Slowly drawing to the end of our 2 month trip to Bir there are a couple of things you need to ask yourself.
Coming to iconic places like Bir or Pokhara and being surrounded by famous names and exciting plans of other pilots wanting to go big in distance, height or not so simply on bivouac flights in the big mountains out back.
my first questions to relative new comers that are planing to go out back are:
are you sure?
what’s your skill level?
what wing are you on?
what equipment do you have?
are you really ready?
do you know the risks?
are you choosing the right guide/school? if any.
many people come to these places to try and prove something, no problem if your trying to prove something to yourself. i find that the majority of problems start when people are trying to prove something to others. When you start to think more about what others will think the less you listen to yourself, these are the times you start to hear of rescues, big cascades, forced landings in not so nice places down the grapevine.
Just to be clear i have nothing against pushing the limits or your own abilities but what you need to remember is that this sport/passion/way of life is all about calculated risks.
now back to my questions,
are you sure?
pretty self explanatory but are you really sure you want to be flying in mountains that can turn viscous in a matter of moments?
what kind of flying do you normally do? for some of the pilots coming to notorious places they tend to think that their skills are higher than they actually are.
are you an occasional weekend warrior?
I met a couple of people that have been away from flying for quite some time (years) and came to Bir to go into the big mountains. I’m in a way happy to say that they didn’t make it out that far as the conditions on the front ridge scared them out of the idea of heading back
I see people coming and going from places no matter if they are in Europe or the third world taking pro guides to fly the big stuff with. the key word here is “guide” they are not flying your glider for you, they can not guarantee your safety. the role of a guide is to take proficient pilots into unknown (for the visiting pilot) areas, choosing the best route on any given day to get people out and back in one piece and hopefully with a huge smile on their face and a story or two to tell.
pilots wanting to head out into the big mountains should be of such a level that even on their own would feel relatively comfortable flying the conditions that you will come across.
at times i see people that don’t display the skill level to fly the front faces let alone the rough stuff out back, but these people have paid someone to show them the way and they manage to somehow follow. unfortunately when it gets rough visitors at times panic and the guide cant really do much except give advice over the radio this of course is assuming that they are not concentrating on someone else in the group or in the middle of an SIV course themselves over barren, vertical rocky terrain.
what’s your wing?
are you heading into the unknown on the latest and greatest race machine? look at the wing selection of pro adventure flyers, majority of them are hanging under the latest en-B and C gliders, maybe there is a reason for this?
nothing against race wings if your racing but when you come to the bigger stuff your looking at getting out and back while at the same time surviving it all, having fun and managing to take some photos of yourself and your friends.
how many photos of your epic adventure are you going to get if your hands are glued to the toggles all day long? no action flying shots, you may as well rent a jeep to take you to all the LZ’s along the flight path to take photos and save your wing for home.
what’s the point of flying a wing that can go 70+km/hr if your too scared to push the bar on transitions? a wing that you are scared to push bar is basically a 1/2 glider flying at trim speed just a whole lot more work to keep open and above your head.
what equipment do you have?
when i look at pilots at takeoff the first thing that my eyes search for is a SPOT, if you don’t yet know what they are then you can find more information here
venturing into this terrain without a tracker is almost suicide in itself, the amount of terrain you can cover on a good day with a paraglider is massive and even if you follow set waypoints along a 100km track unless your flying down one ridge it still gives an enormous amount of options to go along other ranges that are working better than the one that is on your flight path. the main thing to remember is that if people don’t know where to start looking for you the chances of them stumbling upon you in the wilderness are extremely remote.
Do you have tools of any kind with you? knife, lighter, matches, emergency line to get out of trees or secure yourself to something, wire saw?
Do you have a first aid kit? even a very basic one has things that could be essential and could mean the difference between life and death?
Do you have a sleeping bag or emergency foil heat blanket? if you don’t have these you can always sleep in the wing but be aware that moisture has a hard time escaping the material and you will be wet by morning, if you have no choice my advice is set up your harness in such a fashion as to keep the majority of your body off the ground and make a tent like cover over yourself with the wing this will create a shelter for the night and help maintain some extra warmth around your body. Make sure that no part of the wing is touching your clothes as during the night the moisture will transfer from the wing to you and you will have wet patches.
are you choosing the right guide or school?
please take care in choosing a guide that you will end up flying behind into some of the most unforgiving regions in various countries. Look at the track record of these people, you have to realize that the majority of serious or death related accidents will be hushed up before they hit the main stream. you need to remember that even though you are flying with a world famous pilot they are still not in control of your glider, so in places that you feel uncomfortable flying or your not comfortable with the conditions you have to give notice to the guide and they will then be able to adapt the rest of the route to not exceed you relative comfort zone.
what will benefit you greatly is learning how to fly far when conditions are far from epic. flying in different conditions will also show you in what weather you can still fly and find lift, learning to patiently scratch the light stuff will normally be the difference between going far and bombing out or simply getting those last few kms that you need to get home.
over the first 2 weeks of flying in Bir i was normally half way to Dharamsala by the time others had managed to get away from house thermal, that’s 25km more every flight.
do you know the risks? really?
most of the places you will bomb out you need to remember, your pretty much on your own out there. you need to be prepared and have the knowledge and tools to survive on your own out there whether it be for an afternoon, a day or more.
assistance in the back country is far from you and majority of rescue operations are carried out on foot, which means if your hurt its a battle against time.
Helicopters are around but organization of rescues are normally a formalities or finance nightmare. Dont maje the mistake of thinking that things function like in western countrieswhere first they rescue you, patch you up and then ask who’s paying for it all, most of the time your going to have to come up with some sort of prepayment for the rescue helicopters fuel, medical bills etc.
More to come soon
fly far, high and safe