That is the general vibe I get from the campground this morning. The Chabre Open has closed and folk are slowly pulling themselves free from bed to begin packing. The organizers start collecting up left over forms and swag*.
Having packed up and turned in the key for my room, I sit outside on the patio awaiting Chris and Foram from Escape XC. Even though the folk from Escape should have a day off with pilots in transit to Laragne, Chris has offered to give us a tour of the LZs to the west and even provide some impromptu guiding in the air.
First we need to drop our non flying kit off at the residences of Allez-Up, a local B&B/Gite rental specializing in catering to PG and HG pilots. The majority of the pilots are staying in the main house while a pair of us have use of the ‘cabin’, a small two building outcropping. One building is a single bedroom while the other has the kitchen, bathroom and a mezzanine/loft sleeping area. The loft was exactly what I was hoping to score when Escape was arranging the accommodations.
Once rooms are sorted, a quick briefing and round table introductions are held. There are a pair of courses being run concurrently – a single week, that I and three others are on, and a two week with the remaining eight pilots. With this number of pilots it would be difficult to keep track of who is who in the air, especially for pilots not familiar with the guides wings.
A laminated card with color correct wing make and model photos along with the pilots name below. Some velcro tape to latch it to a flight deck and voila, instant IFF. Brilliant.
Initial details sorted, we fill the van along with the LandRover and head west. A succession of stops at each of the official LZs, suggestions on where lift can be found along the valley and, most importantly, where we really do not want to find ourselves low.
The winds are north west, which align rather well with the launch at Bergies, near the village of Sederon. A quick climb up the backside of the mountain reveals a small observatory overlooking a wide alpine meadow. Ample amounts of room to layout.
Foram launches first, soaring back and forth in front of launch. A few of the pilots follow suit, then Chris, myself, and the remainder. One of the crew, Doug, manages to quickly climb out and starts his trek east towards Ribiers. The remainder of us try to soar up the windward side of the slope with the hope of catching a wind torn leeward side forming thermal. Varying degrees of success, but all ending in the same way – piling back into the vehicles for another go. The second attempt proves more successful all around with a call from Chris that he was at 1450 meters and starting to cross the small valley to the Sederon horseshoe.
The scree slope along the northwest edge of bowl was into sun and wind and should be a reliable thermal generator. And it was, for everyone else. Bad timing on my part coupled with a low point of arrival equals scratch-fest. Diving in deeper means surrendering the chance of an easy retrieve, but how does one learn if one does not risk?
The risk doesn’t pay off this time and a ‘vache’ it is. After a decent walk around the fenced crop/livestock fields, I arrive in Sederon and put out my fifth location update. No response. Check the cell phone. No signal. Looks like I need to get clear of the valley to be able to get a hold of retrieve. I begin the hike south towards the main valley leading back to Laragne. Half an hour later the van finds me and ferries me to the ‘Argentinian’ Bar. I was starting to get concerned I might be forgotten and spending a night sleeping in my wing trying to hitch back to Ribiers, but lone behold the organizers leave no man behind.
* Speaking of swag, XCMag was one of the sponsors of the Chabre and had a large stack of the ‘Driver may be distracted by fluffy white clouds’ bumper stickers sitting out. Come Saturday morning that pile was noticeably smaller and my backpack a bit heavier.