Fishin’ in a gale.

Strong south with a taste of east.

Looks like we won’t be going far today, neither in distance to launch nor distance post launch.

Atop Chabre the wind is whistling through the scrubby trees, varying from 15 to 25 kph. Ridge soarable if one keeps mind not to get blown over the spineback comprising Chabre.

Off in the distance is the ‘fish’, the main lz for the site. The general rule of thumb: if one gets below the clear start of continuous vegetation demarking the lower extent of launch, push out towards the fish. Not only to err on the side of caution, but often times thermals will trigger from lower changes in topography and thus not hug the terrain all the way up.

 Off in the distance, the ‘fish’ lz. The closer clearing, while tempting, is inadvisable.

The first flight is a simple back and forth on the ridge as the winds are fairly strong out of the south east. A few times I would look down at the ground 20m or so below and notice I am not really moving. One of the drivers Stuart, who was given the opportunity to fly with us, pipes up on the radio that he is heading towards the fish. When someone with 5 to 6 times the experience of myself says they are going to land, especially when they haven’t had much chance to fly, I pay attention. So I follow him out and by the time I am over the fish, I am more or less parked. I am definitely light on this wing.

We stand down for the remainder of the day. Dinner, the Vietnamese place in Laragne. The evenings entertainment – Stuart saying, ‘boissons’ to place a drink order and the server convinced that he was trying to order ‘poissons’ (fish).


The next day.

Conditions are ok, but expected to deteriorate quickly with an approaching cold front (and resultant storms). The guides keep us local as there is little point in driving across the department when we will need to be done by the afternoon. The air was more active than the day previous, to the point that I am able to surf the gorge just south of the lz. Definitely going to see storms this afternoon.

Back up the hill we go.

I stick my nose out of the van and decide to leave my bag where it is. The meteo winds have picked up with some degree of gustiness. But what has my attention are the clouds approaching from the southwest. My surfing the gorge on the bubbles of lift means there is a lot of heated air in the valley just waiting for a way to break the inversion keeping that air earth bound. The clouds with their thermal feed is just that conduit. Rising air is moving air and moving air is wind. When those clouds reach us, launch is going to blow out something fierce.

Dave, one of the owners of Allez-Up and the local weather guru, mentions it is borderline too strong. But folk are pulling bags out anyways. Most of my fellow course participants are coastal/flatland fliers with minimal mountain experience and it is showing.

One of the Brits is laid out, clipped in, and rearing to go.

The cloud shadows just reach the southern edge of the valley.

“You might want to unclip”, I say to the pilot.

No response.

The cloud line? Mid valley.

“You really might want to unclip.”

Still nothing.

The cloud line reaches the base of the mountain. The wind starts to pick up, growing in intensity.

The Brits fights to keep his whipping wing grounded and under control. The near gale continues. A minute passes and everything thing calms down, slightly. The guides tell everyone to pack it up.

Another day, another lesson.

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