40 km/hr instead of 100 so I guess we're lucky. We sat on launch until about 4pm today until they gave us the option of going back to HQ or hiking to a nearby ridge. Chrissi & I decided to go down (the ones who went to the other site didn't end up flying either), but we made our descent a great adventure.

A handful of us were going to have to wait for the next round of shuttle buses, so Chrissi & I decided to hike down with our gliders to the main road. We saw 2 guys heading down ahead of us, and since we'd have to wait an hour anyway it made sense to meet the bus at the bottom. It ended up being an hour and a half hike down! The 2 guys in front met us about half way down and gallantly offered to take our wings since they'd sent theirs down in a van. Turns out they were in the Navy & hiking around with heavy packs is nothing for them so we quickly handed over our gear and made some new friends.

We've made the most of our no fly days - yesterday I got to sit in a new pod harness that hasn't hit the market yet (a prototype Advance Impress 3) and tonight we got 2 other sneak peaks. First, Russ Ogden from Ozone did an awesome slide show/Q&A on the process of designing gliders, and then Jockey Sanderson gave us a look at the trailer for his Security in Flight 2 video. Very cool stuff in the paragliding world!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Day Four (no task)

We were a lot more hopeful today. The clouds weren't as thick this morning, and as soon as the 9:30 briefing was over we were sent off to a different launch in Sederon as it has a better North facing launch. An hour later we arrived at launch and our earlier optimism waivered - cloudbase was about 100 meters over launch and actually touching down in places.

Looks good - you go first!

It was still early, not even noon yet so we huddled for warmth & waited. A task was set back towards Laragne but we couldn't start until the clouds lifted enough to cross over the ridge to the first turnpoint. The skies cleared a bit so a start time was announced, but 5 minutes before take-off the task committee put us on hold. There was a huge dark cloud dumping rain on the task line. With this news we sat down & ate our creative lunches and watched the winds pick up on launch. The task was eventually cancelled but pilots were free to fly in the valley in front of launch instead of driving down.

Chrissi & I braving the June weather

Chrissi got a nice flight, but Derek & I waited a bit too long and the winds kept increasing and yanking pilots off launch, so we rode down in the warmth and luxury of the shuttle bus. Rumour is about a dozen pilots flew the task anyway, so if the weather ends up repeating itself tomorrow we're likely to have a similar task. We've only got 2 more days of flying here before heading back towards Munich and home to Canada...time flies even when you don't!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Day Three (no task)

It's raining again. I feel like a real comp pilot now - it seems every time there's a flying competition anywhere in the world it rains, gets blown-out or some crazy rare weather phenomenon rears it's head.

So there's a bit of gloom around our place today. I'm bummed for 2 is that I was really looking forward to flying again today and improving on what I did yesterday - you always seem to do better if you can fly a few days in a row and build on what you learned. Secondly, I found out I only flew about 9 km and not the 12km it looked like at download yesterday. Not a big deal but enough to add salt to the wound of another rain day. Sigh.

But we get free pizza & paella tonight courtesy of the competition and we are in the land of cheap yet delicious wine, so things can only get better. And Team Canaf's standing will definitely improve this week as we all sat in on Jockey's talk on thermalling this morning after the soggy weather briefing. Hooray, there's a ray of optimism making it's way through the grey skies of Laragne!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Day Two, Task 1

Looking like a great day to fly.

For the first time in a few days we woke up to the sound...of it NOT raining. Yay! The weather forecast at the morning meeting actually sounded better than it looked today. The clouds were building all around us but the prognosis was for the clouds to have a ceiling on top so they wouldn't turn into monsters. With that we loaded up in the buses and hung out on launch for an hour or so waiting for all the pilots to arrive. A task of close to 40 km was announced with a start time of 12:30. The great thing about this "competition" is that it's a learning venue and the organizers discuss how & why they choose each turn point, how the task may change if the weather does, and also the best way to fly the course. Everyone was optimistic about the day even though the clouds near turn point were starting to grow. At 12:25 they put the task on hold and removed the 2nd turn point to shorten the course to just over 28 km and avoid the ominous clouds in that direction. Fifteen minutes later the race started and paragliders started peeling off launch. It was awesome to watch and there wasn't any hurry to get in the thick of it since the task was an "elapsed start", which means each pilot is timed from the point they reach the start cylinder and you're not racing against everyone at the same time.

By the time Derek, Chrissi and I launched, the clouds had grown & were starting to shade things over a bit. I flew towards the first turn point even though my rational mind kept telling me to fly the other direction, as I usually don't head over to the dark side...

Heading towards Entry/First Turn point (dark peak straight ahead). Scary!

