Monday, November 5, 2012

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Birds of a Feather

Going through last years pictures.
Steve, Chris, Doc and Conrad at Saddle. Lots of air time in this pic.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Down Time

October, November and December are down time for flying. We will get a few good North days for Saddle and Kiona if we are lucky but most of the time is spent on the computer. -

For those who are dreaming of January fun make sure you check out leonardo for flight logs and youtube for lots of videos. - I have been going through my 300 some videos to make some play lists for general consumption . - Edit out the redundant and highlight my favorites.

I am still up in the air regarding plans for this winter. - Suggestions?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ok I didn't quit

I didn't quit but the hot air of early August has been giving me fits. - I gave up on a mother load on Chelan on Saturday and have been having a hard time getting my mind in the game.

Today was better with a sweet little flight to the west on the North Side of Lake Chelan.

Later this week maybe a big flight in the Cascades.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Holy S.....

And then there is the Holy S.....

Pardon the French but the mix beer and oxi's are taking effect. So just a note for those who are watching - I quit paragliding today! - It happened at about 5 grand over Baldy. - It has been fun but I'm done!

Mer, Dave, Jeff Smith and I attacked the hill with confidence and solid team work. - We found a down driver who left early, so we were stuck on the hill or hike down.  - Conditions were obviously strong. - Yesterday report was of massive up in sweet smooth thermals. - Would today should be more of the same!.

Conditions on launch were solid N with the promise of a switch to the SW when the bowl started to cook. - Smith and Gene were late,  Gene so late that he bailed. - It was all their fault. - LOL - so anyway N with lulls at 12:15 - Clouded out as the big CU builds above the Butte. - It is going to switch. - And like a clock it does - the CU moves NE ant the SW flow starts but it does so with a series of  mega dusties that run up and over the W ridge. - Multiple jump on wings to keep them down.

 Where to set up. - Dave asked  "If this were a comp where would you set up?" my answer - W launch.  - so....  15 minutes later there I was in the heart of the beast!

Cycles were, well not cycles anymore just thermic flow with periodic lulls. - Jeff was watching as I set for launch. - LULL where are you.  I made two pull up attempts in lulls but the wing just spun, once to the West and once to the East. - OK no lull launch - lets try an end of cycle launch. - (this is not at P2 game), up over, stable, drive, and pluck, and 300 ft vertical in 2.5 seconds! - Wham bam thank you mam. - Series of 8s and I was coring up to 5k.

I made a quick call to Jeff recommending he do it different, like S launch which was firming up. I skied and found myself at 5200 in what felt to be the strongest Baldy Bullet I have ever encountered - the vario tape doesn't agree but I was convinced at the time and pushed out.

The others, intrepid or dense, launched without event. As they were launching I had determined that I was done. - I found a bit of nice sink just NE of the S LZ and lazily cored sink till my feet were on the ground.

Wheels landed in the N LZ  unwilling to do battle either. - Jeff and Mer finally had their fill at the end of the canyon landing near the truck stop. -

VERY BIG AIR TODAY -  ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! - my hats off to the other three, well done and well quit!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sky High

Dateline Chelan: Hot, Hot, very Hot. After a reasonable practice day the Open was underway today.

This year I have the honor and the anxiety of being “boy weather.” Calling the weather for a comp is more stressful than I had imagined. It is quite important to get many elements right so that the task committee can make a good task call. They have done their own weather but I had to dig deep to make wind calls and lift calls that help the task committee make their task call.

As the day progressed things were not working out. – Lift on launch was just not there. – It was hot and stable with winds out of the NE – The NE had been discussed as a likely dynamic but the stable nature of the day was a bit of a surprise. Top of usable lift was right on at about 12,000 ft on the flats but the lift was very slow at the Butte and didn’t top much above 7,500 which was meager at best for the river crossing.
Stinking High! - view from 12,000ft

A great deal of effort and skill was expended by those who made it up and onto the flats. Once established the reward of solid and enjoyable climbs to between 10,500 and 12,000 ft were common but not universal.

The challenge of launch was predicted and came to pass. – Many were challenged by the light and switchy cycles. – Hot and switchy – some spent more that an hour and a half trying to get off launch.

I determined to wait for the best of the day, likely just a bit late but I did climb out to 6,700 without much effort and then with a lifty line got deep on the rim above some very good friends who had found a little squeeker that was working. – I was able to center on them and boost out to well over 10,000 and slide up north and inland on a fine track that took me to lift gaining and passing 12,000ft. – Just lovely high.

I didn’t find the house thermal SW of Bridgeport so I ended on a terminal glide to a landing about 45k short of goal. – 2.75 hrs of nice clean work – much less effort than most. I made up by working hard at retrieve but from inside of the AC cooled van. Apologies’ to those who had to wait for us – it was a mega hot wait / hike for some.

All in all the weather turned out to be just about as predicted, (except the stable Butte climb) max altitude was dead on and the NE winds were challenging as expected on launch although the Strong S at altitude and late didn’t really quite manifest itself, though we did get a very nice task with 5 in goal and a good distribution over the coarse. – I scored 21st or so which is great for me. Much better than my stellar 60th at the Rat race.

Storms tomorrow?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paul -- what were you thinking

In an effort to get his restricted lz sign off Paul Moyes makes a strategic blunder followed by a luckier than shit, stupidly planned, skillfully executed, we are happy he made it, landing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What a Whack

Wow that was a whack!

Just behind the lead gaggle at Isabella about 12 k on course Frank and I linked up in a strong thermal at about 5,000ft. We were just in the process of finding the center. He was 90 degrees off my right wing tip 200 feet away when he took a massive outside asymmetric. It was well over 75% with the tip half way down his lines. The wing created enough drag that he lost most all his forward momentum and as he dropped the wing popped open but it was parachutal with a 10 to 20% tip cravat.

