Nice flying but a terrible day

I’m not quite sure how to write this. I had a pretty good flight, but witnessed something terrible which somehow makes my day not that important.

The task committee called an 87 km task, pretty short by recent standards. Start around Cerpel at 12:45pm, back to launch, then to San Augustine, out to Santa Maria, along the ridge to Aguila, to within 4 km of Cualte (on the south side of the lake), and finally goal at the Lake LZ.

We all got ourselves established on Crazy after some initial scratching around, and then tagged Cerpel for the start. Then it was back to launch. There were 2 distinct groups at this point…those who tagged Cerpel and then flew back to Crazy to get back to launch that way, and those of us who tagged Cerpel and then flew directly back to launch. We got back to launch before the other larger group, but in the end it was the whole armada on the rim between the Penon and launch.

We needed to get high for the over-the-back run to San Augustine, so pilots were flying along the ridge behind the Penon trying to connect to the clouds there; rather than fly out front of Penon (which takes longer). I will admit I was one of them. It’s a long glide out to any LZ’s when you do this, and you’re directly in the lee of the Penon. But there were about 100 pilots in front of me doing the same thing, and we were all being lemmings. It was a stupid place for us to fly.

Directly behind Penon there is a V-shaped notch with a shear cliff. I saw a pilot flying a light blue Omega in the V-notch (like a small canyon) trying to thermal out of there. All of a sudden I saw him get a collapse, which turned into a cravatte on his right side. I could see him desperately trying to keep a straight heading while trying to fix the cravatte. He’d fly straight for a few seconds, and then it would start to wind up. He managed to stop the winding-up 2 times, but the 3rd time he couldn’t control it, and it locked into a spiral. Oh shit.

As he started winding up I was saying to myself “throw your reserve”, but he never did. At full wind-up speed he crashed into the cliff in the V-notch in a cloud of dust. I saw the cravatte pop out as this happened. But it was too late, and he spiraled into the cliff again at full speed, the glider caught on something, and he slid down the cliff face.

I was right over him as this happened so I was unable to see the pilot number on the underside of his glider. I could see him laying at the bottom of the cliff, not moving, no sound coming from him. Another Omega glider and myself started circling over him, shouting at him to try and get a response. But after seeing the speed and violence with which he smashed into the cliff, I was pretty sure I had just seen a pilot die.

I tried desperately to top-land on the top of the cliff (there is a small spot where you could technically put a paraglider down), but it was very turbulent and I was suffering collapses of my own. And I was trying to relay information on the radio to the rescue team (GPS co-ordinates, crashed glider ID, etc), avoid the other Omega pilot, and try to see signs of movement from the pilot. I kept trying and trying to get low enough to land but kept zooming up in the strong thermals. Finally I decided it was too dangerous for me to try to land on that cliff top; I didn’t want to crash myself and require my own rescue.

At one point I thought I heard the pilot screaming and I was so relieved, since it meant he was still alive. But I only heard the one scream and I’m not sure anymore if it was the crashed pilot, or the other Omega pilot screaming instead.

After giving all the information I was able on the glider, where it was, etc., the organization told me an Air Marshall was in the vicinity and it was OK for me to leave and continue my flight. So I thermalled out of that hellhole spot and back into clean air, where I could keep my own paraglider assembled and back up to the safety of cloudbase.

By this time most of the field was ahead of me towards San Augustine. I flew there under cloudbase, mostly in a daze, and tagged it. In fact most of my flight was in the same state; I can remember certain exciting parts, like the upwind glide to Maguey in 20 km headwinds and almost landing several times, the upwind slog to Santa Maria, ridge running to Aguila and getting low so many times I can’t keep count, and back to Espina.

At Espina I was able to thermal up and then only had to get to within 4 km of the last TP and then the home glide to the lake LZ. But I was by myself at this point, so decided to head to Maguey to try to top up, jump to Serro Gordo, top up again, and then upwind slog to Cualte. It didn’t quite work out at that way. It was very windy at Serro Gordo and not able to get up on it, so I bailed over the back and glided to within 6 km of the last TP, landing in a nice big field west of Iglesia. There were 2 other pilots with me, so the retrieve came right away and got us. I had flown 75 km. Tracklog is here.

Back at HQ I received the bad news that the pilot I had seen crash had died, either on-site, or during the helicopter ride to the hospital. I’m not sure if his name has been made public yet outside of the competition, but out of respect for his family I’ll not put it here.

Tomorrow is the mandated rest day anyways, and there was a slate of offered activities for the pilots. I’m not sure now what will happen tomorrow, or in subsequent days. There are lots of red eyes around HQ, and I will admit that watching the whole accident happen and not being able to land and offer some kind of assistance or comfort to the crashed pilot until the rescue crew could arrive is eating me up.

We were all doing a stupid thing when this happened. I’ve never flown that route from launch to the Wall, and common sense would dictate that doing so is not smart, with you flying directly in the lee of the Penon and all the potential problems associated with it. But when you see pilots in front of you doing it, and it’s a competition, and you are trying to keep up, the part of your brain that is yelling at you “this is wrong!” is very hard to pay attention to. You think you can get away with it, and most times you will. But this time we paid the price for our folly with a pilots’ life. It’s not a good feeling to know that had we been smart and flown the safe route, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Long task and lots of scratching along the course line

Today was the longest task so far: 114 km zigzag, although when you subtract out the start radius and the large radii of a couple of the TP’s it comes to something more like 90 km. Launch and then La Pila, Elefan (north of Valle, on the plateau next to the butterfly sanctuary), back to Penon, south to Tezca1 (on the far ridge on the other side of the Piano plateau), Escale, and then Quintanilla as the goal field. Another task with lots of into-wind portions!

Was one of the first launchers when the window opened at 11:25am and already there were clouds forming over the Wall and Crazy. Cloudbase was initially only 2900 m, but it was projected to rise to 3600 m as the day warmed up. Lots of cloud flying before the start, and many warnings over the radio by the organization. I’m sure the Air Marshals were kept busy recording glider numbers.

Since there was so much lift around, it wasn’t necessary to hang out at Crazy for the 12:45 pm start, but as that time approached everyone started to converge at the 6 km mark. A bit chaotic at times, as the clouds would form around and underneath you, and you’d have to fly out and keep an eye on your personal airspace at the same time. I watched an Icepeak 3 do some impressive spinning down through a gaggle; fortunately he didn’t hit anybody on the way down and was able to stop it and return to flying mode.

