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Photo: Jorge Atramiz
Pilot: Mike Langel cruising along the Indian Himalayas on the Zeolite
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Travelling to Cappadocia Visiting a Wold Heritage Site by air
VolBiv with the wind Setting off from the front door â€“ only on foot and with glider
Road Trip to Mongolia On the road through Central Asia; and above it
XC-Flying in the Indian Himalayas Triangle route on the track of the Dalai Lama
CrossAlps Express From the South of France to Austria in three flying days
CONTENTS TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
44 ALPINE PLAYGROUND
58 Ã€GER, SPAIN
62 CAUCA VALLEY
72 SOUTHERN AFRICA
88 FUN COMPS
90 PPG DIARY
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 CONTENTS
FEATURES 14 Gallery 24 Choosing a Guide
What to look for when booking a course or going on a guided trip
26 Living the #Vanlife
54 ANNECY, FRANCE
Is living on wheels really living the dream? Andy Pag has the answer
28 Responsible Travel
Are the days of guilt-free air travel over? Matt Warren takes on the issue
32 Maximum Air Time
Where to guarantee the weather
36 How to fly vol-biv
Launch, fly, land, sleep. Dougie Swanson-Low on first-time vol-biv
44 Four Seasons in the Alps
65 VALLE DE BRAVO
66 NORTHEAST BRAZIL
An introduction to flying Europe’s ultimate mountain playground
50 200km from Grente
Till Gottbrath reveals the secrets of this Alpine XC hotspot
62 10 Days in the Cauca Valley
Seb Ospina explains there’s more to Colombia than Roldanillo
76 Classic New Zealand
76 NEW ZEALAND
Felix Wölk explores Queenstown, Wanaka and Mount Cook
30 XC Guides 40 Instruments 55 Annecy 68 The Americas 96 XC Shop
94 ACRO WORLDS
ON THE COVER Anatolii Mykhailiuta & Stephane Drouin, Pakistan Photo: Kieran Campbell
CONTENTS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
TRAVEL THE WORLD
elcome to the 2020 edition of the Cross Country Travel Guide – our annual guided tour of some of the world’s best flying spots. It will not have escaped your notice that travel and how we do it has become a hot issue. The environmental and social challenges travel, and air travel in particular, present are not new, but they have moved up the agenda quickly this past year. You can’t hop on a plane from Europe to Colombia in 2020 without either feeling a little bit guilty, or annoyed that someone somewhere is trying to make you feel a little bit guilty, about your carbon footprint. In Sweden they even have a name for it: Flygskam, flight shame. As pilots we are of course not immune to any of it, even though we like to think we tread lightly and leave no trace. That may be true in some of the still-wilder parts of the world, but it’s not true for many of the world’s more popular sites. We’re not skiing, with its mountaintop restaurants and massive infrastructure, but we’re not blameless either. What to do about it? We are after all already in the wash cycle asking for the soap to be changed. My guess is that we will all make our own personal decisions on how to travel lighter: to take the train instead of fly; to enter the comps nearby rather than on the other side of the world; to limit the number of trips we take in a year, or to extend the one we do take. Whatever we
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 EDITORIAL
SECRET SPOT Surfing for sites on Google Earth Photo: John Stapels
do, it is a challenge we will be dealing with for years, wherever we are from. The joy is that there is a world of flying still to discover, no matter how we get there, or even if it takes us a little longer. The beautiful thing about free flight is that our real destination is the sky: every day is different, even if we fly from the same site 365 days a year. We don’t have to travel half way around the world to have an amazing experience; we simply need to take off. In this edition of the Cross Country Travel Guide you’ll find three sections. First comes Travel IQ, which looks at subjects like the alreadymentioned hot potato of responsible travel, how to choose a paragliding guide and how to vol-biv. Then we have the Destinations section, where we focus on getting to know some truly amazing sites. Where we could, we asked locals or near-locals to tell us all about them and what makes them special. Finally we have the What’s On section, your guide to the year’s most important competitions and biggest festivals or fly-ins. No matter where you go or how you get there this year, I hope you have an amazing time. One of the beauties of our sport is how it opens our eyes to what a jewel we live on, and how precious it is. Flying teaches you that, and travel can too. Bon vol! Ed Ewing Editor
Editor: Ed Ewing Designer: Marcus King Subeditor: Charlie King Contributors: Andy Pag, Matt Warren, Charlie King Advertising: Verity Sowden-Green Subscriptions: Georgeana Parsons Accounts: Carol Harrison Publisher: Hugh Miller Cross Country International Ltd Tollgate, Beddingham, Lewes BN8 6JZ, UK
Dougie Swanson-Low, 29, is a senior design engineer at DMM, a climbing gear manufacturer. He lives in North Wales, “Within 10 minutes of work there are five great mountain sites for all wind directions,” he says. A committed climber in his early 20s, he started flying four years ago and never looked back. He’s since flown in the Himalayas and Colombia and last year flew his first long vol-biv through the Alps with friend Tony Blacker – read all about it on p36. instagram.com/dougie.swanson.low
Joanna Di Grigoli is a pilot and translator – she heads up Cross Country en Español for us – and is a veteran of long-distance campaigns in the northeast of Brazil. Over the past few years she has spent weeks waiting for conditions in Quixadá, and this year she joined the crowd towing. She has flown thousands of kilometres across the Brazilian flatlands, her longest flight more than 400km. She gives us the lowdown on how to fly in this amazing free-flight arena. instagram.com/joannadigrigoli
Kieran Campbell is an aerial photographer and filmmaker who brings his landscape eye to his paragliding photography. Last year he spent time flying in France, Spain and Macedonia, before finishing his season exploring the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. You’ll find his photos on several pages – Laragne p88, Ager p58, and Hunza on p80. Despite exploring far and wide he is never happier than when flying his favourite home mountain sites in Scotland. instagram.com/kieran.campbell
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The Cross Country Travel Guide is published as an annual supplement for subscribers of Cross Country Magazine. Distributed Jan 2018.
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“WITH MORE THAN 500 200KM FLIGHTS A YEAR GRENTE IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO TRY THIS. WHY?” Till Gottbrath on Grente Alm, p50
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Jack Pimblett on Tenerife, p60
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 CONTRIBUTORS
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CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 BIG PICTURE
ï‚ƒOFF PISTE Regi Batt flies down after climbing Hellostinden in Lofoten, Norway Photo: Tobias Dimmler
BIG PICTURE CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 BIG PICTURE
ï‚ƒFLYING FROM SUGARLOAF Matjaz Klemencic soars above Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa, Brazil Photo: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool
BIG PICTURE CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
TIME TRAVEL Flying the ancient Egyptian ruins in Luxor, next to the River Nile Photo: Nico Aubert
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 BIG PICTURE
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Further information at
TRIP OUT How to choose the right course or guide to make the most of your time p24-25
#VANLIFE Top tips on hitting the road to fly and travel full time. Tip 1: Bigger is better p26-27
ï‚‚SLEEP OVER Our vol-biv guide for first-timers Photo: Jorge Atramiz
LONGHAUL Fly less, travel light, buy local. How to be a responsible traveller p28-29
FLY ALL DAY Reader recommendations on where to go to get maximum airtime p32
TRAVEL IQ CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
HOW TO… CHOOSE A TRIP
he difference between a good guide and a poor one is you having a great day and flying 100km, or bombing out and spending the rest of the day scratching at the dust with a stick while the rest of the pack flies overhead at base. I’m lucky enough to have been on several different guided trips and advanced XC or SIV courses. Here are my top tips to make the most of your precious time and money.
it can be time to look beyond the school. Word of mouth really works here. Good, professional paragliding guides have spent many years building up their business and client list. They have many satisfied customers, and lots of repeat business. Ask other pilots who they have been away with, who they recommend and why. Research them online, then pick up the phone to find out more.
1. Go with the people you know. If you are a new pilot who wants to fly as much as possible and build hours, then your school will often offer just this type of trip. The advantage is you know them and, more importantly, they know you. They will accommodate your shaky take-off style, know your strengths, and help you continue your progression safely.
3. Know who will be guiding you. Guiding can struggle to be scalable. The guide with the good name is often in high demand, so they often take on other guides for certain trips. This is fine, but check who will be guiding your trip, and what their credentials are, so you are not disappointed. Good guides will be honest about this.
2. Word of mouth is gold. For those looking to spread their wings, explore new places or go on an advanced training course, then
4. Do they speak your language? Flying takes up mental bandwidth, and having to deal with a new place, new pilots and radio chatter is enough. Whether going on holiday,
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 CHOOSING A TRIP
an SIV or a guided vol-biv expedition, if you struggle to understand your guide mistakes in translation can easily happen. That can be inconvenient, or it can be a safety issue. 5. Don’t shop around on price (too much). Cheap flying holidays and guides come at a price, and it is usually poor logistics and frustrated flying days. Compared with other sports like mountain-guiding or off-piste skiguiding, paragliding guiding usually offers remarkably good value. The skills involved in shepherding you successfully and safely from A to B through 110km of open sky in Colombia are rare, and, again, the ones with a good reputation do charge a premium. It’s usually worth paying. 6. Know what you are getting. Is everything included, or are you just paying for the guiding? If so, how much will accommodation, travel, transport and food cost you? It can pay dividends in headspace to shell out a little bit more to have your
own room, or stay in a slightly nicer place. Ask where most other pilots will be staying. On SIV and XC courses especially you can miss out on all the informal debriefing and knowledge-sharing that goes on if you choose to stay apart from the group. Go all in. 7. Ask questions before you sign up. Not things like “Will I need a jumper?” (the answer is always yes), but questions that help you decide if the trip is the right one for you. How big is the group? Who are the assistant guides? What will a typical day look like? What conditions can you expect? What happens if you bomb out? Have an accident? Is there helicopter rescue where you are going? (Don’t assume there will be). What about insurance? 8. Don’t bring work with you. It can be tempting to tell work you will only be an email away. Try not to. Flying takes a lot of focus, and to get the most out of your course you need to be present. Having to answer messages can ruin your day and will distract you. You’re paying to be there, so be there!
9. Consider a competition. For pilots who know how to fly XC, comps can be a good way of flying a new area with all the logistics taken care of. Land anywhere and get a retrieve – what could be better? Bear in mind you will probably only fly once a day though and if you bomb out that’s it. The beauty of a good guide is they will often have you flying a sled ride in the morning, going XC in the afternoon and then sunset soaring at the end of the day. 10. Every day is different, every day counts. You can have the best day on Day 1, and sit in the rain for the rest of the week. Fly when it is flyable, and avoid thinking, “I’ll do that tomorrow”. I remember once chewing my knuckles in frustration when a pilot on a course ordered paella for lunch in Spain (a three-hour meal) as pilots soared the cliffs behind. Once we made it to launch it was blown-out – and stayed that way for five days. Take advantage of every opportunity to fly a bit more, or go a bit further. If the guide says, “Do you want to…” just say Yes! Ed Ewing
RADIO CONTROL School guiding in the French Alps Photo: Marcus King UNDER INSTRUCTION Getting briefed ahead of an SIV tow flight above a lake, Australia Photo: Tex Beck
CHOOSING A TRIP CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
LIVING YOUR BEST #VANLIFE
ON THE ROAD Exploring flying spots in northern Norway by day, and trading tales around the campfire at night Photos: Jorge Atramiz
anlife? It’s easy. You’ll need a VW van, a well-conditioned beard, and a girlfriend/boyfriend who’s perpetually in a sarong. Shoot a few videos at sunset for your YouTube channel pondering the freedom of the simple life, and then beg viewers for a donation in your Patreon account. Ker-ching. #Vanlife awaits. Oh, and get a dog too, ideally a shaggy mongrel with a neckerchief. There are actually a few people who do make a living out of living in their vans, but the reality of following your passion on four
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 VAN LIFE
wheels is some distance from the manicured online fantasy they present. As someone who has spent years at a time living out of a van while touring paragliding flying sites in Europe, Asia and the US, there are a few hard-won lessons I’ve learned that make the difference between making the #Vanlife fantasy a reality, and being wedged into a campsite next to a noisy family of six. A VW Transporter is fine for a long weekend, or even a week at a push, but they are small. If you’re going to be living out of a van for any length of time you’ll soon tire
of the dinky fridge and dollhouse stove. Get a van big enough for you and your travelling companions to hang out in when it’s raining and you’re all stuck inside. Remember that gliders will take up a huge amount of storage space so however big you were thinking, get a bigger van than that. For the flexibility to follow the best flying weather you’ll need to be as autonomous as possible. Solar panels to power a decent-sized fridge and water tanks with a filtering system you trust to drink from are prerequisite for free camping. I’d also recommend a toilet and a shower too. They’re the difference between living in a van, and being homeless. To fit the fridge, shower and toilet and have the roof space for all the panels, you’ll need even more space. Better get the van that’s the next size up again. You can do it in a small van, but not comfortably, and in no time a cramped camper will drive you nuts. The occasional campsite can be a respite but they tend to be crowded with holidaymakers in the flying season and expensive, and with a well set-up ride you
don’t need them. You’ll find water taps in filling stations and churchyards. In the mountains you can fill water tanks from fountains and springs. Get a long hose in case you can’t get the van close enough. Pick up a local SIM card with a big data package so you can follow the weather and contact local clubs and sites. Paragliding Earth is still one of the best resources. Also get Park4Night, a free app that lists places you can park up and camp. You’ll be surprised how quickly you meet other vanflyers willing to buddy up for shuttles and destination planning. Some commercial schools can give independent flyers the evil eye so don’t count on them sharing that empty shuttle-bus seat, even for a fee. Be prepared to hike to takeoff and if you cover any distance in the air, mentally map your path to a good hitching spot as you come in to land. Many paragliding clubs will let you park up near the landing. It’s a great feeling to land and fold up right by the van. Andy Pag
Five easy flying spots to take your van Bassano del Grappa, Italy. One of my favourites, this is a good first stop to test out your camper. The club is really well organised with regular shuttles, the flying is reliable, and you can get a hot shower from the hotel next to the landing for two euros. Talloires, Lake Annecy, France. Another easy spot. If you ask kindly or keep a low profile, you can park in the gravel car park next to the landing field and it’s just a short walk to the bus stop where the shuttle leaves for the take-off. There’s a similar option at Doussard, on the southern end of the lake. Tolmin, Slovenia. You can park next to the paragliding clubhouse and check the weather on their outdoor screen without getting out of bed. All three of these spots have official campsites nearby if you don’t want to freecamp. Woodrat Mountain, Oregon, USA. Across the Atlantic in the USA the Fiasco Winery by Woodrat Mountain in Ruch, Oregon is a good place to aim for. The pilot-owner Dave has cleared a landing area for paragliders and hang gliders, and created a camping area by the small brook. Torrey Pines, California. Further down the West Coast at Torrey Pines you can camp discreetely in the gravel car park behind the clubhouse and be on the grassy take-off as soon as the morning sea breeze kicks in.
