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Training for the X-Pyr in the Owens

Published on
11 June 2022

With five more weeks until the X-Pyr I am grasping and gasping for air.  Not just air time, which has been hard to come by in a stable Southern California spell, but actual air.  Over 5,000m above my favorite place to fly, the Owens Valley. My teammate Honza Rejmanek and I packed our gear for a 3 day Vol Biv, starting from Walts Point to do an out and back. Landing as high as we can often just after peak heating in strong conditions.

I’m here not just because I absolutely love this stuff but a layer deeper in the intention of mental and skills training for the Pyrenees.  When I asked a past X-Pyr competitor for his advice, all he had was “It’s the only place I have thrown my reserve.” I replied “Perfect, sounds like a great adventure.” 

The Owens is notorious for the massive rotor and wave created off of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Honza has been here before to study wave and early in that first day we can already feel the West wind coming in.  A roller coaster of flushing and climbing and just after three hours of flying this intense huge landscape we finally find ourselves both established above the crest and pushing a strong headwind.  At risk of losing it all once again and possibly landing 3,000m lower in the valley we decide to cross the crest of the Sierra, deeper into the wilderness.  Landing above the trees with the frozen lakes.

We hike across the basin to find a camp but there is still light, with endless energy, our legs need to move.  Back to the crest we trudge, the altitude slows our words until they stop completely.  Trying not to sweat too much, it’s getting cold below freezing, and going to get colder.  

Our tents are made below, we only brought the basics for what we hoped would be a quick soaring session.  X-Pyr on my mind as we set up for our last flight.  We fly, we laugh, we land as the sun disappears.  Steaks over the fire for dinner, need that protein, this is only day one.  Tomorrow more training, starting with a steep hike to steep snowy couloir, our only launch option.  These X-Pyr skills coupled with many months of training are the best we can hope for from the other side of the globe. 

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