Once the start happened it was the into-wind glide to La Pila. A long slog but everyone eventually tagged it, and then it was to the other side of the Mesa. I had spoken to Morgan (flies here a lot) about what route to take to the convergence from La Pila (3 Kings/Maguey vs. Espina), and he had recommended Espina as the quicker and more reliable route. But everyone in front of me had chosen the 3 Kings/Maguey route! So it was either a) fly back to Espina alone, and follow Morgan’s advice, or b) fly to 3 Kings and stay with a gaggle, and disregard Morgan’s advice. Hmmm.

Well I didn’t really want to fly by myself so early in the task, so I reluctantly followed everyone to 3 Kings. It wasn’t working there very well, and a bunch of us had to ridge soar our way on the actual 3 Kings rocks until something came along. Meanwhile Brett was very deep in, low, and I was keeping an eye on him. He eventually found something so my group flew in low to try to catch the same thermal. We needed to catch it, otherwise we’d be too low to fly back out and we’d be tree-landing on the glide out to a LZ. Fortunately the thermal was still there when we got there and were able to thermal up and out of there all the way to Maguey, and some breathing room.

Maguey was being cyclical again, and the previous group had eventually gotten up and out of there, but our group had to wait for the next pulse. It came and off to Serro Gordo to top up, and then over to the convergence.

The convergence was a bit weird today, as the clouds were forming at various altitudes, and you’d be at one cloudbase and then another cloud would form beneath you. It was difficult to stay in clear air as we glided towards Saucos. You could actually see the thermals outlined by moisture as a column of cloud would rise out of the trees and mushroom up to the bigger clouds overhead.

Getting to Elefan is not a direct route, unless you are really high. If you attempt to fly directly there you’ll end up overflying Torre, which is difficult to get away from and totally in the Lake breeze, and then you still have to fly over the back of Torre to get there. The easiest way is to follow the convergence towards Saucos and the butterflies, and then hang a left into the high mountains there and try to hit Elefan from that direction.

As my group was approaching Elefan the lead gaggle was already returning from it. We passed each other for a few turns up to 3600 m and then we parted ways. Very windy from the Lake, and punching upwind to Elefan was difficult. I could see Brett very low at the base of a hill the rest of us where attempting to thermal off of, and he appeared to be ridge soaring just above the trees. Then I lost sight of him as I got high enough for the final push to Elefan, tagging it, and then back to the relatively safety of the same hill.

I was with Kari and Renata and we struggled our way back to the main valley and Saucos, where the convergence clouds were still there but thinner. Kari took a more downwind line to the hills to the east, while Renata flew back to the Monarca area to try to top up there. I took the middle line and flew back to Quintanilla to try to get high there.

As I overflew Quintanilla I could see the goal field being set up with the line, Red Bull tent, and media vehicles. But I was too busy trying to punch upwind back to Penon to pay much attention. At the powerlines just south of Quintanilla I found a thermal which took me back to 3100 m and then it was slogging back upwind towards the Mesa.

I was hoping to catch something off La Casa or the garbage dump, but when I got there I was quite low and all the lift was broken up. I could see a couple of gliders above me trying to do the same and then it was over for me. Landed at the base of La Casa in a nice mossy field (nice to pack up in!), and Santiago from the Mexican Team joined me about 10 minutes later. We had flown about 60 km. Tracklog is here.

Santiago’s retrieve was there in about 15 minutes so I was able to get a ride back to Valle with them, thanks guys! I think that was my quickest and easiest retrieve yet, back at HQ by 5pm and able to watch from the balcony the lead gaggle getting high over Escale for the final glide to goal.

Brett was in the goal field (having landed there on his way back from Elefan; he wasn’t able to connect with anything strong enough to get him back to the Mesa) and reported that about 40-50 pilots had made goal, with many more landing short. Keith landed at the base of the Penon after tagging Tezca1, and Jim made it to within 2 km of goal. So no Canucks in goal today.

I really enjoyed the task committee putting us back behind Torre launch for Elefan; I’ve never flown back there on the high plateau and it’s always nice to try new places. There was lots of lift back there, but the influence of the Lake breeze was definitely felt. It would be cool to fly even further back and stay on that high plateau, but I’m not sure if there is much civilization in that direction. But I’m just getting slaughtered on the monster upwind glides that each task seems to have. The comp gliders seem to be doing OK, as it’s the same group of serial-class gliders I keep seeing in the LZ’s when we all land and shake our fists at the comp gliders still in the air!

PS I seem to be having problems uploading photos at the moment, but you can see the latest crop of them here.

Much nicer flying today

Headed up to launch is getting quieter and quieter in the trucks…we are all tired already and spend the 1 hour ride half asleep. And we are falling into bed at an early hour too. The massage service is quite popular after yesterday´s flying: continuously craning your neck to see if somebody is coming at you in the death gaggle is resulting in a lot of kinked necks. It’s become like ¨Survivor¨: who can last the longest?

Today’s task was more suited to the weather conditions: race starting at 1 pm (6 km exit around launch) to Divisidero, then Monarca (up by the butterfly sanctuary), back to launch, Serro Gordo, and then the Lake LZ, for a total of 84 km. As the weather was predicted to be similar to yesterday (not much clouds, stable on the flats, better in the mountains), keeping us over the Mesa and the high ground towards Toluca was a good idea.

It looked ultra stable when the launch window opened, but I decided to launch anyways to get myself established before the hordes joined me. Once again had to wait for a cycle and then it was off to the house thermal. Ratty but not as bad as yesterday, but it soon became crowded with other pilots. So I left for El Penon at my usual lower-than-recommended altitude, got there, and started ridge soaring my way to the top.

I had the Penon pretty much to myself for the longest time, since everyone over at launch couldn’t get high enough to cross over and join me, which suited me just fine :) But when they eventually came over I left and went to the Wall, where it was actually quite nice lift and easy flying.

I went over to Crazy thermal to see what it was like over there, and it was still nasty like yesterday. But it was only 12 noon, and I figured it might get better later on, so I opted to return to the Wall and hang out there for the next 30 minutes or so, rather than battle it out at Crazy. Most other pilots went straight for Crazy, and I could see them all fighting it out over there, while I had it nice and easy over at the Wall.

As 1 pm got closer I figured I should get myself in position over Crazy, as it’s closer to the 6 km start limit than the Wall is, and joined the craziness at Crazy. It wasn’t that bad compared to yesterday though, and even from 30 minutes ago, so it wasn’t quite the mayhem of yesterday. We were able to get to 3000 m for the 1pm start and then it was the armada off to Maguey/3 Kings.

