Laragne June 27

We are now in the south of France for the Ozone Chabre Open which Alex is attending.  It's very much like the Okanagan in terms of heat and dryness but with much larger mountains!  Unfortunately it's been windy for the past few days, either from the south or north, but today was "lightish" west.  Not the best direction for Laragne so off to Seleron with the Allez-Up folks.

Launch is a meadow near the antennas on the summit and you have to launch pretty early on this north-facing launch before the west wind kicks in, otherwise you have to hike/drive to the west launch instead.  It was very easy to stay up as the clouds were quite nice-looking, but I wasn't really in the mood for XC flying (most everyone was trying to fly back to Laragne, about 30km straight distance) so landed near the car after about 1 hour of boating around.

Back in the Laragne LZ it was howling windy from the south, making for exciting landings for those just coming in.  Alex opted to continue heading north, landing just outside Gap as the winds were picking up there too and he didn't want to push it.

The comp starts in a couple of days but I won't be here...I'll be returning to Vancouver for a few days before heading down to Chelan for the US Nationals.

Annecy June 24

Time to test-fly a new glider since we are in the area with easy test-flying opportunities!  Grabbed an XS Gin Carrera and took her out for a spin from Planfait on a windy and turbulent day.  Easier to fly vs. my current glider but the riser setup is not optimized for rear-riser flying with no handles and awkward risers, and the Gin balls on the brakes are just in the way for my personal style of holding the brakes.

It got really windy later in the day so I was glad to be on a lower-rated glider as the LZ was very turbulent.  In fact shortly after I landed a tandem blew their landing and crashed, hurting the passenger enough to warrant an ambulance and trip to the hospital.  We were glad to be on the ground as the day just got windier and windier.

Annecy June 23

After a few days flying in Bassano and then hiking in the Dolomites, we are now in Annecy for a few days.  Very unstable with thunderstorms but we had a window this afternoon between storms.  Very strong south winds aloft so it wasn't actually that great flying, very rough above 1800m and a new storm was brewing to the west so it was a short flight.

Bassano and the Dolomites

Time to start heading west so off to Bassano in northern Italy for a few days...Bassano, like most other European sites, has built-in infrastructure such as shuttles and pilot hotels and campgrounds, and multiple launches to choose from.

Over the flats at Bassano, looking north.
It was quite hard to get up from launch as it was stable down low (moderate north up high...this site hides from north wind quite well), but after some time I was able to get to 2000+m and fly the range a bit before it got too big and overdeveloped from the back.  We ran into Mike Sadan and his family here as well as they are on their own European trip.

Hitting the snowline in the Dolomites.
Next day was a trip to the Dolomites as it was too windy to fly and I've always wanted to see them.  Jagged spires of rock and you can drive quite high so any hikes are very quickly above the treeline and you can see for km's.  We ended up doing the Misurina Lake hut first you in the sun and heat but as you get higher you're in snow (it's still early season there and the hut was just opening to visitors) and it's colder.  And the backside of the loop is still fully in snow but fortunately downhill, so you can slide/footski downhill quicker than postholing uphill!  It was a beautiful day and almost no people once we left the parking lot.  I would highly recommend a hike in the Dolomites if you are in the area.  Just remember the snow up high if you are there before July ;)

Kobarid for a few days

After the awesome weather we had in Austria it seems the weather is turning for the worse...instability and storms over a widespread geographic area and noplace really to run.  So we decided to head to Slovenia and Kobarid to wait it out...not expecting it to be great weather, but with the Polish/Lithuanian Open happening last week and the Belgian Open now in Kobarid, at least we're with some other pilots!

Finally had a flight off Stol launch after striking out at both Lijak and Kobala (not on the same day though!).  The day started off with little promise as it was very shady, but we were able to stay up in the light lift until the sun came out.  Flew around Kobarid and many valley crossings, got bored, and landed, and of course that's when the sky turned fully cu-y and it got gorgeous-looking and racy-fast for the comp pilots.  I believe 10-ish pilots made goal on the 46 km task; hopefully they will get another task in before the comp finishes for more validity!

Stubnerkogel June 10

Crossing to the north side of the Pinzgau valley
Aborted triangle attempt.

My first flight off this mountain south of the Pinzgau valley and it's an early launch with it being possible to fly starting at 9:30am.  But in order to get high enough to cross to the north side of the Pinzgau valley you probably want to wait an hour or so ;)

Heading back south as the development starts to get big.
The day was forecast to overdevelop at some point so it was a race to see how far around a triangle course we could get before being shut down.  I managed to make it back to the Pinzgau valley after tagging the northern ridges just as the OD was making itself felt, and ended up landing in Uttendorf as a cell blew up just west of me, as well as another one to the east closer to where we had started.  A very civilized bus/train/car ride back to the car and we never actually got rained on, although Alex reported some gust fronts shortly after he landed in Zell am See.

Safely on the ground!

Kossen Austrian Open June 9

A not-so-great final day for me as the task committee decided to make the start over the town of Kossen, forcing us to glide into the stability to tag the start before returning to the mountain, rather than continuing with the routine that had been working quite well for the past few days.  Apparently they wanted us to fly over the town and show us off, but it ended many pilot's flights as it was stable enough that many were unable to get back up to really start the task.  I ended up in Erpfendorf, behind the mountain, after failing to get back up; at least it was an easy retrieve back!

