Sunday, September 08, 2013

Hike and Fly

We awoke Tuesday to a forecast of a Mistral wind.  A Mistral is a local phenomena to southern France & Provence.  It is a strong, cold dry wind from the NW, that is caused when there is a high over the Bay of Biscay and a low over the Gulf of Genoa in the Med.  The wind funnels down the long, thinning Rhone river valley that acts as a venturi.  Top speeds of up to 90KM have been recorded.

Given the conditions, we were looking for lower elevation sites that would be shaded from the strong winds.  Luckily Werner knows the area well and suggested we hit Greoliers, about hour to the south.  Greoliers is a hike up site and is south facing and usually a good ridge soaring site as the sea breeze from the Med moves north.

After an hour of Werner's best Michael Schumacher driving thru the mountains we made it, but I was a bit green from the ride.  The hike up wasn't that bad, unless you are a fat, out of shape Alabama redneck.  There was a gentle breeze at launch and our hopes of soars were decreasing.  We had a good time fooling around, taking pics and enjoying the outdoors.  Finally, Jackie and I launched and took the inevitable sled ride down.  Just as I was landing I felt a bubble of lift but it was too little too late.  But at least I flew!

Jeff was coming in behind be and was a bit smarter.  The LZ is actually on a terrance before dropping away to another 700 or feet to the valley floor.  Jeff got over the lip of the terrance as was able to work some light lift before he landed.  Werner did his usual Cuv imitation and caught a thermal and benched up the upper rider where he had stronger winds.  Steve worked his way more east and was staying up, but starching.  Wasn't long before both of them joined us in the LZ.

We loaded up and headed back to St. Andre.  Upon arrival we didn't see any gliders in the air (not expecting to either) but decided to head up to the west launch to see if the wind was going to lay down enough for an evening sledder.  When we got there it was blowing straight in at around 12mph - perfect to soar the ridge.  We all launched and had the entire ridge to ourselves in butter smooth air.  It start to shut down after about an hour and we all headed for Mark's LZ.

Earlier we had grabbed some steaks so the evening meal was tossed on the grill and cold beers were enjoyed by all.

Here's a brief video of the evening soaring session.

La Chavet Soaring from Rob Reynolds on Vimeo.


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