Toluca volcano January 13

Looking east from the crater rim.  Toluca smog in the distance.
On our last full day in Mexico Alex, Will, and myself decided to hike the Toluca volcano rather than fly.  We had already arranged a driver so we were up at the parking lot by 9am; the ground was still frozen!

We had a nice hike on the south-facing slopes of the crater rim (the north slopes are full of snow) and then Alex and Will visited the crater lake.  Skies were extremely blue and all the pollution from Toluca, Valle, and Mexico City was below us.

As we descended back to the parking lot it was a steady stream of people hiking up to enjoy the rare snow + no clouds + visibility.  Entire families, some wearing entirely inappropriate clothing for the volcano (!) were heading up to play in the snow and take photos...I guess Toluca proper doesn't get much snow!

Crater lakes, facing SE.
Meanwhile back in Valle it was pretty average conditions, climbs to 3200m reported by Al and Andrew, who flew to Divis before heading back to the lake.

Popocat├ępetl volcano on the horizon, facing east.
While watching the afternoon SIV course, I watched as a pilot full-stalled his EN-B glider, messed up the recovery (he let up on the brakes while the glider was behind him), and then fell past the slack lines.  A big cravatte ensued which came out right away during the resulting autorotation/SAT, but then it went into a full-on spiral dive.  Despite the instructor saying "throw your reserve" repeatedly, the pilot did nothing (possibly Gee-d out) and hit the lake, hard, while in a full spiral.

Heading up to the high point of the rim, facing west.
The recovery boat was right there and pulled him out and he was pretty unresponsive, possibly concussed.  But he was alive and moving so the ambulance crew showed up and took him to the hospital.  A scary thing to watch as water can be awfully hard when going in from that height and with that much force.

Valle de Bravo Jan 12

Another lazy day in Valle as the high pressure is setting up.  Cloudbase has been getting higher and higher as the days go on; today the volcano looked to be in the clear for most of the day.  Closer to Valle cloudbase was 3600m (over Serro Gordo, I was amazed!) but there were few actual cu's.
Landing short, pilot in the water but his glider in the trees.
Then this kid rescued his glider with a stand-up paddleboard!

The lake LZ had quite light winds and it was very bubbly, so the landings were sometimes chaotic.  Pilots were going long, going short, landing downwind, and occasionally splashing in to the water.  At one point 3 pilots were coming in quite close together: pilot #1 landed and then proceeded to kite as pilot #2 was coming in.  Pilot #2 then flew into the kiting pilot #1, resulting in a tangle of pilots and gliders right in the landing spot.  As pilots 1 and 2 were trying to sort themselves out, pilot #3 came in, and in trying to avoid the mess, stalled his glider from about 5 feet up, landing on his back and bottoming out his airbag harness.

I believe if he had leaned forward in his harness for landing, with his body forward of the risers, he would have landed more on his feet and it would have been a non-issue.  As it was, he didn't bother getting out of his harness and into the landing position, flared too high, and consequently landed on his back.  As he was in quite some pain the ambulance was called; they showed up in 20-30 minutes and put him on a backboard to take him to the hospital to be checked out.
Aftermath of the landing-on-his back pilot
After that the wind came in a bit more strongly so the landings became less of an issue.  Alex and Andrew landed up by Saucos, while Al almost made it back, landing just behind Torre as he didn't have the last 50m of clearance to make it over and into Valle proper.  Will and I did simple flights back to the Lake, via Maguey and Serro Gordo.  Lots of pilots did the south circuit to the Aguila ridge and then San Simon before making it back to Valle, either by flying or by taxi :)

Valle de Bravo January 11

Coming in over the Lake
After yesterday's final day of the Copa Intrepidos comp, I was feeling tired so I only did a quick local flight from Penon, landing back at the Lake.  Meanwhile Andrew, Al, and Steven decided to try to fly a circuit to the volcano and back, while Trey and Peter did the same but starting from the opposite direction.  Andrew landed up near the volcano and had a couple hours of hiking out before he got to a road with a taxi to Temascaltepc, while Al landed up near Oxtotilpan for his own taxi ride back.  I believe Pete made it back, at least according to his XC Find track ;)

Toluca volcano is in the clouds.  Al and Andrew and Steven are back there someplace!
The final results of the comp are now available, they can be found here.  Eric Paquette of Quebec was the top Canadian, with Alex only 18 points behind.  I believe we had something like 20 Canadians in the comp, so we are well-placed throughout the results.  Great job guys!

Final day in the Copa Intrepidos January 10

Epic-looking skies today for the final day of the Copa Intrepidos comp.  This time a 65-ish km task was set out to 3 Kings, Divisidaro, across the convergence to Saucos, back to Serro Gordo, La Casa, and finally into the goal field at Casa Viejo.