The second I reached the first turn point I turned & fled back into the sun. This was now the crux of the course...a long glide to the next point across the valley. The trick was to fly up high, as close to the clouds as you dared and then connect with the sunny ridge that would lead you to the goal field. I landed about half way across (getting around 12 kms total around the 29 km course) which I'm happy with. I stayed in some thermals that normally would have sent me running away when I hit the sides of them and had a nice, safe landing near the main road. Actually, I thought the landing was going to be the most adrenaline-filled part of the day! As I was setting up in a nice field away from powerlines & trees (which ate 7 gliders yesterday) I saw 2 German Shephard-looking dogs running around. After touching down I immediately left the field & crossed the road to pack up so they wouldn't attack me. They came running over anyway...because they wanted some pats on the head. Seriously, they would barely leave me alone to pack up and kept pressing their heads on my leg the way dogs do who want some lovin'. One of them even walked with me all the way to the main road (a 10 minute walk) and waited with me until the retrieve bus came. Paragliding in Provence is turning out to be even better than I hoped.

Attack Dog (only if you don't pet him)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Day One


That's about all I can say about today. The day was called early, at least that's what we thought David said as we could barely hear him over the rain pounding on the roof of the HQ tent! Tomorrow looks a lot more promising though, with the weather improving all week. So the 3 of us rooming together spent the day reading, drinking coffee and resting up for the big xc to come starting tomorrow.

There was talk this morning of a local amateur astronomer coming to HQ to do a talk/picture show this afternoon, so if it's not too cold & rainy we may go check it out. It's going to be hard to leave our room though - it's been such a lovely, lazy Sunday and we've all turned into sloths! We may need some of that famous French coffee to peel us off the couches today.

Au revoir until tomorrow...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ozone Chabre Open - Practice Day

Chabre launch, Laragne France

We woke up to a very grey practice day here in Laragne for the Ozone Chabre Paragliding Open. Nevertheless we got ourselves organized and ready to be at HQ by 9:30 for the pilots meeting, hopeful that the sun might come out long enough to get at least a quick intro flight at this new site. I had quite a bad headache so popped an ibuprofen before leaving our place, and on the drive over could see cloud base was about 5 meters off the ground so took a couple more, figuring there was no point in having a screaming headache AND not being able to fly.

At the meeting, organizer Brian read us the weather report (which actually didn't sound quite so bad with his English accent). "Forecast - cloudy...with more clouds as the day goes on...with embedded CuNims...oh, and a dose of hail for good measure". A lot of booing ensued and we voted to hang around for 15 minutes before calling the day off completely. You know...just in case. Sure enough the clouds parted right above us & people started getting excited. Maybe 100 pilots believing that the weather will improve can actually make it happen!

Brian & Mark then told us that even though they were 95% sure we wouldn't be able to fly we could go up to launch & "have a look". Ten minutes later we were all in the shuttle buses making our way up. Once at launch, pilots immediately started prepping their kits and laying claim to their launch space while Derek & I looked around trying to figure out where the landing zone was. Another newbie to Laragne was getting a site intro so I listened in, and the local kept repeating, "if you're going to land at the bail-out make sure you don't set up too far downwind. Lots of pilots end up in those trees". Shakespeare would have called that foreshadowing...

Soon the meet organizers were also on launch & gave us an unofficial task - 17 km, 2 or 3 turnpoints, just to make sure we had all our gear sorted out and short enough to get us on the ground again before the storm came in. To be honest, the weather at this point looked beautiful with blue skies and puffy white clouds. The first 20 or so pilots launched & besides a couple of lucky ones most of them sunk to the bailout field...with one landing in a tree right beside the field. Derek was flying/landing in that first bunch, but luckily (?) for me I was duffing launches all over the place and gave myself a time out to figure out why. It was like I was drunk or something...or maybe the 3 Advil I'd taken less than an hour ago had kicked in? Sheesh, that was it!

After a little break and seeing pilots were now thermalling a bit over launch, I had a nice takeoff and joined a few other gliders out front. I got 200 meters over, but was still feeling a little off so figured I'd head out to the bailout with everyone else and call it a day. We weren't getting scored today anyway so it was an easy decision. As I was coming in to land another pilot was close behind me with big-ears on, so I was surprised when 30 seconds after touching down that the red wing hadn't landed yet. I heard a shriek and then - crash!!!- right into the trees beside the landing field again. She was ok and could easily climb to the ground, but it looked like it would take a long time to rescue the wing from the tree. Then as we were piling into one of the vans to go back to HQ, another wing came in really low over the trees that lined the road into the field. We all started shouting as it looked like he was going to land right on/into the van, but he turned at the last minute to land right in front of another tree! We helped get him out as paragliders rained into the landing zone. The "task" had been stopped as the clouds were now moving in so everyone was landing at once, and sure enough the skies opened about 40 minutes later and gave us (well are still giving us!) an impressive lightening show.

Spot the glider in the trees!

Looks like more rain for tomorrow, but rumour has it Monday will be flyable. Despite the tree magnetism today, a handful of people made goal or got close and this really does seem like a great site to fly. Hopefully everyone will take away their lessons learned during the brief window today and the rest of the competition will involve a lot less vegetation :)