I didn’t hang around that long at Maguey, just enough to get established on the rim and surf along to Divisidero and back. I saw several pilots down low in the canyons, where the closest LZ’s are a long glide out, but the lift is so consistent you can pretty much ignore that fact and just keep going. So long as you stay around rim height you are OK to keep going. When you drop below that’s when you have to stop and find lift back up to rim height.

Back at Maguey it wasn’t working that well, and the group ahead of us over Serro Gordo wasn’t getting high either. So when I got as much altitude as I could over Magey I made the crossing to SG, getting there just below the peak. There was no cloud over it, and the previous group had left rather low, so I didn’t hang out there for long either. It seemed to be working better at Escale with some clouds over it, and the beginning of the convergence. So up under the clouds at Escale and started motoring downwind under the convergence.

On the way to the Monarca TP the lead gaggle and our group passed each other, all of us pretty much at 3400 m. And then it was bye-bye as our group still had to tage the TP. The clouds were working quite well, and as long as you stayed high under them you were OK to keep going straight without turning.

We only had to get within 2 km of Monarca, so we were able to stay under the good clouds the whole way there and back. Coming back was slow with the lake breeze in full effect below 3400 m, but above it was actually north-ish. So at 3600 m we were going downwind, and once below that it was upwind.

At the garbage dump and La Casa, the convergence was coming to an end. And it was quite windy from the south there, and headed back towards launch was totally in the lee. As we lost the convergence and had to rely on ground clues again, it got harder and harder to penetrate into the wind. The last little bit of useful lift was at Sacamacate, and then it was an upwind slog to launch.

I was getting hammered, even from an initial attitude of 3600 m, and I could see the gliders ahead of me having the same problems. We were all going down fast in the lee, so we all had to bail out over Penitas and try to find better lift over there, and try again.

A couple of other gliders and myself found ourselves ridge soaring a small bump just SE of Penitas, and a small thermal broke off that we were able to climb in. But as soon as it reached a certain attitude the over-the-back winds broke it up, and we weren’t able to stay connected with it. I tried again from the same bump but no luck, and a bunch of us ended up landing in the fields below Penitas. I had gotten to within 2 km of the launch TP.

Got picked up by the retrieve vehicle, and Jim Orava was in there. His stirrup had broken as soon as he launched, making his harness very hard to use in flight, so he ended up landing in the same general area as myself. There were also a couple of tree landings between Sacamacate and launch, from pilots trying to penetrate the winds in the lee and getting hammered like my group was.

If you were able to penetrate to the launch TP, it was then a pretty easy glide back to the dying convergence, over to Serro Gordo, and then to goal. I think about 100 pilots in goal, with either Chrigel or Andy Aebi in 1st. My total distance was 66 km in 3 hours, (although 4.5 hours of flying, with 1.5 hours to wait until the start). I think it was a pretty good task, except for making us fly back to launch in strong windy leeside conditions. Capuli would have made a better return TP, as you wouldn’t have to fly into the lee as much, with more landing options if you did get hammered by the winds.

Tracklog is here.

A hard day of flying

Another long task today, 94 km zigzag between the flats and the mountains: Race starting at 12:45pm, with Maguey, Aquila, Saucos, Diente, and finally Quintanilla as the goal field.

The weather wasn’t looking as nice as previous days, the brown layer was thicker, there were fewer clouds, and it was windier. So I was a bit surprised to see a task that would take us over the flats. Same launch rules as yesterday, so I got myself in the lineup and launched no problem before the ranking launching started.

As soon as I launched I could tell this was going to be a difficult day. First off, launching wasn’t the get-yarded-off-launch of previous days, the cycles were weaker and people were actually waiting for strong cycles, rather than lulls between cycles. And once in the air it was more stable-feeling. The thermals were small and punchy, not well-formed, and hard to stay centered in, especially as more and more pilots launched in to the melee out front.

So I got myself out of there, leaving for Penon at a lower altitude than I usually do, just to get away. Once over there I was able to ridge soar for a few passes before the armada came at me, and it was crowded again. So I left there for the Wall, where I could see some pilots getting up in some weak stuff.

Finally over the Wall and over to Crazy Thermal, where it was indeed crazy. There was lift, but it was disorganized, ratty, and lots of big sink in between the spikes of lift. It was not very fun at all. And of course when the armada joined me there were 150 pilots trying to get high in the shitty lift, and lots of yelling as gliders were folding up and swinging into other pilot’s airspace. It was mayhem.

The start wasn’t for another 30 minutes so we had to endure until then, and it was a relief for the entry start at 12:45pm (2 km around Maguey) so we could spread out a bit. But the relief was short-lived as we all arrived at Maguey more-or-less at the same time, low, and then there were 150 pilots scratching on Maguey to tag it and get high enough for the return glide back towards Espina.

Once again I left lower than I really wanted to, and made my way over to Espina. The going was actually not that bad, and was probably the best part of the flight, comfort-wise. Once over there I got up and joined Harmony.

The next TP was on the other side of the gorge/powerlines to the south, on the side of the far ridge. It was quite windy and the thermals on the flats weren’t very nice at all. You’d thermal in the wrong direction of where you wanted to end up. So Harmony and I flew upwind to Diente to try to get high off that, and be a bit upwind of Aguila. It didn’t really work, as by the time we flew upwind to it and thermalled out of there, we were back to where we had started.

Some pilots had chosen the upwind route to Aguila, but that involved flying over some very remote terrain with few roads, and a thick forest on the shallow slopes up to the TP. Not very inviting at all. So we opted for a slightly downwind route, which would take us into a valley with more roads and a village, and hope to thermal out of there and push slightly upwind for the TP, before turning around back to the windward side of the slopes.

This tactic didn’t work, as it was so windy the thermals weren’t well-formed down low, and the TP turned out to be quite high up, not quite enough to get on glide. I managed to get to within 600m of the TP before I had to turn around, in order to make the glide back out to a safe landing spot. I saw a glider circling before me over the LZ’s, so I joined him in hopes of getting high enough for attempt #2. This thermal took me to the other side of the valley, where a pilot had landed in the trees and was busy extricating himself.

When I reached the limit of that climb I pushed back towards the TP, but it was even worse than before. I couldn’t get to it, and the winds were quite nasty. I saw a bunch of pilots had landed directly below me at the village cemetery, so I threw in the towel and decided I had enough of this shitty flying. Landed in a nice 20 km valley breeze along with Harmony, Joanna, Rasa, and Shane.

