Paragliding Day 50

Yesterday offered a fair amount of psychological trauma for me in a fashion doubtless familiar to countless others. My sleep tracker says I finally fell asleep around midnight, woke at 0345, remained awake until 0700, then eked out some more sleep until 1000. This obviously ruled out morning flying, but in fact the wind was wack anyway, so not much was lost on that front, and yet my brain also felt like it had passed through a cheese grater so I wondered whether I would fly in the afternoon either. Eventually, though, with judicious applications of food, caffeine, mindless chores, and steamy water I pieced together a quorum of brain cells and headed to the northside around 1500.

When I arrived the sock suggested wind in the realm of 12-14 and reasonable smoothness of both direction and intensity. Watching other pilots fly, however, seemed to indicate a substantial thermic element. Joe launched a few minutes ahead of me and offered evidence thereof, surging upward immediately after launch.

After baselining my expectations on Joe’s launch I reverse inflated, spun around, and began working my way toward the ledge. It was… a little too easy. Unlike my last northside flight I did not find myself straining against my harness and having my feet tugged off the ground well before the ledge and so I fretted that I may have missed the optimal window and was on track for a quick sink-out. After launch I immediately and aggressively banked rightward and… was happy to find that my fears were mostly unfounded! I did not catapult upward the way Joe had a few moments earlier but I nonetheless managed to find enough of the lift band that I managed 55 minutes of unbroken flight from 1540-1635.

I am on the wing 7 o’clock relative to the hang glider. (photo credit: Ariel Zlatkovski)
I briefly saw the radio tower atop the upper bench but mostly just barely kept eking out some soaring around this altitude or a little higher. (photo credit: Joey Jarrell)

This proved a glorious day of flying which came with the challenge of navigating a traffic pattern with many other pilots soaring the ridge. At peak I counted 15 paragliders and one hang-glider sharing the space. We made the circumstances work but the density offered a fair amount of cognitive load. On many occasions I chose a flight path that proved sub-optimal for altitude sustainment but avoided risks around either getting pinned, pinning another pilot, or flying in someone’s blind spot. On a final such occasion I sufficiently lost the lift band that I began to sink out but I scarcely minded as I was tiring anyway.

My landing proved moderately hard on the body. Up until the last moment all seemed according to plan. I hit my target spot very precisely but moments before touching down I gather that a crosswind pulsed long enough to play havoc. With my toes just feet off the ground I found myself hovering and then acquiring a modicum of roll. I felt it impossible to gain adequate control authority on the countering brake and then the wind turned off and I plopped down in a fashion where I gather I made contact with just my right foot and had the left brake apply substantial load to my left arm. My left latissimus dorsi feels slightly abused as confirmation thereof. All things considered, this is a very minor injury, but nonetheless soft tissue documentation that there perhaps existed an opportunity for a last-second micro-correction WRT to wind alignment that I missed. Alas. File that under “cheap lesson”.

After an invigorating hike back to the top with Joe I hung out and continued to enjoy the setting sun while chewing the fat with Richard and Ariel until the chill of the cold night air drove us homeward.

What a wonderful afternoon. When you are flying your brain has only the attention for flying. Consequently this experience offered just what I needed to regain some semblance of normalcy in the wake of horrifying national events.

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