Friday, April 21, 2017

Trofeo Monte Grappa 2017

This year I was lucky enough to be selected for one of the highest rated competitions aside from PWCs: Trofeo Monte Grappa. The competition - like every year - took place over the Easter holidays near the beautiful town of Bassano del Grappa, which since I started flying is one of my frequently visited home bases.

The level of pilots was as expected very high and among the 150 participants, big names were roaming around everywhere. Aside from that it was a great occasion to meet old friends.

The weather forecast didn't look too promising from the beginning, but we were in good hope for at least three days of nice task flying. The area around Bassano is generally well known for being flyable on almost any day through out the year. Being shielded by the Dolomites, Bassano's microclimate allows often to have good flights even if Föhn is forecasted. Or as some say: The best northwind-ridge in the alps :)

The take-off which is used for the competitions, Rubbio, however was new to me. It offers a huge grassy slope with plenty of space for even larger competitions than this.

On the first day, our race started due to some organizing effort pretty late at 2pm.
The task was set to be a 71km task towards Schio, then leading south into the flatlands and from there to the southern ridge of Monte Grappa. Unfortunately, the cloud cover made the day weaker and weaker and many pilots landed after a bit more than 30km flown, and so did I. Only 25 pilots managed to get into goal.

 Friday looked again promising for the morning with more cloud coverage in the afternoon. As we learned later during the comp, however due to a NOTAM which was applied for too late by the organizers, we were not allowed to start the race before 1pm. This day the race was set to start at 1:30pm and we were supposed to fly for 73km. The task lead us from Rubbio to the end of the Monte Grappa ridge, back to Schio and through the flatlands to the landing in Semonzo. Great I thought, this ridge I know like my own pocket. And so I went with a great height all the way to the first turnpoint. Unfortunately, since again the day started to get weaker, I didn't bear in mind that the ridge works great from below on sunny days, but didn't at all on a cloudy day like this day. Flying high would have been the key... but again, I had to land short after 35km. 95 pilots made it to goal and my positioning was therewith out of range.

Saturday was forcasted to be a rainy day and the day was cancelled. Many pilots used the opportunity to go to Venice for some sight seeing. I went with some friends hiking up to Col Serai and a little bit of free flying in the afternoon.
On Sunday we had a task set but it was cancelled after less than 60min due to heavy rain on course. The task was therefor not validated.
Monday, the last day of the competition looked similar than the day before forecast wise. The temperatures decreased over night from 25°C on the last days to only 8°C. We were skeptical when arriving on take-off whether flying would at all be possible on the day, since the dark clouds were slowly approaching from the east. However, a task of 52km was set, which should lead us away from the dark clouds and away from the mountains, where thunderstorms were predicted for later in the afternoon. We were flying towards Asolo over the small foothills and I was initially fast and in one of the first gaggles. The task was again cancelled, this time after 65 minutes and for that reason valid.

It hasn't been one of the best competitions weather-wise and the fact of starting late every day was annoying, especially with the rain predicted for every afternoon. It also hasn't been one of the most successful competitions, position-wise (I ended up 132nd out of 150). But I enjoyed the challenging tasks in the flatlands, which I normally barely use when flying in Bassano. And I definitely enjoyed the company of so many great pilots and am glad I could learn a great bunch of tactical skills from them. I hope to be part of the game again next year. End of April, the next competition for me will be Mosel Open 2017. Stay tuned :)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Breitenberg to Buchenberg (aka Breiti to Buchi) - Spring flying in the beautiful Allgäu mountains

Today I was for the first time flying from Breitenberg in the beautiful Allgäu. With just 11€ for one ascent by cable car, definitely one of the "cheaper" mountains. From the top station to take-off it is a 10min walk up the skiing slope, which was still covered with melting muddy snow. The take-off faces east.
The wind was light, slightly taily. With my LM6 though, which is a wonderfully-easy-to-start wing in nil-wind conditions, the launch was no problem.
From the takeoff I followed the south-facing small ridge until the top station building and from there headed straight to Falkenstein which is a lower mountain range 4km north from Breitenberg.

