Earlier this month rare but ideal conditions allowed more than 50 paraglider pilot – including some of our local South Africans who were on a tour – to fly above Mont Blanc and topland. This has only been done by a few pilots in the past, but improved understanding of the weather, more accurate predictions and a wealth of social media to spread the news resulted in this incredible feat. It looked more like the launch at a busy competition than the peak of one of the highest mountains in Europe. This is the nicest video I’ve come across, documenting the special magic of completing this bucket-list flight. Well done, Gaël Lafond.
“On 19th August 2012, the weather was perfect, and for the first time in paragliding history, about 50 pilots landed on top of the Mont-Blanc after taking off over Chamonix, almost 10.000 feet below… The first paragliding top landing occurred in 2003, and since, only a very few pilots had managed it.Le 19 août 2012, les conditions météo étaient parfaites, et pour la première fois de l’histoire du parapente, une cinquantaine de pilotes on atterri au sommet du Mont-Blanc après avoir décollé de Planpraz, au dessus de Chamonix, presque 3000m plus bas… Le premier posé au sommet du Mont-Blanc a eu lieu en 2003 et depuis, seuls un petit nombre de pilotes y étaient parvenus.”
Both free flying and powered paragliding have made an appearance in the popular media this month, with an article on PPG featuring SA team captain Tony Gibson in the latest edition of Popular Mechanics and some emotive text and beautiful visuals by Ant Allen in Full Circle Magazine. Followers of the blog will recognise some of the shots and the orange/yellow PPG over Cape Point… Well done to both for informative articles that will raise public awareness, appreciation and participation in our sports.
UPDATED: This time of the year (late August through to October) is one of the best for soaring flights along the Cape Peninsula and surrounding mountains. As the frontal systems make their march to the south for the summer, the cold fronts lessen in intensity, with more more moderate prefrontal north-westerlies and lingering postfrontal conditions. The air is cold and moist but the sun begins to reappear, leading to beautifully smooth soaring interspersed with the promise of good instability and thermal flying. It is certainly the ‘high’ season for the Cape pilot’s classic route: Signal Hill/Lion’s Head across to Table Mountain, southerly along the Twelve Apostles, and then back for sundowners or onwards into the lesser-flown for the brave (and those with dedicated retrieve drivers!). For many years this route was more frequented by the hang-glider pilots with their better glide and speed range (the NW can exhibit a strong wind gradient as one climbs), but as paraglider technology has improved it is now achievable by pilots on almost any wing. Come along on a tour, illustrated with my photos from today…
The current storm crossing SA has brough with it some impressive weather – all sorts of warning and alerts are out for strong winds and 10+m swells. Close to home, Signal Hill on the NW side of Table Mountain is a favourite flying site for the north-westerlies, but not today. Note the 110km/h gust 😉
Robbie Whittall is very well know in paragliding circles, and has been a world champion and record holder. In this short video essay, he describes what makes him love powered paragliding. The visuals are lovely, and I agree with the sentiments so wholeheartedly that I have to share it. Enjoy.
Fly alongside Rob Whittall as he soars above New Zealand’s West Coast with his Paramotor, in search of a little soul satisfaction. White Cloud Productions NZ joined forces with Rob to capture stunning images of Raglan and the surrounding area…presenting Surreal Perspectives.
Yesterday, though the forecast was very strong, when I had a look at the real time wind strengths at the airport and Muizenberg, I suspected that it would be flyable at Wolfgat (AKA Macassar). I headed down there after alerting the lists, and was very pleasantly surprised to have Earl Valentine call me and come to join me. It was quite special to have Earl along, as the last time he properly flew his glider was the day we were flying together at Dasklip, and he crashed with spinal injuries requiring a rescue, surgery and rehab. We arrived to find it too strong (40-45km/h on the traditional launch; 38km/h at the beach), and so I took the dog for a walk and grabbed a nearby geocache. After some intense parawaiting and talking rubbish (as we do), the wind began to drop. By 17h15 it was 28km/h and very steady on the dunes, and 18km/h on the beach, so I volunteered to launch the Gradient Avax XC3 from the beach, walk it up the dune and see how things felt. I was immediately flying, and soon joined by Earl on his Sol Synergy.
One of the Cape’s least appreciated but most consistent winter flying sites sits above the up-market coastal ‘suburb’ of Llandudno, on the western seaboard. Launch is from the slopes of Little Lion’s Head, and offers beautiful soaring and some interesting XC technical opportunities – I’ve flown 20km in either direction, which is a fun challenge. It’s a place to go soar with the laminar per-frontal nor’westerly, smell the damp fynbos, and play with the orographic clouds. Despite its raw beauty, most pilots shun Llandudno for the more convenient Signal Hill locked in the city, and so I’ve been campaigning for years to get more pilots to fly here. My mate and fellow wanderer put together this great little video showing what Llandudno can deliver. Enjoy 🙂