VAN LIFE CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
ree flight takes us to some of the world’s most beautiful and unspoilt landscapes. But getting to – and sometimes even just visiting – them can put their very existence in peril. Climate change, overtourism, plastic pollution, littering and overdevelopment are all part of the problem. Certainly, chasing the flying season around the world from Europe to Brazil to India to Australia and back again will send your carbon footprint rocketing – so what to do about it?
When it comes to travel, flying has by far the largest impact. The aviation industry currently contributes around 2% of emissions globally. According to Atmosfair, a return flight from London to Munich, for example, generates around 176kg of CO2, while a round-trip to New Delhi will release 1,181kg of CO2 into the atmosphere – that’s far more carbon than many people in the world emit in a year.
The obvious tip, then, is to fly less. Limiting your trips abroad and making more use of your local sites, or those further afield that you can reach by rail or road, will make a massive dent in your carbon footprint. And when you do fly, fly economy, pack light (it all makes a difference) – and consider paying into a carbon offset scheme. These vary in price and quality, so do some careful research, but service providers include Atmosfair (atmosfair.de.en), Climate Care (climatecare.org) and Flygreen (flygrn.com). When travelling to and from the airport, opt for a train or bus.
some of the worst air pollution in France. Hardly a surprise given that five million tourists visit every year and it’s on the direct route for thousands of trucks a day travelling between Italy and France. With this in mind, always consider whether you might be part of the problem. Avoid locations that are already struggling to accommodate the crowds, opt to stay in an eco-friendly hotel, travel around responsibly (sharing a ride with others reduces pollution and congestion), and shop with the environment in mind.
Ditch the plastic
You should also consider the impact your visit will have on your destination – and those who live there. According to the latest figures from the World Tourism Organisation, tourist arrivals grew to 1.322 billion in 2017. That’s a whole lot of travellers – and many locations are buckling under the pressure. Paragliding hotspot Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc, for example, has
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL
Waste plastic has become a catastrophic issue globally (approximately one million plastic bottles are bought every minute), so avoid plastic bags, bottles, straws and other – particularly single use – items wherever possible. Where there’s a safe source of fresh water, use a refillable bottle. And when you do have to throw something away, do it responsibly. Just because there
isn’t a bin on the top of a mountain doesn’t mean it’s OK to litter.
Live like a local
When eating out, opt for restaurants that cater to locals. Apart from being more likely to use local produce and support local workers, they’ll be easier on your credit card, too. And when celebrating with a beer at the end of your flight, order the local brand. In many cases, you may dodge the carbon cost of shipping an imported label halfway round the planet.
In many parts of the world, haggling is expected. But consider carefully how hard to push the price down. A little extra for you may be a lot more for the local you are haggling with. While you’re abroad, also consider how else you can give back to the community you’re staying in, perhaps by volunteering.
Back at your hotel or apartment, follow the same rules you likely do at home. Don’t leave electrical devices on standby, avoid air-conditioning where possible and request that your sheets and towels
aren’t replaced every day. You don’t change your own sheets after one night, so why insist on it abroad? Water is a valuable resource in many paragliding destinations, so keep an eye on the amount you use. It’s even worth considering the impact your sun screen could have on the environment. Don’t risk burning yourself, but some contain harmful chemicals, such as oxybenzone, that can wash off into natural waterways, harming local species. If you’re feeling keen, do a little homework and ensure your product is safe.
Be part of the solution
Overall, keep in mind that when tourists visit a destination, the landscape changes to accommodate them. Roads and cable cars are built, hotels appear and green spaces vanish. Tourism can bring huge economic benefits for many parts of the world, but it can also cause damage. Think about how your visit may tip the balance. None of us can fix the climate crisis alone, but we can make an effort to play our part and keep paragliding beautiful. Matt Warren
ON THE MOVE Zoning out while in traffic in one of India’s big cities ON FOOT Tom de Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens hiking in Spiti, in the Indian Himalaya. Photos: John Stapels
RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
Guided trips open up new places to fly and can really boost your learning curve
Paragliding is a life-long journey – you never stop learning. At the start of that journey especially, it can be difficult to know exactly how to progress well and efficiently. Sure, you want to rack up the hours, learn to thermal and fly XC, but there are ways of doing that well, so you don’t waste precious time and money. A good guide will help get you to the right location at the right time, and will help you interpret the weather and make the most of the day. With a group you have instant camaraderie and a sense of shared mission. It’s a really good way to learn. They help keep you safe too. For more established pilots, a guided trip is the perfect way to get the most out of an area quickly. Arrive, get the briefing, and on with the flying. No tricky logisitics or wasted days. Photo: Tex Beck
FlySpain Flight Centre
Based in the flying mecca of Algodonales, SW Spain, FlySpain is a complete flight centre offering courses and guiding from beginner to XC pilots. We offer fantastic accommodation with pool, a team of fulltime guides, transport, and bespoke coaching or tuition. We have everything you need for a great holiday including FlyMaster tracking for safety and quick retrieves. We also run paramotor weeks using our machines and your glider, and offer all level of PPG courses. flyspain.co.uk, +34 65 173 6718
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 GUIDES
Andy Flühler and Michael Gebert have been guiding all around the world for years. They say their goal is always to find new adventures, fly places no one has ever been and to develop new XC sites. The latest exploration for 2020 is called the “Pampas Tour” and follows cloud streets across Uruguay and northern Argentina in South America. Check out their approximately 40 destinations online and contact the office for personal recommendations. flywithandy.com, +41 77 218 41 62. Based in Oberdorf, Switzerland, we speak English, German, Spanish and Portuguese
Steve Ham has been guiding in Piedrahita since the early 1990s and his XC courses have a reputation for excellence. He focuses on intermediate pilots, flying EN-B and EN-C wings, who want to fly XC. After a detailed weather briefing daily goals are set between 50-150km. Steve then helps guide pilots through central Spain’s famous mix of flatlands and mountains, wih its long lines of convergence and 3,500-4,000m base. Accommodation, transfers, live tracking and guiding is included. Pilots stay in the heart of town, just 200m from the landing. flypiedrahita.com
Airworks Paragliding School in the English South Downs National Park has private sites and great classroom facilities, as well as a cafe. In late spring they teach SIV in Annecy, France, and lead trips to that most reliable and mellow thermal paradise, the green and luscious Indian Himalayan foothills every spring and autumn. Operating at an incredible 3:1 student/instructor ratio they can individually tailor trips to all levels. Speedflying since the inception of the sport they also offer the BHPA direct-access speedflying course. Check the calendar online. airworks.co.uk
Flyeo is the biggest SIV school in the world and has built a solid reputation over the last 15 years. Based in Doussard, near Annecy in France, their large shop and HQ is just 100m from the official landing. As a French (FFVL) and British (BHPA) school they cater for many nationalities where English is the common language. Creators of the world’s first singleskin course specialising in mountain flying, they hold courses throughout the year, from groundhandling at Dune du Pyla to XC in the Alps. Book early to avoid disappointment. flyeo.com, +33 (0) 4 699 699 10
Escape XC with Jocky
Join us on our world-class SIV courses and XC tours with Jocky Sanderson and his team of highly experienced guides, who know your requirements and can help develop your potential. Escape follow the sun, to maximise reliable flying conditions and help you gain quality airtime, build confidence in your glider control and fly distance over stunning landscapes worldwide. Destinations include Colombia (Jan/Feb); SIV Australia and Turkey (Mar/Apr); XC France (Jun/Jul); XC Bulgaria & Macedonia (August); SIV Turkey (Sept); and India and Brazil (Nov/Dec). Let’s just fly! escapexc.com
Zenith Aventura are based in Ager, Spain, a famous site just two hours from Barcelona in the Pyrenees. From their base they organise guiding in Ager, SIV courses with Parapent Entrenúvols, and tours to some of the best flying spots in the Spanish and French Pyrenees. They have their own hostel, and can help with accommodation, transfers and retrieves. As well as guiding they offer a paraglider and hang-glider rental service. Non-flying activities include kayaking, e-biking, hiking, canyoning and wine tasting! paraglidingagerguides.com
Kelly Farina is the well-known paragliding guide and author of Mastering Paragliding, the book that offers a structured approach to learning to fly XC. Kelly’s company runs guided XC clinics in Bassano del Grappa, Italy and Greifenburg, Austria, from April to September. Guiding and coaching since 2002, Kelly has a deep knowledge of flying in the Alps. His core principle is to help give pilots the knowledge they need to confidently plan and execute XC routes through the mountains themselves. austrianarena.com
GUIDES CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
HOW TO... MAXIMISE AIRTIME
“Where can you go to get guaranteed flying?” If it rains or blows hard for a week, then your flying trip can be a write-off – and we all know the pain of that. There are only so many YouTube videos you can watch while wishing away the weather before your flying paradise fades to grey. But it’s still a question that pilots ask, especially those keen to build hours after qualifying. They may have been lured in to parting with their hard-earned cash by promises of endless days, a sky dotted with cumulus clouds and six-hour flights every day. When the reality turns out to be four hours a day in a minibus chasing the wind, it can be disheartening. The simplest way to avoid that type of situation is to stay flexible and check the weather for where the flying is looking good. That way, if it looks flyable in the French Alps but raining in the Austrian Alps, you go there. Plan your flying location to match the weather situation, just as you do at
home. Yes, it will probably work out more expensive, but if you are sitting at cloudbase in France while your friends are sitting under umbrellas in Spain... well it’s priceless. The second way is to look at the recent historical records for where you want to fly. There is so much data online that you can clearly see patterns in who flies when and where. Identify the best time for where you want to fly, then around that time start to watch the forecast. Once it’s looking good, make your move! This doesn’t help if you are going long haul, or have to take holiday at a certain time. Then it’s back to the age-old question of “Where can you go to get guaranteed flying?” Then it’s about climate: what places with good flying infrastructure are good at what time of year. To help answer that one, we turned to the crowd on Cross Country’s social media channels for some suggestions on where pilots should go to get maximum airtime. From Brazil to Australia, everyone had a favourite spot. Here are some of them!
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 MAXIMUM AIRTIME
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE “Southern Morocco” – Andrew Morant “Brazil!” – Emma Casanova “Big Woody, Queensland” – Hammed Malik “Roldanillo, Colombia for the most consistent XC” – Rick Staton “Valle de Bravo in Mexico. Flew every day but one for three months straight” – Stefan Rolènx “For coastal soaring it would have to be Bali in the season” – Brian Walker “Not Scotland!” – Scott Kidd “Manilla in Australia was excellent last year. Worth the trip from NZ” – Cliff Swailes “Winter short-haul from Europe, Southern Morocco” – Tim King “Beechmont, Queensland” – Wesley Manzke “Castelo, Espirito Santo in Brazil. Flying every day, with every kind of wind!” – Davide Cardona “Bassano del Grappa, Italy, with over 300 flyable days a year!” – Anca Tabără Photo: Iquique, Chile, by François Ragolski
Wilderness, S. Africa
“Wilderness, South Africa,” said Grant Fairley, “You can fly until hunger takes you down.” And he’s right, the coastal sites along this stretch of the Garden Route in South Africa create a true free-flyers’ paradise when it’s on, with bluffs facing the ocean that allow hours and hours of flying. It’s popular with tour groups who visit to escape European winter and finish off training. Sites like Map of Africa can see new pilots go from first flights to soaring for an hour in just three days. Inland thermalling sites are not far away either. Four hours further along the coast the city of Hermanus has very accessible thermic flying within glide of wine country, and Cape Town itself is home to a busy tandem scene with paragliding above the city and landing on the beach. For those who prefer their flying without the sea breeze, Porterville, two hours north east of Cape Town, is the classic South African XC destination. Best time: October to April Info: cloudbase.co.za Photo: Cloudbase Paragliding
“The most consistent? Max airtime? Nonstop playing around with your glider?” asked Kathrin Schnellbaecher. “Definitely Iquique in Chile. Your glider will never be the same again. But neither will you!” She’s right, this big site on Chile’s west coast is unique. It faces the Pacific and gets the sea breeze all day, with thermals mixed in. You can fly here from early morning, with a break midafternoon when it gets too strong, and then get back in the air for an evening session. Infrastructure is good – the main launch, Alto Hospicio, is just off the main road, 490m above the city of Iquique. Nearby coastal flying further south adds variety, while inland expeditions to the Altiplano and high Andes can be as adventurous as you like. Acro Paragliding World Champion François Ragolski brings groups of pilots here to coach them in freestyle and acro and loves it. “I take you to Chile for three weeks, you come back a different pilot,” he agrees. Best time: October to February is the main season Info: iquiqueparagliding.com, antofaya.com/iqq, francoisragolski.com Photo: François Ragolski
MAXIMUM AIRTIME CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
TRAVEL IQ Pokhara, Nepal
“Pokhara, Nepal,” suggested Isabella Messenger, and she should know. As the founder of local paragliding charity Karma Flights and a longtime tandem pilot in Pokhara she fell in love with Nepal many years ago. Pokhara is a tourism gem, and the lake, backed by the towering Himalaya, is a jewel in Nepal’s crown. Tandem flying at the busy site of Sarangkot, just 20 minutes from town, is big business, and there is a reason: it works like clockwork, with a smooth predictable wind on take-off and consistent house thermals. You can sit in the one off take-off all day, before heading off on XC. Add to that the low cost of living for Western pilots, easy logistics, and the laidback atmosphere and it is easy to understand why so many people stop here and stay. There are other sites to visit too: Sirkot, Bandipur and Korchon are less crowded and get you away from the beaten track. Full power, full adventure. Best time: October to March Info: sunrise-paragliding.com, babuadventure.com, karmaflights.org Photo: Marcus King
“Don’t know how it compares to all the other great sites listed so far, but San Bernardino, California is pretty consistent year-round,” said Jana Pivkova. Pilots have been flying here since the late Andy Jackson, a local hang glider pilot, bought the landing zone in 1979. What became the Andy Jackson Airpark is now only one hour’s drive east from downtown Los Angeles, in the San Bernadino Mountains. The club is the Crestline Soaring Society and people fly here seven days a week all year round. There are two launches: Crestline and Marshall Peak. Marshall is 700m above the landing, Crestline about 1,000m. Hook up with locals at the Airpark, where you will also be able to fix a ride to get to launch. Santa Barbara (pictured) is another Californian honeypot that offers near yearround consistent flying. Just two hours west of LA it’s home to Eagle Paragliding, who teach 364 days a year and have progression training programmes for all levels of pilot. Best time: March to August, but flyable all year Info: crestlinesoaring.org, paragliding.com Photo: Cody Tuttle
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 MAXIMUM AIRTIME
RELAXED FEELING, WHEREVER YOU TRAVEL
WHEREVER YOU TRAVEL
SO YOU WANT TO VOL-BIV
ast summer Dougie Swanson-Low travelled from Nice to the Dolomites on a 750km, 11-day vol-biv. He’d never done such a big vol-biv trip before – here’s what he learned.
