I’ve been gaining an appreciation for the other side of spring. There is a significant amount of trashy unsettled days among the epic stand outs. I spent a full four days in Nice between trips before finally a good sunny day got me on another vol biv. Only getting the forecast in the evening I was a bit slow to move and ended up starting walking directly from the house, forgetting there was a car at my disposal!
It was just over an hour to get to launch above Gattierres. As I ascended the smoke from various fires had began to acquire an inland lean. I launched before midday, following a climb as it drifted back and trying to pick which side of the ridge to position myself. I got it wrong, with some leeside lift getting me over the plateau I landed on a 4wd track and continued to Mouton d’Anou where at least a dozen vultures soared. A similar number of French walkers watched me launch in the stiff breeze, luckily on my first attempt. I was in a limestone field and had to be light on my feet.
I made a small crossing but try as I might I couldn’t get above 1200m and decided not to make a marginal glide over high tension electricity lines, landing amongst prickles and thorns between two parallel lower tension electricity lines instead!
Then I followed another 4wd track to the sealed road and followed that for 3km to Cousegoules. Here a track took me to, voila, a paragliding launch! (luckily I dropped the pack to look just around the corner and spot it, rather than launching in the rough where I was).
Finally the day became easier and I took a thermal straight up and followed the high ridge to Greolieres, a scenic evening flight among high cliffs. I decided to land high near one of the peculiar flat grassy spots scattered among the limestone fields. Touch down was a disappointment, I hit hard, a minor (but taken very seriously) ankle twist and scratch to the thigh.
The next morning clagged up, initially some broken stratocumulus from the north then thickening altostratus. Gingerly walking on my left ankle, cautious not to roll it on uneven ground, I found a small patch of grass and luckily the wing again performed and I was off in a very light breeze. A sled ride to Cipieres, landing short to talk to a pilot. Probably should have had coffee with him, he works for xc magazine, but pressed on towards Gourdon. Barely a car to be seen and the ankle seemed fine on steady flat ground so I continued toward the cliff, about an hour and a half. Watched an Aspen4 pilot soaring and chatted to him for a good hour when he top landed.
As soon as the sun appeared slightly brighter and we had a few puffs up the face I was off. Some thermic lift but barely lost any height crossing the Gorge de Loup. Up to about 1200m after the crossing which felt marvelous – I did want to fly home but hadn’t thought it a realistic possibility. The clouds to the east were lower and I scudded under them, hoping I wouldn’t have to land (the crux of flying in this area).
Finally a victory climb on the home hill before landing at the nearest patch of grass to home. A fight to get down and a small applause before I introduced myself – cousins of an old work mate. Then a ten minute walk home, ending on a high. Very cool to do a round trip with five flights and in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t hitch an inch despite sticking my thumb out once or twice. It was a gloomy afternoon with cloud lowering below the hill so it was pleasing to have used the day.