More walking than flying

Summiting the Col de Marocaz
Summiting the Col de Marocaz

A long day, and rather light on the flying, heavy on the walking.
The Le Mans-style start involved the competitors lining up along the side of the takeoff mat, in their pilot number order, and their assistants lining up in the same order along the top of the mat, holding their pilot’s kit. As ‘go’ was shouted into the traffic cone-loudspeaker we all had to run around the mat to the top, get our bags from our assistants, and then run up past the bar and paragliding school, and off to wherever we were heading.¬†

Only most people didn’t know where that was, as the perfect blue sky, windless day that we were experiencing was in fact hiding a strong southwesterly, not much higher up. My plan to walk up to the Dent de Crolles was thwarted by Laurent from Sup’Air’s news that he and another pilot had already walked up there this morning, and walked down again on being greeted by a 40km/h wind. The meet director reiterated just before the off that it wasn’t flyable up there.

Jerome and a few others went up to the Dent de Crolles anyway, and in fact succeeded in launching from there and having good flights, but I’m sure that I wouldn’t have dared in the reported 40 – 60km/h winds.

So what to do? It was flyable, but not maintainable at 8am, on the St Hilaire takeoffs, so we could wait around until the thermals got going and then fly along the ridge. That was probably a sensible plan, but it seemed wrong somehow.

Swiss / French tandem pair Aude and Gabriel, and Kiwi pilot Bill, and I all wanted to get moving, so we walked along the plateau for a couple of hours, and reached another takeoff just as these who had sat on launch got to us in the air! Ho hum. We didn’t gain anything by our walk as far as the comp goes, but it was fun, and we enjoyed being in first place for a few minutes!

My flight was just a thermalless run along the ridge, until the ground came to meet me, and I landed in a field next to Aude and Gabriel again. We then spent a pleasant, if knackering, day in each other’s company getting as close as we could to the Colombier turnpoint. It was really hot and humid walking, and with a lot of ascent, but we ended up fairly close to the turnpoint, in a thunderstorm and very wet. I was glad to arrive back at the sodden tent for ¬†dinner and a beer.

I think we knocked 36km off the route, though we covered much more actual ground than that. We’re in a pack of people between the 30 and 40km mark, not completely last, which I’m happy about. The guy who went the furthest was on a Delta, and apparently managed 50km. I haven’t seen the positions (we are in a tent, after all) so can’t totally verify it.

Planning to leave at 5:30am tomorrow to meet up with Aude and Gabriel to restart where we left off, and head up to Colombiers, hopefully for a nice flight!

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