We could see other pilots struggling to get out of there, but it wasn’t really working for any of them, and eventually our field became littered with gliders. Enough for 2 retrieve vehicles to come get us, and about 10% of the comp’s pilots landed in the same general area around Almoloya. Those pilots able to penetrate into the wind and not get hammered were able to get away and back to the safety of the mountains, where it seemed less windy, and clouds were now starting to form.

Apparently between 50-70 pilots in goal, and I think had we been able to escape the ground-suck of TP #2, we would have made it too. It seemed to be quite easy after that stretch, over mountains, less windy, and the usual convergence between Serro Gordo and Saucos. But I was actually quite glad to land as early as I did, since the flying wasn’t particularly nice, and on a non-comp day I probably wouldn’t have bothered to fly over the flats. There were also 4 reserve deployments, 2 mid-airs, and 2 tree-landings, so I’m sure other pilots will report less-than-ideal conditions. So for 1 hour 15 minutes of flying (although I was flying and waiting for the start for an additional 1:15) I flew a grand total of 21 km. Tracklog is here.

Meanwhile Jim, Keith, and Brett made goal after some hard flying (and it was Brett’s first goal of this comp so he’s stoked).

Almost goal :)

A monster task today, as the task committee must have decided yesterday’s task was too easy, with 109 people in goal. Today’s task was 91.7 km! A race start at 12:45 pm with a 6 km radius around launch (so you could hang out at Espina), and then La Pila, Llano, Divisidero, and finally Quintanilla as the goal field (a line this time).

Today the organization allowed a 10 minute window at the beginning of the launch window where anybody could launch. So as soon as the task meeting was finished I got myself in the lineup, hoping I would make the head of the line before the 10 minute cutoff, at which point only the top 60 pilots would be allowed in the queue (the remaining pilots would have to wait until the first 60 were gone, before allowing to queue up).

I was the last person allowed through the launch gate before the 10 minute cutoff was reached, which is nice, otherwise I would have had to wait probably an extra hour to get a chance to launch. This time the skies were a bit emptier in front of launch so I was able to get up right away and head over to El Penon, no drama over the Piano LZ like yesterday. Up on Penon and over to Crazy thermal where it was only 12:15 pm, which meant I had 30 minutes to hang out and get high for the start at 12:45pm.

Fortunately that area is lifty enough that 150 pilots can hang out there with relatively no issues, except for the clouds forming around you and having to stay out of them, while avoiding mid-airs. When the start came at 12:45 pm we all went on glide, and it was pretty cool to see the armada of gliders all on glide for the distant TP.

It was upwind to this TP, so I took it slow along with a bunch of other pilots, and we managed to tag that TP and then it was on to Llano. Now Llano is a new TP for me, and it’s on the other side of the flats in front of launch. There is a deep gorge with powerlines, with a ridge along the edge that you can fly along. Rather committing, and you don’t want to land up there on the ridge since it would be an epic retrieve (even though there are villages up there, I’m not sure how you get out of there).

So Joanna and I and Brett and a few others took every climb we could, staying on the upwind side of the ridge and drifting back with every climb, pushing forward for the next thermal. In this fashion we managed to get ourselves to the jump-off point for Llano, which is on the backside of the ridge, and you have to cross the gorge and powerlines (and lots of trees).

On the way to Llano I saw a pilot coming down under reserve. I didn’t see what caused him to toss, but he landed pretty much at the TP and reported himself OK to the organization and able to self-rescue himself. So I continued to fly and tagged Llano, and then it was somehow back to El Penon to eventually get to Divis.

This was the crux of the flight for me, since I was a bit low and it was windy down there. I had to spend maybe 20 minutes in a bit of a hole, trying to get high enough to push crosswind to El Penon. I tried all around the hole, and finally found something in the lee of some small hills, enough to get me high enough to attempt the crossing of the gorge and powerlines. I was able to make it within glide of the Piano LZ when I caught something along the edge of the gorge, which I gladly took to squeak into El Penon about 2/3 of the way down.

Now I’ve gotten out of there from lower, so I wasn’t too worried, but I was starting to look at the time and realize I would be running out of effective sunlight in another hour or so. So I wasted no time, booted my way over to the Wall, got up, over to Crazy, got to cloudbase, and moved my ass over to 3 kings, bypassing Maguey.

Once over on the edge of the Mesa I did what I did yesterday, just surfed the edge all the way to Divis and back, not stopping for much unless I really needed it. The clouds were thinning, it was just before 5 pm, and the sunlight was getting weaker. I knew the day was finishing. So at Maguey I got as high as I could, 3100 m, and did the glide for Serro Gordo in hopes of getting a little extra bit for the final glide to goal.

I arrived at Serro Gordo just above the peak, which was enough to get me about 150 m of extra altitude over the pilots below me, and went on the death glide. A bit more at Escale and then it was over. I couldn’t find anymore lift, and everyone was sinking out or going on their final glide. It was 5:05 pm.

My GPS was saying goal was 22:1 glide away, and I was only doing 17:1. I knew it wasn’t enough to make goal but I decided to eke out as much distance as I could. I saw a few pilots weakly circling above their chosen LZ, so I headed out that way and joined them, and was able to gain 50 m, enough to get me a bit further towards goal. Final deathglide again, and at 5 km from goal I came to the end of my LZ options. I was still high enough for maybe another 1 km of glide but it was unbroken forest for the next little bit, and it would have resulted in a tree landing if I went any further. So I pushed as far as I dared for the extra points, and then turned around to land in a small field just west of the airport. Distance from goal: 4.2 km.

The flight took me 5.5 hours, and I only needed another 15-20 minutes of effective sunlight in order to get high enough for the final glide. Had I not gotten stuck between Llano and El Penon, I think I would have made it, sunlight-wise. Or maybe if I was flying a comp glider I would have made it :) As it was, I was able to convert 150 m (my height over Brett at Serro Gordo, he landed 10-11 km from goal) into an extra 6 km of glide. So I was pretty happy to make it so far.

Brad Gunnuscio was first into goal, with 3 hours and 7 minutes. Keith and Jim both made goal; Brett landed at Serro Gordo. I think about 70 pilots made goal today.

It was quite fun to fly the flats and the area to the south of launch. I had never been out that way before and it works quite well, if you are willing to commit to walking if you land out. Thankfully during a comp the retrieve will eventually come and get you, if you land out there!

Tracklog is here.

Day 1 and lots of people make goal

Day 1 of the Worlds and everyone was excited for a classic Valle task. The task committee decided on a 75 km task: an exit start around the Piano LZ at 1pm, then Divisidero, La Pila (out on the flats), Quintanilla (out towards Saucos), Iglesia, and goal being a cylinder around Torre launch, so you could land at the Lake LZ safely.

