Best flight ever!

Posted by Jenni

From take-off at Chabre
From take-off at Chabre

I really wasn’t feeling good about my flying today. My head was all over the place on the way up to take off at Chabre in Laragne and my first flight was a flop. I got a few decent climbs, but wasn’t happy with them and eventually pushed out front to try and find something that I could stick with. I found the landing field!

Getting back to take-off, I nearly got straight back in the car to leave without even walking up to take-off. But then thought I’d at least go up for a look.

Dressed in shorts for a quick top to bottom, I overcame my nerves and negativity and launched. Oh yeah – this is why I do this flying thing! As I started to climb with just one other wing in the air, things started to fall into place. Still nervous of the enormous (no, gargantuan) cliff behind takeoff, I kept well forward of the ridge until I suddenly found myself in a beautiful strong, smooth, wide climb that held me securely enough to drift over the back.

Looking back at the cliff, I was stunned. It had looked huge from the ground, but nothing like as intimidating as it did from the air. Going off behind it was a huge deal for me and left me feeling awed. And I was still climbing! When eventually the climb ran out (yup, I lost it), I knew there was no going back. I radioed back to Becky simply saying: “I’ve gone!” and set off on a glide across the back of the ridge, generally aiming for the campsite. I knew I should be using the speed bar as I went in search of the next climb, but I was so stunned to just be there that I contented myself with a sinky glide.

Catching another climb or two on the way, I realised this was now a *proper* cross country flight – not some one thermal wonder or something that someone else had mapped out for me.

As I reached the valley, I knew I’d need to find another climb to get back to the campsite, so headed for the volcano on the other side of the valley. Nothing! And so I looked at landing options and turned out over the road.

Blip, goes the vario as I approach my landing field. And then it goes beep. And then it does it again! So I turn, and it does it again! Watching the pilot I’d followed over the back packing his glider away in a nearby field, I was continually surprised when my vario failed to stop beeping as I turned in a slow climb that gradually strengthened and drifted me back across the volcano. I stuck with it for what felt like ages, climbing and climbing and climbing. I almost lost it once or twice, but then widened my turn until I found myself climbing again.

By now, I’d completely disregarded any thoughts of flying back to the campsite, as the climb had taken me in completely the opposite direction – a much more interesting landscape of lakes and ridges as opposed to the town. As I left that climb, I headed back for a nearby ridge, with the vario springing to life as I approached.

I started looking for the bathing lake at Serres – free entry to pilots who land there after an XC! But I was getting tired, stunned at the flight I’d had so far, and didn’t have my swimming costume (why is *this* the day I choose not to wear my bikini under my flying stuff?). So when the climb I was in got stronger at the top of the rigde, I decided my concentration wasn’t enough for it and headed for the road.

Looking back to take-off
Looking back to take-off from my landing field (grinning)

Torn between two possible thermal triggers, I ended up gliding straight between them, round a knoll and in to land right next to the road just a couple of kilometres short of Serres. I was chuckling as I landed and grinning from ear to ear as I packed away.

The whole flight was topped off by getting a lift with the first car that passed – a girl still buzzing from her first tandem flight at the weekend – who went out of her way to drop me all the way back to the campsite, where Becky handed me beer, and a nice Frenchman gave us fresh cherries šŸ™‚

Thanks to Marianne and the guys at Allez-up for getting us up the mountain (twice) and the tips on take-off – wouldn’t have done it without you!

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