Vol biv in the Indian Himalaya

It’s been a tough pre-monsoon season in the Indian Himalaya. The weathergeek has reported rainfall of three times the average and for more than a week we struggled to get any flying in between thunderstorms. On the bright side, all the rain meant the visibility was the best I’d ever seen – although still poor by New Zealand standards! Initially intending to spend only a few days in Bir before setting out east to vol biv towards Nepal approximately 400km away, we kept delaying our departure date. Bryan was the motivating force behind the project and noted that we could fly in the hours before the afternoon rain, but he was the only one with a tent – Glen and I weren’t really enthused with our bivvy bags. Toby had been persuaded to join in but when the good weather finally came he was in bed sick and we could only delay our departure by one more day – we’d waited long enough, and Glen only had a couple of days before he had to return to work. So we set out finally with good weather forecast for a few days starting on 9 April 2015.

Bir, all too familiar - our final morning

Bir, all too familiar – our final morning

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Going for the big one

After a dizzying number of triangle attempts and being quite spoilt this season in general, it was finally time to go for the big one, the New Zealand open distance record. The bar has been raised in recent months by Bryan Moore (with Pete Groves) and then Angus Tapper. Both flights ended roughly at Mt Cook (a later flight by Grant Middendorf started there) with Angus’s flight starting further back, on the limits of Queenstown airspace. My flight started a little further west, closer to my base at Glenorchy.

Crossing Lake Wanaka, trying to break open distance

Crossing Lake Wanaka, trying to break open distance

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X-Alps New Zealand style

Every summer I’ve spent flying in New Zealand has been special but this one has been particularly brilliant. Everyone is raving about the weather (except during the national competition, of course), my personal flying has taken a great leap forward and there is a palpable buzz of activity amongst the local pilots with new routes being flown and it “sounds like a broken record” again. Of course we’re also excited about my acceptance into X-Alps and my official supporter Louis, longtime backcountry legend Bryan Moore, and girlfriend Kamila have given me a little nudge to get out there and fly New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

First flight of the vol biv (image: Kamila)

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Dream flights in the Southern Alps

I arrived in late November to a rather frigid New Zealand. The icy winds howled around me as I crossed a snowy mountain pass to meet Chris Streat, to go off to battle headwinds with 5-20kt ground speeds – in a sailplane! But this is the time in New Zealand where the unstable volatile weather sometimes offers brilliant flying – you only need half a day of decent weather to go a long way, and those times you need to be ready to go. As I look back on the month of December, it really was a great month of flying through places I’ve been dreaming about for years.

Slope landing on Mt Alfred, Glenorchy

Slope landing on Mt Alfred, Glenorchy

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Record triangle in New Zealand – Roys Peak

(see the TV3 segment here)

On 16 December 2014 under blue skies and a hot sun we climbed up the popular Roys peak walking track overlooking Wanaka. I’d just returned after a few days vol bivouac in the hills, happily meeting with my girlfriend Kamila and my xalps supporter Louis Tapper. The weather was still good so we set out to make the most of it, and I flew further than I ever have in New Zealand, breaking the national triangle and out and return distance records, amongst the spectacular scenery alongside Aspiring National Park. Normally I like to post things in chronological order but my backlog goes to Kyrgyzstan so I have to skip ahead to keep up.

Louis on Roys peak over Wanaka

Louis on Roys peak over Wanaka

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