The launch queue was a cluster as people had set up their equipment right in the launch lineup spot, and people were jostling for position irregardless of their WPRS ranking. I was almost knocked over a few times by guys with their huge-ass harnesses turning around in the launch crowd. Once you got to the front of the queue then the WPRS ranking mattered, as the launch director (Juan Carlos) would only allow pilots to enter the launch in order. I’m sure as 1pm rolled around there were still people still trying to get off launch.

I had a shitty start after launching…the lift right in front of launch was too crowded for me to want to turn in, so I flew out front to find something out there. Nada, and I almost dirted it at the Piano as 1pm rolled around and the race started. But I was concentrating so much on not landing that I didn’t really notice the time.

I finally found something that got me out of there and over to El Penon, where it was in a sink cycle and a bunch of us had to wait for the next pulse to let go. When that happened it was onwards and upwind to Crazy thermal, where I knew there’d be lift to get me high enough for the crossing to Maguey.

As I did the crossing I could see most of the field ahead of me already on their way to Divisidero, under nice clouds. So I figured if I could get up on Maguey I’d be OK, and could just surf the edge of the Mesa a-la Bridal.

Going to Divisidero was slow, as it was upwind and the north wind was significant. But the Bridal ploy worked and as long as you stayed on the edge of the rim you would find lift. Finally tagged Divis and then it was crosswind to the flats and La Pila.

I’ve never flown the flats on that side of the Mesa before so I was cautious, staying under clouds and taking every climb as high as I could before going onwards. The strategy worked and I tagged La Pila. Now came decision-time: take Espina and the shortcut to Quintanilla via El Penon, or take the long was via 3 Kings/Maguey/Serro Gordo?

Turns out most of the fast pilots had chosen the shortcut Espina route. However I was alone except for Kamira from Brazil, so I opted for the more well-known (to me anyways) route via Serro Gordo.

The usual clouds were in place all the way and surfing along the edge of the Mesa, heading towards Quintanilla at cloudbase 3300m, I could see the lead gaggle coming at me from there. There was a group of about 8-10 pilots out front and they were just moving! We converged for a few minutes as they stopped to top-up where I was flying along, and then they were fast in the distance as I flew the opposite direction.

The convergence had set up so it was nice and easy to Quintanilla, and getting back to the edge of the Mesa was easy too (although slow). Got myself established under the clouds and then did the run to Iglesia.

I could see the clouds were starting to thin out a bit and knew the day was coming to a close. So I made a quick calculation and decided I had enough to tag Iglesia, glide over the Lake, and also tag Torre for goal.

So off I went, tagged Iglesia, and then the glide over the Lake. I knew it was going to be close, since the Torre TP is actually slightly behind launch, so you can’t just come in below launch and expect to tag it. I arrived at launch with about 100m to spare, enough to drift back and tag the goal TP, and then the victory glide into the actual goal field at the Lake!

When I arrived it looked like just about everyone else was already there, maybe 100 pilots in goal? Eric Reed was 1st with 2 hours and 1 minute; congrats to him! Keith was somewhere in the lead gaggle and is probably top 10. Jim Orava also made goal. Brett pushed a bit too much bar on the way back from La Pila, and dirted it partway along the courseline.

It was really fun to fly with just Kamira, and avoid all the large gaggle hoopla that everyone else had to deal with. But getting low like that over the Piano in the beginning was not fun, and I think I’d rather have a more comfortable start, ie. At cloudbase! Most of the flight was alone, except for Kamira for the last half, so it was rather like flying a regular XC in Canada (no other pilots). I’m sure my ranking won’t be that impressive, since about 100 pilots made goal ahead of me, but hey making goal slowly is better than not making goal at all! Total flight time 3 hours 5 minutes, and I’m completely pooped. And it’s only day 1! Now we’re heading to Taco Alley for a victory round of tacos!

Tracklog is here.

Rest and parade day

Since the mandatory pilot safety meeting was for today at 3pm, not many people chose to fly and possibly be stuck on the Mesa at that time. But some people went for a quick Torre flight…Jim went up to do a last check of his new wingtip lines. The rest of us lounged around in town or at the HQ.

After the safety briefing was the team leader briefing. I chose to stay for that out of curiosity. And I was not disappointed. One of the issues that came up was whether the goal would be a cylinder, or a line. Originally it was to be a line over the goal point, 200m on each side, perpendicular to the last TP (virtual, with a physical line for the media), but many pilots opposed the line idea, so after a vote it was decided that goal would be a 400m cylinder (which in my mind was a lot easier for pilots to digest).

But then after the vote it was brought up that with a goal cylinder, there was the possibility of cheating by pilots landing just short of the goal cylinder, and running into it (since from 400m away an official couldn’t really tell if you landed inside or not). So after a big more discussion another vote was taken, with more pilots liking the line idea rather than a cylinder. So after the vote was finished and supposedly done with, nope. I’m sure with more discussion and arguments, the vote would have swung back and forth indefinitely.

And then the result of that vote was modified yet again, to say that a person could make goal by crossing the physical line (just there for show and the media), but missing the actual virtual line. So in essence there are now 2 ways to make goal. You can either cross the virtual line, or you can cross the physical line. A goal marshal will be at the physical line to check those pilots off who land in that fashion.

I’m sure there will be yet more nit-picking hoopla at tomorrow’s team leader briefing. They were saying those meetings could be finished in as little as 15 minutes…I remember at both the Brazilian and Australian Worlds, those meetings took waaayy longer than that, especially if there was some fine point that needed excruciating debate. I swear some of these countries are too caught up in that to remember that flying is supposed to be fun and not about politics.

Anyways, enough about that. We had the usual parade of nations through the streets of Valle, starting at the Zocolo and ending at the HQ down by Alas del Hombre on the water. Canada was sandwiched between Bulgaria and Chile near the front of the parade. We were treated like rock stars with confetti and cheering fans, brass marching band, and Federales all over the place.

Down at the water was the stage where the local government officials, FAI delegates, and sporting bodies did their speeches. Most of it was in Spanish so not really sure what they were talking about, but we were sufficiently entertained by the Czechs who were sitting behind us, who had managed to smuggle in a case of beer and were making their way through it. And of course the Red Bull Girls were out in full force, as were the Nextel Girls. Hopefully they won’t be doing drug or alcohol testing tomorrow as I’m sure many pilots were indulging tonight, the last night before the next 12-13 days of hard flying.

