Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Bassano: Low saves, Fun and an Accident

Straight after the Dolomites we went for a week to Bassano (Italy just 50 km northwest of Venice) and stayed in Tillys in Semonzo just below the Monte Grappa ridge, famous in free flying circles. Every day was flyable and some days the thermals were quite strong 2 to 6 m/s, not bad for October.

The picture above shows three flights (red, green and yellow) that I made during the week. They all start out cruising along the thermic ridge and end up pushing out in to the very stable flats later in the afternoon when they start to work. Although no huge distances were flown the highlight for me were some of the amazing low saves that I managed to pull off, at some points climbing out to cloudbase from only a hundred metres or so above the ground. A flight is always more memorable when you have to work hard to stay up.

However it wasn’t all good news. I managed to fracture my back (T11 vertebrae) doing a silly mistimed swoop landing into the Garden Relais landing field. Amazingly, I was being X-rayed less than an hour after the incident and I'd like to thank everyone who helped out. I spent 3 days in hospital in Castelfranco Veneto and am now back in the UK looking forward to a month in a back brace. Unfortunately I’m supposed to be flying in India now but I had to cancel obviously, it'll be there next year. Needless to say a lesson was learnt.

Aerial photo of me being stretchered into the ambulance.

This is probably the last trip/flight of the year. Lets hope next season is as good, barring accidents!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Paragliding in the Italian Dolomites

September 28th, 2008.

The Dolomites are one of the best flying sites in Europe but they are only flyable for six weeks a year. There must have been over two hundred gliders on the Col Rodella take-off with paragliders, hang gliders and rigid wings setting up everywhere. Pilots were fighting for a space to launch and out in front the house thermal looked frantic with sixty plus gliders circling in close proximity. It was quite frankly a zoo.

The task for the day was a simple 23km circuit flying over some of the main peaks of the area, the Sasso Lungo, Sella Group and Marmolada. Although it was a stable day the conditions seemed unusually turbulent and it quickly became evident that the sunny south faces were in the lee as the north wind had strengthened quite a bit. Kelly came on the radio asking us to be careful as he had already witnessed a hang glider tumble and a paraglider pilot almost falling into his canopy, not good to hear. Adam and I pretty much did the route, both getting to the Marmolada and both getting drilled in the strong valley wind to land a couple of kilometers short of the main landing field in Campitello. Flying at over 3000m gave some spectacular views of the Dolomites.

September 29th, 2008.

The Rosen Garten was our first objective today. It was even more stable than yesterday but with much less of the troublesome north wind. However, we did have strong temperature inversions and climbing out was tricky. Only Adam and I managed to break through the inversion to get above the main peaks and needles of the Rosen Garten. Later both Kevin and Adam managed to find that elusive strong climb and get back above the Sasso Lungo and then stay above the inversion while the rest of us slowly tired of the traffic beneath it, finally giving up for a nice beer at the landing field.

The next few days we had a lot of high level wind with a low cloud base and so cross country flights were definitely out. Instead we went for a boat about above the aerials west of the Col Rodella launch a few times.