The wing now began a snake dance above his head. I saw one big surge and one partial to full twist up but then the wing was back over head. I don’t know if this was before or after Frank stalled the wing in an effort to restart. My bet is that his twist up was while he was stalling the wing and the surge followed the release of his intentional stall.

It was at this point I got my camera around to pick up a few shots of his recovery effort and reserve opening.

In any event after his stall and surge the wing was back over head and horseshoed. The tips almost touched then the wing opened again and snaked. A total of 30 to 35 seconds passed between the asymmetric and his deployment. It is hard to say but it looked to me that the wing had just started to fly as the reserve bag was fully out. Frank indicated that he felt the same.

The deployment was very strong, the bag went straight out and it opened quickly. He tossed with enough height that his reserve ride was 7 to 10 seconds depending on whose clock you use.

The landing was safe for frank but not for his wing. – Check out the tree! Photo by Reaper.  

Quick post from the Rat Race

A silly little noisy video to prove I was in the air.

Sorry for the delay in getting a Blog post up for the Rat Race.  As usual there is more to do down here than fits in a day and it is a bit of a challenge to do the blog and everything else. I also got a minor bug and a corisponding sore thoat/cough. Even when I had a moment I was not feeling up to “working.”

Great weather so far for the racing. Day two and three in particular. We were skied out with opportunity to touch the clouds. Yesterday I got to 8,800ft or so and was happy with my flight. – Happy that is until I saw the results. The task was a big push out to Grant’s Pass area, about 26k, and then up I5 to the Medford valley and Jacksonville then back into the Applegate with a run towards the dam. A big flight but a good number made it. Lots of pilots made it farther than I, 57 in fact.

My cumulative score for the first 3 days of competition is 57 out of 86. This was not the results I was hoping for but the tape is the tape. Yesterday I learned that I must push harder faster. Reviewing video I spent way too much time tanking up on the way to the pass and not enough time pushing speed bar and flying fast.

The best part of the day was the start. I was at cloud base and right on the edge of the start cylinder at go time but because of 400fpm lift I hung around at 7,000 ft for 3 or 4 turns and the whole pack just left me. – Go figure.

The crew here is doing a great job dealing with the large number of pilots and I haven’t heard many complaints. But there is a saying in paragliding. “If the weather is good the pilots won’t complain.”

Today I hope to do much better but we will have to see. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Packing begins today. Still up in air regarding travel day, either Friday or Saturday.
Slipped into a slot at Fiasco's camping so I am pumped about being closer to the action this year. - I am sure I will be visiting Buckley Cantrell but it will be great to hang with Dave and the guys.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Rat Begins

This year the there are two concerns as we get closer to the Rat. - 1. Weather, it isn't looking that grand at the moment. - 2. Pilot Pile up, 175 in the air + maybe more. - A number of pilots are taking a wait and see attitude or just not planning on flying. - Too many wings for safety is the thought. - We will see how it all shakes out.

As for me, I am looking at going down late and missing practice day flying. - I am pulling a trailer for Brian Webb, which I pick up today. - As for the late take off, it has to do with the fact that Flying looks great on Friday here and I will watch and see - we may have mega flights at Chelan - A great warm up and start to a month of flying. -

Yesterday I had my best North flight at Tiger a 20k or so flight towards Duval/Carnation. Learned importance of wave surfing compression thermals.  - More on that later.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kiona (Benton City, WA) to Boardman OR

It doesn't happen very often but every once in a while the conditions set up for a nice flight from the North to the South. Those days are often hard to predict so I don't always make the call broadly. Thursday was that kind of day.

Early in the week the lift profile for Thursday along with projected light winds made it the one to plan for. I put out some ticklers for the sky gods but didn't get much action on my rod. The day before still no takers and in the AM even my close buds decided the chance of OD/Wet was too great to make the trip from the Wet Side.

Undeterred I tweeted my plans for 11:30 at the Rock and headed for Baldy. - I didn'teven entered the canyon. From the Selah cut I could see launch was already shaded over in ODing skies and it was only 11:15.

I turned around and headed for Bob's Bump figuring: maybe the run away from clouds, North to South could start there. On launch I made this little pondering video:

My call was to pass on Bob's

Thinking about how the fast the clouds were growing and how large they were so early reminded me of Gordon Grice's comment on having made a similar run in possibly similar conditions:" I should have died! "

Timidity being the better part of valor I headed South for Kiona figuring the lower Columbia might be lest developed. This was a good call.

The drive took just over an hour and as I went the sky filled from North to South. On launch at Kiona I looked out at filling skies, the run from Bob's Bump would have been great but I just didn't want to risk running scared all day.

By the time I was set up on HG launch Doug Hoffman had arrived and we were off. Doug and I took turns heading out but he had the better day from my perspective. I pimped a fair chunk. We were together until we made the Columbia. He headed East and I went West and just ducked under the 3,500ft MOA at Boardmen as I crossed the Columbia into Oregon.

One more item checked off on my bucket list. And another site record, that is till Doc breaks it, which won't take long. - The video is a little over 10 minutes long. - Enjoy the clouds.


P.S. My second clinic is full and the list has starting for clinic #3 to be held in August, likely the weekend of the 11th. e-mail if interested in Thermal Theroy and XC flying. 8 hrs of classroom and two days on the hill and in the air - $220. - Max 5-6 Pilots. New personal best this season guaranteed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Winatchee Reprise - take 4

While it is not a cake walk the Colockum is becoming more familiar territory. - Monday brought great skies, though it was a surprise. Winds were forecast to be outside the viable range but that was not the case. We had fine lift and nice winds with a great convergence line set up just West of the Columbia.  - Flight level to 10,700 ft MSL. 4hr 11 minutes, 75k.