El Penon Jan. 23

Met up with Brett and Jim for breakfast, and then took a taxi up to launch. 120 pesos for 3 people, wow cheap.

The local club has expanded the launch to the south, so you can now launch 6-7 gliders at a time. But this is at the expense of the area behind launch where you could previously get your gear ready. That space is now limited since it’s now a high berm up to the expanded launch area. But what space is there is concreted now. And there’s lots of space to set up on launch and then move off to the side. There is also a nice new-looking bathroom on launch, but it’s locked! I think they are going to unlock them for the comp only.

The skies were empty when we showed up around 10:45am; Brett says there are usually tour groups and free-flyers in the air by then, but they have all left town in advance of the comp pilots coming in.

Brett, Jim, and I made a mock task for ourselves (Keith was a bit tired and was just planning on flying back to Valle). Launch-Espina-Maguey-Saucos-Iglesia-Valle LZ. Not too strenuous but it would involve lots of crossings and into-wind flying.

After watching several pilots launch I got in the queue and took off around 12:15pm. Initially out front it was a bit ratty, north winds. But not too bad. Crossed over to El Penon, penetrating the north wind, and got established over there, and then upwind to Crazy Thermal. I got low on the way there but I knew Crazy would be working, and it was! Back up to cloudbase, which at this point was about 3000m, and then pointed myself at Maguey and did the big crossing.

Over on Maguey it was north winds again, and after messing around there for a bit I got established again and crossed to Serro Gordo. More downwind at this point and an easy glide, and then up to cloudbase again. Onwards to La Casa along the edge of the mesa, flying with Gavin and Harmony, where I could see the convergence setting up over the valley between La Casa and Saucos.

At this point it was just point and glide, all the way to Saucos (on the way to the Monarca sanctuary), and then all the way back. Coming back from Saucos was a slow as the lake breeze had set up, but I took it slow and stayed high under the clouds all the way back to La Casa.

I got my lowest of the flight at La Casa, when I tried to get established on the mesa again and was too low to get to my chosen cloud, so I had to turn around, back to the flats, to try again. Second time I was able to get high enough to make the glide to the top of the mesa, and then under the cloudstreet along the rim. Cloudbase around 3400m at this point and another just point-and-glide to Iglesia, and then over Lake Valle with oodles of altitude.

I arrived over the LZ at about 2300m (the Lake is about 1800m), plenty for a tour of Torre launch and several passes over the town. The LZ was busy with landing pilots and I landed right next to the lawnchairs and hammocks and out of the way for the next landing pilot behind me.

Jim and Keith were at the LZ; Brett had gotten low over La Casa on the way back from Saucos (where I had to try 2 times to get established) and landed on top of the mesa and got a ride back to town. Total airtime: 2 hours 45 minutes, and 53 km out-and-return/triangle thingy. Tracklog is here.

It was so fun to fly with friends I haven't seen in 2 years. The only thing I'm not really looking forward to are the daily start gaggles when the comp starts on Sunday. They are just enormous, and when the lift is not widespread it just gets stupid. Mid-airs are common, and I'm always afraid to have some pilot get into trouble above me and come crashing down through my canopy. Fortunately the ginormous gaggles usually dissipate once the race actually starts.

Registration was the usual hoopla…with the addition of the FAI hoops to jump through. You need to show your FAI license, then they make you stand on a scale to weigh you, and then you have to show your load-test paperwork if you are flying a comp glider. Outside they were setting up the stage for the opening and closing ceremonies, and the flags of all the participating countries are already up. Should be a good shindig tomorrow night!

Another travel day!

Getting from Tenancingo to Valle de Bravo was very easy. 5 minute walk from Casa Del Piloto to the bus stop, and busses to Toluca every 5-10 minutes. In Toluca transferred to a Valle de Bravo bus (platform #6) and then 2 hours later I was in Valle. Total cost of the trip: 78 pesos. Can’t beat that!

In town I heard it wasn't a good day for the female pilots...Anja and Kirsten went into the trees on the Mesa, and Ewa went into the lake while doing some SIV. Maybe it was good thing I wasn't flying today!

Jim Orava got his glider problem sorted out when the French team lent him a brand new Icepeak 3 to replace his XP (which was having line length issues). He says it’s a much faster machine than his previous glider. Brett is also enjoying his brand new Sky Eris 3. And Keith is on a Boom 6, also new. Me, I’m staying with my trusty old Magic 4 for this comp.

So the boys and myself will head up tomorrow for practice day #1, and Saturday is practice day #2 and also the opening ceremonies etc.

La Malinche Jan. 21

Today was the last day of flying here for Jim, Chad, and myself. Jim and Chad are on their way to Iguala to fly the site there for a couple of days before headed back to rainy Bellingham. And I'm off to Valle tomorrow.

We had arranged with Daniel P. to pick us up at 12noon, since the past few days it's been late launching and we didn't want to sit up on launch all day. This time Daniel brought a few of his buddies along, since he had some large rocks he wanted moved off the launch to make top-landing a bit safer, and also as a start to lengthening the launch down to the parking lot.

While waiting, I took a wander up to the petroglyphs that are carved in the cliffs to the east of launch. Aztec I think Daniel said. Then up to the Alligator rock lookout (it's a big green rock column at the start of the big cliffs, and the top rock has a alligator-like snout), which is quite popular with the locals. From there you are looking down at launch and have an excellent view. And the thermals really rip through have to brace yourself against the wind so you don't fall off the backside of the cliff. Go to the Picasa link on the right side to see new pics.

Nice cu's over the Volcano and to the north (I'm sure Valle was good), but around the Tenancingo Valley it was pretty blue. None of us launched until at least 2pm, and I didn't launch unti 3:30pm.

Daniel, Chad, and Jim flew back to Tenancingo since Chad and Jim had to catch the last bus to Iguala, and I went over the back to Teneria, after getting to 3000m+ over the Alligator rock. I was thinking of Malinalco, but the sink behind launch was pretty bad and not enough altitude to clear the mountains on the way to Malinalco. Landed in a plowed field just outside Teneria, and for once I was alone with no curious children running out to greet me.

Back in Tenancingo Daniel told me that Teneria is generally a sink hole, and everytime he's overflown it, it's been quite sinky. There's lots to learn about flying this place! There's so many valleys and mountain popping up at random, and the winds are different in every valley. I think this place would be a good challenge for the technically-minded, since there's so much to figure out.

