Paragliding adventures in China

My brother Ben suggested years ago that I should come and fly in China. One of the largest countries with an ancient culture and a wealth of natural resources, including its fair share of big mountains. Like the petty bureaucracy in India, I suspected that it would only be a matter of time until I got hassled by the authorities, and coupled with the difficulties of exploring a new area, finding suitable take offs, etc, I imagined that I’d probably only have a few flights here and there – but the potential rewards were still easily enough to justify bringing along my wing.

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New Zealand summer with Zalps

It’s been another amazing summer in New Zealand. Of course there has been plenty of “tramping weather”, but even a flight a week is well worth your while here. After some good flights before I arrived on 4 January, we saw record heat in January, with only receding glaciers in the mountains – it looked like April. February broke the drought with a snow dump, and then later in the month we had a visit from ex-tropical cyclone Gita. In between I enjoyed memorable flights over familiar country and also some new valleys and routes – it was especially great poking my nose over to the west of the main divide on three separate occasions. It was also a pleasure to take the Ozone Z-Alps two liner through its paces.

Flying along the main divide (Dart, 7 Feb 2018)

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Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 10 France

Another crucial glide: deep and pushing headwind, into France

Late on day 12 I finally crossed by air into France for the first time of the race. It was the last night of the race, but the adventures weren’t over yet.

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Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 9 Matterhorn

The main obstacle on day 12 was to cross over the highest part of the Alps and tag the iconic Matterhorn turn point on the way. Taking off early to ensure I was in the game, I had to land in the Matter tal (valley) and wait a little before having another go, carefully making sure I found a thermal to avoid the valley full of cables. Tagging the Matterhorn went well from there but I wasn’t lucky enough to cross the divide in the air, so Pal (HUN) and Basti (GER1) got a lead on me as I walked over flattish wet snow in the midday sun back to the Italian border. From there I was poised to fly back into France. 

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Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 8 Italian lakes

Day 10, hiking to regain the 1000 metres I’d just lost in the air

On day ten (yes, a rather long race this year), I needed to put some points on the board after the hit and miss diversion of my northern sojourn. I slept alone at a mountain hut, waking up in time to position myself to fly literally as the 6am curfew opened. I wasn’t waiting for thermals anymore, and in fact it felt quite good to be on the move.

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