(Re) Familiarization Flight

Four months.

Four months since the wing has seen the light of day.

Four months of skill atrophy, lost bump tolerance, and unexercised decision making.

Four months looking to be wiped away in a single day, in a single flight.

Ambitious? Yes. Aim for the stars if you hope to land on the moon, so they say.

Day One, Flight One

Huddled together on the El Penon launch is Marco’s crew on the last day of their paragliding cross country (XC) course. They are sorting through their homework assignment of planning the route today without assistance from Marco (aside from a final stamp of approval). After twenty arduous minutes a flight plan with turn points coalesces: PEN-CRAZY-MAG-3KINGS-MAG-SERRO-SANAUG-JOBAN. The majority of the transitions between turn points will require an altitude of not less than 3300 meters to allow for some margin of error. Only a few of the group have made it back to Valle during the course, so the lakeside LZ is left as optional.

The odds I will be able to complete this? Slim to none at this point. But if one fails to plan…

The group plus Marco all take off in an attempt to stay ahead of the gaggle that is sure to form over launch due to the arrival of a Scandinavian tour. I follow not long thereafter and slot in with pilots already starting to climb out.

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Climbing gaggle. Looking to gain enough height to transition to the rock on the right, El Penon.
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Nice contrast in color makes this one easy to keep tabs on.

It doesn’t take long to realize my skill set has suffered from the long lay off. Centering in the thermal core takes more effort than I remember, stealing attention that would otherwise be used to keep tabs on the climbs of nearby gaggles and plan my next step.

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Seeing the underside of another wing ofttimes signals one is not centered in the strongest lift.

Meanwhile, the better pilots on Marco’s course, coupled with pilots I suspect will be on his XC team in the upcoming comp have already passed El Penon and are moving towards the Crazy Thermal Place turnpoint. Unless they get stuck at some point along the route due to shading there is little chance I will be able to catch them, even without the rust that I need to shake off.

That said, there is little harm in at least making it over to Crazy as it is an easy glide to the piano shaped landing field (thus named the Piano LZ).

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El Penon ahead.
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Closer.

Given the slop in my thermaling, I question the wisdom in my diving in behind Penon to the Wall and G-Spot. Both of these are known for both strong and, at times, turbulent climbs. Erring on the side of caution I stick out front and scratch for whatever I can find, eventually making my way to the front of Crazy Thermal Place.

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On the right, the Wall. On the left end of the Wall (before the gap), G-Spot. To the left of the gap, Crazy Thermal Place.

At this point I am at a dead end, unless I want to push myself on the first flight of the trip and head up onto the mesa behind the Wall on my own.

That would be a no. Tomorrow, tomorrow we push. Today, today we ease in with the (re) familiarization.

 

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