Flight Video
Leonardo Flight Track

Hope you enjoy the video and flight information. - Keep on Flying High.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


In my first flight report on last Saturday I indicated what a great day we had. Good flying and periods of good wind. - This post is THE REST OF THE STORY.

My initial weather predictions indicated a great day was on the way. However, Saturday morning the winds both observed and predicted began to show a more troubling trend. I posted these revelations indicating a bit more concern along with the prediction of "strong" conditions. If pilots received both weather reports or not I don't know but I will say that Saturday morning I was more concerned about conditions than I was Friday afternoon.

When Steve Thibault and I arrived at launch winds were gusty and clearly out of the North West. The flag at Mattawa indicated strong West winds. Winds I observed near Yakima were strong North and winds in route to the hill varied from calm to strong. Most troubling for me was the measured winds on the top of Rattlesnake: North at 53. The combination of very strong upper level winds with quite variable observations on the surface suggested potentially challenging conditions at Saddle.

A note on winds. - Observed winds at Saddle launch are notoriously unreliable. The only way to know if you have prevailing NW, N or NE conditions is to be out in front and in the air. For this reason if NW winds are suspected I suggest Saddle be treated as a P3-P4 site until someone has launched and you can tell wind are not strong NW through the observation of the wind dummies penetration to the West. The most enjoyable winds for Saddle are N to NNE. Strong NE to ENE and strong NW to WNW can be difficult to dangerious.

I took a fair amount of time on the hill before launching. During that time I experienced a number of squirrelly collapses in kiting configuration, this was from the NW induced rotor. I even packed it in for 20 minutes or so to wait for the West to die off or to switch more North. When I finally did launch I told those on launch that I though the winds were squirrelly. Launch was fine but as soon as I got out in front, just a bit, the West induced side hill rotor became significant and the sharp edges of the strong lift didn't help matters. I pushed out to clear from the turbulence and found slightly better conditions. - For future reference: If I don't come back to top land and report nice conditions following an initial launch at Saddle newer pilots might want to think twice about launching.

Unfortunately I had not performed a radio check prior to launch so my calls back to the hill recommending that people wait went either unheard or unheeded. I called 3 or 4 people on my cell but didn't get through, they were either in the air or were not answering. Steve joined me about 10 minutes into my flight and watched as I got plucked by unseen forces at a rate of 5 mps straight up. That is 1000 fpm vertical for our friends in Reo Linda. At one moment we were 200 feet from each other and the next I we had 1,200 feet of vertical seperation.

The combination of very strong lift - West winds and spring conditions was enough for me, and as it turned out it enough for Steve as well. We both headed way out front, away from the hill, and eventually to the LZ.

When it comes to rowdy conditions both Steve and I have been there and done that and tend to only invest in such conditions when there is something to be gained. Saturday was not one of those days and we both cashed it in while we had a bit of change in our pockets.

Unreported till now was the fight we both had to battle setting up for our landings. Saddle, on strong days, 14-20mph N, can create a very large and deep lift band. This is due to the size of the hill. - The wind has nowhere to go and bunches up, vertical lift can be found low as 150 feet AGL and as far out as Crab Creek Rd., 1/4 mile from the hill. If you add spring thermic conditions, lots of little fast sharp thermals it can be very difficult to get down to set up to land. - There can be significant turbulence when trying to get through and below the lift boundary layer 150 to 250 feet above the LZ.

Above this layer you can find yourself parked in lift and unable to penetrate. I know one pilot who quit flying paragliders after descending through and experiencing this condition/effect. The best solution when faced with this low level inability to descend is to either execute nicely pressurized spirals or use big ears if spirals are not in your tool kit. Both Steve and I were very happy to be safe on the ground and not very happy or at least a little concerned to see that 6 pilots were now in the air.

Fortunately after we landed the winds shifted more to the N and NE making both conditions on top and in the LZ better than when we had launched. Most experienced pilots were able to top land near mid day without incident but there was one serious low level collapse (photo above) near launch and one reported landing very deep in the rotor zone behind the saddle between launch and the East towers. I assume that the first pilot had not be briefed about West rotor from the bowl associated with NW winds and the second pilot got pushed back setting up too high and deep for a standard East approach to top landing and couldn't penetrate. He had a good landing but the last pilot havign a similar penetration issues there took a total collapes at 30 feet and was very lucky and very sore for several weeks.

As a responce to these two, fortunately non-injury events, I made a short video/site orientation that I hope will be helpful. It doesn't contain rocket science but it may help all of us make wise and informed flight decisions in the future.

For what it is worth: Spring is here, conditions can be very strong and change very rapidly. Fly cautiously rather than aggressively at least until you have be frightened once or twice.

Your Chicken Hearted Preacher, Dave.

P.S. Put the weekend of May 18-20th on your calandar. I will be presenting a Weather, Thermal and XC clinic. We will have class room theory along with guided Eastern Washington XC fun. It will be pay to play but I hope it will provide a good value and help us all become better pilots.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Long Flight Video

While in Nepal YouTube sent me a message letting me know that my account had been opened for long videos. No more 15 minute limits. So in honor of that I am posting most of a cross country flight from Sirkot to Dicki Danda. There are a couple of breaks/holes in the video during the first leg, about 5 - 7 minutes of two glides were not recorded. The first the glide into the Bundi complex and the second leaving Bundi and gliding across the lake.

If you look hard you can see the full transition. This video is for those who want to see what paragliding in Nepal is like, the terain, thermals, vultures, landing options and fellow paragliders.

You will also get to hear some of the dopeyist bad singing on the internet near the end of the flight. Enjoy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Everyone Has Their Price



(You Choose)

The trek continues. Some 50 hours ago I began the herculean effort to return to my love. It actually began the prior day as we heard rumors of a general strike by the Maoist in Nepal. The strike, of unknown purpose, was set to start at 7:00 A.M. would impact all motorized transportation except airplanes. I believe they let the pre 7:00 buses get out of Pokhara but I don’t know how far they made it.