So I leave tomorrow for Valle de Bravo, and should arrive there by mid-afternoon. Then it's time to meet up with the rest of the Canadian team, stop loafing around, and get ready to work :)

La Malinche Jan. 20

Up to launch by noon, and I didn't want to launch too early like I did yesterday. Daniel Miller had come up with us this time, and launched around 12:30pm. It looked OK, but not epic climbs, but he eventually made it high enough to land back at Tenancingo. The rest of us waited for it to get better, and spent the time flipping over rocks and looking for scorpions (we found 3).

Jim was next around 1:30pm or so, and he got higher, and ended up making it to Malinalco about 10 km away. He had been itching to fly there all week, so he could land near a certain restaurant and have their ceviche (raw seafood marinaded in lemon juice...the acidity of the juice "cooks" the seafood).

Meanwhile I had launched in a bad cycle. One thing I've found is there is huge sink in between the huge lift, and if you launch in a bad cycle, you'll end up low very quickly. That's where I found myself this time, below launch in short order and not finding any lift. I went to the west point to try and find something, but no luck, so I had to bail out to one of the fields on the outskirts of San Antonio (total airtime: 7 minutes :). Landed in some tall 3' grass and had to wade out to another field to pack up in, which turned out to be a cilantro field.

I was quite disgusted with myself, especially after seeing Jim on his way to Malinalco and Chad on his way to Tenancingo. When I launched I didn't get yarded up like in the past, and I actually had to run down the slope a bit before getting airborne. The launch AGL is so low that I think you *want* to be yarded off launch, to get as much altitude as possible right off the bat. Oh well next time I'll make sure to launch in a stronger cycle. Lots to learn about this site!

Took a taxi back to Tenancingo and learned something else..."especiale" means you get the taxi to yourself and it's an express ride to your destination, and "collectivo" means the taxi will stop for other people on the way. Collectivo is cheaper than especiale. So if you are flying here and take a taxi anywhere, ask for the "collectivo" rate.

Back in Tenancingo and met up with Daniel M. and Chad in the LZ, and up to the little restaurant near Casa Del Piloto for our own ceviche. I've missed real Mexican food for so long! (Yesterday I bought a huge papaya and some mini-bananas, both of which you can get in Vancouver, but are expensive and not as tasty as the local variety.) Everything tastes so much better here!

Visit with the Mayor

Daniel P. had arranged for me to meet the Mayor of Tenancingo this morning. Apparently paraglider pilots are still enough of a rarity here that we almost rate celebrity status. Down at City Hall (surrounded by Las Federales) the Mayor and city council were just finishing up their morning session so I was introduced to them as "the competitor parapente from Canada" (what I could glean with my broken Spanish). They did a small ceremony and many speeches were made, essentially thanking me for coming to their city and would I please bring some more paraglider pilots next time :) I guess they are itching for touristos! And then I was presented with a huge gift basket full of goodies. I then made a small speech back, using Daniel M. as my interpreter, thanking them for their hospitality, that their city was very beautiful and looked very nice from the air, etc. Daniel took some photos so I'll try to get them from him later on.

Daniel P. has been a great help over the past few days. He's a Federale as well, apparently quite influential with the local government, with lots of free time, so he's been taking us up to his launch every day and phoning when we land to make sure we are OK. And he always takes the opportunity to introduce me to his friends we pass on the street. I think he is enjoying it as much as we are!

Anyways, Brad and Bernie...I'll leave the remains of the gift basket in Casa Del Piloto, since I don't have the space to take it all with me when I head to Valle, and the next visitors can munch on the goodies inside.

The scene in Tenancingo

When you compare Valle de Bravo with Tenancingo, this place is definitely a bit more sleepy. Less tourists, which makes Chad and Jim and I stand out a lot when we walk down the street. I haven't seen any other gringos here yet.

Another thing I've noticed is that paragliding is still new enough here that when you land and the kids run out to meet you, they haven't learned the art of folding a paraglider. So you still have to fold your paraglider yourself! It's rather nice though, as in Valle there are some popular LZ's that essentially require you to pay a kid to pack up, they expect it and get offended if you decline their offer.

Taxis are ubiquitous here. Not many people have their own vehicle, so taxis are the common way to get around. They are everywhere, as long as you land near a main road you are guaranteed a ride back to town within 5 minutes of waiting. There are some places you don't want to land; the town of San Antonio (the bailout LZ) is one since not many taxis make their way there, and you'll have to wait 30 minutes to see a taxi vs. 5 minutes if you land nearer the main road.

And because it's taxis that are the main vehicle on the road, road rules don't exist. There are a few places with actual lights at the intersections, but most of Tenancingo is light- or stop-sign free. What this means is cars come to an intersection, stick their nose out, and gun it if they think they can. It makes for lots of horns honking and close calls. I'm sure there are accidents all the time. And for pedestrians it's a hazard too...I don't think we have any right-of-way and it's cross at your own risk. Fortunately most of the streets are one-way so you only have to look one way for oncoming traffic.

When we went out for dinner last night, it was to Tenancingo's equivalent of Valle's Taco Alley. We went to one that apparently is the best of the row of stands in this alley. We showed up early and had to wait for the guy to show up. When that happens it's quite the production...he shows up in a old VW bug (down a narrow street that you normally couldn't fit a car down, it's so full of people) and empties out all his equipment. Crowds of people show up to watch the upcoming show.

From this ginormous bucket he starts scooping out random pieces of meat, steaming hot and I can't see how he doesn't burn his hands (no gloves). In amongst this random meat are several pig fetuses (with heads and snouts and tails and everything). Everything is scooped into a big tray, he gets the taco shells, cilantro, and onions ready, and starts. Grabs a hunk of meat from the tray, chops it up, tosses it into a shell, uses the same hand to grab some cilantro and onions, and offers it to the crowd watching. If it's a taco you want, you grab it. If not, you wait until you see a taco you like. I waited for a non-pig-fetus taco :)

He keeps doing this, just making tacos and handing them out to whichever hand is outstretched the most. Sometimes you have to be aggressive to grab the taco you want. It's totally on the honour system...when you are full you find his assistant and tell him how many tacos you had, and pay up. So informal! I'm sure in the USA or Canada there are so many rules he's breaking by making and serving food that way, but hey it's Mexico! And so far I've not gotten sick from any food yet :)

Tenancingo Jan. 19

Today was a far cry from yesterday. Daniel P. showed up at the house at 10am, on his way up to work on the launch some more, and did we want a ride up? So off we went.

Skies were a lot drier than yesterday, less clouds and it looked a bit more high pressure. But the thermals were coming in steadily at noon so I launch first to see what was out there.

What was out there was a lot of punchy ratty air. Small tight thermals with rough edges and I couldn't get very high. And it was windy too. I think there was a bit of east in the winds, and when there's east aloft it's not the greatest conditions for La Malinche.

