I headed up the cable car at Gerlitzen this morning even though I was pretty sure there’d be some waiting to do before it was clear enough to fly. Sure enough, beautiful, fluffy white clouds sat just below launch. It was fun to watch them move, grow, fade, and new ones move in to take their place. One good thing about parawaiting in Europe at the top of a cable car is coffee! It only took one cup for launch to clear and we were able to fly for the rest of the day!
We had a few rainy days forecast in Gerlitzen. I hung out at the bottom of the mountain for part of the day, waiting to see if the rain would stop and the clouds would lift enough to allow for a few flights, but by mid-afternoon it was pretty obvious the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. I’d read about Lake Bohinj as a paragliding site, and the pictures I’d found online looked pretty amazing. I was scrolling through google maps, looking for places reasonably close to drive to for some rainy day exploration, and found that Lake Bohinj was only a little over an hour from where I was. It also appeared to be sunny there, at least for the rest of the afternoon, so off I went! Here are a few photos from my 16 hours in Slovenia. 🙂
Luke and I landed in Venice, Italy, after traveling for 24 hours from Portland. I slept for about 18 hours I think, and still wasn’t quite awake when we finally decided we should check out Venice at least a little bit before our time in the city was up. The crowds were pretty overwhelming, but we found a few places that were off the beaten path. We had eggplant parmesan, coffee, and gelato from little open air shops on the canals. If this was any indication of the food we will eat on this trip, I’d better up my exercise regimen! We did purchase day passes on the city transportation system, which are good for all of the buses and boats that travel set routes (it doesn’t cover private gondola rides). We felt it was worth the 32 euro to be able to watch the city go by in the cool ocean air (out of the crowds of people!), and to be able to visit one of the outlying islands, Murano. We didn’t get to Murano until almost 7pm–unfortunately the glass workshops were closed by then. We did find a delicious pasta dinner though! I’ve included some photos that I feel are the best of the zillion or so I took in the short time we were there.
As part of my preparation for my trip to Europe, I first made a trip to Alaska with Luke and Indy. Indy came along because my dad agreed to watch her for the five weeks I’d be in Italy. It also happened to coincide with the weekend of my sister’s birthday, so we spent a couple days camping at Quartz Creek Campground in Cooper Landing with the whole family. We did a bunch of hiking and ate s’mores around the campfire every night. It was pretty rainy, but most of the rain managed to fall at night, which worked out well. Here are some pictures!
Luke, my mom, and I stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on our way back to Anchorage. I’d never been, but had always wanted to go. My favorite was this bear, who liked to scratch her back on the dead trees in her enclosure.
From the start of the competition, I knew there was a really good possibility of a huge task, and that it would be longer than the previous task record of 214km set in Australia earlier this year. It wasn’t a surprise when they posted it, but it sure was a big number with distance to goal 224.3km. The day was forecast to be windy, and the start was a little scary—I had a hard time pushing away from launch towards the lake into the wind. I briefly considered landing, but heard over the radio that the LZ was thermic and windblown too, and decided the flats—and the task—were a safer option! It took a couple tries to get high enough to make the crossing over the Colombia River towards the start cylinder. I waited until several pilots were well established near the start so that I would have some good thermal markers to aim for since my glide doesn’t reach nearly as far as some. There were nice big thermals above the power lines, and it was a relief to move beyond them and eliminate the uneasy feeling of thermalling over high-tension power lines. Many pilots drifted away from the start with the wind, but I managed a great start position! Immediately after the start, my flight computer flashed the direction and distance to the next turnpoint—103km! A crazy number, given that I’d only ever flown that far just a few days prior. There were almost always gliders climbing in front of me for the first half of the flight which made pushing forward easier. It was a huge relief to tag the midway turnpoint, but daunting at the same time as the distance to the finish point came up on my computer—113km! I really had no idea if I was capable of finishing this task, but hoped to beat my current best distance. I got within a few hundred feet of the ground twice, the second time about 50km from goal. It took some time in survival mode to find an organized thermal, and then took more time to re-establish myself up under the clouds. I left my last thermal high enough, or so I thought. My focus was lacking and I’d run out of patience when I realized, about half a kilometer from end of speed, that I didn’t have the glide needed to make goal. It was a shock to be on the ground after six hours of flight just .2km from end of speed. I was happy and heartbroken at the same time, and I walked the last 2km to goal with my glider on my back. I learned a lot from this task, and I hope to never make the same mistake again!
Today looked much better than yesterday, and a long task was called that played into the south wind forecast to pick up in the afternoon. I had a horrid start, putting me 15 or 20 minutes behind the main group, and I left the Butte and headed across Lake Chelan with only a few other gliders in sight. It was immediately clear that I needed to fly conservatively but quickly if I hoped to finish the task. I was able to make the first turnpoint at 4th of July Peak with a few other gliders around to help mark thermals, but then got pushed back to a ridge north of the course line. I got quite low, but was able to climb back to cloud base before headed towards the next turnpoint. I thought I knew where the next waypoint was located, but proved to myself that I didn’t, falling farther behind as I attempted to work my way across the Columbia River thinking their airport was up on the flats on the other side. Halfway across I figured out my mistake and returned to the west shore to tag the airport. I then re-crossed the river quite low and managed to climb out of a shallow canyon on the east side with a retrieve vehicle ‘stalking’ me the whole way in anticipation of an early landing! I finally established up on the flats, and liked the looks of the cloud street building nicely along the course line above a plateau to the east of the River. I remembered that the task briefing including a warning about looooong retrieve from that plateau, but the cloud street above it made me believe that it would work. It certainly did, and I made goal just after Luke–it turned out we had flown the same course line, me just behind him–for the last two hours of the flight. I set another personal best distance of 114km, landing in Omak, Washington, and spent the better part of 45 minutes trying to land due to widespread glass-off lift that made me wish I wasn’t so ready to land almost six hours in the air!
Several pilots, myself included, launched early hoping that the huge clouds developing over the flats would settle down and the rain falling out to the north of Lake Chelan would dry up and leave us with a pleasant sky to fly in. Unfortunately, the overdevelopment continued, and the task was cancelled due to weather, which was a relief because I really, really didn’t like the look of the sky and was hoping to not have to make the decision to not fly the task even if others did. I did still have a beautiful flight in a cloud-filled playground for an hour before approaching rain made it clear it was time to land. Being able to play in the edges of the clouds and watch other pilots soar around on their own brightly colored gliders against the white of the clouds and blue and grey of the sky is a an amazing feeling that I can’t even begin to describe!