As my stay in Pokhara moved towards its eventual conclusion I needed to decide if I would bus or plane it to Katmandu. The plane can cost between $40 and $100 depending on how well you know your “travel agent,” any local shop owner or guest house manager. Everyone can sell anything and everyone takes a cut. I hadn’t fully decided but was leaning toward air, even though the bus was $6. I had had it with unending bumpy roads and didn’t really look lovingly upon a 6 hour drive to Katmandu. Determining to get a ticket, the strike sealed the decision, I tried to track down Sipna the owner of the Guest house.

I finally found him through his sister and he was quite upset. The late notice put him in a tizzy, with the strike and all. He didn’t know if he would be able to even book a seat. Everyone was in the same bind and flying was the only certain option but there was a limited number of seats on the given day. Fortunately he knew a manager at Agni air who had saved a couple of seats to scalp and I got one of them paying list price of $98. No barter here. It was a seat on the 9:00 A.M. flight and the machinations of how to get to the airport began. The airport is an hour’s walk from the guest house.

I am a strong proponent of leaving extra time so I insisted we leave at 7:00 and Sipna assured me there would be no problem. I gave him 1,000 rupees for the porters for wing and suitcase, two big bags, and he was happy. – 500 rupees is the cost for one day for a common laborer in Nepal so someone was making out well. Turns out it was Sipna, which was just fine with me as he has been a lovely host and very helpful.

6:15 the sun woke me and out the door I went to my local breakfast haunt. Leaving, I told Sipna where I would be and he said he would meet me at 7:00. 6:55; I paid my bill and on cue Sipna, his son and an unknown friend show up on bikes, the unmotorized kind. He had one bag lashed to the back of each porter bike and I was told to take charge of the third bike while riding his son side saddle on the frame. It worked fine, after 5 minutes I stopped to adjust the seat to a semi western leg length and the remaining 20 minute ride to the airport was a breeze.

The flight to Katmandu was packed though uneventful as was the transition to the flight from Katmandu to Bahrain. There was a 7 hour wait in the Katmandu airport and a need to come up with 12,700 Rupee, about $150 for my second bag. It was $180 going the other way from Seattle. Compare this to my hotel bill for three weeks: 7,000 Rupee, or $4.00 a day.

I got a bulkhead for the trip to Bahrain and the Bahrain to London. In London I hooked up with my niece who is at the London School of Economics. We had a lovely visit at the Hammersmith tube stop Starbucks. The East one, it turns out there were 4 to pick from. As long as one of us stayed put eventually the other made the connection. By the time I got back to Heathrow it was about two hours before my flight to Seattle. – The agent said the plane was over sold and I would have to wait about an hour for volunteers to make space. – He also said the going rate for giving up a seat was $600 Euros and asked if I were interested in the offer. I told him I would think about it.

It didn’t take long to figure this one out. $600 Euros is about $810 US dollars. I don’t know if I would have gotten that if I waited and chanced being bumped but a bird in the hand argument suggested that if $810 was worth waiting a day including a paid for hotel room, breakfast, lunch and dinner along with transit fair I ought to grab whilst the grabbing was good. So I made the decision that $800 was the price for a days extension of my wife's and my continued parting.

Unable to consult I hope I made the right decision. In any event if the same “problem” happens today I figure I will be having bangers and chips for dinner tonight, pocketing the extra 500 quid to help pay for this trip.

Everyone has their price.

The best to you all and thanks for following the blog. I hope to fill in some of the gaps with future bloggings and videos but for now it is 9:00 in London and I must think about heading to the airport to see what the market will bring.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

out of dodge on the 6:00 stage

In route with a wind behind me I am ducking out just as Pokhara experiences a general strike. No taxis and I was lucky to get one of the "kept" seats out on the 9:00 am flight. Kept for scalping I was informed. No barter for best deal this time.

Yesterday I had my best flight of the trip. - A 28k out and back from Sarinkot to Sirkot. It was a great flight - all alone with great lift and wonderful clouds. - I was told only Claudio has made the out and back, I find that hard to believe but there are many firsts still available in this OutWest land.

Unfortunately my GPS fritzed so I only have pictures of the flight which will make my next blog entry. For now it is time to brace for the 1hour walk with porters to the airport with my bags. Looking forward to a loving embrace with Gail some 55 hours from now.

Wow it is hard to get from here to there.

All the best. - Planning next adventure now: A Cross Country / Thermaling Clinic I will present this spring.


Friday, March 2, 2012

silly slow-mo of a 40%

The picture above is from yesterday morning. I was chatting with Babu following his big night at Blue Sky. - Babu and Lakpa flew off Everest and National Geographic awarded them Adventurers of the year. Their video/movie was premiered here in Nepal two nights ago. We talked and swapped cards and then later that day he helped me with a tree rescue communication relay. I mention him so that you all might keep him in your prayers as later that day he found out his father had died. - My heart goes out to you Babu.

Today, my second to last day of flying in Nepal was a day for big – well there is a Spanish word for them. Though the field had a great time, I am sure, running a quick task I was off on my own attempting; a Pokhara Sirkot Pokhara out and back. – No worries about lift and really the OD wasn’t bad. –

I pinged a nice climb at Teriponi at 2,300 meters and took an easy glide to the conference center on the first ridge to the South. This is the ridge that has the Peace Pagoda that I bombed out on the first day. – This time no problems and I took it back to 1,850 off the conference center and pushed around Bumdi. The usual massive cloud sat waiting for me and the associated mega lift was right where I figured it would be.

