A full day…

My emergency landing place...

I love hang gliding, it has such a great feeling to it, first there are the mornings, we take our time get up when we want, spend time alone to feel the beginning of the day in peace. Second there is the slow gathering over breakfast and Ozzie’s omelets and yet another coffee. Then finally we get ourselves up to takeoff.

This day was looking more stable than the others, however on launch there were loads of paragliders up so things felt good. I got rigged nice and fast had a good feeling so I got in my harness and took my glider to launch where I waited and watched the paragliders while they searched for lift. Once I saw that they were getting up and the streamers were lined up the trees shaking I was off…

At first I found light lift but maintained only in zeros then while looking along a few of the spurs I had spend a few hundred feet so I chose to fly round to the other side away from the light paraglider traffic. On my way round I hit a boomer that took me 3000ft above launch and started everything off very nicely.

While I was climbing I saw Ozzie move to launch – he made a fast tree skimming run and converted directly into my thermal where after only a few minutes we were at cloudbase together.

Oz flew off into the mountains while I waited for a minute or so before following. We found climb after climb and flew deeper into the high mountains. We were on the tallest bare rocky ridge circling in a strong climb to base on each circle I  dared to look over to the snow covered north facing face and down into deeper Slovenia, it looked forbidding really wild but I was almost totally speechless it was stunning. This moment was what it has all been for, flying in an amazing place with Ozzie too it could not have been better.

After a while however he began to pull ahead, bastard, I had stayed a little longer in a climb and had to catch up. When I found him again it looked as if he was flying back to camping. He had previously said he would only fly for an hour so I was faced with a choice, to fly out of the mountains, or to stay and explore some more, I chose to stay.

I flew over to a huge rock face in sun with clouds forming above but unfortunately any lift generated there seemed to be countered by the cold Tolmina River far below. I struggled to climb there and missed a chance to slip over a saddle and where I could see Ozzie circling high above a river of paragliders. I was now stuck in a tree lined valley, I was however not that bothered as I had a 4:1 glide into Tolmin just round the corner so I pulled on VG and went for it. As I progressed towards Tolmin it felt to me that there was a valley wind retarding my glide and the air was generally sinky but I think this was my nerves maybe rather than anything real.

I rounded a spur getting closer to the town and only had one spur to go, everything was ok – on rounding it though I was faced with only more trees and another spur so I imediately turned to my landing option – an almost vertical alpine meddow – not a good option but my only choice. While flying there I re-checked the valley and saw nothing encouraging so I comitted myself to a high landing.

Getting upright in my harness was slightly hampered by being zipped in !! – I had to quickly get the zip undone pull as much speed as would clear me over the trees and convert to fly up a 45ª slope onto a fence, an electrified fence !!! bugger !!

I bent an upright but was otherwise ok, picked up the glider and myself to step over the fence between shocks to set everything down in the most beautiful garden I have ever seen. Other than the upright and a few shocks there was nothing else damaged so I got packed up and started to think about my retrieve. This was complicated by a few things, I had forgotten my mobile for starters and was so deep in the hills my radio could not get through to Chris. Once packed up I knocked on the door and found out this was a drug re-habilitation comunity leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling about leaving my glider as I set off on foot towards town.

While walking out a local guy gave me a lift, where I then managed to get in touch with Chris who happened to be back at takeoff with Dan going for flight number 2, cheater !!! :-))

A little later in the car and after a few wrong turns, the help of another local, a really scary bridge and a windy narrow road we arrived back at my landing zone to recover my glider and take stock of my decision. I think it was on to glide out the valley looking at it but I could not be sure at the time so I am happy with my choice.

This is when we got the call from Dan – he had blown his launch and was in the trees below takeoff while at the same time Ozzie called and wanted his glider recovered from the campsite landing field as it was in the way of the farmer and his reaping machine !! This would be a busy evening.

After collecting Oz and his Phantom we focused on Dan who was ok as some tourists helped him to get his glider out however it was badly damaged and in need of spare parts.

While I write we are arranging to drive a 350km round trip on Ozzies bike, (Dan tried to bribe me with a tin of fish to let him have the car), to a place in Austria that has them in stock, so for them, a day later, the story has not ended.

I am still however overwhelmed with that golden 45minutes in the mountains with Ozzie, it is by far the most incredible thing I have seen with my eyes. What a privilege. How could I know on the training field with John that this was only 80 hours down the road. Amazing.

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XC Flight on May 30th, 2010: 46.215714, 13.750076
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