Beechmont – world class flying site at risk?

On June 3rd, 2007, I top landed at the school oval after soaring Beechmont. My paragliding instructor Phil Hystek shook my hand while saying, “You’re licensed”. The previous month, sixteen years ago, I’d signed up to learn to fly with a long time local of Canungra, someone who has trained most of the pilots in this club, the most active in Australia. The country offers world class flying but here in the hills closer to the coast the conditions can be quite complicated and tricky. Often when facing weak conditions in the Alps I would encourage myself by declaring it was “Canungra conditions”, something I have a lot of experience with.

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Spinal cord injury

The day

On 14 June 2022, the day after meeting friends in Annecy and flying out into the hills, I flew and crashed and was airlifted to hospital with L1 spinal damage. I remember the day and the flight but have no memory from the accident (maybe a few minutes before) until probably the first few days at the hospital. I still haven’t done a full review of the accident, writing this exactly a month after the event, and a week (tonight) after arriving back in Brisbane. But I know there are voice messages sent between me and my friends after the crash, I’ve seen the footage a few minutes before crashing, my friend saw the incident (from a distance, while flying), and a helicopter pilot friend who was nearby has spoken to the rescue team. So for sure I intend to do an analysis at some point, most likely in the form of a youtube video. But for now I am going to write down some of my thoughts and gather the material I have so far.

Looking back towards launch, I crashed behind me

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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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