On bar flying away from the behemoth I was climbing at 4 m/s - I hate that feeling. But I headed out from the lift plenty early and found sink at about 2,200 meters. – I pushed across the valley to a nice looking cloud whose’ lift greeted me with a 40%er. That was enough – I looked about, noted it was only 12:15 and didn’t want to fly and fight all day so I punched down to a little town along the bus route and set her down nice and easy.

I have been good to fulfill my constant promise to friends and family to fly safe. One more day and it will be the Budda Air pilot who will be in command. – That is if I don’t take the bus to Katmandu. Either way tomorrow will be the last flying day here in Nepal for this year.

You have to try it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A short note from a short timer

This post includes a video with pics from Singdi vol-bivi. Long landing sequence but I get down.

Yesterday I flew wind tec for the Russian comp and after tagging 3rd way point I was above a blue glider that had a 1/4 wing cravat. He/she was maintaining directional control, just, but didn't have the glide to get out of his hole. I tracked the glider till he landed in the trees near a road.

I flew over a bit and got a gps mark on the site and could tell he landed soft but couldn't tell if the pilot was ok.

After making a couple of passes at a near by top landing, aborted for safety, I called in the tree landing on the comp frequency but, not surprisingly got an excited Russian asking again and again who I was and where I was and was I hurt. - Communication was impossible given my need to attend to flying and our language issues. I was too low by this point to continue my flight and not wanting to leave a man in the field alone I opted to land as close to the access road as possible. I was fairly certain that other "Russian" pilots had landing thinking the same but they landed far enough away I couldn't tell for sure they knew about the distress.

On landing I parked my glider at a store and went about phone contacting folk in Pokhara to notify the Russian safety committee about the situation. I had two numbers that might work and Nick gave me Bella's as a third - Both Arnie and Bella were still in the air but I was able to contact Babu - Yes that Babu - and conveyed gps and situation on the ground. I also sent two young men up the hill to help.

After about 45 minutes a different young man came down the road and told me he had helped the pilot out of the tree and pack his glider - all was well - I called in new situation report and got a beer. I waited and waited and eventually Russian friends came walking from where they had landed and told me all was well and they were in communication with the downed pilot. - I was free to go.

I caught the next bus back in and had a dinner that couldn't be beat. - More flying today.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Long Road Home - revisited

Make it stop, please make it stop. The unending shaking side to side, back to back, bump up bump down and lurch seems to never end. While all roads may lead to Katmandu as the local saying goes; all roads within 35 kilometers of Pokhara wind their way to Pokhara first.

When one attempts to fly from a new site that you have flown to from a remote site the effort to return to home is much more arduous than a typical 100 degree Eastern Washington hitch hiking to The Rock affair.(The Rock is where we leave our car’s at our home flying site.) Launch altitude was 1750 meters, low to medium by hills standards and right on the boarder for sustaining lift. There seems to be a level, on stable days, where, if your above it your golden and below it it is real hard to maintain altitude. I was maybe 250 meters above the “bottom” of lift and when I left my meager 100 fpm climb looking for a better climb my fate was sealed.

The bowl to the left of Singdi, my take off site, looked to be perfect, it was at the end of a valley, well actually a branch of a valley, which I think was the problem. The bowl had a SW facing orientation with a lovely slope and high peak. I entered it with the expectation of blasting to the sky but found myself sliding ever deeper and ever closer to the point were there was no more lift. As I pushed round to the full East side of the bowl now oriented perpendicular to the overall valley flow I hit a solid 20 kph head wind and sink at the same time. This feeling, of getting truly stuffed in the mountains is heart-wrenching. I first experienced it at the Rat Race in Oregon with much the same results, although at the Rat Race there was a retrieve van that picked me up. Here I faced a sinking feeling that came with a “man your screwed” realization as I sunk to encounter a small LZ.

The LZ was a singular spot of flat/terraced earth in a sea of steep cliffs, jungle clad hills which lined the jagged valley for as far as my eyes could see. The terrace sat at the crux of the valley at the branching of my bowl of hope and the continuation of the valley up towards the Annapurna region. One stream joined the main river at this point with a 70 meter dropping face on the river sides of the terrace making coming in short a very bad option. There were trees that ringed the terrace anyway so dropping in was a bit more tricky. Terrace landings on the flat are difficult in a different way than those on the high hill. The space seems large but it slope downward making it difficult to spot a singular landing point. You don’t get to decide until the last moment which of 100 smaller, say 2 by 30 meter patches your going to land in.

Sleeping Buddies

Sprinkled among the 100 possible LZ’s each flat as a pancake but bound by 1 to 1.5 meter wall/steps, big enough to do damage if encountered on landing, were grass drying stations. I don’t know what they are called but they are ubiquitous made from of a four post structure with a long pointy stick coming up through the middle to about 10 meters high just for fun. Nice little search and avoid on landing to make life more interesting. Anyway the landing went off without a hitch, well maybe a stumble, as I have found that such small spots require an aggress stall at the end which tends to drop you a bit rather than a normal tip-e-toe landing for the cameras.

Once on the ground the full impact of my fate began to become clear. Not a sound of any human activity. No welcoming parting of yelling children, no honking of motor bikes just the noise of a stream and wind in the trees. It was sunny, which was nice, but other than that I was alone and a long way from home.

I took my time packing up and before I was done a young man came walking down the path. He did not seem particularly interested in me at first but we began a “chat.” Mostly with our hands and 5 word pigeon English. His left eye was red and he was complaining that it hurt quite a bit. I was asking / begging for help with carrying my wing and he eventually acquiesced after I flashed big enough Rupee notes. We continued our negotiation on the trail as he wanted to go home and I needed his strength. – We stopped by his “home” where his buddy was making lunch/dinner with lots of peppers and other ? things. His buddy didn’t want to help me get to more people and I was thinking this could be where I spend the night.