There I found strong but rough thermals that found a sudden end at around 1800m ASL thanks to a strong inversion. I took the chance and followed the Falkenstein-range further eastwards against the wind and towards the royal palaces Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Both castles worked well today and arriving at each at eye level, I was able to thermal up to around 1500m, not being unnoticed by the thousands of visitors there.

Tegelberg with easterly winds was difficult to climb as usual and so I used some smaller climbs to extend my flight until Buching.
Nothing special, but a beautiful little spring-thermal flight on a wonderful day :) Thanks to all who where part of it and made it special!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Western Cape / South African Open 2016

From 9th December to 18th December, the South African Open (from 11th to 17th) should lead me for a short summer break in winter time to South Africa. Shortly after I've booked my flight I learned that a friend whom I know from the paragliding community in Singapore will be there for parts of the time as well. 

So I arrived very excited in Capetown, which many promised me to be the most beautiful city in the world. Although I arrived in rain, I already could guess what it meant. Nice little colonial style houses between Signal Hill, Table Mountain, the Lion Head and the Atlantic Ocean. 
Luckily the rain stopped around noon and after some lunch, my friend from Singapore, Stephane, and his wonderful fiancee gave me a sight seeing tour towards the Cape of Good Hope. The fresh air in my face with spring-like temperatures and watching the birds soaring above the cape's rocks made it a wonderful happy and refreshing day. Together we went for a beautiful dinner featuring the best steak I ever had in my life with some of Stephane's friends to a restaurant above the sea.


On Saturday, 10th of December, I got a morning ride with Flo (many thanks again!) from Cape Town to Porterville, where the competition was supposed to start the next day. We were planning to use the day for some training and getting used to the flying conditions there. We set ourselves a little task which a happily failed to complete, but is was wonderful to watch the endless flats and rocky hills from the air. And to finally after a long break get decent thermals again. 
In the evening we the first competition briefing took place.

The first task on Sunday, 11th a 81km task should first lead us down the ridge towards south and from there into the flats towards Piketberg and up towards north. I bombed out on my attempt to fly in to the flats with far too little height, hoping fore some decent thermals there (which there weren't). Some local kids came running towards me when I was just about to land and so my glider was packed quickly and retrieve already waiting (which is a big relief since temperatures reached soon over 40°C during the daytime).

The second task was a straight line from takeoff via Endekuil towards the north west of the valley. I was good on the way along the ridge and when heading out in the flats we had found some climb. The strong southerly winds  blew us up north with every turn and so, Bernd and I decided to leave the thermal together when it didn't lead to much of success anymore. I flew a bit more right than him. He found a thermal and I found myself in a 7m/s sink, not able to make it to the thermal against the wind. Minutes later I was on the ground and Bernd made it to goal on this day. Well, that's the game.

The third day was cancelled due tail wind on takeoff. So we went to the nearby waterfalls and climbed them up. What a nice and refreshing diversion. 

On the fourth day, a similar route as on day two was set, and strong winds brought me the same faith as on day two again. On that day, barely any non-CCC-wing was able to make it to goal.  

Photo by Stef Junker

Since the next day was cancelled again, this time due to too much wind, we made a nice little trip to Riebeek Castle, a small town with little houses, cafés and art galleries. And with a good sense of humor. 

On day 6, finally the luck was on my side. We had to fly a task of 67km which lead us first down south to Porterville and then up the ridge and into Citrusdal until the goal in constriction. I finally was patient enough to always make the required hight and I was finally flying full speed along the ridge. What a fun it was. And so I managed to get into goal only 25 minutes after the first pilot. Patience seems to pay out :D

Day 7 again found me impatient and the strong wind combined with not enough height made me land early again. Not the finish of the comp I was hoping for, but nontheless an experience to learn from.