Waiting for the start over the flats in front of Penon
Unfortunately I didn't make it around the course; I got stuck on the Divis ridge and ended up landing at the base of St. Augustine with Luis.  His Mum came and picked us up so it was all good and we were back at the goal field getting scored in no time!

Meanwhile the gaggle was still flying and coming into goal.  Alex, Greg, and Will made goal, Will for the first time this comp, congratulations Will!

Female podium!
During the prize-giving we had a special surprise as the organizing team had bought canisters of foam and were spraying all the winners as they came forward to claim their plaques made from local wood, courtesy of the Quintanilla brothers.

I've been foamed!
The special Naviter Oudie2 prize went to Mark Florence, fellow Canuck from Calgary!

Because I had done so poorly in today's task, I thought for sure I had lost 1st place to Patty (local Valle pilot on an IP7 Pro), but it looks like due to FTV every pilots' worst score was dropped, which means I actually got to retain 1st place!  Eric Paquette from Quebec snagged 1st place in the Sports Class, while Alex managed to hold onto 2nd place.

Setting up the paper hot air balloon
Official results are not yet out due to some issues with the overall class winners, but when they are, they'll be here.

Some pilots are leaving tomorrow, but our group is here for a few more days yet so we'll be doing some more flying and maybe hiking the Toluca volcano if the snow isn't too deep.

Lots of convergence flying at the Copa Intrepidos January 9

Classic Valle today as we had light winds, high base, and the convergence right in the sweet spot.  Today's task was out on the flats to La Pila for the start, then off to the Monarcas, back  to the mesa and Divisidaro, recrossing back towards the Monarcas, and then landing in goal at Casa Viejo for about 74 km.

Today's task: La Pila-Monarcas-Divis-Monarcas LZ-Casa Viejo goal
Cloudbase initially started out at 3200m but it rose throughout the day to around 3500m by mid-afternoon.  The field split into multiple groups quite early on: after the La Pila start, a group of pilots opted for the 3 Kings-Maguey-Serro Gordo route to get to the Monarcas, while the larger group (myself included) went back to Espina and the Wall to jump to St. Augustine.  The 3 Kings route was actually sunnier than the Wall route, but that group of pilots got held up at Escalaria, enabling the Wall group (which had a lot of shade to contend with) to catch up.

Cruising the convergence into goal with Alex.
The convergence seemed to fade and then reappear which made the going quite slow at times.  A lot of times I would see a group ahead of me quite low, so I was very slow and stopped in everything once I hit the shade.  If it was 0.3m/s, I stopped in it :)  Eventually those slow climbs would speed up and get me to cloudbase so I could continue the course.

Near the end of the flight I noticed the convergence seemed to be breaking up a bit, in a good way, with not so much blanket shade and a lot of sun patches, so once making it to cloudbase for the last time it was easy to cruise along to goal.  Just before my final climb I met up with Alex who was struggling below me, we found a nice unexpected climb in the shade which took us to 3400m and an easy glide to goal.

You can see the convergence getting big back towards the volcano.
Lots of other pilots landed up near the Monarcas TP as the shade was quite epic back there and it was hard to get back out with enough height to reconnect with the clouds.  Greg landed near the airstrip after getting too low coming back from the Monarcas to reconnect with the clouds and the Divis TP.  Ty and Dave had to land early as they had to catch a plane back in Mexico City later on.

We also had some mishaps...Benjamin ended up in a tree near La Casa (not sure if he had an event or simply got too low to make the glide out).  Andrew was nearby and was able to relay Ben's info to Radio Control, while at the same time ridge soaring a small hill with a long glide out of his own, good job multi-tasking Andrew!

Al also had a mishap, having a full-bar blowout resulting in double-tip cravattes and multiple line twists which wouldn't come out with full-stalling, so he tossed his reserve.  Despite having a Beamer 3, he was unable to get to his steering handles, partly due to reserve line twists, but also because his Camelback hose had been routed through one of his handles so was caught up in it (Camelback users: check your routing!)  However he came down quite softly in a field near the garbage dump where the military police arrived, checked him out, and gave him a VIP ride to Valle to get his gear untwisted and sorted.  He'll be back tomorrow after getting his Beamer repacked!

Al's glider and reserve after landing softly in a field near the garbage dump.  Posted with Al's permission.
I think in the end there was something like 30 pilots in goal.  I wasn't last, but I was close, but I was just glad to actually make goal after not making it yesterday!

A tougher day in the Copa Intrepidos January 8

Today's task was out towards Divis before turning around at Atesquelites, heading back to Cerro Gordo, and landing at Quintanillas.  Similar conditions to yesterday except for more high cirrus coming in which was to make the task a lot harder.