Test before you go
It is so important to thoroughly test every piece of equipment before going, ideally in a range of conditions. Decisions like what footwear, rucksack, clothing and sleeping system to choose could make or break the trip. It’s also a huge confidence boost knowing what conditions you can and can’t cope with before going. It wasn’t until after I went on a long hike, with full kit, that I decided to ditch the trainers and opt for more supportive boots. Only after sleeping out exposed to the wind, in sub-zero conditions, did I learn that I didn’t really need a sleeping bag: the wing, inflatable mat and tent were warm enough. The things I didn’t test were what caught me out: how much solar power I needed to
keep my devices charged; how much water I needed in 35C heat. The more you prepare, the more successful and confident you will be.
Go solo, or with a friend
Sharing the joys (and misery) found on a volbiv adventure with another is really special. Each person brings their own unique skills to the team, it feels less serious splitting the work and decisions, flying as a team can be more effective and most importantly having someone close if things go wrong can make a huge difference to the outcome. Strongly consider going with someone if it is your first vol-biv. Communication is essential, and you should establish clear rules in advance. It is hard, but if you are a team, then be a team and work together. So, if one bombs, both bomb. If you can’t do that, then consider going alone. It shouldn’t be underestimated how free and liberating solo vol-biv missions can be though. You are totally independent, able to move at your pace, more dynamic
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 VOL-BIV
with decisions and not constantly worrying about another. I shared the first half of the trip with friend Tony Blacker, then went on alone for the second half; experiencing both aspects was perfect and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
If you go vol-biv for just one night you will have a very good idea of what weather and terrain you will encounter, so you shouldn’t need much kit at all. On longer trips you can’t predict it as well. I was potentially out for two to three weeks, so I really had to pack for a lot of possible conditions – from a record-breaking heatwave, to thunderstorms in the high mountains. For longer trips tiredness, comfort and nutrition become more important. So, for me having a tent was essential because it put my mind at rest knowing I had adequate shelter and could get a good sleep. For people new to vol-biv, do several one-night trips in familiar terrain. As you
feel more comfortable, slowly increase the duration and maybe explore new places. Once you are out for longer than four to five nights you will have to be prepared for a much greater variety of situations and weather. Start small and build up.
Managing doubt, uncertainty & fear
Fear in paragliding is insidious and feeds off doubt and uncertainty, both of which are in abundance when doing extended vol-biv trips. Fear can keep you safe, but it can also lead to over-caution that can be inhibiting. Being comfortable with your wing and your ability is just one factor, but it’s essential. I chose to take the Swing Agera RS because I’d flown it lots, knew it had good performance and I was very comfortable flying it after experiencing how well the RAST system responds to collapses. Why take a higher performance wing if you scare yourself into landing 50km sooner? My longest flight lasted 8hr30 on the final day. I started quite tired, had one launch option and the take-off was initially both inverted and in the lee. Each metre was hard earned. I would never have made it as far as I did if I wasn’t totally comfortable and relaxed under my wing.
Weather, maps & apps
Vol-biv plans are at the mercy of the weather and navigating the terrain. I was always reevaluating my plans, and as such constantly re-checking routes and forecasts, even during flight. I set up a home page on my phone with links to everything I would need, all in one place – saving time and power. This included general tabs like tracking pages, Google Translate, Chrome and WhatsApp. For mapping I used a combination of: Google Maps; Alpine Quest for navigating trails on the ground as well as looking at terrain ahead while flying (preloaded with free detailed offline maps – OpenTopoMaps); Paragliding Map for finding launch spots; XC Planner to see popular routes and airspace; and XCTrack to negotiate this airspace while flying. I also used Parange.ch, a handy webpage to help inform me where a glide could take you from any launching spot. For weather I used: XCSkies (subscription), a flying specific weather map with a useful ‘XC Potential’ parameter; MeteoParapente, a flying-specific weather map with airspace; Windy, a general weather
map with observations; and Meteoblue for locational forecasts. I used SpotAir for wind observations and webcams. I would consult all of these, multiple times throughout the day, to inform my decisions on when and where to go next. It’s tedious but important for good decisions.
Do it for fun
Vol-biv is something you do for yourself. It’s not a race. For me, I’d never flown in the Alps before, so it was about my own exploration of an area I’d not yet seen. I decided that I wanted to prioritise flying – it was my flying holiday. With paragliding, it’s crucial to be in the right place at the right time, so if I could take a ski lift, or a short hitch, to get me in position for a flight then I would. If not, I’d crack on and walk. I saw no fun in marching along a road on a perfect flying day if I didn’t have to. On the other hand, I personally prefer to camp in the mountains, rather than stay in a hotel. That was the style I chose. So many people are deterred by the perception that vol-biv has to be hardcore and physically demanding. It doesn’t have to be like this, especially in places like the Alps. Do it in a style that you will enjoy and don’t be put off from trying.
What no one tells you about vol-biv is you spend most of your time packing and unpacking your bag, especially when the wing is the duvet and the harness is the pillow. Don’t overlook this and choose a backpack and packing method very carefully. If you do this well, you will find yourself with quite a lot of time to do other things. Making fresh flatbread every morning is something Tony showed me and is a great way of passing time and having a tasty fresh lunch and dinner each day. I also took six A3 printed topo maps of the whole Alps, which I spent a lot of time studying and which were incredibly useful when there was no signal. I also drew on them as a form of picture diary, which is enjoyable to do. Also, take sewing equipment and spinnaker tape as you will be making repairs.
Prepare for something going wrong
Going with a partner is valuable if something goes wrong. When I continued alone, I used a Delorme InReach Mini and had a trusted and experienced pilot friend at home who
‘JUST GO DO IT!’
Tips on heading off on a vol-biv adventure Filming. I totally underestimated how consuming it is: it doubles the amount you need to think about. Practise before trying to do it properly. It’s all or nothing. Film everything. Be honest. Water. We needed double what I initially thought – about four litres a day. I used chlorine tabs and a Sawyer Mini Filter. Water was much easier to find away from the southern Maritime Alps. Look in graveyards for a tap. Snow is an easy-to-spot source, but can be a faff. Power/charging. A 7W solar panel wasn’t enough to charge a phone, Flymaster, Delorme InReach, radio, torch, GoPro and spare batteries. Tony’s four-way USB fast charger socket was vital to top up when reaching a town. The GoPro guzzles power, so prioritise safety and communication equipment. Weather and conditions. Learn what forecasts work or use as many as possible and crosscompare models to look for trends. I researched notorious places – like valley winds in Martigny. On the first four days we had to dodge big cunims, so make sure you know how to asses this sort of weather. My route was entirely based on the weather. Getting started. John Silvester has done some incredible things in paragliding and pioneered the sport well ahead of his time. I’ll pass on some simple advice he gave me, spoken in a no-nonsense manner: “Just go do it!”
VOL-BIV CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
agreed to monitor my progress. I would send a pre-set ‘launching’ message and had tenminute tracking intervals while flying. I had a prearranged 9pm check-in time for my ‘safe’ message. If I didn’t check in, he would start the search and rescue. I also had the ‘SOS’ button for starting my own rescue. Without the tracker this becomes a horrible task to ask of someone. It seemed irresponsible to not take a tracker for this purpose. It worked perfectly every time and was so easy to use.
Kit and fitness
My bag felt heavy. It was somewhere around 25-26kg. I tried to get lightweight equipment, but I couldn’t afford to replace things like my reserve, just to save 500g. I tried superlight rucksacks, but they were uncomfortable and fragile, and I removed everything non-essential. Nevertheless, light + light = heavy and when you include two weeks’ of food/gas and four litres of water you can’t avoid having a heavy bag. I accepted this and decided to just get fitter and stronger before going by hiking with the weighted bag until I became accustomed to it. I’m glad I did, and it also taught me about how far I could expect to go on the ground
and uphill – not very far! Tony was much smarter as he had less time for physical training and managed to make everything very lightweight indeed, perhaps at the cost of his brilliant homemade recycled glider poncho/tent not being waterproof!
Morale & expectations
The trip won’t always go to plan. Managing your expectations is important. You should be okay with the idea of spending most of the trip on the ground and take anything extra as a bonus. This is hard to do so I set myself no real goal. I decided that if I managed to get from Nice to Geneva in the two weeks, I would be content. If I made it near to Zurich or Milan, I would be very pleased indeed. Getting to the Dolomites (and near Venice) was a dream, which until I got there, I didn’t believe I’d manage. Midway through I had days where my progress slowed, I bombed out, I exhausted myself walking, and in tiredness my morale quickly sank. However, I soon found there are hidden joys, such as finding a beautiful mountain hut, and meeting kind and generous people. When things get tough, it probably won’t last long, so keep on plodding. Dougie Swanson-Low
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 VOL-BIV
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Dougie thermalling up from the Brevent above Chamonix, with Mont Blanc (4,810m) behind Photo: Tony Blacker Bivvying under the wing in Chamonix Photo: Dougie Swanson-Low Dougie’s final bivvy of the trip Photo: DSL Flying into the Dolomites in the evening, Dougie’s last flight on his 11-day vol-biv mission Photo: DSL Tony drying out his kit in camp above Orcières Photo: DSL THE GRAND PLAN In the heart of the Dolomites Photo: Gudrun Öschl
Watch the film of Dougie’s trip at youtu.be/JQy_ZhYkn_Q
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From solar-powered matchbox to full-spec comp machines, choosing the right vario for your trip is important
Not every pilot wants to travel with a full-weight instrument. As well as the weight, general travel insurance tends not to fully cover expensive electronics. Obviously full-spec instruments are best for flying competitions, but if you are going hike-and-fly, vol-biv or simply want to keep things simple while you travel, then light is often right. Fortunately there are lots of lightweight, low bulk, robust instruments that will work for most pilots. At their simplest these can be simple beepers, which register if you are going up or down. They can be the size of a key ring, clip on to a riser, and sit there for your whole trip. Many of them are solar-powered. The upside is they are cheap, easy to use and do the job, but they won’t have a screen or be able to record your flight. Further up the scale are units that can be paired with your smartphone
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 INSTRUMENTS
to make a fully-functioning vario/GPS that can track, record your flights and has a screen. You will need to factor in battery charging for your phone however, which can add weight. Above those are small all-inones. These cost more but are full of features, typically have a screen, and the battery will see you through a full day’s flying. Some can even be used as competition instruments. The latest developments in instrument technology is all around collision-avoidance and seeing where other aircraft – including your buddies – are in the sky. This can actually change the way you fly – you can see pilots climbing on your screen and go there! A top tip before travelling is to test your new device, either on the ground or, better, in the air. Get to grips with how it works before you get to take-off on a mission-critical day.
This is a solar-powered vocal GPS assistant with instant vario – the only Vario/GPS that speaks to you! It records your tracks (8Gb memory), has a high precision vario thanks to its accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, and, with a double-tap, it tells you all the flight information you need: altitude, speed, climb rate, duration, etc. It also records KML files that can be opened in Google Earth where you can see all your stats, and an FAI/CIVLcertified IGC file. Three customisable profiles can be set (eg XC, hike-and-fly, tandem). Solar-powered, it weighs just 35g! lebipbip.com, email@example.com
Skytraxx have been developing and tailoring flight instruments for 10 years. Their products are born out of their own enthusiasm for flying, and refined by countless pilots, from beginners to world-class athletes. Instruments are feature-rich while being simple and intuitive. Manufactured in the heart of Europe they cater to all pilots, from hike-and-fly to technology enthusiasts. All Skytraxx instruments come with FANET+, the open communication standard that combines with FLARM for collision avoidance. Realtime data display, from the location of your friends in the air to live weather, rounds off this featurepacked machine. skytraxx.eu
At just 68g the SkyDrop is a very light fullfeatured instrument with display. It includes all the basic and advanced functions of a vario/GPS in a compact casing with four distinctive colour options. As well as the instant vario, it features Bluetooth connectivity with Android and iOS, with fully customisable screens and widgets. A certified IGC logger, it can be used in FAI Cat 1 and PWCA competitions. Waypoint navigation includes airspace violation warnings, altitude above ground, wind speed and direction, thermal assistant, a digital compass and G-sensor. And it’s tiny! just 98x56x18mm. skybean.eu
The Digifly Air is a top-of-the-line, high resolution display instrument with full functionality. It has 30-hour battery life and a clear display, and is one of the few instruments that has a pitot tube. Simple enough to use straight out of the box, you can also customise it to fit your level and style. Although packed with features it is simple enough to use, and is aimed at new pilots as well as time-served competition pilots. The sensitive vario uses 10 – yes 10! – sensors to ensure no time-lag between hitting lift and being told about it. Clear to read, the Air can be as simple or complex as you like. This instrument could last your whole flying career. digifly.com
If you’re looking for a full-spec instrument, the Oudie 5 is it. Now with integrated FANET+ and FLARM, it allows you to share the sky with friends and enjoy the safety of being seen by others. With pre-loaded worldwide maps and airspace, it works right out of the box. The Oudie 5 XC is a cutdown version for noncomp pilots; the Oudie 5 pro offers advanced competition functionality. In combination with the highly regarded SeeYou software, the Oudie 5 offers pre-flight planning, inflight navigation, and post-flight analysis. naviter.com
MIPFly One was born from a combined love of flight and electronics. Designed with openness and expandability in mind, for a large range of pilots – from beginners to veterans. The readability of the 4.4” screen in full sun is incredible, and it has a refresh rate of 20fps. It features most top-line vario features: GPS, live tracking, maps, weather, thermal assist, IGC logging, AGL, task management, waypoint navigation and a customisable UI, and also has support for Bluetooth and Wireless extensions. mipfly.com
INSTRUMENTS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
FUN AND ADVENTURE
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Photo: Jeff Hamann
Location: The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
CROSS COUNTRY BASE Pilots: Andreas Kolb and Phil 141 Russman
ALPINE SEASONS Flying the Alps in spring, summer, autumn and winter p44-46
GRENTE ALM Till Gottbrath on how to fly a 200km triangle from Italy’s famous Grente p50-52
COLOMBIA 101 Seb Ospina on making the most of 10 days in the Cauca Valley p62
WANAKA Exploring classic New Zealand, p76-79 Photo: Felix Wölk
ON THE ROAD “With flying you can travel anywhere.” On the road in the USA with Joe Stone p70
DESTINATIONS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
FOUR SEASONS IN THE ALPS
he Alps is a mecca for free flight and is perfectly set up for flying at any time of the year. Good infrastructure, cable cars, roads or trails to launch, public transport in the valleys, and a well-developed search and rescue system all set against a grand landscape of mountains, lakes, glaciers and forests. For first-time visitors here’s our introductory guide to making the most of the Alps.
