After the excitement of xalps, I’m now back to work, “on the bench” forecasting weather for the aviation industry from the new office in Brisbane. My shifts are day, day, night, night and then 4-5 days off, on a 9 day roster – so plenty of time off missions in southeast Queensland. I was denied a job in Antarctica due to staff shortages in my current role, but on the upside it’s not a bad lifestyle here – winter in southeast Queensland!
Against the odds I’ve done a few vol biv trips in the past weeks, which is not easy when most hills are covered in gum trees or rainforest. This approach (with some hitchhiking) has brought me all the way from the Canungra sites to the Border ranges, Barney, Lindesay, New South Wales and Byron bay. But I still wanted to fly the main range, between Killarney and Toowoomba.
Footage and photos from many of these trips has already been posted to my patreon account, with more on the way. But now, I’d like to update you on my latest flight, on the last day of winter, where I finally flew the main range.
Hammed picked me up at 7am. On the road we met Andy, and travelled in one car to Mt Greville. I’ve been up here once before (didn’t fly) and I was not looking forward to the launch. A shallow rocky slope half way up the hill – if you manage to get your wing up with no damage, then you still have to get up off the hill, which really is facing away from the sun. You have to use measured aggression to get off the hill – if you pull hard you can break brake lines, but if you don’t, you might be on the hill a long time – especially if a cloud shadow comes over and stops even the weak thermal puffs. I got off after Andy after a few attempts, one small broken line that I didn’t notice at first, and a small tear in the other wingtip.
Andy had climbed up from the gully in front of launch but I went around to the sunny cliffs to get my climb. It worked but Andy maintained his height above me. My ideal flight was to cross to the main range south of Cunningham’s gap, then fly north to Ma Ma creek, the Toowoomba site where they flew from that morning for the local competition. Clouds had developed over the main range very early, so by the time we got there, they had put much of the range in shade. I thought I saw more sun to the south and wanted to go that way anyway, but Andy opted to head north.
Far from roads I pushed through sink before reaching the main range below ridge height. Everything was in shade, but there was weak lift. Luckily I managed to hang in there and get enough height to push further south. Once on the top of the range conditions gave me more confidence. I enjoyed beautiful views of the whole scenic rim, even as far as Mt Warning. I soared above Mt Superbus as some hikers enjoyed similar views from a prominent picnic spot on the point below. We were probably the only ones around. With the Killarney sites in view, bringing back memories, I turned around to head north.
Andy maintained radio contact and kept heading north. Hammed had a tough time launching (sharp rock edges often catch the wing) and it looked pretty shady when he flew, so after all that he didn’t even manage to land by his car. But he offered to retrieve us. I thought (and hoped) I wouldn’t be landing any time soon but I mentioned that Andy was now approaching Gatton. He said he felt unwell and was going to land. I suggested he fly to Ma Ma and in hindsight he wished he’d taken one of the many thermals he flew through to go just one more glide there. In that case we could have said that Hammed was just going to Ma Ma for an evening flight, and we retrieved him!
Having crossed all the best terrain on the main range, I took an inflight pee (the footage makes me laugh every time) and shared a thermal with a couple of wedge tailed eagles. I flew under a cloud street and wondered what to do next. Although I had full biv kit with me, and daylight to spare, I was really cold and the prospect of a lift and a beer was there. The alternative was a dust bowl to camp in, looking very different to the lush site I visited years ago. The cloud street led me towards the hills west of Brisbane, but I couldn’t figure out the airspace with Amberley (inactive) making it confusing. So I top landed on Ma Ma (ayvri track).
Hammed got away for an evening flight. As I was packing up the treasurer of the local club turned up, not realising I had come from over the hill. Great site and I hope to come back sometime – but I’ve had my fix for now. I helped out by bringing the last remaining car down the hill. Andy and I then set off to retrieve Hammed – not realising he was still flying. He flew into the sunset and we drove back to Brisbane.
Australia, the land of floods and droughts. Apparently the farmer at Ma Ma is having to buy water for his stock. But for paragliding, it’s been perhaps the best season ever. More extremes can be expected with the changing climate, with more dominant high pressure systems extending further from the equator. Consistent weather day after day (heat waves is one of the main impacts), and less rainfall overall (expanding subtropical arid belt), but higher rainfalls when it does come down (more moisture and latent energy). Waiting for the seasonal climate summary from BOM (2018 state of the climate)…