Today's task: Divis-3Kings-Atesquelites-Cerro Gordo-Quintanillas

For some reason I was feeling a bit off all day; I had a not-so-great start and the trek out to Divis was low and painful, and I didn't reconnect with the clouds until Cerro Gordo.  The convergence line was a bit too far east to be of real use for flying to Atesquelites, so pilots had to tank up at St. Augustine before heading out.  I wasn't able to stay connected once off Saint Augustine and basically scunged myself over to Atesquelites before landing on the way back to Cerro Gordo.

Race start to Divisidaro.
Ty and Jeff Wishney landed next to me and we opted for a quick taxi ride to Valle rather than the comp shuttle.  Al and Andrew landed west of Mesa de Delores along with a German pilot who injured his ankle on landing: the ambulance was dispatched to take him to the hospital.  Dave Edgar landed out between Divis and 3 Kings and had a looong walk ahead of him to a road and retrieve.  Alex and Eric did the best of the Canadians today by making goal...good job guys!   Results

Fun task in Valle January 7

Finally a good weather day!  I think the task committee was a bit gun-shy after the past 2 days, so a pretty short 40km task was set which would put us in Amanalco to the NE of Valle.

Today's task: Piano-Diente-Sacamacate-Amanalco.
Conditions on launch seemed a bit strong, so myself and several of the other female pilots decided to launch right away.  (Later on, an American pilot went into the trees after launching with a cravatte and tore up his glider quite impressively).  Of course this meant 1.5 hours of waiting for the race start, but the clouds over Crazy Mesa were pretty mellow at around 3100m so the wait was pleasant.

Final glide to Amanalco.
Once the race started it was off to Diente and then tank up at the Wall before diving over the back to Sacamacate.  I had the opportunity to watch an Enzo2 pilot perform a full stall right in front of me on the way back from the start, as he had a collapse which had cravatted; I had to make a quick move myself to get out of his way as he full-stalled past me, getting his glider restarted with a few hundred feet over the Crazy Mesa trees to spare.

A few pilots dropped off on the way to Sacamacate, landing at the Penitas.  Alex Wedensky was attacked by an eagle at Penitas, but his glider was OK; this eagle has been harassing many pilots who pass by lately, beware!  But the majority of the field continued on under the convergence which had set up in the usual place.

Over goal in Amanalco.
If you stayed connected with the convergence clouds ~3300-3400m you only needed one more good climb to make it to Amanalco, so lots of pilots were making it to goal with oodles of height.  I think in the end we had something like 50+ pilots in goal and a good portion of the townspeople came out to watch the show.  We had good representation with ~10 Canadians making goal today!

Flight is here.
Packed goal field!

Cancelled day January 6

Sled riding up a storm to the Piano LZ.

In a rare turn of events for Valle, today was cancelled due to unfavourable launching conditions.  It was predominately east wind, and normally this isn't a problem if it's sunny enough for the regular SW to overcome it.  But today was quite cloudy so the valley out front never heated up enough to produce an anabatic flow.  There was the occasional up cycle but they were pretty anemic.
Today's goal field
Before the day was cancelled we went through 3 task iterations.  In the end it didn't matter and after the day was cancelled, some pilots went free-flying with interesting light-wind and no-wind launches ;)  I opted to take the shuttle down and get to the goal LZ party early where there was plenty of food and music to be had.
One of the perks of the comp...daily food at goal!

Copa Intrepidos January 5

The first day of the Copa Intrepidos and we had a special treat up on launch...a native Aztec ceremony to purify the comp pilots and appeal to the gods for a good comp.  Complete with a tipi, shaman, and dancers, any bad spirits were banished.

Aztec cleansing ceremony
Today's task was just over 60km, mostly over the convergence area behind launch and up towards the Monarcas.  Due to the drug cartel issues to the south, we won't be using any turnpoints in front of launch, including La Pila and Aguila, so most of our tasks will be to the east and northeast.

Task 1: to Monarcas, Cerro Gordo, Mesa-D, La Casa, then Quintanillas
Lots of high cirrus was keeping conditions light but it was stay-upable, so I launched soon after the window opened.  Because it was so light, the usual strong punchy thermals were absent, and hanging out at the Wall and Crazy Thermal for the next 1.5 hours was actually the mellowest I've seen in a long time.  Pilots were very good as well, not being too aggressive and giving everyone lots of space, which was a good thing since cloudbase was around 3200m at that point and it was easy to get whited-out ;)

Looking over to the Mesa-D and the Monarcas it was totally in shade, so I knew the task was going to be tough and definitely not a racing day, more like a survival day.  And yes, after the last strong thermal at Sacamacate, it was into the murk and light sporadic lift only.
The rescue helicopter does a flyby (nobody to rescue, just to demonstrate).

