Paragliding Day 32

I woke at 0615 to a forecast seemingly tailored to celebrate my freshly minted P2 rating, savored the moment at 0800 of getting into my car knowing that a big milestone had just passed into the rearview, and arrived at the southside by 0815 to find a delightful 12G13 wind greeting me. I briefly waited for others to launch but then realized that they were in turn waiting for the wind to become soarable and so I just went. I had a quick but fun and radio-silent warm-up flight with a few smooth turns, minimal traffic to navigate, and a slightly fast but satisfyingly gentle landing.

Upon returning to the top I found a subtly increased wind strength and finally a bunch of wings in the air. The former proved no issue for setting up to go, but the latter inevitably introduces a pair of complexities, firstly in that you must time your launch to slip into the traffic pattern, and secondly that the passing wings create a non-trivial amount of turbulence that can buffet and deflate your wing if you prove sluggish on brake inputs to correct. I got jerked around a fair amount, and on one occasion suffered a deflation and got my head tangled in the lines during my spin-around, but before too long I was off again, and I very much enjoyed how despite the various setbacks I always managed to skid pleasingly when inflating in this strengthening wind.

On this second flight the traffic pattern proved quite dense, requiring a fair amount of bandwidth to navigate, and that coupled with its duration (30 minutes?) engendered meaningful mental fatigue, but I always felt in control of the situation. On perhaps three occasions I found myself at risk of pinning a leading-and-inside pilot at the western end of the hill and so initiated a leftward turn early to give them the breathing room I would have wanted for myself. On various other occasions circumstances seemed headed for contention but then I caught an updraft and thus cleared another wing without having to surrender my desired heading. And twice, having decided to wend my way to the bottom to land, I found myself forcing Steve further outside then he wanted and so cheated my way back toward the hill to avoid robbing him of the altitude he was endeavoring to maintain, thus extending my own flight by an extra lap each time. As I finally approached my landing spot I found myself in a delicious headwind that with patient and gentle application of the brakes afforded me a touchdown that felt like gliding off the end of an escalator. Magical.

Back at the top I debated whether I wanted to take another flight. I decided I did but by the time I got the edge the conditions had gotten fairly spicy and so I waited and watched a couple of other far more experienced pilots getting jerked around in their own preparations to launch. The wind briefly mellowed long enough I decided to give things a try but found my lines sufficiently tangled as I set up that I missed the moment. Observing that all the nearby wings attempting to launch were tiny compared to my tandem I decided that trying to fly would be silly and packed it up. The weather is always in charge and under no obligation to humor you. Time and proximity are on my side and so being greedy would be downright irrational.

Spacing looks kind of tight for me… (brown wing)
And yet if you are calm, focused, and planful you actually have plenty of time…
Nonetheless Steve’s relative blood pressure likely matched his relative altitude…

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