26 June 2005

Testing my limits. A flight in Orcier.

After a good lunch and a nice siesta, we all pile-up in various vehicles (the truck comes to the fore in this occasion) and drive to Très-le-Mont. The wind has shifted from the East a little, and we transfer to Le Couteau which is more appropriate for North-Easterly winds. When we get there, a few people are finalising their preparation and there's even a hang-glider getting ready to launch.
View from the top.The wind is shifting capriciously, the take-off is not very sound anymore, with the thermals triggering just in front of the frop-off. We watch a few pilots take off, and the antics they unvoluntarily perform are proof that it is necessary to be cautious during this delicate phase of the flight. I let a few more pilots take off before I lay my wing and check my risers. Finaly, I'm in the slope and I wait for the right gust of wind. My perception of the airflow is not hindered by my helmet, as I forgot it at the landing terrain, I'm thus wearing the spare, transparent one to comply with the local rule that all pilots have to wear a helmet...
A few more minutes wait, and I'm pulling the wing up behind me, I chose a weak gust and it's climbing slowly, I'm going to compensate by running fast. One quick look up to verify that none of the risers are tangled and that the wing looks fine, and I'm pushing in the harness to get a correct speed.Look who's behind... The wing is fairly stable; as expected it tends to turn right, to match the incoming wind direction. I correct it very little and in a few seconds it carries me. As I try to sit into the harness, I discover I'm stuck. I decide to stay hanging until I'm in a stable flying situation. It only takes a few seconds to get everything going smoothly. I've picked up a nice ascendence on the right of the take-off and I'm at a safer height, I wriggle in the harness and flip back while raising my legs, and manage to sit in a comfortable position after a few contorsions. Hide and seek The problem comes from the radio in my pants pocket, it's pressing hard on my thigh, and that's what made the whole task so difficult. I make a note not to use my pants pocket for anything while I struggle to pull the camera out of the other pant pocket. For the rest of the flight, it will stay in my lap, but for now, I have my hands full controling this flight. The thermals are quite big, a lot of the pilots gain altitude quickly, and I manage to join the crowd at the front of the crest above Orcier. It's a rollercoaster ride as I traverse the thermals and get bumped upwards. After a long while, things quieten down, and I look around, there are much fewer paragliders around, I scan the horizon and can't see any of them in the distance. I haven't been paying much attention, but it looks as if many of them have landed. There's been a steady flow of pilots taking off from Le Couteau, Olivier and Michael have done a few teandem flights, and waved as they were coming past. Icarus... I check my instrument, and an't believe my eyes: I have been in the air for just over two hours! I briefly consider going in to land, but then the Mont-Blanc catches my eye and I decide to gain yet more altitude to snap a few pictures. It's a battle, as the sun has dropped on the horizon, it's almost 19:00 and the shadows are lengthening, giving us gentler thermal activity. The wind from the East is still making itself felt strongly at altitude, though. After getting the snaps I wanted, I realise I'll have to land soon. I'm getting a headache I think is due to dehydration, the Blanc-Cassis Francis poured generously at apéro time is not helping, and I decide it's not really worth pushing the experiment further: I now know I can concentrate on the flying for an extended period of time. I reach the landing with a lot of altitude to spare, and take this opportunity to do a nice approach, spending the altitude upwind of the terrain. It's a good thing my final approach and touchdown are very smooth, as it feels like two rubber stump have replaced my legs when I try to stand. Before I switch it off, I check my vario, and it tells me I was in the air for three hours and fifteen minutes. I think this will stay my record for a while...
pano - Dent d'oche a Niflon
Technical data: Flight duration 3:15, Take-off altitude: 1355m, Maximum altitude reached: 1675m, Total climb during flight: 6030m, Max rate of climb: +3.8m/s, Max descent rate: -4.6m/s, Landing altitude: 640m.


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