Fortunately Buda, his name, agreed to take me to a near by gathering of houses. Not a village but one of them was a “store.” This was to be my shelter for the night. The road/bus stop was three hours hike from where I landed and I landed at three in the afternoon. Only one bus leaves the valley system and it leaves at 12:00 noon each day. Spend the night it is. I was given a store room, a couple of blankets and some nice dohl bat for dinner – Rice and beans.

The next day the journey continued early in the morning with a different porter going the two hour down hill hike with three river crossings by foot and three over wire bridges. At the bus stop the boys were playing their game and I found myself engaged in a political discussion over a beer with a man who I figured was a democrat. BUSH bad bad war, what was he thinking? – Bill Clinton very great man but Monica. Obama: “what can you do, what can you do?”

After an hour and a couple of beers, the kids had pineapple drinks on the Preach the bus which was sitting at the end of the road began to attract attention. The driver mounted the powerful but ancient beast. Four or five friends ran to the back of the bus to push start it. Wow what a way to begin a bus trip. I was told to wait by the hut and they drove the bus up to the raised loading spot, actually the road was just lower by 2 meters or so. I tossed my bag on top and joined it.

Now for four hours I held on for dear life as the mountain road pounding proceeded with vigor. Back and forth up and down and happy to have a soft bag to sit on. We stopped to overload the top with straw, then unload 45 minutes later. Stopped for well dressed couples heading to wedding parties and the occasional group of children on the way home from school. The view from the top of the bus was stunning but my arms and hands became very tired in the effort to keep me on top. Riding inside is also bad but in a different way. While you may be one of ten when the trip begins a bus headed for the city is full in short order and you not only get the pounding of the road but the impact of fifty people in a bus made for thirty. I chose the top.

Finally after two days of effort the bus was swapped for a taxi and 300 rupees later I was in a solar fired hot shower and off for dinner. – At dinner Brad Sanders called and told me we were on to give it another shot at eight the next morning – Yippee here we go again.

Second vol bivi

Going to world first showing of Babu's NG flight from top of Everest program here in Nepal at Blue Sky - had a nice easy flight today - video to follow - All's well will be flying wind tec for Russian Open for next day or two - Brad off on vol with Nick we will see what they get - gust fronts this afternoon with rain - "on the ground by 3" glad to be back - had great second adventure - this time in a poor little two hut terrace set with a husband and wife and a few friends - best potato stew so far!!! - lovely folk.

Today - big sky's - happy to come down early - lots of big ears at the end of day.

Had a nice night out in a two hut terrace last night. Pic's to come but not much time right now

Monday, February 27, 2012

I'm Back and I'm leaving

SINGDI from the Air

Three days ago I launched myself into the unknown. After considerable consideration and consternation, leaving sleeping bag and most gear on the ground for weight reduction off I went.

Launch was fine but lift was marginal and it took three attempts to finally get up and established at toriponi. - From there the glide was good and with a spin or two at Dicky Danda I was off to the Green Wall - No worries there - two others were mega high and lift was abundant. - Late to the party I buzzed East.

I clicked through way points till I passed my first top landing way point(TL0). On I went till about 3:45 or so and over the ridge past TL1 I looked across the valley at a top landing option that I had not marked. - I had seen this place months ago looking at the route but had lost it. The place is called Singdi.

My approach was plenty high and I had nice lift on the lea/primary thermal on the Singdi point. I overflew the school and found expected rotor to be more than what I felt was safe and I aborted my attempt in the soccer field. - I buzzed about until I found calm flat air with a touch of down on the east side of the ridge where there were lots of terraces. After a couple of passes the air felt good and a shot or so gave me a nice little stall it in landing on a postage stamp terrace with a thud.

The children were on me in an instant. The first person to land from the sky in Singdi. Quite a stir. As time went by the news spread through the mountain village of 2000 that and event had happened. The landing made me a very special person. The elders said my name would be part of their history. They put flowers on me and gave me shawls of welcome. I was made to sit with the men of the village as they had tea for a wedding to occur later that day.

I was then escorted by the village Brahma who was also the teacher, having studied sociology and political science in England, to a top house. At this hut I became the guest of honor. We had fine food, dahl bot with special spinach. Go ahead and laugh Gail. The night was very comfortable in a prime sleeping place.

The next morning I hiked with the massive contingent of children and some curious elders to launch. - It took 2 hours and 5 different launch attempts to get off and up. The house thermal worked in 1 and 200 up but not enough for me so I dove for what I figured to be big lift only to get slammed with nothing but sink.

The next thing was to spot a landing in the bottom of the valley. No worries but from Singdi it was a two day hike and drive with an overnight so I just now am getting back to Pokhara. - Had dinner with Arnie and while waiting Brad Sanders called and hooked me in on a second effort, this time with partners, for the route to KMT leaving 8:00 sharp tomorrow.

Charge the Gopro and I will check in in a week or maybe sooner - we will see. More Vol-bivi - what am I thinking?

Adventures abound.

Friday, February 24, 2012

very quick

battery almost gone on laptop - Yesterday great day to fly - took the green wall from toraponi cap at 2300 - easy - but I was way over weight - have to loose some gear - chucked sleeping bag and extra stuff in exchange of plan to only land with people or valleys. - Leaving on Vol-Bivi today if first day works well.
Saying safe - love you all

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Comp is Over - read the one after this as well - two posts today


The Nepal Nationals ended today. I flew the task very fast and low, ending up with Claudio and the R10.2 at the 2nd to last turn point. Aggressive moves both made and blew the day. At 1450 I skipped the house thermal on Sarinkot and bugged for the conference center hoping to ride the ridge up on the waning hope of a dying day. The house at Sarinkot did not look too productive I was way out front which is closer to the conference center so the move was not without merit, it just didn’t work.
I bombed out scratching the ridge under the last turn point and got a nice walk across the valley for my efforts.

