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1st Blog

Published on
09 June 2022

It all started with a drive down to Wales for the Dragon H&F 21st -22nd May that was when I was to leave home on this epic adventure of H&F. The forecast in Wales was less than favorable with wind at the top end but Alistair Andrews had positive views and the race was to go ahead with a 60km task touring the Black mountains. The morning was still and cloudy as we set out on foot Gettimg to TP1 still very early a team of 3 John westal, James Whitmore and I decided to continue on foot and run to the Llangorse ridge making a valley crossing on foot needless ro say a bad idea as Greg Chilton took off 15 minutes later and floated gently across to take over us and away out of sight.
Getting in the air from the ridge was easy with sin now hitting the ground a small hope to the Dragon back and away to Hey Bluff car park where we had to land, a quick pack and off to the top of Hey Bluff meeting up with a few Daniel starsmore and Greg Hamilton who tried his hand at kiting/taking off half way up on a strong cross on wind, I continued up to the top and slitly round the back to where I might get airborne. The wind now very strong but with a cobra launch I was off, getting battered by the turbulent wind down to the priority at the back of the Pandy ridge. As I tag the priority TP I was treat to a thermal/convergence from the south valley wind and the west wind filling in the valley to go straight up to a comfortable height to cross west to the next valley and save my legs the trouble. Thinking it was now time to land with the winds get ever stronger and I knew I had done well I landed on a gentle Lee slope to head to the next TP unfortunately Suger Loaf and massive pinnacle of a hill was in the way and with no other option to go straight up and over, I said to myself this was going to be the 2nd last hike of the day and I would finish in 1 day. I meet my supporter Dan Horeman on the other side of Suger Loaf to top up with water and away again to walk down, around and up Magic Mountain to take the final glide to goal where I was told that I’d managed to claw my way back from 12th to 2nd and relax watching the others making goal.
The Dragon H&F is a most awesome event and we’ll supported from the Helm by Alistair Andrews and his many helps and sponsors AirDesign, Cross Country Mag, Stodeus solar paragliding instruments. I’ll be back next year for more of the same, cheer Ali.

Next it was to head to Annecy France for the Bornes to fly 27th – 29th May.
I made Annecy a couple of days before the race, the excitement was in me from the moment i arrived. I met up with some new & old friends James who was helping throughout the race and much more, we flew the valley to get settled in and prepare
The morning of the race was upon us, sorting trackers and we were off for a lap around the carpark! Haha
Up to Forclaz, montmin to Tag the first TP and away. The day was still very still and lots of pilots cross the lake for the east faces of Roc des Boeufs but I thought it was only a matter of time that this side would work, it look to me that my friend Dan Starmore had the same idea and he was maintaining so I followed but struggling getting nothing more than 100ft higher than the end of the ridge I decided I had to move to the hard of the valley an to TP 2. Arriving low I really had to concentrate to stay in the air I could feel a little something where a ridge started and some power lines crossed into a low bowl just 50ft over the lines I searched about gaining 10ft here 20ft there gradually gaining the height I needed and meeting up with the leaders who had gone tye long way round. Now in good shape it was full speed ahead TP 3 was just across a narrow valley but we had to continue around the ridge to keep out of a nature reserve the cloud base was to low to cross it. Glancing from rock face to ridge topping up with hight as I needed to cross  towards Dent d’Arclusaz next a great big valley crossing to TP 4 Montendry. This is were my lack of vision messed it up after crossing from high peak and only just making it I couldn’t see how I was to make it back across to the next TP back the other side of the valley and I ended up landing and watching many others cross, what was I thinking in not even trying to cross! Lesson learnt. After meeting up with my supporter James and his son JJ I walked up to takeoff Montlambert but missing my path and trying to walk through woods I wasted precious time an got to takeoff to flyback down to the village I was at 2 hours ago. 2nd lesson leant.
Finishing the day no foot with JJ to Albertville than getting rescued by James.

Day 2 we need to get back in the air!
0700h start and we were off me on foot and JJ on his bike, the lads got real enjoy and it helped me each time he joined me, picking a takeoff at the head of Albertville it was a waiting game the cloud when I got there was lower than takeoff. 2 hours later 1230h I was airborne needing to hop over the mountain behind me but the cloud was still to low (sometimes you have to take the long way round) taking height on a south face I then scratching the north faces with north wind making my way round to look back over the mountain where id come from. Roche Parstire was next where I got shouted at by Vic, Dan Starmore’s wife were he had taken off half hour before, the hunt was on and he was in my sights. With the day working and Dan paving the way I followed quick and catching up under the same cloud we then parted ways my line more direct and to a ridge with clouds above Mont Joly south of Passy the next TP leaving at nearly 10,000ft and pushing into a North wind I made Passy with help from Tete Noire and the valley winds that brake off from it. A lovely Passy looked good with clouds above the giant rice faces, I was sure to find some lift. Half hour later I was back scrapping the clouds and south to Megeve with a glider under me doing the same, I’d got it in my head that I wanted to get back on the high ridge I’d left before Passy and this is where I leant another lesson (sometimes it good to stay with the gaggle)
The valley winds were working the faces but instead of turning right a went left before Megeve and got flushed to then have to slope land down wind in sinking air. I know what was I thinking! Quick pack up and off for a 40 minute walk to the ridge I was looking at, then back in the air to Tag Megeve and what I thought might be Dan crossing under me to fly south. Its wasn’t Dan he had leapfrogged me crossed the valley, flew thought the col at the Aravis to tag the rest of the TP’s and make it to goal! Amazing flying!
Bit here I was looking at the gap over the col and thinking it might be a little to much to try so landed I did to finish day 2 walking/running over the col and ready for day 3.  Phenomenal day of H&F!
Day 3 Let’s finish this
With a little walk up to L Etale and find a place to takeoff and fly across to Sulens, easy right? The great think about H&F is that you make it up as you go along, I had a steep enough slope, just enough space to lay my glider out, trees to the right of me, cables to the left, with little trees at the bottom, O did I mention the little back wind at times, well I was on a west face at 0800. With James holding my wing I set off like a train accordingly my wing picking up and flying between to branches but over the trees I went letting out a shout and on a morning glide of peace. Now looking at a couple of spots to land, one very ambitious and one safe option guess which one I picked. Haha taking no turns, heading straight for the hill infront I made it with 30ft over the trees and landed straight into the hill. You can do that in the Alpine mountains but not back home.
Sulens was the final TP this would be the time to practice patience while walking up the steep north face I watched as clouds started to appear and arriving at the top and doing my interview? (I never thought I was famous)
The glider was out the bag and ready, well I didn’t have to wait to long as a lad took off made it to cloud and away, there’s was no point in waiting. I soon joined the clouds and away towards the mammoth east rock faces of La Tournette and getting just enough height to cross the col and glide to goal.
Bornes to fly has been an great experience where again I have leant so much. Thanks to the many people that make these events come together and work so well.

Next the X-Pyr….. well a few days to recce the course. 

1st Greg Chilton 

2nd Me 

3rd Stephen Ashley 

Me flying off Mont Joly at 10,000ft on the way to Passy, Mont Blanc in the backbackground 

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