Over all, the 10 days in South Africa have been amazing and the competition very well organized. Spending the time with old and new friends and flying this ridges and flats was just a big fun. On day 6 I seemed to have understood, how everything works and with this awareness I will go into the next portion of the winter-break. I finished 5th in the women class and 54th out of 98 overall. Not my worst result after all. 
To me it was a new style of flying again, even though I'm used to flat land flying. The strong winds sometimes gave me a hard time and showed me once more how important height and patience is. Also trusting the ridge to always provide climb, even though racing along it super low, was a new experience for me.

I hope, this experience will help me in the next comp season and I definitely hope to come back to this wonderful country and place again. 

Thanks to everybody who made this time so great and especially Stephane for the sightseeing and lovely dinner, Flo for the ride from Capetown, Kirsten for bringing me my radio back, Harry for the excellent shuttle and Bernd for some local guidance. The biggest thanks go to the competition organizers who really did a great job in making this whole week a blast.

The full competition results can be found here:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Autumn Time is Flying Time - A long weekend above lakes

Since I discovered mountains and especially paragliding as my passion, October never failed to excite me. After a extraordinary cold and wet summer which luckily paid a little bit out towards the end, also in 2016, late October didn't disappoint us at all. 

Since 1st of November was a public holiday we decided to use the long weekend for heading south for some flying. While probably most people were heading to Bassano del Grappa, we were looking for some more quite alternatives.

Our trip started on Saturday, 29 October with a visit of Tegelberg (1665m) and Neuschwanstein Castle. Not having in mind that it was holiday season and weekend both at the same time, I was a bit shocked about the crowd that was queuing in front of the takeoff. It was not a big surprise, since Tegelberg is one of the most scenic sites in southern Germany,, offering views over Neuschwanstein castle and Lake Forggensee. After some 45 minutes in the queue, I finally was able to get airbone. Thanks to the very stable day with some southerly wind (the take-off is facing northwards), the flight was rather short. But nevertheless beautiful :) I was luckily able to take some proper shots of the castle.

In the evening we continued our journey towards Laion in Grödnertal, with the plan in our minds to fly at Col Rodella, probably the most scenic site in the world the next day. But already in the evening a strong North wind made us clear that this won't be the site for the next day. We instead headed towards Trento and from there to Lago Toblino, a smaller and almost unknown lake just north of its big brother Lago di Garda. A beautiful flying site at Monte Gazza (1583m) was waiting for us. It offers two different landings: the first one just on the southern shore of Lago Toblino, between some vine and apple plantations. 
The second landing is around 700m in altitude higher and a lot more spacious situated in the small village Margone (936m). We met a bunch of pilots from the local club at the second landing. They offered us a free ride to the takeoff along with some Maroni and beers. 

The takeoff is a big grassy knoll right on the top of Monte Gazza offering plenty of space for taking off in multiple directions. The conditions were again very stable and therefore the flight ended after 20 minutes. With the surroundings, the wonderful locals and a beautiful view over Lago Toblino and Lago di Garda, this site is a real gem with 100% no German masses (yet). 

Our last destination was Levico Terme on the other site of the Adige valley. After having driven to Bassano del Grappa probably more than 50 times in the last years, the place was familiar to me, but only from passing by. Paragliding365 suggested a takeoff at the very top of Monte Panarotta (1800m) so up we went. What we found was a very steep slope that offered no space for mistakes covered with slippery grasses. After enjoying the view from high up there towards the Brenta Dolomites and some Alpine glaciers, we went down to the takeoff in Vitriolo (1490). It is a easy and spacious takeoff for hanggliders and paragliders with a parking space and a little Café just next to it. 