XC SEASON Spring in the Alps – active air and strong climbs Photo: Adi Geisegger
Spring in the Alps is when the XC season kicks off. You will often see huge flights done around mid-April, when the sun is getting stronger and much of the snow in the valleys has melted. The Alpine XC season then lasts all spring and summer. For first-time visitors wanting to fly XC the Alps can be a little overwhelming. They present complicated terrain for flying with complex mountain meteorology. Start to get to grips with them by first understanding where you are in the bigger picture.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 THE ALPS
The central geographical division is the main Alpine ridge (the highest mountains in the range are in the centre) that runs west to east and divides north from south. The mountains in the Alps rise to 4,800m and are so big they block the weather; your XC flight will rarely cross the main range. Typically the climate in the northern Alps is wetter, the southern Alps drier and warmer. Spring arrives sooner in the south. Secondly, are you west or east? This will also influence what climate you can expect: France’s Southern Alps are hotter and drier than Slovenia and Austria in the east. Thirdly, know that a lot of the time flying XC in the Alps means following the valleys and mountain ridges; only on very rare days will you be able to fly above the highest peaks. Fourthly, mountain chains make their own weather and have a daily cycle: air flows in during the day, and out at night. Having a basic understanding of aspect, valley breezes, valley winds and the lee side is important.
Airspace aside, you can go XC anywhere in the Alps, but no matter how adventurous it feels, most of the time someone will have already been there and uploaded the tracklog. So before you head off on your Alpine XC adventure, check out the tracklogs online to look at typical routes for your location. For pilots with less airtime a good way to start exploring the Alps is on an XC course. You fly during the day and get the theory lectures in the evening. Your confidence will build as your knowledge grows. When: April to October Info: Explore tracks and XC highways at xcontest.org, xcplanner.appspot.com, seeyou.cloud/planner and Leonardo at paraglidingforum.com
Although the XC hounds chase distance all summer, summer is also adventure-race season in the Alps. While the Red Bull X-Alps (the famous 1,200km adventure race across the Alps on foot and by paraglider) is in its own elite league, there are plenty of other ways to get a dose of the adventure-racing action. In most of them you have a pre-set course or goal, and you have to make your
way round it as quickly as you can on foot and by flying. Many have obligatory rest stops where you must spend the night, while others allow you to spend the night out in the hills. The Jura Hike-and-Fly (15-17 May, jurahikefly.ch) is an early-season accessible weekend event for pilots of all levels, in the Jura, a lower range of hills on the Switzerland/France border. Later that month Bornes to Fly (30 May 2020, bornestofly.fr) is a popular annual weekend hike-and-fly based around Annecy. Also in France, the AirTour (13-21 June 2020, airtour.fr) is an annual 400km race that starts in St Hilaire. Meanwhile, the CrossAlps (crossalps.com) in Germany is a weekend event that happens every two years, next time this July. The Vercofly (26-29 August 2020, vercofly.ch) is a Swiss event that attracts an X-Alps-type crowd. The Bordair Race (bordairline.com) is an established series of weekend events spread across the season. There are plenty of others, from club events up to elite-level competitions. For most pilots it’s not about winning though, it’s about taking part and exploring the mountains in a fun way. Get training! When: May to September
ADVENTURE RACE Hut-hopping during the Eiger Tour, a four-day adventure race through the Swiss Alps. The next edition takes place 8-11 July 2020 (eigertour.rocks) Photo: Tobias Dimmler
THE ALPS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
When the XC flying finally switches off and the first snow is still to fall, it’s time to get the hiking poles out. Autumn is classic hikeand-fly season, and while you can of course walk up a mountain and fly off it at any time of year, the cooler weather makes hiking easier and more pleasant. The revolution in lightweight equipment means there is no need to sweat it – a single-skin wing and string harness weighs less than 3kg. The calmer aerology also adds to the mellowness. When planning your day factor in what you will do if you can’t fly. If you plan to hike for three hours to arrive at a remote spot to fly back down at sunset, what happens if you can’t launch? Also, if you are flying down through valleys you don’t know it is worth checking maps and asking locals about any cables present. The Alps are dotted with service lifts that aren’t always obvious. Hikeandfly.org allows you to see the potential glide-path from a peak at any given glide angle. It’s definitely worth checking out before you head for the hills. When: September to November Info: hikeandfly.org Photo: Air Design
In winter much of the Alps is covered in snow. That means no XC or thermal flying, but it doesn’t mean no flying. Lots of ski resorts welcome paraglider pilots, and on a bluebird day you will often be able to take a cable car up high and fly down to the valley for a giant sled ride. Be prepared to launch with a slight tailwind as the cold air will usually be flowing downhill. There’s usually nothing to worry about as it’s smooth air – you just have to run. The ski resort website will be able to point you towards any schools or tandem operations – it is always wise to check in with the locals. Winter is also a great time to learn to speedride. Unless you are way off-piste then this is strictly regulated in most resorts. Not all of them allow it, so do check. Les Arcs in France is a hotspot and great place to train. If mid-winter sees you desperate for sunshine and thermals, then you need to head south towards Monaco and Nice, where the local flying sites work all year round. When: Dec-April Info: speedriding-school.com/en Photo: Jérôme Maupoint
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 THE ALPS
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ey SIV in Turk Pilotage / September April &
Towed SIV in Australia March
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WHY I LOVE… THE DOLOMITES HOME SITE Peter Gebhard in the Dolomites Photo: Mario Eder
Best time: June to October Info: fassafly.com, fassa.com, valdifassalift.it, paragliding-flights-dolomites.com
eter Gebhard, 34, lives and flies in the Italian Dolomites. He learnt to fly aged 17 and went on to fly the Paragliding World Cup and compete in the Red Bull X-Alps (2013). A paragliding instructor and engineer, wherever he travels his heart is always in these mountains. “Flying in the Dolomites is something very special and should be on every pilot’s to-do list,” he says. “I have had the opportunity to fly in many wonderful places around the world. However, the Dolomites are special. They have something fascinating, magical – rugged rocks, deep gorges and great views that can only be found here when you glide along the vertical walls, especially at sunset.” “I live in the heart of the Dolomites and I love it more each year! But each year it also gets busier. If you like to fly your own way, my advice is to avoid the crowds that flock to the Col Rodella every September and October, and go and explore. “For example, Seceda in Val Gardena (take-off from 2,500m, west or south wind)
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 ITALY
or Spitzbühel at Seiseralm (great easy afternoon flying with west or light north wind). If the north wind gets stronger, check out the flying spots to the southeast. Monte Avena in Feltre or, more to the east, the beautiful ridge soaring in Meduno.” The Dolomites are an El Dorado for hikeand-fly pilots too, he says. “Go to Monte Pic in Val Gardena, where you can take off easily in all directions, or hike to Königsanger close to Feldthurns – this spot works with south and west wind and has an easy take-off from the summit. You will love the amazing view of the Dolomites from here!” As the mountains are big and the valleys narrow in the Dolomites, be aware of strong valley winds when landing, even in September and October. And if the strong east and north wind blows, Nordföhn can develop, turbulent wave. “On such days, you can go sightseeing to the historic cities Brixen or Bozen, or go for a nice hike in our beautiful mountains. Have fun and enjoy the Dolomites!”
If it’s not the right time for the full Dolomites experience but you still want a taste of Italy’s la dolce vita then the rolling hills and smooth thermals of Cecima, in the Apennines north of Genoa, could be for you. A cluster of sites centred around Monte Penola (687m) offer beautiful flying accessible to pilots of all levels. Base yourself at a B&B or an agriturismo like Cà’ del Monte and hook up with the active and welcoming local pilots of the Aero Club Lombardia. Another option for those committed to exploring Italy beyond the Alps is Umbria in central Italy – spend a week flying, eating and exploring with the guys at Flytaly for the full Italian experience. Best time: April to October Info: cadelmonte.com, giocodelvolo.it, flytaly.com, Photo: flytheapennines.com
ENJOY TYPICAL ITALIAN HOSPITALITY – JUST 200M FROM A FLYING SITE
Access to flying sites suitable for all levels of pilot • Easy soaring for beginners • Cross-country flying over the Apennines Other activities include trekking, mountain biking and horseriding • Enjoy typical Italian cuisine lovingly prepared by our restaurant chef Or just come to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life
+39 0383 549062
200K DAY... GRENTE ALM
hile 100km flights are achievable for most XC pilots, a 200km FAI triangle is something much bigger, and puts you in an exclusive club of well-accomplished XC pilots. With more than 500 200km flights a year in recent years Grente, in the NE Italian Alps, is one of the best places in the world to try this – if not the best. Why? Grente (full name Grente Alm – Alm meaning mountain pasture) has no gondola or road access. Instead, it requires a dawn start and a 1,000m hike to get to it. From the Grente Alm hut at 2,000m it is 1.5km on a small path to get to the take-offs above the treeline. There are several good spots between 2,200-2,350m. On a promising day – light wind (single-digit), N to NW wind, which means drier conditions and higher cloudbase – top pilots from the eastern Alps and beyond flock here. There can be 150 pilots on launch, although crowding is not a problem. Fortunately, as everybody
has walked up, you will find a nice sense of camaraderie among the pilots. On my first visit I was shocked at how early pilots got ready. Watching them launch at 9.30am I was convinced they would bomb out and land 200m below. But I was wrong. They immediately found a thermal and off they went. The race was on!
What makes the Grente triangle so special is its ideal exposure to the sun along the entire route, the fact that you don’t start at one of the turnpoints, and the unique final glide. As soon as you launch you head east, passing the wild alpine scenery of the glaciated Rieserferner Group. When traversing Staller Sattel, the border between Austria and Italy with its beautiful Lake Obersee at 2,000m, get as high as possible, so you don’t come in too low when reaching Am Putzen, where you search for the next thermal. Following the peaks above the Defreggen Valley often turns into a race – on
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 TYROL
a good day you will be dolphining along with high average speed. Now you have to decide where to set your first turnpoint. Slightly northeast of Zunig (the last peak in the Defreggen ridge); after the traverse of the Isel Valley at Rotenkogel or slightly north of it; or even near Großglockner (3,798m). In any case, the Isel Valley traverse looks more challenging than it actually is.
After your first turnpoint you will turn back on yourself and head west for a long time – almost 100km! The first part is identical to your first leg. Before traversing back to Staller Sattel try to get as high as you can. Don’t think of your average speed, just get high! By the time you arrive at Staller Sattel for the second time, the thermals will be stronger and, particularly with west wind, Staller Sattel can turn into an uncomfortable spot. When back at Schwarze Wand (Black Wall, 3,000m), the major summit to the
north of the launch, you have now already flown a flat triangle of 70km minimum. From Schwarze Wand the leg westwards usually presents no major challenges. But after Gitschberg, heading west, there is no protection to the north from the high peaks of the Zillertaler Alps anymore. Until now they have protected you from north to NW winds. When traversing from Höllenkragen over Sterzing to Rosskopf, you will normally look for the next thermal near the Rosskopf Gondola. But watch out: with stronger N to NW winds, it may be the better idea to head towards the forested ridge above Gossensaß and then keep to the north of the Ridnaun Valley-ridge. Once above the ridge, the kilometres are easy. Choose Turnpoint two about halfway along the ridge (many pilots do this) or all the way over the glaciers to Agglsspitze (3,196m) or even further west.
Leg three follows the next 25km back along the route that you came. When traversing Sterzing and the Eisack Valley, make sure to stay as high as you can again.
If you get low here the strong valley winds will eat you. Now you are approaching the crux of the entire flight: the traverse to Lüsener Alm and the Lüsener Alm itself. When high at Plattspitze, and enjoying a bit of a tailwind, you may fly the western option over Ochsenalm ski area. The other option is to return to Gitschberg and traverse south from there. This is a bit longer overall but with a shorter traverse to Lüsener Alm. Decide depending on clouds ahead, altitude and wind direction. The Lüsener Alm is a long, wide and flat ridge at 2,000m and more. When searching for thermals there the wind often seems to change direction within seconds, thermals disappear in a blink of the eye. Do not wait for a strong thermal, instead take advantage of the smallest lift to gain altitude. You will need every metre until you have left Lüsener Alm behind and head towards turnpoint 3 somewhere near Heiligkreuzkofel with its mighty, now sunlit west face. To get there, you follow the ridge between San Vigilio to the northeast and San Martino to the southwest. It’s very logical.
