We had taken a strategic choice yesterday by hiking over high mountains to be in a position where we could glide out the altitude instead of hiking/running downhill, which is a pain to my knee. Wind could be an issue but most prognoses indicated it should be a flyable window in the morning.
Knut and I got ready at 07:00 and walked around the corner on top of the valley. We were both optimistic for a long sweet morning glide. We were even discussing soaring the ridges to extend the flight quite a bit. But as we approached our planned area of launching we realized the wind was not perpendicular to the valley, but it was funneled into the valley and compressed through this area. Strong and gusty! We waited a bit, but the conditions only got worse. Knut was crystal clear: This is not safe! In addition it was headwind so I would probably not make any progress at all. Now I had a long walk downhill ahead…no good.
Some way down the valley we decided to have another go at flying. We found a suitable take off and I was able to fly down to the valley floor, and landed on the sandbanks of a lake. Still quite windy so I didn’t make much forward progress, and the landing was vertically due to the strong wind. But it was OK and at least I didn’t have to walk downhill. Then it was just to saddle up and continue along the road for another 15 km.
After a while we grabbed a meal, and discussed how the day actually seemed to improve, despite the forecast saying wind, rain and overdevelopment. As we discuss we see two gliders in the air. Livetrack showed that they are part of the competition. They had chosen a much more southerly route yesterday, and were in a better position to avoid the wind. But now we were in the same spot and we had no time to lose. We planned which mountain to climb and went up.
The others that had flown over us a little earlier had landed in the valley towards TP3, and were hiking. It was late in the afternoon and we had to try to catch them.
In the air the thermals were weak, and a bit broken by the wind, but they worked. Luckily I had some tailwind component and was drifting almost in the correct direction. Now it was my turn to overfly the others. It shifts quickly in a competition like this. I was in the mood to go far and fast. Too much in the mode maybe…
Late in the evening I was able to soar up a west facing ridge and just had enough height to drift over the top and drop over at the back to shortcut the route. Lee side. Flushed down. I was prepared for this. It was expected. What I didn’t expect was the lack of alternative landings. Absolutely nothing! High pine trees as far as I could see. I continued on the speedbar to avoid the flush while I was calculating my options. I was too low to land on the summit above the trees, and my glide ratio was far from good enough to reach the open areas in the valley. Conditions would probably improve the further away from the lee I came, but I didn’t risk it. I didn’t want to continue downwind either to see if there was an opening in the forest somewhere. A three landing in these high trees would probably damage my gear, and potentially myself, and the race would be over.
I decided to set up for landing in a small open area on a mud road that was winding up on an otherwise tree covered hill. Not much space at all. Difficult as the wind made it turbulent, and it was not an ideal area to land a paraglider. I was able to pump myself down to the ground, but I was not quick enough to catch/pull in all parts of my glider and my right wing tip got stuck up in a tree.
Some lines caught quite high up in the trees…
The opening in the road was due to some work they had done, and part of that was to remove the bottom branches from the trees to clear the road. In my case that was a good thing because I was able to land there, but it was also frustrating because I was not able to climb the tree in a good way to get my glider loose. I tried to get it down by myself, but soon realized I needed help from my team. A rope and some manpower were required.
But where was I? And where were they? And where is the cell phone coverage in Spain?
I was able to get some coverage, got in touch with my team, and sent them a pin on my location. This would probably take some time since they had to walk quite far to get to me. (Approximately 10 kms). I was not allowed to move since it was past 21.00. I tried to relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the sky that was on fire that evening.
Late in the evening, or more precisely early at night they arrived. Well equipped with camping gear for me, food, headlamps, and repair kit for the glider.
After some time we managed to get the glider down from the trees, but not without some force, and some repair was required. Then it’s great to have a team member with skills and know how to repair gliders. Kudos to Nikolas for a well done field repair performed in the forest in the middle of the night!
Finally it was time to catch some sleep. At least I did get a few hours of sleep. Knut and Nikolas had to hike back down to the van, and they were not back before 04:00.
But hey! The bright side is that I was in a quite good position for the next day! Only 500 meters elevation to hike up to the summit and suitable area to launch. It was now a Vol Bivouac or perhaps a Bivouac Vol trip:)