On Friday 5th August I finally got to fly after not flying for over a month during which time the wider paragliding community suffered its blackest week ever first with Xavier Murillo dying in Chile followed shortly by the deaths of the two pilots flying in the World Championships in Piedrahita.
Even though I was thousands of miles away at the time I was following the live tracking and was aware pretty quickly that something was wrong, though I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that something as bad as this could have happened. And this definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for flying to such an extrent that I was really quite happy going to a big family lunch one Saturday when I knew that just a few miles away people were enjoying good flying conditions at Coombe Gibbet. And there were a couple of other occasions where conditions were flyable (though not epic), which under normal circumstances I would probably have gone even if it meant some parawaiting.
And so I’ve been waiting for the British Paragliding Championships in St Jean to give me a bit of an enthusiasm kick start, and fortunately the conditions on the day we arrived here provided just such an opportunity. Having driven through the night we (Guy Anderson, Dave Gibbs, Mike Miller and me) arrived in St Jean at 1030 under blue skies with the first cumulus popping off the mountains. After finding our apartment, unpacking and having a bite to eat we headed up to the take-off on the ancient chairlift and were ready to launch at about 1500.
There was quite a large and somewhat threatening cloud sitting above the Dormillouse however there was blue sky within easy gliding distance so I took off first and cautiously explored the surrounding area carefull not to get too high under the cloud. There was some strong lift around (3m/s) and it was pretty bumpy, but once a few more people took off my confidence grew and I started enjoying myself rather than wondering what I was doing up here! After twenty minutes or so I was loving it and really enjoying getting stuck into the thermals and soaking up the spectacular views!
Nick (Somerville), Guy and I pushed out in front for about twenty minutes before getting low (none of the obvious triggers out in front were working) so we headed towards the landing field quite content to land having had a nice little explore. However Guy and I managed to get a great climb from low down near the LZ and soon were up at 2500m again so we dicide to spread our wings a bit firther this time and headed SW to the mountains beyond Seyne some 10km away.
There were some lovely strong climbs en-route and pretty soon we were enjoying spectacular views back towards the Dormillouse ridge…
By now the sky to the NW was looking a bit menacing so we decided to quit while we were ahead and head for home for a few well earned beers!
So, what a great first flight – the perfect kick start I needed to exorcise my demons, and the perfect introduction to the area!
Fingers crossed for a great week’s flying!
More photos on Flickr here.