MORNING START Climbing out in the first thermal above Grente GRENTE DAY Pre-flight snack at the Grente Hut. On busy days the small hut can not cope with all the pilots in the morning, so smart locals pre-order the night before via the hut’s Facebook page Loads of room on the grassy launches at 2,300m On the first leg, heading east to Staller Sattel, with the wild alpine scenery of the Rieserferner Group on the horizon to the left All photos: Till Gottbrath
TYROL CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
TP2 Start / Finish
TRACKLOG A classic 200k FAI triangle from Grente, flown by Christian Schartner (AT, Nova Sector) on 2 June 2019. The flight took 8h45, with max altitude of 4,239m Tracklog: Christian Schartner PHOTOS Passing Hochgall (3,436m), the high point in the Rieserferner group, east of launch Staller Sattel on an early spring day. Pilots have flown 200km triangles here in March, but from a different launch – there is too much snow on Grente before April Photo: Tobias Ehrmann Evening flying on the last leg through the Dolomites Author Till Gottbrath
With high cloudbase and large thermals you now prepare for the icing on the cake. If early you can extend your triangle to the south as far as you dare, before heading back north towards the Antholzer Valley. Thanks to the now sunlit rock faces, you will make good progress, even though it will be late by now. Piz da Peres (2,507m), located to the southeast of Kronplatz with its many ski lifts, is the last typical Dolomite-kind of peak with steep reddish rock faces. This is where you will nned to get as high as you can in order to complete the final 20km glide back to landing at Antholz. Made it! Till Gottbrath
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 TYROL
Getting there: From the village of AntholzMittertal in the valley it’s a steep two-hour hike to the launches above Grente Alm. Following the 6.5km forestry track is longer but much less strenuous. Best time: April to September Etiquette: Don’t litter or go to the toilet in the forest. The foresters don’t like it and pilots are getting a bad rap. Take care where you park your van as this is also annoying local residents. Online: facebook.com/Grente2, suedtirol.info, download the Südtirol2go app for public transport
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ÂŽ Sport GlaSSeS from Sweden SInCe 1988
XC guiding SIV courses Tours & Holidays
With great infrastructure and fantastic flying Annecy is the beating heart of paragliding in the French Alps
ESCAPE THE CROWDS
The two main take-offs in the valley are Col de la Forclaz and Planfait. Forclaz is higher and used for SIV, Planfait is lower and closer to Annecy.
The number of launches that Forclaz and Planfait see each year, according to the Annecy Tourism Office. Most of those are during the main season, April to October
The number of professional tandem pilots operating in Annecy. 10-minute discovery flights start at €75 and rise to €130 for a 45-minute thermalling experience
How much extra tandem passengers pay for photos and video of their flight
The maximum depth in metres of Lake Annecy. The lake is known as one of Europe’s cleanest and is fed by mountain springs. At 14.6km long the average depth is 41m, and it holds more than 1bn cubic metres of fresh water
A one-hour walk from Planfait launch brings you to the Col des Frêtes at 1,650m. It’s just one of dozens of hike-and-fly missions in the area
Tour du Lac
The classic route here is the Tour du Lac, which comes in big and small sizes. Launch about 1pm from Forclaz, then surf the forested slopes and climb out above the limestone peaks to pick your way first north to the Dents de Lanfon and Mt Veyrier, then across the lake to connect with the Semnoz ridge. Turn left, soar up, get high, then head over to the Roc des Boeufs where you can climb high and head back to your starting point. A true XC classic of about 40km and a must-do for any aspiring Alpine cross country pilot.
Annecy is an SIV mecca. The Forclaz launch is 800m above the lake, and it’s a short but focused glide out to the SIV box where you will have around 500m to play with
WHERE TO STAY
Is how much it costs for an intensive three-day SIV course with Flyeo, the local SIV and pilotage specialists. They also run acro, XC and single-skin courses
Head 7km south from the lake and you come to La Sambuy, a quiet resort with a chairlift and grassy launch that is perfect for flying crosscountry missions into the wild Massif des Bauges
La Nublière Camping at the south end of the lake, is the best option for camping and bungalows. Camping du Lac in Angon near Talloires is also recommended.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 ANNECY
Hotel Arcalod in Doussard and Residence Florimontane near Perroix are good midrange options, or search out studios and gites on Airbnb.com.
Head out of the valley and connect with the Aravis, a paragliding highway that leads towards Mont Blanc (4,804m) and beyond into Switzerland. Keep going until you reach Slovenia, 800km east
Situated in Glières, between Talloires and Doussard this bright, modern studio is perfect for a couple. On the ground floor of what was an old French hotel, the building has its own private jetty which is perfect for swimming from. As well as the flying, which is in easy reach, there is swimming, cycling, climbing, sailing, walking and water-skiing, as well as shopping, restaurants, cafes and all the historical and cultural sites. Book through Airbnb or contact Sarah directly. Email Sarah Ward at Velcro_knees@yahoo. co.uk or search for ‘Bright Annecy Lakeside studio with private jetty’ on Airbnb
Paratroc is one of the most famous online paragliding stores in France, and they are happy to ship worldwide. You can visit their realworld shop in Doussard where you can check out all the new kit from the the major brands, arrange demo flights, buy new equipment and trade in your old gear. Through Doussard Parapente they can also take care of your entire trip, providing shuttles, weather briefing and guiding for solo pilots or groups. If you’re on your own it’s a great way to meet other pilots. Weekend guiding from €150pp, plus €30 to join the local club. paratroc.com, doussardparapente.fr
With more than 26 years in the business Ripair is a world leader in repairs, re-lining, servicing and safety checks for all paragliding equipment, including wings, harnesses and reserves. They operate to the highest standards of quality control and repair work, and have a huge depth of knowlegde about the sport and its gear. Their latest service is a Ripair-Approved system for buying secondhand wings. If you are looking for a deal, check the Ripair website – all the wings have been checked and approved as safe to fly by Ripair themselves. Ripair.com
ANNECY CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT The Soča Valley in Slovenia. Shuttles to take-off and great tourism infrastructure make this a perfect destination for a flying trip Photo: Andy Smart
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 SLOVENIA
HOME IS… SLOVENIA
atjaz Klemenčič started flying at 12 in his home country of Slovenia. By 15 he was flying cross country. Now a competition and Red Bull hang glider pilot he also flies paragliders, and is a cornerstone of the Triple Seven team, testing and marketing their wings. Where do you fly at home? The Triple Seven team mostly flies in the western part of Slovenia where two of the most famous sites are situated. There’s the world-renowned Soča Valley, which connects into the Eastern Alps. It’s lush with a deep blue river cutting through forest and farmland. And secondly, to the south there is the open Vipava Valley. The two sites give us a full range of flying, which we need to test the wings properly. Paragliders are flown all over the world, meaning the wings need to feel at home in the Alps as well as in the flatland thermals of Vipava Valley. There’s a playground for each type of terrain and you can connect them together to test your technical skills. What do you love about flying at home? These two sites provide both mountain and ridge flying, and either site can be a good safe spot for pilots venturing off on their first XC kilometres. They’re only half an hour apart, which means that you can decide in the morning if you will be flying the Alpine peaks or ridge soaring in Vipava. On a clear day you can see the Adriatic Sea. But Vipava Valley is not just for beginners. It’s also a popular alternative when the local Bora wind picks up. The Bora is a strong katabatic wind from the north, but the Vipava is protected as it’s relatively sheltered. And being closer to the sea, the
air here remains less unstable on days when conditions overdevelop in the Alps. What advice do you give visiting pilots? When flying in Soča valley, you can expect true Alpine flying. Don’t underestimate the lower peaks of the Eastern Alps. They can offer flights just as demanding and personally rewarding as the western end of the chain. For lower airtime pilots, the afternoons will still provide mellow and picturesque flights. In Vipava, the flying is less technical as crunching the kilometres means mostly following the ridge. Shuttles to take-off are easy to organise in both valleys, and retrieves are straightforward too. Slovenia is a small country and every valley has its own road. Vipava valley even has a highway. If you land in the same valley getting home is very quick. Finally, don’t forget to come see us! Pilots are welcome to pop into the Triple Seven head office (777gliders.com) and test out our wings. We love chatting with visiting pilots. What’s the best season? For sure the best season will range from June to the end of August, but the Vipava valley is well known for some good days in winter too. We’ve had 100km long flights on New Year’s Day, so there’s the potential to have good winter flying too.
Local clubs include kobala.si, drustvo-adrenalin. si and polet-ng.si. Find retrieves and shuttles through camp-gabrje.com (Soča Valley) and jelkin-hram.com (Kobarid)
SLOVENIA CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
SPANISH SUN Evening flying in Àger Photo: Kieran Campbell
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 ÀGER, SPAIN
ith long days and a long season, Àger has attracted serious XC and comp pilots for decades. And indeed the site has seen its fair share of top-level competitions. However, there is a lot for all levels, including novices: you can go XC without leaving the valley. There are four main launches and getting to the main one is easy. A 30-minute drive on a good forest road from Camping Vall d’Àger gets you to the main Coll d’Ares launch. In season a shuttle also operates from the campsite for a few euros a head. Once on launch the valley opens out before you. Now it’s just a case of picking a route: crossing the gorge of Terradets to Vilanova de Meià and back via Mont Rebei, the western gorge, is the classic 55km XC. Thermic flying starts in early February and continues until the end of October. Cloudbase during the early and late parts of the year averages 2,000m with gentle conditions, but the spring sunshine kicks off some intense thermic activity close to the ridges. XC season peaks during late spring and early summer with strong but manageable conditions for active pilots. For milder air, mornings and early evenings can provide relaxing local XC flying with plenty of opportunity to get high and see the amazing terrain. Base can reach 4,000m+ in mid-summer. Guides and more information at zenithaventura.com and flyager.com ÀGER, SPAIN CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
WHY I LOVE… TENERIFE
t just 20 years old, Jack Pimblett has spent the last three years making a mark on the paragliding world in both XC competitions, and flying and now teaching acro. He can regularly be found training in Tenerife in the Canaries. Where do you fly locally? I spend a lot of time based out of South Tenerife, near Adeje. Within that area you have a whole cluster of awesome sites: Ifonche, Taucho, Los Pinos to name a few. There are also some brilliant sites just 30 minutes further north towards Santa Cruz called Guimar and Izana.
WINTER GETAWAY The south of Tenerife is a protected microclimate, allowing flying all year round Photos: Christian Gruber
What’s good about it? Tenerife is flyable nearly every day of the year. Due to the prevailing wind, shape of the island and 3,700m volcano, El Teide, the south of the island is very well protected, meaning that it creates its own microclimate. It can almost be hurricane force winds in the north yet somehow the southern sites can
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 TENERIFE
have light breeze. It’s incredible. The reliability is just one aspect of the island’s features – most sites are easy to get to, friendly and with a clear landing within reach. Tenerife is a place that has something for everybody, no matter whether you want a quick top-to-bottom to quench your thirst or you prefer to stretch your legs and fly some cross country. What sort of flying can visiting pilots expect? There’s a massive range of flying, everything from coastal flights, soaring, thermalling, cross country – it has it all. It’s rare to find a place like this, where in one day you could be doing a top-to-bottom from a 2,200m take-off to land at sea level in the morning, soaring at another site along a tree-lined ridge in the afternoon, then a 30km cross country to find yourself landing at the beach to have dinner watching the sun set. The island is small but there’s still the potential to string together some high scoring triangles and improve your technical flying.
When’s the best season? It’s flyable all year round but the best time is November to March. Often the autumn, winter and spring months are great for flying. However, during the summer months the air in Tenerife can become really quite stable. That just leaves ridge-soaring options. What are your insider tips? If you are going to stray away from the safety net of the planned landing area, then try to keep a few areas to land in mind at all times. Landing areas can be limited and, due to the island being volcanic, they can be rocky and not the best areas to land in. There are very few places in the world where you find such variety and concentration of sites in such a compact area. You can experience so many different flying styles in a short time and the fact it is a place to escape harsh winters makes it even better.
Best time: November to March Online info: skyoftenerife.com, paraglidingpark.com, para42.com
Everything you need for the perfect paragliding holiday in Tenerife: • Shuttle to the launches of Taucho and Ifonche • Educational tandem flights for low-airtimers • Hike-and-fly outings • Specialist shop near the main LZ in Adeje • Great deals on accommodation
(+34) 605157482 (WhatsApp)
10 DAYS IN THE CAUCA VALLEY
olombian distance record holder and paragliding guide, Sebastian Ospina works as a professional tandem pilot in Europe during the summer, but when winter comes he heads back home to the Cauca Valley, famous for the site at Roldanillo, but also home to a few lesserknown flying gems. He gives us the lowdown on this unique flying destination.
Roll over Roldanillo
COLOMBIA Mauricio Orozco cruising in the Cauca Valley Photo: Cody Tuttle
Everyone knows Roldanillo, but I don’t think it’s a place for low airtime pilots with 50-100 hours. The Cauca Valley has valley thermals that start early, but the Pacifico, a wind from the north, sweeps in later in the day. It cuts the day short but an inexperienced pilot can misread the nice breeze coming up take-off and launch into some very uncomfortable air. For beginner pilots there are better sites in the Cauca Valley that offer just as much great flying. They have good infrastructure, and you will always find other pilots there. Sometimes you have to pay a small site fee.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 COLOMBIA
If you’re landing in Cali, at the southern end of the valley, then just an hour away is Santa Helena, a small town with a nearby launch at Piedechinche. It’s a low take-off with a big grassy area and not too much wind, and a nice house thermal out in front. It’s sheltered from the Pacifico, so you can fly all day, and if you bomb out you can get back up to take-off quickly again by hitching a ride with one of the tandem operators or in a private taxi. It can get a bit rowdy in the middle of the day, but for beginners it’s awesome. In town there’s a small paragliding scene and most pilots stay at a hostel called Siga la Vaca (literally “Follow the Cow”). The hostel can arrange shuttles. The whole valley is realising the value of welcoming paraglider pilots. You’ll find restaurants with menus translated into English, and people rent out their homes to pilots. It’s cheap and some pilots stay for months. Flying cross country from here, there are airspace restrictions to be aware of.
