Parawaiting in Austria.

There’s an LZ down there somewhere, a little to the right…

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!

Somebody loves me πŸ˜‰

Overdevelopment in Chelan.

Gliders looking pretty small against the cumulus clouds.

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!

Looking down at the Columbia River just north of the main LZ as gliders come in to land for the cancelled task.

Chelan, first task.

The forecast was for strong winds to become stronger, but the task committee called a task they thought would use the forecast well. …turned out that strong winds caused many, many experienced pilots to land short of the first turn point. I got lucky, and was high enough, to sneak into the first turnpoint after getting blown around a bit (backwards at 13km/hr anyone?!), and managed to set a new personal best distance of 92.7km! It was also my longest ever flight time at five hours and 48 minutes. One of the best parts of the flight was landing and talking to a woman who was amazed and thrilled that a woman had flown out of the sky and landed next to her field, and even took a selfie with her at her request! Retrieve took a while–it was difficult to round up 120 pilots scattered over the course line, and those that had been blown well away from it!

Waiting for retrieve amid the wheat fields.

Chelan Nationals.

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Some of the Enzo 2s headed out across the flats. Wish I could claim ownership of this picture, but I can’t πŸ™‚ Photo by: Brad Gunnuscio

Two weeks after Rat Race it was time to head to Chelan, Washington, to compete at the Chelan Nationals. This competition is known for putting up some big tasks, and rumor had it that they were out to beat the record for the longest, successful competition task, previously set by the Chelan comp back in 2014 and recently broken in Australia at the Manila Open with a 214km task in which only 2 pilots made goal. Chelan certainly delivered, and on July 15th, an amazing 64 pilots made goal in a 224km task! I even got a little mention in XC Magazine’s write up of the task, finishing heartbreakingly close to goal (2.2km short).

Overall, the competition was a success for me; I destroyed my previous best distance flights and learned so much! I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to compete… maybe Mexico in January?! I’m going to create a post for each day to make things more readable and include photos and links to tracklogs–check out these and other flights of mine at the Leonardo Flight Database.

the Rat Race.

Chasing the gaggle over Ruch, Oregon. Photo by TJ Sopher.

I decided to (finally) go to the Rat Race. It’s an annual paragliding competition held in Ruch, Oregon, and friends have been trying to get me to go since I started paragliding. Sometimes work has gotten in the way, sometimes money (or lack of), but this year, it all worked out. It was my first competition as a paying competitor (I went to one in California last fall and one in Mexico last winter). I’d always just ‘wind tech-ed’ before, which is code for launch early to allow the actual racers to see if the thermals are working yet. My previous experiences mostly resulted in me standing on the ground looking up at the racers flying over my head. I was pretty nervous headed to the Rat Race because I had no idea what it would be like, and was worried that the same scenario would repeat itself, except that I would have paid $600 for the privilege of short flights followed by standing on the ground watching racers fly overhead. In short, I shouldn’t have worried. There were two VERY windy days which resulted in short flights for me, but I also was able to make it to goal on three days!!!!! And, got within 2km of goal on one of the longer tasks, flying 73km, besting my own personal distance by one or two km. A week of flying every day is tougher than it sounds–being alert and focused mentally for one to four hours in the air every day is draining. Overall, I was very happy with the experience, which included 26 hours of flight time, 2nd place in the women’s class and 9th in the sport class! Here are some more pictures from the week:

Morning hammock time before heading up to launch.
Sunset from my tent in Ruch at the Crash Pad.
Flying in to goal at Longsword Vineyard on the last day!
Local flora.
Pre-competition rain day made the old trees shine with all kinds of colors!
Bianca (1st), me (2nd), and Lisa (3rd)! Photo from TJ Sopher, wine from Longsword Vineyard. πŸ™‚

Paragliding New Mexico.

Luke flying out towards Alamogordo, New Mexico on his Alpina.

I met Jan earlier this winter in Valle de Bravo, and he’d extended an invite to fly at his local sites in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Since Luke and I hadn’t been able to line up any flying on our way north through Mexico, we thought a day of flying SOMEWHERE was in order. Jan was able to take a day off work to fly with us, and we got two beautiful flights in! It was a bit of an adventure just to get to launch; we drove up a pretty steep four wheel drive road for about two miles through beautiful dessert dotted with snow to get to launch. We got out and I walked around to the back of the truck. The tailgate was open and the bed was empty. No paragliders. BIG problem. So we all piled back in the truck and Jan drove as fast as he could down to the bottom. There, in the middle of the dirt road, were two paraliders! And then around the next corner, one more! Whew. We all gave a huge sigh of relief, loaded the gliders back in, carefully latched the tailgate, and headed back up to launch.

Luke and I on launch in New Mexico. Our first photo together. πŸ™‚

Our first flight was almost two hours long, and offered up some punchy, desert style thermals. We all landed at the main LZ, had lunch, and drove back up for the evening glass-off flight in Christo’s truck. About half way up, Luke looked in the rear view mirror and saw my bright purple bag of books lying in the middle of the road. We stopped and looked in the back of the truck. Nearly half of the stuff was gone. Including two paragliders. Ridicluous! And amazing that we could manage to do that twice in one day! So we turned around and followed a trail of gear down the hill. Bag of books. Check. One running shoe complete with sock. Check. Two dog leashes, one Frisbee, check, and check. And two paragliders! So, for the fourth time, we drove back up the hill. Luke and I launched into beautiful, mellow conditions, and Jan drove his truck down to get his paramotor. He was able to fly back up to join us, and we flew until the sun set! Luke and I were happy to have finally been able to fly on our road trip!

Me on our evening flight on the Rush 4!
Luke headed out to the LZ at sunset.

Tomorrow morning we are headed for Utah! Luke has never been to Moab, so we are going to camp there, probably at the campground in Arches National Park.