Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hike & Fly with the Skywalk Flex harness

George (from Thermal Addict Airsports) offered me his Skywalk Flex harness to demo when he heard I was planning a hike and fly up to Bridal Falls take off.  The hike up is 750 metres, so anything to make my pack lighter was a welcome idea, especially since I haven't done a hike and fly in about 4 years!

When he showed me how to reverse the harness to turn it into the back pack, I couldn't believe that both my wing and the front mount parachute would fit inside.  But by using all the pockets I fit my wing, reserve, full camelback of water and accessories (keys, wallet, phone)…plus I put my lunch, radio, gps and gloves in my helmet which easily strapped on top.  Awesome!

Luckily my friend Martin had already hiked 2 days in a row so he wanted to go slowly.  Perfect.  We stopped at a waterfall for a break about 2/3 of the way up, but that's the only time I took off my pack.  Even at the top I noticed my shoulders didn't hurt at all like they usually do after (or during) a hike - the shoulder and hip straps on the backpack were very comfortable, and the shape of the bag distributes the weight perfectly.

My little pack on the left.  Martin behind me filling up his bottle at the waterfall.

After a quick rest up top the wind started blowing in so it was time to launch.  I had my Skywalk Cayenne 4 to pair with the Flex, along with George's front mount reserve.  Launching was easy with the split leg harness and there was no fussing around to "get into" my harness after take-off.

The biggest (coolest) difference I noticed with the harness was the feedback on thermals - the split leg/hammock design makes it incredibly easy to know which way to turn when you hit a thermal.  My one hip would noticeably rise up while the other dropped so -boom- turn to the high side and you're in the thermal.  It was a stable day with an inversion not much higher than launch, so getting that immediate feedback helped me stay up over an hour.  In fact I could have stayed up for much longer, but after that hike…well…let's just say I'm not an X-Alps athlete and I was beat.  Easy landing and after an energy drink I even contemplated doing the hike again tomorrow (what was in that can? ha ha).

I'm excited to demo the Skywalk Range Air when they ship out, it's their hike and fly pod equipped with an airbag that folds down super small by the looks of the photo.  The Flex has a removable airbag as well, something that is missing from a lot of other hike and fly harnesses.  Personally I don't care how smooth the air is on a morning flight…I prefer to have back protection every time I fly.

With another hot streak of weather predicted, more hike and fly trips are definitely on the radar.  Leave a comment if you want to come along next time!