My porter named Nurgen took me direct to the pontoon boat that crosses the river. Quite an easy retrieve actually.

At the LZ where the awards ceremony was conducted, again lots of speeches in Nepali as well as perfunctory safety meetings. On landing the spot was an egg. Break the egg you get the spot. In the Sport class the women took 1,2 and 3. Not in the women’s class but they took the sports class. Claudio won the open and Arnie Frankenburger took second. If we had computer scoring I figure I would have placed top 10 or so finishing 8.7 short of goal on day 1, In goal with 5th day 2 and one turn point short day 3. No day had more than 12 in goal so I was quite happy with my flying.

Tomorrow I will fly over to the Green Wall and beyond pushing down the course toward the vol-bivi. If I crank the day then I will continue but if not it will be a overnight or just mega retrieve. It will be both a test and an opportunity to fly some deep stuff. This in preparation for 3 days out and a full on effort in 3 to 4 days to fly to Katmandu. Dave, Claudio and Bella are all in the loop regarding the flight. They will be the local check crew with SPOT updates going to their local phones. They like to keep track when wacko foreigners come to play in the hills. Nice folk.

Back to the experience of living in Nepal. – I have taken to the lovely cashmere shawl I bought Gail. It is “uni-sex” in Nepal and it dresses up my cashmere sweeter that mom bought me a number of years ago. The neat thing about the shawl is that I can cover my head, shoulders or just wrap the neck and keep my body warm through about a 10-15 degree difference in the evenings. Very nice.

Tonight I am eating at Shiva a waterfront restaurant that is open air but somewhat smoky from the fire in the middle of the space. – I am having chicken butter massala my standard favorite along with a beer or two. When I got here the lights were on and music was quite interesting and fun, then the power went out a communal sigh was echoed and we are now in very romantic candle light. – Where is Gail when these times occur. Eating alone and thinking of my love. Here comes the food. – Wonderful – rice and flat bread with a sautee pan’s worth of spicy hot chicken butter massala. You have to try it when you get to your local Indian restaurant.

Almost all the crew has left. – I think Patricia, Conrad, Randy and Jeff are still about but they are short timers. Conrad and Randy are nursing a cold (to minimize it.) Nasty bug. Our prayers go out to Tom for his recovery. Sickness or injury seems to be part of the game we play here and about the world. Speaking of the world the language dynamic is interesting. – This is such an international sport. Sitting in the restaurant I am listening to animated conversations in French, German and Spanish. The common language is English so the Germans speak to the Nepali’s in English as to the French and Spanish. English seems to be the key.

The mountains were out in the morning – stunning view of real big mountains.
More later.

left over post from pre comp

Matty’s tour is over tomorrow and Doc and some others are leaving. Half the group will stay on a bit which will be great. I said good by for now to Ralph and Maggie. Matt is leaving on the 24th and others also are leaving. It is looking as if I may get lonely at some point here.

This week we are flying the Nepal National Paragliding Competition. There were lots of formal speeches during the opening ceremony, all in Nepali. It isn’t clear if the competition is a competition or just another way for the paragliding association to extract a tax on foreign pilots who want to fly the main launch.
There are over 140 pilots in the comp and today was practice day. It seems there are 3 elements to the comp: XC ACRO and Spot landings. – I don’t know what ACRO I will do on the M4 but it will be fun.

Today I attempted to fly the Curshon route. (sp?) Lovely glide and ride on the Green Wall ending in a white room visit. I had only one event, a 60%er while entering into a thermal. I hit it straight on and the wing just wouldn’t pressurize. I hung there waiting, waiting, waiting – frozen and time with that bad feeling, then wam-bam-thank you dam hang on.

Went on down the route as Jeff Smith and others who had launched the Green wall joined in on the task. – Flying with vultures was interesting – had one try and scare me. – They dive at you and just as they get there they rotate pointing their talons at you, screech and flap. – and then they are gone. – Real life was just like the video when the Russian was brought down by a similar vulture action.

I landed out as far and deep as you can go on the route. – The hike back was about ½ hour with porters for the bags. – Jeff and I landed together. – hopped on top a jeep for 2-3 river crossings – by the time we got to taxi there were 24 people on top/in/hanging on the jeep made for 6.
All in a day’s flying here in Nepal.

Breakfast with Ritkita and off for another day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

sorry about spot - didn't seem to be tracking till eod and then tracked rather than ok

Quick note on plans

Today was a great day of flying - I snagged 4 or 5th in open class A great route and crew to chase around the mountains.

It looks like tomorrow will also be a good day to fly then the day after is looking like the big day. - If all goes well I will begin a solo vol-bivi for katmandu on that day. Seems few have made it all the way - I have the time and energy. I feel great after today and the experience that Matty's crew described about their vol-bivi was very encouraging.

Rock on
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day What Ever?

What day is today? I have been here long enough that I have lost touch with time. I know it is somewhere around the middle to the end of February and it is the middle of the afternoon but beyond that you would win the bet if I had to guess the day and time. It is a good feeling to be timeless.

The days in the North Lakeside district of Pokhara are quite simple. It is a somewhat upscale and less hectic part of town. Here there are many are more foreigners and tourists. The hotels and guest houses can be found for about 300 npr to 1,000 npr a day, maybe more but my room is quite nice at 300. exchange is 75 npr to the dollar. The room is simple and you don’t have electricity all the time but when it is on the internet is up and works well.

The children in the families that have Guest houses learn English from tourists and in school. At my Guest house my friend is Karina who is a sweet 17 year old girl that acts much more like a 14 year old. Very nice, doesn’t like to work too much but keeps the place running while her folks are doing other things. There is also an older and younger brother both of whom are involved in school. Karina said she quit school because she didn’t like it.