Looking for lift anywhere, we slowly made our way to the turnpoint and then it was on to Serro Gordo.  A whole lot of pilots landed at the Monarca TP as it was totally overcast and not much lift anywhere.  A second group of us tagged the TP and then proceeded to Serro Gordo but I was pretty sure we weren't going to make it, as the lead gaggle was landing out ahead and we were next in line.

In the end I landed next to the main road, and within a few minutes the sky was raining paragliders all around me.  Nobody made goal and I'm not sure if anybody actually made Serro Gordo.  A bunch of Canadians landed by the Monarca TP although Alex made it as far as almost Cerro Colorado.  So I expect a pretty low-scoring day; hopefully the sun will return tomorrow so we can have some more classic flying!

Results, when they are available, should be here.

Notice how flat the skies have gotten :)

Monarcas on a rest day

Today wasn't looking too flash for flying with flat grey skies.  So after checking in at HQ we opted to head to the Monarca sanctuary for a hike and to see the butterflies.

Those who went to Penon had to wait for a long time for it to turn on.  Those who launched early sunk out into the Piano; by 3pm it had turned on and pilots were flying back to the Lake, with some pilots heading out towards the Monarcas as well.  Reports of a tandem in the trees below launch at Penon as it was no-wind-launching conditions at one point.  And once again we saw a glider and reserve being dried out in the Lake LZ :)

Cloudy Valle Jan 3

Lots of clouds this morning but that usually burns off, today that never really happened with it staying quite shady for the most part.  I actually left for the Penon a bit too early I think and got caught in the high cirrus, didn't make it out and ended up landing next to the road.  A quick taxi ride back to Valle and I was all good (the sun had come out by now and it was quite strong on launch, so I didn't bother going back for round #2).

Meanwhile the boys were cruising over to the Wall and getting high to 3200m+ and dodging the clouds.  Apparently all the way to Divis it was quite cloudy and shady and (too) easy to fly into the clouds :)

Al, Will, and Greg made it back to the Lake LZ under mostly cloudy skies, Greg's and Al's first real Valle XC flights.  More water landings today, as we were waiting for Al to come in Greg and I watched as a pilot came in way too high, overflew the LZ, and crashed his body/harness through the hedge to the NW of the LZ.  Fortunately his glider lines didn't catch on the hedge bushes, and we shortly heard the "sploosh" as he landed in the water next to the boat ramp.

Alex, Andrew, and Dave landed out, Alex just outside Valle, and Andrew and Dave up towards the Butterflies area.  I think Ty top-landed after doing a triangle :)  You can actually see all the live tracking of the Canadians here.

Tomorrow is the official practice day and registration for the Copa Intrepidos comp, and Monday is the first task!

Al landing in style at the Valle LZ (staying off his twisted ankle)!

New Years in Valle!

Sunset somewhere over Texas

It's that time of year again, where a lot of Canadians flee the winter and head south to the awesome flying in Valle.  There is a comp which starts in a few days (Copa Intrepidos) so many pilots are here warming up after several months of no-flying.

Yesterday was a slow lazy day, flew Torre just to get rid of the mental rust.  The lake LZ is super-high this year, it's the highest I've seen it in years.  Daily there is a pilot (or more) who misjudges and ends up in the water.

Today we went up to Penon launch and it was very crowded with all nationalities of pilots showing up.  Initially the air was quite nice but it then fell apart after noon and became quite windy and snarky.  At first I thought it was just me not having flown in so long, but nope, lots of other pilots complained about the same thing.  Lots of south wind, even at the Lake LZ, which meant pilots were actually coming in from the opposite direction as the wind was coming from Avandaro!  Once again a pilot in the water (this time a tandem).

I actually didn't make it to the lake, I had a hard time getting high enough at the Wall to want to glide to Maguey or Serro Gordo.  In the end it was quite a sinky line and I ended up on the Lake side of SG, an easy hitch and taxi ride got me back to Valle in no time.

Greg landed out at La Pila and had a long retrieve.  Apparently the crowds of children were so thick he tried to outrun them on the hike out to the main road, that didn't work :)  Andrew landed in Avandaro, and Al and Will ended up in the Piano.  Alex did make it back to the Lake LZ in time to watch the show as the wind kept switching from strong S to strong W and back again.
The Lake LZ is quite small this year!

Reports of one Niviuk pilot who chucked his reserve over 3 Kings, not sure who that was but hopefully he is being plucked from his perch this afternoon.