Paragliding Days 78, 79, and 80

Journaling immediately subsequent to a flying session offers the best value, but we cannot always attain Perfection, and insisting on it may thwart Good Enough. So, laggard though I have been, here I am playing catch-up.

Thursday left me tingling. Circumstances made for the first day in a while where I could ski in the afternoon then fly in the evening. And ohhhhh the sunlight, leaving me drenched in sweet delicious Vitamin D… I was peeling off layers while skiing then dressed lightly when setting up at FPS ~1730. When I arrived at the flight park the conditions up top were wildly beyond my ability but down below I could get a good workout kiting in dynamic circumstances. The wind continually attenuated and as it did I forward kited my way up the hill. Eventually the wind dropped enough that I felt compelled to grab a sledder back to my car. At the bottom, however, I found the trailer arriving and grabbed a ride back to the top for one more sledder in the dying wind. On both flights I found no-wind conditions at the bottom, and thus my approach feeling quite hot, but both times I held my flare to the last moment then put it in hard and touched down gently. The next morning my L5-S1 disc offered its silent approval.

Friday morning’s session found me pinched between business obligations, before flying some contractual wrangling around an upcoming opportunity, afterward an exploratory conversation around another. I found myself again working uphill from the bottom to an eventual vanilla sledder. The interesting facet was the work toward a launch. Finding a moment to launch when I had neither a twig induced line pinch, nor a gust triggering cravat, nor competing traffic offered a struggle. Eventually, however, I made it work and chalked up a more-than-zero-but-not-that-inspiring kind of flying day.

Today, Sunday, offered nothing particularly inspiring in the realm of actual flying, but the ground handling component was fantastically valuable and confidence inspiring.

I arrived at FPS ~0815, was ready to inflate ~0830, found wind conditions just tipping past my comfort level, but decided to power through anyway. By the time I was inflating ~0835 the nearby sensor already showed 13G14, that inflation suffered some delays due to wing folds and line pinch knots, and yet with some help from nearby folks those impediments proved surmountable with an As-and-Cs inflation. By ~0840 the sensor showed 14G15 and it might have been that late by the time I got the wing up. I had to sit waaaaaay back to prevent the wing from pulling me toward the back of the hill, and I had to be very careful about brake pressure, but to my surprise I made it work. Sort of. I could not make it to the lip but never once did I feel out of control. At one point I yelled at a nearby Richard “I am regrettably close to you!” to which he calmly replied “I’ll stay down.” “What is the wind?” I asked, to which he replied “fifteen gusting seventeen”, which I felt ought have been alarming, and yet there I was managing my 37m wing tolerably well. Twice I got close to the edge, spun forward, and tried to approach a launch, but got plucked and tugged slightly backward. I vaguely recall a nearby instructor on one such occasion shouting “HANDS UP!” but on both occasions I touched down gently, spun back to a reverse position, and kept it together. Eventually, however, some manner of turbulence managed to deflate my wing, and before it could execute an explosive reinflation I ran askew it and rapidly spooled in 4-6 rotations of brake line to shut it down with confidence. I then took in several coils of rears before coiling the rest of the lines, ensuring no subsequent inflation would catch me off guard.

I decided that the strengthening wind and the messy state of my wing argued against attempting a side-hill launch and so packed up, drove to the bottom, and set about cleaning up my wing in controlled circumstances. I then forward-kited my way up the training hill to two successive sledders. On the first one the most notable thing was that on my final inflation the wing came up with a huge twig in it, I got plucked enough to end up in a forward facing position, I leaned backward while looking upward and slamming on the brake toggles to dislodge said twig, saw it come loose then pressed the gas to get going. I was mindful of safety issues and resolved them pre-flight but don’t love the possibility that I could have been forced into flight before fully resolving them. Probably the line pinch would have been no issue, but… more margins less problems. For my second flight the most interesting component involved the uphill progress to launch. The wind had gone very cross and I found myself struggling to accomplish a pre-flight ascent. At Joe’s suggestion, however, I worked on a technique whereby I would take two sets of As in hand wind-side and one on the other while also having the Cs in the other hand and brake toggles at the ready as well. The first few tries were a hot mess but then… everything just kind of clicked and I managed a really clean ~100′ uphill run with my wing diagonal to the fall line. It was like finally living first-hand the thing I had long jealously watched other people do. WOO! At the end of this run I spun forward, executed a snap safety inspection, then flew down to the bottom.

No epic flights today but a whole other level of ground handling that just shortly prior I did not know was within my power!

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