Jump for Joy (Picture by Philip Boesecke)

The flying site offers again wonderful views over Lago di Caldonazzo and the smaller Lago di Levico. In the valley landing spaced are manifold  and some smaller XCs are easily possible. A small drawback are the larger amount of prohibited airspaces towards the west of the takeoff. Even though a strong inversion was damping a lot, we still were able to fly in thermals on both Monday and Tuesday for each more than 1.5 hours. Overall a wonderful place with a nice old town in Levico and by far less people than in Bassano. In future I will definitely stop more often here :)

Lago di Levico

Florian flying around


My beautiful Ozone LM6 (Picture by Philip Boesecke)

Happy Landing (Picture by Philip Boesecke)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Trofeo Tre Pizzi and a bit of Adria

For the second year in a row, I decided to participate in Trofeo Tre Pizzi, a four day cross coutnry competition which takes place in the middle-italian region Marche, in a beautiful valley of the Apennines mountain range. With many cute villages and small towns like Matelica and Esanatoglia, the area is not only wonderful for paragliding but also a blast for everybody to visit (not to mention the delicious food and amazing people).
Unfortunately the area 100km south of Esanatoglia was hit by a devastating earthquake the day before the competition was supposed to start and many people left their lives in completely destroyed towns. People in Esanatoglia were luckier and got away with no more than a fright.
Since the first day of competition was cancelled to free the airspace for rescue maneuvers, we decided to spent a day on the coast to enjoy wonderful soaring over the Adriatic sea and swimming during sunset and sunrise.

The first day of competition welcomed us on Monte Gemmo with a beautiful East-facing takeoff with a lot of wind. We waited until the afternoon to let it weaken and were able to fly a 68.1km-task in a zick-zack course between Camerino and Fabriano. It was hard to decide whether to fly in the flats or rather close to the mountains. I stuck to the mountains until the 3rd waypoint and then went to the flats which turned out to be a mistake on this day. In the strong head wind I was washed down and landed 20km short.

For the second task we went again to Monte Gemmo where we realized that the forecasted west-wind was already setting in earlier and lower than expected. We waited for a while if it will change and finally were brought to the opposite side of the valley, to Monte San Vicino. This range offers a North-West-facing takeoff and beautiful rocky peaks where you can soar up in the west-winds. Since the whole procedure of shifting pilots over to the new takeoff took a while, we had a late strat at 15:40 and another zick-zack task, this time on the other side of the valley with 61.3km. The same fortune (wrong decition) as the day before brought me back on the ground. This time 30km short of goal. It turned out that on this day the flats would have been the better choice rather than flying on the mountains.

Day three, which was already the last day, started earlier from Monte San Vicino with again strong west winds and blown thermals. A task was set with 57.9 km, Again with the option to fly everything on the mountain range or in the flats.
I was high in the beginning but came quite low at the start. Patiently I made my way up again and flew with a good hight to the first waypoint north of Fabriano. Learned my lessin from yesterday, I decided to go in the flats on the western side of the small hills. It turned out to be a wonderful decision and while people spent a lot of time making hight on the mountain range I gained a lot of places on my course. According to the live-tracking I was second in between and made a very fast race. Unfortunately, a little lack of patience made me land 4km before goal and I finished 19th overall on this day.

In total I ended up first woman (although there was no extra ladies category since we were only two) and overal 40th out of 82. So far my best result in a competition and what's even more important, a wonderful three days experience. Here is a link to the results:

I'd like to thank for the Ozone LM6, which brings more and more joy with each flight, and Richard Edlinger for the great company and for showing me beautiful places.

Many thanks to the organizers from the Lega Piloti and from the local club in Esanatoglia for a perfect competition and a very warm welcome. It was again a wonderful event! I will definitely come back again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Buchenberg - After-work flying at its best

Buchenberg is another mountain in the Allgäu alps range. It is just a few kilometers east of Tegelberg with a similarly beautiful view over lake Forggensee.

While Tegelberg offers a quite steep and rocky surface, Buchenberg is mellower and pretty much covered with trees. But this doesn't mean, it is less thermally active. Flights from here to Tegelberg and further are not rare.
With 1142m, Buchenberg is 700m lower and therefore, even after cable car hours, a good opportunity for beautiful evening flights, especially in summer time, where the sun sets around 9pm. Even with my rather heavy XC equipment, the 45 min of hiking are very well doable.

Enjoy some pictures of one of our flights there in mid-July 2016.

Pilots: Ewa Korneluk-Guzy, Thorsten Pausch, Martin Lukasiewycz