Roldanillo is 85km north. The valley wind can flow in either direction here, unlike in the Alps where it only flows upstream, so pick the right day to attempt it. The valley has pastureland so unless you’re deep in the mountains, the main hazard to choosing a landing is the power lines. Heading south 30km as far as the town of Florida is fine, but beyond that are marijuana- and coca-growing regions controlled by conflicting forces, so best avoided. Triangles rather than straight lines are the way to test yourself in the Cauca. Retrieves here are harder than around Roldanillo as Santa Helena is off the main trunk road. Unless you’re with a group it can be difficult to get back.
North of Roldanillo is Ansermaneuvo. It’s very dear to me. That’s where I learned to fly. My first thermal, first XC, first tandem, and first little crash were all here. It’s an amazing beginners’ site, and more protected from Pacifico winds. You can still be flying at 4pm. There’s a perfect grassy take-off and a cafe on launch with a couple of rooms, so you can
even sleep there. It’s only 500m above the valley but it has very reliable thermal sources and the landing is big. You can top-land and have a drink at the cafe before flying again or you can go big. I hold the site record from here at 174km. The scene isn’t as vibrant as Roldanillo but you’ll still meet other pilots and it’s easy to catch a jeep to take-off. Again airspace is an issue here, as it is throughout the Cauca. After some careful negotiation, free-flyers have been granted tentative concessions, but they change, so speak with local pilots about the latest NOTAMs to make sure you don’t break the fragile permissions in force.
Head north again and just before the regional border is Apia. Every year in February there’s a flying competition there, and Apia itself is a beautiful town. There’s a rich history of coffee culture with period buildings with wooden balconies dating back 100 years. The town is in the mountains and the take-off isn’t far away. It’s from here that I broke the Colombian record with a 213km flight. The locals have carved out a really nice
LIFE IN THE VALLEY The small cafe and flying HQ at Ansermanuevo; and Roldanillo town Photos: Ed Ewing There are landing fields everywhere in the valley Photo: Cody Tuttle
COLOMBIA CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT A cloudy day in the Cauca Valley Photo: Cody Tuttle Transport to launch Photo: Ed Ewing A sugarcane fire Photo: Ed Ewing The Cauca Valley runs north to south in central Colombia. International flights arrive in Cali Map: Google Maps
launch area, which is good for beginners. The geography keeps it slightly protected from the Pacifico, but it still comes in so follow local advice. If you’re up to date with the airspace and the valley wind direction, you can fly south 200km to Florida.
The valley wind
Flying XC either north or south along the main valley ridge in the mornings you have to watch out for how much valley wind there is, and its direction. The valley has lateral spines that collect thermals, but even though the wind is rarely strong on the valley floor, its effect can create rotor on these spines if you’re low, and they can trap you or worse, give you a battering on the way to bombing out. It’s important to read what’s happening from the air, so keep one eye on the ground. From the air, it’s usually easy to see the Pacifico coming in. A line of cloud sweeps
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 COLOMBIA
across the sky clearing everything away leaving cloudless blue skies. So keep your other eye on the sky. When this tailwind sets in, visualise the rotor it will create as you plan your route along the valley.
From Europe, connecting flights from Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt and Munich will get you to Cali (at the southern end of the valley) or Pereira (close to Apia in the north), via Bogota. From there, use the bus network if you’re on a shoestring, or hire a taxi for about €30/hour travel. November to March are the high season, but the flying can be good in July and August too, although this is often overlooked as many pilots are in Europe then. The high summer temperatures of 30-35C are cooled by the Pacifico, so don’t be put off. Interview by Andy Pag
VALLE DE BRAVO
alle de Bravo in Mexico is a mecca for North Americans and visiting Europeans over winter. An upper class pueblo full of art galleries and gastronomy, some of the most consistent free-flight conditions in the world are just a 30-minute taxi ride away. The flying is a mix of big climbs, thermic ridge running, and convergence, which is to say it is an ideal training area for intermediate pilots and above. There are two sites: “La Torre” is a soaring site just above town; “El Peñon” is for XC. XC season is Nov-Feb, but you can fly El Peñon all year long, although it
gets rougher as the dry season (Nov-May) extends. Due to increasing numbers, the local club has introduced new rules for lower-airtime pilots, who must hire a local guide from NovFeb. Pilots who do not have a minimum P4/ H4 (IPPI 4) rating must register and pay in advance at www.clubpenon.org. There you’ll also find a list of approved guides, and a link to the weather station with live camera. Get rated and go have fun in Mexico! Nick Greece Best time: Nov-Feb Info: clubpenon.org, alas.com.mx
ONLY THE BRAVE One of the most consistent free-flight sites in the world Photo: Nick Greece
MEXICO CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
oanna Di Grigoli has spent several seasons in northeast Brazil, chasing records and personal bests. Whether foot-launching or towing, here’s her advice on getting the best out of your stay. 1. Do your research. Before you go, talk to pilots who have already been. If you don’t know anyone who’s been there, go to XContest or Leonardo and take a look at tracklogs to see what the usual routes are. I’ve superimposed my tracklogs from different years and I’ve seen I’ve thermalled in the same spots in the middle of the flats! 2. Prepare your kit so you can fit in food and lots of drinking water. I also recommend mixing powdered electrolyte solution with your drinking water – you’ll stay extra hydrated in the air and on the ground if you ever have to walk or wait in the heat. You’ll also feel much better the next day. You can find it in any pharmacy in Brazil in different flavours (my favorite is coconut!).
Bring food with you because you’re going to be in the air all day long. Dried fruit and local nuts like cashew and Brazil nuts work fine, or bring your favorite from home. 3. Wear a peeing device or diapers and use them! There’s a peeing device for women called the She-P (she-p.com) that works like a charm after some practice. You need to drink lots of water in flight and that water will eventually want to leave your body. So, salud! 4. Pick your launch time. Flying in Quixadá or Patú and Assu or Caicó is completely different, especially on when to launch. If you foot launch, get off as soon as you can before the wind gets too strong and wait until the base lifts before you turn around and fly downwind. If you tow, choosing the right time to launch is trickier because if you launch too early, you can end up on the deck at 7.15am and if the logistics don’t allow coming back to relaunch, your
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 BRAZIL
day will be over. It all depends on your goals. If you’re there to break records, you’ll want to get off as soon as possible, but if you’re there to fly your first 200km or 300km, then it’s worth waiting for the right time. It will be more fun. 5. Team up. In Quixadá or Patú, a gaggle will form naturally as people wait for the right time to leave and that makes the first (and hardest) part of the flying a bit easier. But if you go towing, it’s worth teaming up with another pilot with a similar glider and towing at the same time so you can work together (and it’s more fun!). 6. Early in the morning, take whatever climb you find and don’t leave it! Usually, the wind is strong, and you’ll see the kilometres go by while you drift in that zero. The pace changes throughout the day: it’s slow early on, then full-on before noon, then there’s a pause at noon (stay high!), then full-on again and then there will be a lovely
restitution during that final glide at sunset. Learn to adapt to these changes in pace and you’ll fly all day long. 7. Read the clouds. There can be blue days, but there are many days with puffy clouds like in your dreams. There will be endless cloudstreets you can surf, but reading the clouds is the key. While you climb in a thermal, take mental photos of the clouds in every turn (a tip I read from Will Gadd ages ago) and see how they evolve. That way, you can see if the cloud you’re heading to is getting better or not. Sometimes, you’ll have to switch from one cloudstreet to the other. Learn to tell if a cloudstreet is dying so you can switch to another while you’re still high. Looking at the cloud shadows is also helpful, especially if you’re at base and can’t see the other clouds anymore. If the wind isn’t very strong, cloudstreets will be less noticeable and the sky will be filled with cumuli you can choose from. 8. Forget about the mountains. This place is all about the flats. Because it’s so windy, it’s not worth going to a mountain and trying to find a thermal there. You might end up in some nasty compression and fly backwards towards the lee. If you have no choice and you’re stuck in a mountain/hilly area, find a
thermal before the mountain, that way you’ll be high enough to cross it.
CLASSIC DAY Joanna Di Grigoli at home in the sky above northeast Brazil, clouds showing the way ahead Photos: Joanna Di Grigoli
9. Cycles are short. Normally, thermic cycles are very short so sometimes that puffy cloud you’re heading to has already stopped working. It’s worth heading towards a cloud when it’s starting to form, especially early in the day, so you’ll be able to use the entire cycle to get to base. 10. Don’t fight against the wind! If your thermal breaks up and you are over halfway up, don’t fly against the wind to try to find it: you’ll have more chance of finding lift flying downwind. Of course, if you’re high and a vulture is showing a better core nearby, go for it! I never argue with vultures in the Sertão. 11. Get your goals straight. Don’t let the group influence you. When you’re in a group, you can get motivated by them or get sucked by their negativity. I’ve seen both. So when you go to the Sertão, you need to know why you’re going there. This is an amazing place where you can have goals like breaking records, flying all day long, making your personal best, or having an adventure with the locals. All these goals are valid and they’re some of the reasons why we fly. So, know why you’re going to Brazil and enjoy yourself.
TRAVEL INFO Best time: September to December is the main season, but you can fly Quixadá all year round Guiding and where to stay: Andy Flühler (flywithandy.com); Eurismar Junior (tinyurl. com/tn59jgh); and Escape Paragliding (jockysanderson.com) run XC tours to northeast Brazil. DIY in Quixadá and stay at Pedra dos Ventos (pedradosventos.com.br)
BRAZIL CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
FLYING THE AMERICAS From lakeside soaring in Guatemala to chasing distance across the flatlands of Brazil
The number of countries in The Americas. From tiny Saint Kitts and Nevis to giants Brazil, USA and Canada
The total population of the Americas, including 569 million in North and Central America, and 416 million in South America
Full of magical energy and natural beauty Lake Atitlan in Guatemala offers flying in the shadow of dramatic live volcanoes. realworldparagliding.jimdo.com
The approximate total length in km of the Pan American Highway network of roads, which stretch from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina – minus a 106km stretch of roadless jungle at the Darién Gap, the break between North and South America
The total number of trips (so far) that legendary paramotor pilot Jeff Hamann has made in his mission to fly the length of the Pacific coast of the Americas – including flying across the famous Darién Gap
South of San Diego, USA, you’ll be speaking Spanish. Phrases you might need include: “¿Dónde está el aterrizaje? (Where is the landing?)”; “¿Hay algún espacio aéreo? (Is there any airspace?)”; “¿Qué hay detrás? (What’s over the back?)”; “¿Es seguro volar aquí? (Is it safe to fly here?)”; “El viento está demasiado fuerte (The wind is too strong)”; “¿Hay Wi-Fi aquí? (Do you have Wi-Fi?)”; “¿Puedo ofrecerle un trago a mis nuevos amigos? (Can I buy you all a drink?)” Brazil’s a different trip – you’ll need to brush up on your Portuguese.
The longest hang gliding flight ever flown was in the Americas – by Dustin Martin in Texas, 4 July 2012. He and Jonny Durand battled it out all day but Dustin eked out his final glide by an extra 5km
Medellin, Colombia is one of South America’s best cities. The flying site at San Felix is accessible by city bus, consistent, top-landable and on all year round. paraglidingmedellin.com
24,428km The number of kilometres to date that Jeff has flown in his quest, which started in 2003.
The longest paragliding flight ever flown was in the Americas – by Marcelo Prieto, Rafael Saladini and Rafael de Moraes Barros, in northeast Brazil on 10 October 2019
Launching from the ramp in Rio de Janeiro is jaw-dropping. Even if you don’t manage to fly to the statue of Christ and back, it’s an unforgettable and unique location.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 AMERICAS
Soaring downtown Lima, Peru, a city of 9m people, is spectacular. There’s nowhere else you can get this up close and personal with a city’s high-rise buildings and hotels.
Cusco in the Peruvian Andes is the starting point for visits to Machu Picchu. You can fly here too – thermal above the ancient Sacred Valley with 5,400m mountains out front sayaq-seqe.com
Want to go far? Dare to challenge yourself and break your personal best! The Sertão in NE Brazil is the best place in the world to fly distance. All current world records have been set there, and pilots regularly fly 400-500km and even further. Quixadá Aventura provides everything you need to chase distance: winchtow, retrieve, accommodation and technical assistance. Your only concern will be finding the next thermal. Flying days can be tough, with a 6am start, a tow to 800m, strong conditions and a 12-hour window, flying at up to 3,500m. Come to Brazil and fly far! tinyurl.com/u67pddo
Valle de Bravo is the world’s most consistent site, with 340+ flyable days a year. Sharpen your skills, upgrade your safety, fly XC, or even become a tandem pilot. You’ll be mentored by Marko Hrgetic, APPI Master Instructor and Red Bull X-Alps pilot, and his team of professionals. Marko is the highest level instructor in Mexico with immense knowledge and experience. SIV clinics in Yelapa Bay are also available. The only APPIcertified XC courses and SIV clinics you will find in Mexico. Book now, places fill fast! paraglidingmexico.com We speak English, Spanish, Croatian & Czech
Fly With Andy
Andy Flühler and Michael Gebert have found the world’s most successful 500km spot in Caicó in the northeast of Brazil. Based on an airfield in the Brazilian Sertão they’ve built up a professional crew, which now includes four winches so three pilots can tow together. If you are looking to enjoy fabulous flatland conditions almost every day, hunting your personal best or even chasing the paragliding world record, this is the place to be. Sign up early. www.flywithandy.com Oberdorf, Switzerland, +41 77 218 41 62 We speak English, DE, ES and PT
Colombia Paragliding Colombia Paragliding offers you fun paragliding road trips around Colombia. With more than 15 years’ experience, be guided by local bilingual certified instructor, Richi Mantilla. Based in Bucaramanga, close to the amazing Chicamocha Canyon, we fly 360 days a year with incredible conditions for improving skills: top-landing, groundhandling, XC and strong-wind takeoff. We have a shuttle, hostel on take-off and accommodation. We also work with schools and groups: Bucaramanga is the perfect place to learn with Colombia Paragliding School. colombiaparagliding.com
AMERICAS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
MEET JOE STONE
oe Stone has been travelling the flying sites of the USA for 18 months, living in his truck and camper and following the weather. He tells us about life on the road. I’m from Minnesota, but I moved out to Montana to get into the mountains in 2009 when I was 23. I was a skydiver, and I started speed-flying in 2010 but had an accident that same year. I broke my neck and back and had a bunch of other internal injuries, and was very lucky to have survived. I woke up as an incomplete C7 quadriplegic and started a whole new life. I spent about four years trying all these other adaptive sports. I wanted to see if anything else grabbed my heart like flying had, but nothing ever did. Then in 2014 Chris Santacroce from Super Fly Paragliding in Utah reached out to me through Project Airtime and just said, “We’re here for you. If you want it, let us
know.” A couple months later we set a date, and I went out and started flying again, this time with wheels. It was such a cool experience. It was my first time travelling anywhere by myself since the accident. I had to drive 10 hours to Utah and had a big adventure. Spent a week there. Did a couple tandems, tons of kiting. Ended up getting in the air solo for the first time since my injury. It kind of changed my life. The coolest part was it felt very normal and natural to me. In the air I realised I was doing the same thing everybody else was doing. The only thing that separates any of us is our experience level. I quickly recognised how inclusive it is. We can all just fly together and have a pretty magical experience. Paragliding gave me the drive to want to travel more. When you survive something like spinal-cord injury you have to re-
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 USA
learn almost everything in life. So having paragliding motivated me to learn more daily living skills, which added to my independence. Eighteen months ago I started to travel full-time. I live in a 5-x-10 camper that I pull with a 2013 Chevy Silverado, and I’ve travelled all over to fly. British Columbia, Canada, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Southern California. I really got dialled in to be able to travel independently and manage my own life, but also to meet up with new communities, get involved and learn new places, new air, new everything. I’ve met such amazing people along the way. With flying you can travel anywhere and not know anybody. But reaching out through Facebook, everywhere I go it’s been, “Totally, yeah, let’s meet up.” And then before I know it they are pushing me off the mountain.