The continual sound of hammers, saws and tuk-tuks overwhelm the quiet of the lake side view during the day, though the mornings are quiet lovely. Everywhere in the town building projects are active. The quality of construction is like you might have seen in Mexico 50 years ago. Some brickwork, some cement, some bamboo and wood construction. Almost no power tools except saws and they stop when the electricity stops.

If you have never seen them a tuk-tuk is a small but sturdy diesel engine on two wheels with long handles that come back to the driver. Well a picture might help. – Some tuk-tuks, unmuffled are so loud I can not imagine the drivers have any hearing left.

And the matching Cement Mixer.

I have spent most of the day just lounging around. I spent a couple hours putting together a set of waypoints via Google earth that will be my starting guide for the vol-bivi which I will start in 2 to 4 days. The general plan is to go from Pokhara to Katmandu via paraglider on a tack that will put me over 2-3000m foot hills. Not many have done the route but it is quite doable. We will see.

More later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quick Update

Past three days were spent flying from a site about 30k South of Pokhara. The site is very sweet but the launch road which includes a river forging by jeep is by far the worst site access road in my experiance. - From now on when we find ourselves on a bad road the comment will be "Yea, but it isn't as bad as the road up to Sirkot." Time up the hill 1hr of bone jaring terror. JEEP OR BETTER ONLY
Day one - Doc and I had sledders after I botched a forward into a stone wall - brused ego only.

Day two - Skied with Randy - team flew with tops to 3,000k - lovely day of flying - landed at lake just before a gust front / swirl hit - Doc spanked by it and ended up in the lake - again alls well but likely lost his gopro and vario. - packed his reserve on the montain top and we flew again.

Day three - I was lazy and lucky - I just waited until it seemed some were getting high - launched and buzzed fast at the "top" of 2000 to 2100m lift - not realy enough, but just enough - lifty line and great glide on the M4 made for an easy day back to lake -
I popped up over the house and pushed back toward the green wall - didn't make it and had the best part of the day given to me via a roof top buss ride back into Pokhara - WILD.

More video and blog will come - today it is the Nepal National Paragliding Comp - 5 days of XC ACRO and Spot landings. - LOL - combined score - 144 pilots - look at me to be on the podium for ACRO.

Plans are coming together for Vol-Bivi following or during comp. 3-5 days from now for 4-5 days.
A couple videos from the wedding are attached - (out of disk space on my computer I have shot so much footage. - )

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What would you do if your couldn't fly.

Arnie and I went to a Hindi wedding as honored guests

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dateline Nepal

This is the licence plate for a hit and run.

Dateline Nepal

Ok so the where in the world game is over. The crew in Nepal with Matty had their suspicions, some were sure I would show up at some point and others were less committal, but I don’t think anyone was surprised.

With the crew that is over here while I am “between work commitments” there could not be a better time for me to do this.

The picture on face book with Big Ben in the background was not as much a tell as I thought. I may have been the only person getting here via London. My travel task, like everyone’s was arduous: Early start to take the Airporter from Yakima. Good seat on bulkhead scored by being first in line, waiting most of the day for British Air to open the counter at 2:00pm. Flight out at 6:40pm on time to London, arrive with 9 hr lay over (time to take the tube into Westminster for the pic of the clock, back and on a second redeye to Deli India, 2 hour wait for 737 to Katmandu, and now it gets interesting.

In Katmandu at about 3:30 local time, Nepal is not just off set by x hours GMT but also by 45 min or 15 min depending on how you look at it. This place is actually out of a different time, and is a different world. The sites and sounds can not be described, they are completely other than anything I have ever experienced. The city itself is a seemingly unending maze of energy, a cacophony of attempts to sell and or make money amongst squallier, noise, signs, bodies moving about, cars, tractors, animals, children, and many motorbikes.

We drive on the other side of the road but the roads are so small that each encounter with the next vehicle begins with an apparent head-on followed by a negotiating honk of horns and then a near miss of 6 inches, Over and over and over. Amazing that this doesn’t happen more often:

I promised my cab driver in Pokhara I would try to get this hit and run up asap for his needs.

Good evidence but I don’t know if it will help his cause.

Back to the story – In Katmandu the attempt to find Matt’s recommended Guest House begins with the cab driver saying, Oh Yes Sir, No Problem and ends with a – “Just Let me Out where someone speaks English and there is a bed. This is a city without street names and endless Katmandu-ness.

Once my bags were in my room it was beginning to get dark and I learned my first lesson in Nepal. – always have a flashlight. The power is on based on a schedule, maybe. – No power for a while so out comes the flashlight and I head off on a walk looking for a restraint named ORK2. – I find it after another interesting story of looking about and trying to get a cell phone – Got one right quick and about 17$ US with 200 min or so. – Now I know why Matt said bring 4 passport photos. You need one for most official transactions.
The first went to the Entry Visa, second to Cell phone guy, third to Paraglider documents, and I have one for a souvenir for now until the Elephant trek guy needs one for Insurance.

I bought an Air ticket for the morning which was a bit of a mistake, but after a long wait at Katmandu airport, another experience that knocked me over I was in the air and then quickly setting down in Pokhara about 30 minutes later. – There Fish Tail element of the Hymilalias were out in stunning form – Incredible.

That’s all for now – Flights ok – I need to build bump tolerance following a spin/stall event 700 or so over the ridge on my first flight – All is well but back in the game later today. – All is well - Love you all –

Crash in Pokhara

This is the licence plate for a hit and run.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It is cold - where to go?

Winter is the time one needs to get on a plane. I am one of the "lucky ones" who can leave anytime. - But where to go? - Late for the best of Valle De Bravo. - hmmm - All my buddies are headed to Nepal - hmmm - a little late to book that flight. - We will see - maybe OZ - I better make up my mind soon or it will be spring and my log book will be empty.
Any suggestions?