Kossen Austrian Open June 8

A not-so-great day today as I sunk out quite early.  Today's task was an almost-repeat of task 1, a big 150km-ish triangle.  Cloudbase was predicted to be higher than yesterday so busting airspace was a real possibility this time around.  They are allowing pilots who break 3800m to turn 90 degrees to the courseline and lose altitude safely until they are below, before continuing on.  But if you get above 3900m then you are zeroed for the day.  Quite a nice sportive solution to cloudsuck and trying to get down in the midst of a gaggle.

I didn't have to worry about this as cloudbase (on the first part of the triangle at least) was only around 3300m.  Getting to Hochkoenig wasn't a problem although at times it felt like a bit of an east headwind.  The crux for me was crossing into the Pinzgau valley afterwards…like last time I got high for the transition but I was unable to stay high enough to clear the terrain and ended up landing up high on the plateau above Taxenbach.

A beautiful alpine meadow greeted me and a leisurely walk down to the town in the valley below where I was retrieved.  I didn't feel so bad when yesterday's day winner showed up in the retrieve too :)  The meadow was beautiful and I was able to soak in the sun and Austrian scenery on my walk, so I ended up having a good day despite not flying very far!

Kossen Austrian Open June 7

Goal on Day 2.

Another perfect flying day, actually a bit more unstable than yesterday and all given that it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend, all the XC hounds were out in force looking to go big.  However for the comp a "shorter" task was called, 112km zig zagging back and forth and staying out of the Pinzgau valley (as the task committee was afraid of OD there).

Despite all the upwind and crosswind legs of the task it was actually pretty easy as there were numerous clouds and easy to get to cloudbase and just motor along.  There were pilots all over the place including a bunch of racing sailplanes.  I think the highlight of the flight would have to be the ridge soaring up the NW face of the Kaiser in the late afternoon in order to tag the final TP before gliding to goal.  Sheer jagged cliff faces and oodles of lift, too strong for me to want to pull the camera out for a photo :)

Final glide to goal after soaring the Kaiser.
Tonnes of pilots in goal and I'm sure the retrieve group was happy to have less pilots to chase after.  Getting down over the LZ proved to be a challenge as the entire valley was lifting and pilots were doing everything possible to get pilot mentioned getting sick due to doing too many wingovers and spiral dives in an attempt to get down.

Alex free-flew and did go to the Pinzgau valley where it wasn't ODing after all but didn't quite make it back.  He reported cloudbase around 3500m whereas it was 3200m in our task area, and also lots of pilots attempting the 200- and 300-km triangles.

Kossen Austrian Open June 6

123 km FAI triangle.

A fine day for big XC with nice cu's in the backcountry.  A bit of wind but not too bad so long as you stayed high.  Today's task was a 160km triangle encompassing the Pinzgau valley and then back to Kossen.

Beautiful scenery and plenty of pilots to mark thermals; we passed several other launches and saw many free flyers flying in the Pinzgau as well.  Some shade came in which made things very slow for a while and everyone had to turn on "survival mode" until we could scunge to the sun and continue the task.

The final part of the task was a bit tricky with no obvious way back to Kossen…the clouds had all dried up and it was quite late, plus the valley winds were cross-headwind.  Many of us landed out on the final glide back to Kossen, while about 15 pilots actually made goal.  I think if we had started the task a bit earlier (today the race started at 1pm, late for here) we would have had a bit more time to do the final leg and still had clouds.

Greifenburg June 3-4

More overdeveloping skies meant short flights or running away to escape the cells.  The last two flights I've landed out due to rain or shade, once in the same valley so an easy retrieve, the other about 1/2 way though a 100km triangle up another valley so a longer self-retrieve ;)  It's a fun game to try to make it back, but have to stay safe too, and landing out is always preferable to pushing it when big cells are developing on courseline!

Landout #1

Landout #2

Beautiful Austria June 1-2

SW launch with cu's quickly growing to the west.
It's been a bit overdeveloped the past few days but we've been able to fly between storm cells.  Yesterday it got quite nice at the Kossen paragliding testival where a bunch of us were able to get up and cross the valley to the north despite the moderate north winds.  Alex and Hardy demo'd several gliders each before it started pouring rain in the LZ...many of the late pilots landed in pouring rain and handed dripping wet gliders back to the demo booths...I'm sure the reps were not impressed ;)
Heading back to launch before landing as the rain came!
The north wind is sticking around for a bit but Monday it was slightly reduced, allowing us to fly at Griefenburg.  Lots of big clouds around with many dropping rain so it wasn't a big XC day, but Alex and I flew towards Lienz before encountering the NW wind and turning back for launch and landing as it started to rain in the mountains.  Unfortunately we had a double fatality as two hang gliders mid-aired over launch and both crashed onto the road to launch with neither getting their reserve out.  A sad day here in the Fliegercamp tonight.

Even from above Austria is picturesque!
We are currently staying at the pilot campground in Griefenburg which is sweetly set up for visiting pilots (of which there are many)...there is a PG shop/school based at the campground as well as shuttle service to the launches and the LZ is a stone's throw away.  I've also found Austria to be super-clean.  There is absolutely no trash on the sides of the roads, everything is neatly in its place, and everywhere you look could be used for a postcard.

Hopefully the north wind will continue to abate in the coming days so we can get some really nice flying.

Short Griefenburg flight between rain cells