It’s hard to name a favourite place. Southern California is great in winter. The community is great and there are lots of places to fly. Arizona was pretty special because it was challenging thermalling. Utah will always hold a place in my heart. It’s accessible, where I learned to fly, I’ve flown my biggest XCs there. Jackson, Wyoming was huge! You launch at 10,400ft and the Teton Mountains are pretty committing for a chair user. It’s really kind of gnarly, and next level for me. I’m kind of like a hang glider for landing. I have to be extra careful on my altitude before I make my next move. I need to have a good LZ in sight. I can’t side-hill land, so I have to
be a little extra cautious. That mindset keeps me safe. I fly an Advance Iota. It’s a great wing. My trike has a harness integrated into it, it’s pretty cool. The trike is specially made for paragliding by a company called Backbone in France. I use a front-mount reserve, and that has my flight deck on it. My next step is to add motor assist. So I can be more independent on the ground. Add a battery and motors on the rear wheels. All the tech is there in adaptive mountain biking. It’s just a matter of doing it! instagram.com/meetjoestone
READY TO FLY Ready to launch on a light-wind day at Mount Sentinel in Missoula, Montana, and getting a helping hand in the wind at Point of the Mountain in Draper, Utah. “Launch can be a little more technical, so kiting skills are key. I do a lot of kiting so I can be confident in my launches.” Photos: Julie Tickel / Ben White
USA CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
EXPLORING SOUTHERN AFRICA
NAMIBIA Exploring Namibia’s red dunes using Apco’s lightweight hybrid wing Photo: Egor Terentyev
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 SOUTHERN AFRICA
ierre Carter is one of South Africa’s best-known adventure pilotshas been flying since the 1980s. We asked him about his home sites and beyond. Where’s home? Johannesburg, one of the highest cities in the world at 1,800m ASL. My favourite site is Hartbeespoort. It’s accessed by cable car and is at the eastern end of the Magaliesberg mountain range. It’s thermal flying, best from October to May. We also have Barberton, Gods Window and Bambi nearby. What do you love about Hartbeespoort? The Magaliesberg Range is a protected biosphere, 2bn years old. There are huge vulture colonies on some of the cliffs, and on good days you can end up thermaling with 30 or more. My other favourite flying site is the Drakensberg, where we host the X-Berg Challenge. It’s the biggest mountain range in South Africa topping out at just over 3,000m. You’ve flown off Kilimanjaro, haven’t you? Three times. Our operation, Paraglide Kilimanjaro, has had a number of successful
expeditions since we started. Kilimanjaro (5,895m) sits smack bang in restricted airspace so the whole process takes a lot of time, logisitics and authorisations. Pilots need to do it through an agency, and we have a good relationship with the authorities. We also organise additional flying days near Kilimanjaro, combining paragliding with wildlife safaris. We love Tanzania. I’m looking for adventure, where should I go? The Drakensberg for hike-and-fly or for the X-Berg Challenge. It’s beautiful untouched wilderness and a world heritage site. The Franschhoek area is also good for hike-and-fly, as is the Eastern Cape near Port Elizabeth, and the Mpumalanga – the low veld – from Barberton to Denza and on past Pilgrim’s Rest. You can visit Kruger National Park while there. For comp pilots we have three comps. Porterville in December, which is world class; the X-Berg Challenge in March; and Barberton in June/July. For XC the Northern Cape is excellent. De Aar used to be an active site but since Des and Arnold Pansi sold their operation hardly anyone goes there.
Nowadays pilots go to Prieska, Copperton or Uppington with a winch and retrieve team. What about outside South Africa? Namibia’s red dunes are a fun place to better your groundhandling and just float around. If you have a winch team you can head to Bitterwasser for distance flying. Mozambique has one or two coastal soaring sites, which can be enjoyed in conjunction with a diving/kitesurfing holiday. Zimbabwe’s Honde Valley was once the familiar site for paragliding Nationals for South African pilots and the handful of Zimbabwean pilots. The area is still open for flying for more adventurous pilots. In Kenya the Kerio Valley is well known for its distance flying and is best in January. Personally I always wanted to fly that long ridge by Lalibela in the north of Ethiopia. The rock-hewn churches and their history are interesting and the landscape stunning. Info: Overseas pilots visiting South Africa need a foreign pilot permit. Get it through sahpa.co.za Online: paraglidekilimanjaro.com, xbergchallenge.com (24-29 March 2020)
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TOWING IN AUSTRALIA
ing off the towline late in the morning and land as the golden sun sets into the red dust. This is Australia; dry, flat and absolutely huge. When the north shivers, Australia bakes under a relentless sun. An average towing season runs from October to March with French hotshots breaking records in December and January whilst the months either side are less full-on. “The Outback” conjures up a certain image in the visitor’s mind (think Big Red Rock) and some tow safaris do make it out towards the centre, but most of the action takes place in the expansive farmland of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. This landscape is remarkably varied with huge paddocks interspersed with national parks and wild places untouched by modern colonisation. Wildlife is plentiful. Wedge-tailed eagles fly happily with you most of the time but occasionally rip your wing to shreds; kangaroos are ubiquitous; and cockatoos and kookaburras will wake you at dawn if you camp in the bush. The long-running drought has supercharged conditions in places but you can still expect a friendly welcome from the hardy farmers and rides back to the road on various agricultural vehicles are a regular
occurrence. Being presented with a cold beer on landing isn’t unheard of. Australia is no longer a cheap destination so bring some cash to spend in the local towns; they’ll certainly appreciate the business. There are a couple of ways to organise an Australian tow trip. Less experienced pilots or mixed groups often base themselves in one place and fly each day. A variety of tow strips close to each other cover various wind directions and each pilot can fly off as far as they want or land at a predetermined goal. For a real adventure, pack up everything into rugged vehicles, check you have spare everything and head off on the road. Each day the group tows up, flies away and then camps where they land. Depending on weather this can mean a straight line, an out-and-return or even a huge circuit – think 1,000km and 50 hours’ flying in a trip! Whichever you choose, local knowledge is almost essential. Australia has embraced rules and regulations wholeheartedly so be sure to contact the national association when you visit. Allen Weynberg Best time: Oct-March Info: safa.asn.au, flydubbo.com, skyoutparagliding.com
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 AUSTRALIA
AUSTRALIA “Dry, flat and absolutely huge” Photo: Phil Kirkman
AUSTRALIA CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND
CORONET PEAK Roman Berner enjoys New Zealand’s number-one spot All photos: Felix Wölk
eather systems in New Zealand’s South Island are like nowhere else. One reason is the quickly changing frontal systems, which at these strong wind latitudes travel unobstructed. That is until they meet the New Zealand Alps, which rise to 3,800m. These often block the wind and create Föhn on the other side. At the same time, thermic activity inland sucks in the air, creating a strong sea-breeze effect around the whole island. That sea breeze can penetrate even the remotest spot on the interior of the island. As a result, flying windows can be short and infrequent. Thermal flying in the lee is a wellestablished practice here. Queenstown and Wanaka are prime examples, where you fly in a bubbling mass of lee-side thermals that bravely resist the wider over-arching meteorology and wind. January is regarded as the best month for flying inland. This is early summer in the
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 NEW ZEALAND
southern hemisphere, when the air is not too stable and the sun is already strong.
Coronet Peak in Queenstown is New Zealand’s most popular flying spot. It’s partly because Queenstown is the centre of South Island’s outdoor activity tourist scene, and it is also a relatively easy place to fly compared with other places, with paragliding schools and countless tandem operations. Note that airspace rules are tight, with an airport nearby. Thermals create a microclimate on the west side of Coronet Peak. Even when a clear easterly situation prevails at higher levels you can fly here. Because of the westerly aspect thermals tend to develop later in the day, but they then last a long time. On good days it works everywhere, long into the evening. The main issue is the sea breeze, which can push in. This can create a large area of good climbs, but also brings with it a strong surface wind that can make landing difficult.
Some 35km northeast of Queenstown the Treble Cone area at Lake Wanaka is the second of South Island’s main flying centres. Bureaucracy for pilots is quite complex, and there is more to it than simply getting your (mandatory) guest membership of the New Zealand Association (nzhgpa.org.nz). So check the Southern Club website (southernclub. co.nz) for the up-to-date rules and regulations and get in touch with local pilots in good time. When the weather’s flyable there are shuttles that can drive you up, and flying here is special. These mountainsides often lie in the lee of a general west wind, which likes to whistle close over the Harris Mountains. Here you fly in the microclimate built by the strong lee-side thermals. The thermals usually hug the mountainside, and in unstable conditions
they climb up as far as the prevailing wind. It then becomes “bumpy”, and you can clearly notice when you’ve reached the lee effect of the ridge. Keep your eyes open when you fly here, especially in prevailing westerly conditions where there’s the threat of the sea breeze breaking through the Alpine valleys and spoiling the fun. Signs are dust clouds lurking behind the mountain ridges. Also watch for swirling dust eddies caused by air flowing along the valley floors. In this case a quick landing is advised. The surface of Lake Wanaka can also give you a hint. A popular XC flight sets off from Treble Cone towards the south. At the end of this mountain get maximum height for the valley crossing towards the southeast. You can usually find some more luck on the mountainside above Glendhu Bay, and enjoy a fantastic view along the winding extent of the lake.
TREBLE CONE A short XC from Treble Cone and you can thermal up above Glendhu Bay, to enjoy Lake Wanaka from above Photo: Felix Wölk
NEW ZEALAND CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
HIKE AND FLY Roman Berner flying the eastern slopes of Mount Cook after launching from the Mueller Hut, with Mount Sefton behind Alexander Tups and Roman Berner hiking above Mount Cook village, with Lake Pukaki in the background Gliding towards Lake Pukaki and the Tasman River
Mount Cook (3,724m)
Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak, and flying a paraglider here is possible. However, Mount Cook is also near the centre of New Zealand’s Southern Alps Mandatory Broadcast Zone. The Southern Alps Mandatory Broadcast Zone stretches from near Lake Ohau to the southwest up to Lake Tekapo in the northeast, right over the Southern Alps to the west coast, an area of around 5,600 square km. To fly within a Mandatory Broadcast Zone you must have an airband radio, with the appropriate radio user license, and make position reports every five minutes. If you don’t have a license it is possible to get one within New Zealand, with a bit of forward planning. It involves an online theory test and a short practical exam. Note you do have to have reasonably fluent spoken English as all radio communications are in English. If you’ve got Mount Cook, or vol-biv through the Southern Alps in your sights, check out the advice for visiting pilots online at southernclub. co.nz/visiting-pilots.
The Mount Ida area is actually still an insider’s tip. It’s far away in the Oteake
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 NEW ZEALAND
Conservation Park. The original residents of New Zealand call it Maniototo, “the land of light and space”. The bleak landscape has its own appeal, especially in the evening light. It’s then that the hills cast their interplay of light and shade. The 300m-high Mount Ida can be reached by 4WD from the road near Idaburn. The mountain lies in front of Hawkdun Range. A big aerial clearly marks the launch spot. The land is open to the west and therefore exposed to the west wind. Ideally you should fly here in purely thermic conditions in a phase of weak wind. Mount Ida is a thermal oven and in summer the surface is often bone dry. Even in complete shade serious thermals develop. When the ground is partly in shade thermic activity switches on and off like an electric light. Shadow: Off. Sun: On. As simple as that. The sea breeze can arrive here from all directions because of Mount Ida’s central position in inland South Island. Cloudbanks on the nearby Rock and Pillar Range are a sign of an east wind. The view to the west is unrestricted, so clouds in this direction should be correctly assessed. Felix Wölk
World Records, World Championships World Class Siteâ€Ś and a World of Personal Bests Safe and easy XC flying for all levels of pilot is waiting for you in Manilla - Australia
www.flymanilla.com Since 1993
Paragliding School & Shop, Cabins & Camping, Bar, Pool, WiFi
EAGLE’S NEST Anatolii Mykhailiuta watches Stephane Drouin climbing out in the Hunza Valley. On the horizon, 7,788m Rakaposhi Photo: Kieran Campbell
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 PAKISTAN
he meeting point of the world’s three highest mountain ranges, even the biggest pilot will feel small here. Before heading to Hunza, warm up flying the 20km SE- facing ridge at Chinarkot, two hours’ drive from Islamabad. Then get your first taste of big mountain flying at Pir Chinasi, Muzzafarabad, four hours from the capital. With 2,100m between launch and the disused airport LZ, there is plenty of time to climb out and be within one glide of 5,000m peaks. Don’t stray east as it’s only 20km to the border at the Line of Control. After that, take the incredibly scenic 24hour journey up the Karakoram Highway to Karimabad, capital of the Hunza Valley to fly from Eagle’s Nest. (To shorten the journey take an internal flight to Gilgit). After negotiating the snaggy rocks and bushes at this 3,000m launch, persevere through the inversions to climb eye-to-eye with 6,000m Ladyfinger Peak, before remembering that round here, that’s not particularly high. Crank out a big triangle, getting back in time for dinner, or pack some food and go vol-biv, perhaps ending up 250km west in Chitral, in the Hindu Kush; the possibilities are endless. Flying here demands caution. There is no question that you’ll fly smarter and safer on oxygen. Consider all the caveats of flying in an extreme mountain environment in a developing country with an occasionally unpredictable political situation. Ask your insurer about search-and-rescue, medical and repatriation limits, and get it all in writing. Double your margins, then double Kieran Campbell them again.
