Flying crosscountry in the Pyrenees

A long cherished (flying) wish came true at last. With a funny mix of people I rushed me into the adventure of crosscountry- flying in the Pyrenees. In one week we learned how to set up a task and what it takes to be successful.

With the buy of a new glider I reserved myself a place in the crosscountry (or XC) – camp in Austria. In the XC-flying mecca Greifenburg, there are ideal conditions for XC-newbies and experienced. On a long-drawn ridge you can go on kilometer-hunting. But the weather did not play along. Two days before departure, the paragliding school called then: either you can stay at home or you come with in the Pyrenees. Jackpot! I’ve always wanted in the Pyrenees and at the same time to XC-flight camp. Now I get both. GREAT!

Pyrenees flying - on the way to the sun

On Saturday morning at eight clock going in the morning, we were ready to rock and roll. We started with two vans on the road to the southwest, towards the sun. The said route let us hope that we can still catch a little sun. After 15 hours of driving (and breaks included) we arrived at eleven clock in the evening in the small village called Castejon de Sos, laid in the middle of de Pyrenees. Full jittery from the excessive consumption of RedBull I could not go to sleep. So a few of us had a beer in the only pub in the village. After a few beers and tapas we were all bed-ready.

The first day brought still north wind and damp air. After the landing site inspection, we drove up to the launch site. The journey of 900 by 2300 m asl takes about 40 minutes. After several switchbacks we reached the top, waiting for us a cool, damp air. We launched early before the weather got worse. All have made themselves ready and sniffed the first high altitude in the Pyrenees. In the evening we were still exhausted from the long drive and together have seen the World Cup final.

The next day and the day after, the day started with a briefing. Flying crosscountry means you fly as far as you can. To know about the weather and wind forecast is essential. At the briefing we have studied the weather, wind and thermals forecasts and discussed the task of the day. The task was of course voluntary and was adapted to the actual flight conditions.

Each day, around eleven clock we drove up to the launch site. Thermal underwear, sweater and down jacket on – and off we went. The “house hose” was in front of the launch site. So you could beam up and then go on track.

Pyrenees flying - right at the cloud base

What was an issue during the briefing, is the accessibility of the area. Even if the area is beautiful, so many valleys are not well developed. This means, that you have to choose carefully where you land. For it may be well that one has to walk a few hours until you come to a paved road, where our driver was able to go. (As soon as you had landed outside the official landing site, you send your GPS-coordinates to the driver, who gathered up all the pilots.)

Pyrenees flying - dinner time

After everyone had gathered, we enjoyed the collected impressions of the day with a delicious meal in one of the two (good) restaurants of the village. Everyone wanted to share his impressions. So then we enjoyed a beer or two for the end of day.

When the thermals left to wait, we toned our treated bodies with some yoga exercises. It can be exhausting to stay with the arms for hours in the same positions.

And when the weather was good, there was enough time for another flight. In the evening the heat radiated from everywhere. You could perfect the top landing- technique, enjoy the mood for hours in the air and have some aerial photo shootings…

Pyrenees flying - swim in natural pools

At the last day the wind was way too strong for flying and we rather preferred to go for a swim. We asked locals where to go and landed in naturals pools in a valley around the corner. To be honest – we weren’t upset about that fact, because we deserved a pause of flying, didn’t we?

Most of the pilots fly with a variometer which indicates the lift and sink rate and saves every flight. After flying crosscountry, you can upload your flight on a website called I signed up (it’s free) and uploaded my flights. So you can keep track of your flights and show them to others.

After this week I’m definitely ready for going XC in Switzerland. As soon as the weather allows it, I will try my luck.

Pyrenees flying - on an evening flight

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