More gliding in Oz

The Australian borders have been closed for most of my time away, which was a great excuse not to return to work. It worked out really well for the once in a lifetime invitational hike and fly event in Dubai in November. After this I flew into Sydney, and had a few weeks up my sleeve until the Queensland state borders would open. The only hitch was the last minute Omicron scare which meant I had to home quarantine for three days (thanks to a mate in Newcastle for hosting me). At long last I arrived at the Lake Keepit Soaring Club. The focus was to do some cross country gliding, and perhaps chip away at the indomitable paperwork involved in this sport.

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Summer in Europe

It’s now well into September, and the cold and damp outside (even in the southern French Alps) certainly feels like the end of the season. I’ll try and get this out before equinox. In a nutshell the summer has been full of vol biv adventures throughout the length and breadth of the Alps, both before and after my fourth Red Bull X-Alps. I’ve had a few stops in various places to recuperate and I’ve also looked to broaden my horizons by getting into gliding – I’m writing this from the club house at La Motte du Caire. The strategy for the future is not to plan too much – given the hopelessness of this during the pandemic.

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Red Bull X-Alps – would you do it again?

My fourth X-Alps campaign ended prematurely this year when I eliminated on the sixth morning. I could name as factors my ankle injury, bad luck negotiating airspace technicalities, the disruptions of the pandemic, or the other competitors just being too fast… but in reality the most important factor by far is the flying decisions you make. But that won’t stop me having a grumble about things I’d like to see changed, what has changed since my debut in 2015, and sharing some thoughts and gossip about what this most famous of hike and fly races is really all about.

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Brisbane lockdown

I’ve been living in Brisbane since the last xalps, and I returned from my last overseas trip on 6 February last year. I don’t remember the last time I’ve spent 12 months in once place, but I’ve been really lucky to have been relatively unaffected personally by lockdowns. I’ve been stuck in a place with year round flying and lots of other options. Half way through the year I decided to learn to fly gliders (sail planes). Like starting out with paragliding it has been a frustrating learning curve, back then it was with finding decent flying conditions (small hills in Australia makes starting the crux), this time it was sharing instructors with other students and having work get in the way. Luckily there was plenty of epic paragliding trips for that unbeatable sense of freedom and even emulating the convenience of gliding sometimes, by flying a complete circuit and avoiding hitchhiking. There was also a few trips to the sand islands, including sailing, and my mate is always encouraging me to use his kiting gear – I’ve recently got going on the foil board – it really is another form of flying.

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New Zealand 2020

My 2020 trip to New Zealand was somewhat disastrous, after saving my new sub three kilogram Ozone Zeolite just for this (flying around an old rag in Oz), I brought the wrong wing by mistake. It certainly made a difference for the first four day trip, and the rest of the trip was salvaged by the generous loan of a wings for the trip (thank you Brooke, also Josh for the tandem). When my girlfriend left the weather took a turn for the worse and after a few windy flights I was rained out. But all in all a lot of country covered, still with some new places mixed in. Notable this year was the snow stained pink by Australian dust and ash, the horrific bushfires helping accellerate glacial retreat.

Mt Aspiring (distant right) from the head of the Joe. 19 Feb 2020

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