Best time: June to October in Hunza and Chitral. Muzzaffarabad and Chinarkot have two seasons: March to June, and Sept to November Contacts: It’s essential to contact the Pakistan. association for help with flying permits and information. Association president Sajjad Shaah is very helpful. phpa.org.pk
PAKISTAN CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
CROSS COUNTRY 141 BASE
JUST FOR FUN Fun comps from the Ozone Chabre Open to the Applegate Sprint p88
POWER ON Your paramotor diary sorted for the year – don’t miss Blois! p90
RACING START Competition highlights around the world, p84-87 Photo: Marcus King
FESTIVALS From fancy-dress to testing gliders, weekends will never be the same p92
ACRO WORLDS Get ready to tumble at the FAI Acro World Championships in Italy p94
WHAT’S ON CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
WORLD CUP DIARY
he Paragliding World Cup has another packed calendar this year – and has expanded too. The new PWC Asia circuit takes in three locations. Here’s the rundown of PWC comps in 2020. PWC Superfinal 2019, Castelo, Brazil 23 March to 4 April The crème de la crème of PWC pilots will be in Castelo in March, battling for the coveted title of 2019 PWC Champion. The landscape is rolling hills with granite outcrops and open valleys, the thermals strong. Who will be crowned Superfinal Champion? PWC 2020, Passy, France, 30 May to 6 June The first leg of the PWC 2020 circuit is in Plaine-Joux, in the heart of the French Alps with Mont Blanc views. The site is outside the main Chamonix valley, and is protected to some extent from the northerlies that can make it unflyable in the mountains. The large take-off is well maintained to wheelchairfriendly standards. While it’s the kick-off point for some great XCs, it’s the first time Plaine-Joux has hosted a PWC leg. PWC Gemona, Italy, 4-11 July Gemona del Friuli is close to the Slovenian border in northern Italy. It’s a popular site for competitions thanks to the big, grassy launch on Mont Cuarnan and the varied flying options: flatlands meet the Julian Alps, so there are plenty of route-setting options, and plentiful landings. Great gelato! PWC Disentis, Switzerland, 15-22 August This is true mountain flying in the heart of the Swiss Alps. It’s a cable-car ride to launch, and the flying is over and around snowcapped peaks and glaciers, with chocolatebox chalets dotting the pastures far below. The aerology is complicated and alpine – it’s technical flying with big rewards. PWC Gochang, South Korea, 17-24 October Gochang is a little-known XC haven in the south-west corner of South Korea, set in a landscape of rolling hills and forested ridges
with the main launch at 520m overlooking the town. Rice paddies cover the valley floor, so mid-October onwards is the best time to visit, after the harvest. Accommodation is cheap. Kimchi – salted and fermented vegetables – is the local delicacy. PWC Traslasierra, Argentina 5-12 December The Traslasierra valley and its famous condors greet pilots for the final stop on the 2020 PWC tour. Córdoba is the region in Argentina between the flat pampas of the east and the high Andes of the west. Niña Paula launch above Mina Clavero is at 1,500m, and the ridge runs south for 200m. Rocky, rugged and strong! PWC Asia, Pokhara, Nepal, 23-29 February First stop on the new PWC Asian Tour is Pokhara. Nepal’s answer to Annecy is a paragliding haven, with the mighty Annapurna range as a backdrop. It attracts hippies and travellers, vol-bivvers, SIVers and tandems aplenty. Sarangkot launch is at 1,500m, a 20-minute jeep ride up from Lakeside and its magical melange of temples and yoga centres, bars and restaurants, traditional and modern. PWC Asia, Jingmen, China, 9-16 May Jingmen, a city of 2.8 million people in Hubei province of central China has been a popular base for accuracy comps for years, but is fairly new for XC. The local government is investing in the infrastructure to get it ready for the PWC, with an improved take-off and new HQ. The landscape is hills and low mountains with plenty of landing options in the valleys. PWC Asia, Wonogiri, Indonesia, September Wonogiri is in Central Java, Indonesia. The site XC record stands at some 100-110km, and the flying terrain is flatlands and small hills. Take-off is at 800m, and the official landing is a huge lakeside beach. Follow the action at pwca.org or on the app
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 COMPETITION DIARY
DISENTIS True mountain flying in the heart of the Swiss Alps Photo: Martin Scheel
COMPETITION DIARY CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
eld every two years the regular continental and world championships offer the chance to fly and compete as national teams and win prestigious FAI medals. This year’s events: 2020 FAI Hang Gliding World Championships, Florida, 19 April to 1 May It may seem early in the season, but the weather in Florida is perfect at this time of year. Once again the hang glider comp pilots are coming together en masse to hold several world championships in multiple different classes. This will be the 2nd Sport Class Worlds, the 14th Women’s Worlds, the 9th Class 5 Worlds and the 21st Class 2 World Championships. It’s aerotow launches and flatland flying – with the distance record from Wilotree Park at 283 miles (455km) expect pure racing at the highest level. tinyurl.com/vjg2qdb FAI Paragliding Pre-Worlds, France 23-30 May The FAI Paragliding World Championships is coming home in 2021. The region of Coeur de Savoie Mont-Blanc will host the Worlds from 22 May to 5 June next year and is putting a lot of effort into making a great event. This year will see a one-week test event Pre-Worlds in the same location. vollibre.coeurdesavoie.fr 2020 FAI European Paragliding Championships, Serbia, 18-31 July European countries will send their finest to Serbia to compete for the European Championship FAI medals in overall, women’s and nation classes. The site is in the south of the country, 250km from capital Belgrade, in the Svrljiske mountains, which rise to about 1,200m. The flying takes place in these hills and valleys, with flatlands to the west. From the main launches the flying arena extends
70km N/S/W and 40km east, so expect technical and engaging tasks depending on the wind and weather. The organising team is well established, with several big comps under their belts, including the PWC in 2017. Live tracking for spectators. fai.org FAI Pan-American HG Championships, Big Spring, Texas, 2-14 August Big Spring, Texas in August is billed as “the finest cross-country hang gliding competition site in the world” and has been the location for many world records. Pilots can expect big tasks, big thermals, and big landing fields. Everything’s big in Texas! Meet director Davis Straub promises that long cloud streets, a good tailwind and high base will be the order of the day. “We usually fly big distances every day at Big Spring so be prepared physically. This is not Europe.” Live tracking will be switched on, so log on to follow the sure-to-be-epic tasks. tinyurl.com/txfzf36 FAI Asian-Oceanic Paragliding Championships, Bright, Australia 5-19 December The first ever FAI Asian-Oceanic Paragliding Championships is being held in Bright in December 2020. This continental championships will see pilots from across Asia and Oceania compete for the title of Asian Oceanic Paragliding Champion. The test event in December 2019 was cancelled due to lack of numbers, but the popular Bright Paragliding Open (8-15 February) is now the official test event. Bright is a well-known spot in Australia that has hosted numerous international competitions. If they get the ball rolling the A/O PG Championships could become a new fixture on the international calendar. fai.org
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 COMPETITION DIARY
COEUR DE SAVOIE The French Alps will host the Pre-World Paragliding Championships this year Photo: Phillipe Broers
COMPETITION DIARY CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
lown some XC and want to try paragliding competitions? These fun comps could be for you. They combine safe, achievable tasks with plenty of help and support. Briefings, debriefings and theory classes are de rigueur, and they’re a great way to learn about everything from turnpoints and cylinders to flying in gaggles. Expect parties and social events too. Most are for EN-C and below wings. Serial Cup, Slovenia, 26 Apr-2 May Lectures, learning and mentoring, aimed at ambitious pilots flying EN A, B and C wings serialcup.com Naviter Open, Slovenia, 13-19 June Serial class comp in the heart of the Julian Alps, with tasks of 40-80km naviteropen.org Applegate Open, Oregon, USA, 13-20 June Last year 172 pilots flew Applegate! The ‘Sprint’ race is for new pilots, EN B/C only wingsoverapplegate.org Gin Wide Open, Áger, Spain, 4-11 July The 8th GWO heads back to Áger for more serial class magic “flying with friends” flywideopen.org Ozone Chabre Open, Laragne, 4-10 July Fly the southern French Alps with the inimitable Jocky Sanderson as your shepherd flylaragne.com Willi XC Challenge, Golden, 25 July-1Aug A rare bi-wingual (HG and PG) XC fun competition in Golden, BC, Canada thewillixc.com Ozone Krushevo Open, 5-11 Sept Fly one of the best competition venues in the world, in Macedonia airtribune.com
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 FUN COMPS
ď‚ LEARNING ENVIRONMENT Hilary Frasier closes in on the end of an 80km task in the southern French Alps during the Ozone Chabre Open Photo: Kieran Campbell
FUN COMPS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
POWER EVENTS 2020
rom the Worlds in Brazil to Europe’s biggest fly-in, here are just some of the powered paragliding events happening in 2020: Las Candelas Paramotores, 1-2 Feb Break the winter fast and reconnect with the sport and friends in southern Spain lascandelasparamotores.com Salton Sea Fly-In, 6-9 Feb Join hundreds at this legendary event at the inland sea in Southern California tinyurl.com/tnpmx3g MoTown Arizona Flying Circus, 13-16 Feb PPG’s Burning Man: “Aviation, shooting and pyro fun in the Arizona Sonoran Desert” arizonaflyingcircus.com Florida Fun Fest, 12-15 March Pack the RV and head south for the sun and fly the warm skies above Palm Bay, Florida floridafunfest.com FAI World Paramotor Championships, 1020 June, Espirito Santo, Brazil The world’s best will be in Brazil for the “Classic Worlds”. Get ready for the party! wpc2020brasil.com.br Paramotor Mondiale, 19-21 June The biggest paramotor fly-in in Europe. Blast through the Loire Valley in Blois, France mondialairparamoteur.com FAI Paramotor Slalom Worlds, 2-12 Sept Fly fast and low and compete for medals over water in the Czech Republic tinyurl.com/qn8xppb Asian Beach Games, 28 Nov-6 Dec FAI paramotoring competition on the island of Sanya, “the Hawaii of China” ocasia.org
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 PPG EVENTS
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FRENCH REVOLUTION The Paramotor Mondiale takes place 19-21 June in Blois, 180km from Paris. It’s an opportunity to fly the Loire Valley and see some of France’s most amazing palaces and chateaux from above Photo: Jeff Hamann
FLY-INS & FESTIVALS
ly-ins and festivals are a good way to check out lots of new gear, fly some new wings, meet old friends and make new ones. Immerse yourself in the flying world for a weekend – get these dates in your diary! Stubai Cup, Austria, 6-8 March Back after a year off. Test fly new wings early season via the Schlick2000 gondola parafly.at/en/stubai-cup-2020 El Hierro Festival, Canaries, May (tbc) An island festival on the edge of the world attracting Spanish and international pilots facebook.com/elhierroparapente El Yelmo, Andalucia, 29-31 May Paragliding, PPG, Acro and a film festival in southern Spain. A fiesta like no other fiaelyelmo.com Super Testival, Kössen, 11-14 June Your chance to test fly lots of wings at the biggest paragliding testival of the year fly-koessen.at Ekstremsportveko, Norway, 21-28 June Extreme sports festival with paragliding and Acro in Voss, Norway’s capital of free-flight ekstremsportveko.com Coupe Icare, French Alps, 13-20 Sept The biggest free-flight festival in the world – now a full one-week long. Pace yourself! coupe-icare.org Fassa Sky Expo, Dolomites, 25-27 Sept Fly the Dolomites at the perfect time of year. icarusfassa.it Ölüdeniz Air Games, Turkey, 12-17 Oct Join hundreds of pilots for this end of season festival where air-time is the #1 objective babadag.com
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 FLY-INS AND FESTIVALS
ď‚ EL HIERRO Soaring the road during the El Hierro Paragliding Festival, Canary Islands Photo: Marcus King
FLY-INS AND FESTIVALS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
FAI ACRO WORLDS
he FAI Acro Paragliding World Championships will be in Udine, Italy, 6-14 August 2020. It’s the same location as AcroMax: Lago de Cavazzo, with take-off on Mt San Simeone. Acro guru Théo de Blic rates the location: “It is a really good place, The altitude is good and the wind and weather are usually nice. I have always had an awesome time there.” He added: “The organisation team is incredibly welcoming and passionate. They also put great effort into having other activities around for families and non-pilots, so it is always a nice place to be.” The competition will see around 60 of the world’s best acro pilots compete for the prestigious title of FAI Acro World Champion. The championship has a slightly stop-start history – the first Acro World Championships was held in 2006. But then, with funding and sponsors tight, there was a hiatus of a decade and a couple of failed attempts before the second World Championships was held, this time in Annecy in 2016. That was a huge success, not least because of the impact and reach of social media. Hundreds of thousands of people saw it online, making it easier to help attract future sponsors. François Ragolski won the 2018 FAI Acro Paragliding World Championships; Christina Kolb won the women’s title. The game is now on to see who will take the 2020 crowns.
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 ACRO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
LAGO DE CAVAZZO Bicho Carrera makes it look easy during AcroMax 2019 Photo: Rolf Steinmeier / #rollinstonephotography
ACRO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020
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CROSS COUNTRY GEAR
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XCertina Lite Bag
XC Fastpack Bag
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XCertina Compress Bag
XC Action Camera Magnetic Mount
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JACK OF ALL TRADES Jack Pimblett flies the chalk cliffs on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, England Photo: Adi Geisegger
CROSS COUNTRY TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 FINAL SHOT
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