Flying Outside the Risers

Wednesday, it’s Wednesday…I think.

The days have faded into a blur, where the only reference to a particular day of the week is which night the restaurant at the hotel is closed. Life is evolving into a paragliding equivalent of ‘Groundhog Day’ – up at 5, bank machine hunt at 5:15*, back by 6:45. Skype at 7, breakfast at 9, meet at 10, leave at 10:15, retrieve by 3, meet at 4, leave at 4:15, retrieve by 7, dinner by 8, sleep by 10. Repeat.

* – (Saturday note) after a week and countless kilometers of walking, I have finally managed to find a bank machine that actually exists, is within half an hours walk, and works with a Canadian debit card.

Wednesday, it’s Wednesday…I think. Yes, it is Wednesday and we are on the lower launch (there are six launches in the area, but our group has been exclusively using only two, depending on winds and cloud base). The crew are getting into the swing of things, refining their carve and thermal mapping skills to the point they are beginning to climb out with little prompting on the radio (aside from the occasional, ‘See that red wing to your left, it is climbing’, hint to go capitalize on a new thermal sign).

I am last of the students to launch, again. I head for the house thermal to the left (the ‘mound’) to join Matt who has marked the climb and has set up a clockwise turn direction. I scoot in behind him, from the outside, as he climbs past me. I can envision the smile on his face as he sees the top of my wing for the first time this week – the ‘old dog’ is getting schooled.

The radio chirps with a prompt from the instructor to one of the newer pilots. The pilot is getting low and at risk of sinking out, a suggestion is made to go and join us.

I see Matt above me hit the inversion, likely noticing that two wings are climbing up to join him. He heads off southeast towards the flats.

I figure I have a little time to try and see if I can grab a core that could bust the inversion and open the opportunity to move higher up on the ridge to the east. A glance down changes all that.

The newer pilot has hooked a good climb, quite possibly the core I am looking for, but is turning counterclockwise.

I figure eight out and back in to join him in the same turn direction. My hopes for the core being strong enough are dashed, as it washes out. My thermaling skill is not yet at the point I could hook inside and up on another wing, in a decreasing radius turn – doubly so with a student that is clearly ‘flying within the risers’ – oblivious of the world outside their harness/brakes and prone to abrupt changes in direction.

I head off after Matt onto the flats, watching a bee swarm of students gaggle inside a thermal closer to the LZ. One shake of the head and I veer further eastward.

A few stern words are heard on the radio and it is obvious someone got a bit close.

Upon landing, I come across a discussion underway about awareness in the air that could be summed up with:

1. Avoid a collision with another wing at all costs.
2. Right of way is to be given, never taken.
3. Be predictable.
4. Ridge/thermal rules are guidelines, not laws. Do not expect anyone else to follow them.
5. Never show the top side of your wing to anyone at the same altitude as you in a thermal (don’t cut them off).

The learning never ends.

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