Sunday, 13 September 2009

Verbier Summits

The blog hasnt had as much attention as planned recently as can be seen from the pics and video far too much fun was being had! Now my epic adventure is over I can actually sit down and post my thoughts on the experience.

I have had far too many amazing expereinces over the last few months to document everything. I have seen some totally stunning things and met some amazing, inspiring people. At the end of the day it is the people that these sports bring together that really transforms these experiences into something amazing, thanks to everyone involved for making it such a fantastic trip.

Over the 6 weeks I have more or less earnt my full pilots licence and am really just short of a few hours in the sky to getting this signed off. In all 20 hrs of flying were clocked up and just shy of 80 flights made. From what I hear gaining this kind of flight expereince in the UK takes years!! Paragliding is such a beutiful feeling. There really isnt much else that gives you this ammount of freedom in the sky. It is silent graceful and serene way to view the environment.

Ridge soaring forces you to fly low searching for lift whilst skimming along the contours of the ground. Thermalling brings a different interaction with the landscape and forces an understanding of what will create and trigger thermals, this search for lift is the challenge and unfortunately requires masses of experience to master. The feeling of the wing being thrusted upwards is both terrifying and exhilerating. Going up is rarely a smooth ride, the finesse and control of birds in turbulent air is just outstanding and something I dont think a paraglider will never be able to trully match. One of the most amazing expereinces I have had flying was thermalling with two falcons. I was flying only 5-10m above them as they circled through the thermal, they didnt seem at all bothered by my presence. Seeing their motion up close was stunning.

The other game is acro and although I havent anywhere near the experience to start playing this one properly I did enough to glimpse what it may be like. Acro pilots turn paragliding into a flat out roller coaster. It is possible to get the glider to pull upto 6 G's, as much as a fighter pilot can expereince. I was playing with gentle spirals and some baby wingovers. The acceleration is such an addictive thing. This for me is where the real buzz of paragliding is. Learning to throw the paraglider arround whilst in full control and whilst the glider is trying to rip you through the harness.

Verbier Summits itself is incredibly well run. The twins, Stu and Mike who run the school are so enthusiastic, full of energy and loads of fun to be arround. They have such amazing knowledge of Verbier and its local weather and really use this to ensure we got the maximum possible time in the air but more importantly that the conditions were always suitable for the ability of the people flying. On average we were getting 4 flights a day with generally only one day getting shut down due to weather each week. The tuition was great and really thourough going well beyond the BHPA syllabus in places.

Its a strange thing for me to come on holiday to have lectures and exams. The lectures themselves were brilliant, again the Twins enthusiasm made it impossible not to want to get stuck in and learn what makes a paraglider fly, what produces the weather and how it develops. We had some really interesting discussions and I learnt a lot that will benefit all my outdoor persuits.

For me the real appeal of paragliding is the possibility of mental adventures hiking up mountains and trying to fly to the next peak. There are some incredibly inspiring stories of people travelling through some remote parts of the world like this, for me this is the ultimate goal. For now I want to fly Rhossilli on the Gower, this beach is spectacular and I have some beautiful memories of kiting and surfing this bay. The hills and prevailing winds make it one of the best ridge soaring sites in the UK. Unfortunately for now paragliding is on the back burner but it is one thing I am certain I will come back to in the future, once my body is finally too beaten up to continue with the bikes!!

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