I tried getting high enough to go over the back, but not quite enough, and the usual house thermal over the cliffs to the east wasn't there. Instead it was to the west of launch that seemed to be working more. Anyways, after about an hour of working to keep my glider open and overhead, I decided I'd had enough and headed out to land just around the corner and behind launch.

Landed in a nice field next to the main highway to San Antonio, where the usual family w/ kids came out to meet me. In my broken Spanish I explained where I had come from and what a paraglider was. Made my way to the main road and phoned Daniel P., who was still on launch, banging away on some rocks, who said Jim and Chad were still up there. They had seen my flight and were not inspired, and opted to wait until 3pm or so when they thought it would get better. So I taxied my way back to Casa Del Piloto for some lunch (7 pesos!).

Went back up to launch with Daniel around 4pm, who had left launch for lunch too, and was on his way back up for another go at a big rock. When we arrived Chad was in the air on his was to Tenancingo, and Jim was still above launch trying to get high to do the same. They had launched into similar conditions as me, and it was still windy ridgy high pressure stuff. By this time of day the conditions were weaker and Jim couldn't get high enough to head over the back, so he top-landed to see if the "restitution" (glass off) would materialize. It never did, and Daniel M. showed up for a fly and ended up landing around the corner where I had earlier in the day, while Jim and I drove down after watching the sun set.

So in the end it was not really XC-able, although I'm sure some people did at Valle. But it was sooo nice to be parawaiting on launch in the heat and sun!


It was a rather uneventful to Mexico City and it only took 5 hours. Didn't sleep on the plane though...too excited!

When I arrived in Mexico City it was pretty quiet (Sunday morning), so finding the Caminante bus and getting to Toluca was a no-brainer. The roads were empty so the ride was short, and I arrived in Toluca just before 10am local time (which is 2 hours ahead of Vancouver time). Daniel Miller and his Spanish pilot friend, also Daniel, picked me up and off to Tenancingo we went!

Passing Nevado de Toluca there was plenty of new snow on the peak; apparently a "freak" rainstorm had given-'er a couple days ago (I had noticed puddles in Mexico City and thought it odd), and manifested as snow up high. Daniel says he's never seen rain in January in these parts before, courtesy of a system that's spinning in the wrong's supposed to be over Central America instead!

Arrived in Tenancingo and Casa Del Piloto, where we met up with Chad and Jim Wagner (from Bellingham). After emptying my gliderbag of all my traveling stuff, we went up to La Malinche launch.

The road up is your typical 4 wheel drive road, Daniel has a truck so no problems there. The launch is also not that high, so hiking up from the main road is possible too. Launch is at 2250m ASL, and the LZ is 2000m ASL (so only 250m elevation!).

The launch is pretty sweet...Spanish Daniel owns the land and has been working on it for a while now. It's bare ground with grass stubble, with a shade tree and a bench to sit on while you're para-waiting. It faces pretty much due south, so you can launch here starting around 11am or so. We got there at 3pm.

Launched at 3:40pm after watching Chad and Jim launch, and it was straight up right worries about any of the bailout LZ's and it was obvious getting back to town would be easy.

The 4 of us (Jim, Chad, English Daniel, and myself) played around for a bit and then headed over the back towards Tenancingo. There are actually 3 hills between La Malinche launch and need to be high enough to clear all 3 if you want to make the main LZ.

I caught a nice thermal over launch and it took me to 3000m, which is more than enough for the glide to Tenancingo, especially with a tailwind. It looked like it was converging behind launch, so when I got high enough I flew under the suspected convergence, and yep!, it was indeed. No turns and I kept going up under the grey clouds, headed towards Nevado de Toluca. Hmmm this is pretty easy, I think I'll do a circuit of the Valley. So I flew around the valley for the next hour or so, staying around 3800m, playing with the clouds and seeing what the different valleys had to offer. There are sooo many valleys converging here...the XC possibilities seem endless and you can do triangles and out-and-returns very easily here.

After a while I was getting cold (I hadn't bothered with my full-on warm clothes), tired after a night of no sleep, and the clouds were starting to get a bit dark. Not being familiar with how overdevelopment tends to work out here, I decided to play it safe and looked for some sink.

Not easy! It was going up all over the place, and the sky got progressively more and more cloudy, with a convergence line headed straight for the volcano. Finally after finding some sink I was able to get out of the convergence suck-zone, and headed to the LZ.

Upon my landing the usual crowd of kids showed up. Did some PR photos for the parents and then off to the waiting truck with both Daniels, Chad, and Jim, who had landed earlier and were waiting for me. Casa Del Piloto is just across and up one street from the LZ.

The flight was easy, and the XC looks yummy. I'm eager to try some triangles and explore the valley systems a bit more, after I catch up on my sleep. After 36 hours of continuous awake time, sleep starts to look pretty good!

Tracklog of my first exploratory flight at Tenancingo is here, and first batch of photos are up here (Mexico 2009).

On my way, finally!

Well I'm off to Mexico after weeks of anticipation and the worst winter weather in Vancouver in decades. Sitting in the airport now; YVR has invested in free wireless internet throughout the main terminal, which is a nice feature for people who want to stay in touch while on the go.

So the plan is to arrive in Mexico City tomorrow morning (it's an overnight direct flight with Mexicana), where I'll catch the Caminante bus to Toluca. Daniel Miller (local PG pilot) is picking me up at that point for the rest of the way to Tenancingo.

For those of you not in the know, Tenancingo is less developed for paragliding compared to Valle de Bravo, but more and more pilots are going there to escape the crowds at Valle. Brad Henry (fellow Vancouver PG pilot) has a house there. Check out Casa del Piloto for the scoop on accomodations and the local flying scene.

Norm's been there for a few weeks and he's leaving tomorrow just as I arrive, so we'll probably pass each other on the road between Toluca and Mexico City :) He's been having fantastic flights, and did a flight off Nevado de Toluca last week, so I hope the weather holds. It would also be nice if the weather holds for the actual World Championships...I've been to the last 2 ('05 Brazil and '07 Manilla), and both times the weather took its toll on the comp. I'm hoping 3rd time's the charm!

Signing off till I find an internet connection in Mexico...

Happy New Year, and welcome visitors from the WCSC

So I've been playing around with the guts of my blog, and it's complete enough to make it live. I now have a link on the West Coast Soaring Club, and in the next few days I'll advertise it's existence a bit more.

Anyways, for all you newcomers visiting via the WCSC, welcome!