Monday, September 9, 2013

Entrevernes & Unintended Figure 8s - 30 Aug

Besides Marlens, there is another east-facing launch. Entrevernes is a "commune" between the ridges of Roc des Boeufs and the lower Taillefer. The Entrevernes Launch faces directly toward Doussard LZ, yet there is another, much closer LZ at the foot of the launch. Some flight guides indicate it is for advanced pilots only; probably due to the launch site's short length and steep, committing  drop. No carpet here, my friend! There were other pilots there when we arrived, none of whom were locals. Hmmm. We all made it off without any difficulty and found enough thermal action to stay aloft, but nothing more. Everyone else pushed out to Doussard LZ for their landings, which is where we had a car parked to aid in the retrieve of the one left at launch. I knew that there would be an easy retrieve if I landed near the lake on the route to the car, so I went along the Taillefer ridge to the north end, where I ridge soared for 15 minutes over yet another launch site. Laura & Jeannine rode by on a bike ride and called up to me on their radio. Don picked me up as he drove down the hill in Nick's sporty automatic Mercedes Benz. We were going to have another two-fly day!

The next launch would be from Montmin, leaving just enough time at Doussard to eat a sausage, have a drink and catch the shuttle. And Montmin is perhaps the grandest paragliding launch from which I have ever flown, or even seen. I suppose the launch at Woodrat could compare in size, but without its entirety covered with carpet or terrain that towers above, it could hardly be termed "grand".

The shuttle to this launch is entirely worth the 6€ fee, leaving from the large Doussard LZ parking lot. The only misgiving might be the wait if the shuttle is mistimed. Driving your own vehicle leaves you well below launch, so the 20-minute hike and the return to fetch your car make the shuttle a no-brainer.

All the pilots on this trip were here for this shuttle. When we got to the top, the crowd was sparse. Luckily, we caught it between tandem cycles. Everyone soon became lost in their own per-launch preparations. I remember getting everything prepped off to the side and I did something a little differently this day. I jammed the speed bar into the seat of the harness after connecting it to the wing so it wouldn't drag along the ground when I carried the kit to the launch spot. When I clipped in, I managed to thread the harness straps through the speed bar and never caught the mistake in my preflight check.

The lift was really strong over Montmin.  When I got into my pod after launch, I soon discovered my issue. After some adjusting, I managed to get about 1/4 bar deflection, but with a tourniquet action on my right quad. This just wasn't going to work. It was pretty much "elevator up" without a turn for a 1000 feet. With turns, I followed Mad Dog up to nearly 7000 ft over Lanfonnet, and he was ecstatic. I explained my issue and mentioned a landing at Talloires. He suggested I fix it in the smooth air over the lake, as we set off to Roc des Boeufs. It seemed like a reasonable idea. It was super clean air. I unclipped each leg strap and the chest strap (one at a time) to free the speed bar. I still don't know how I could have mucked that up so badly, but I had it free now. It was a bit unnerving to be unhooked (even partially) 4000 ft over the lake. After correcting course back to the Rocs approach, I was back in the game.

Scrappy, Nick and Ike were all on the  "Rock of Beef" with me, and of course Mad Dog, who was deep and high and pushing across to Doussard (or so we thought). The meandering line I took across the lake while fixing my straps put me far enough behind him that there was no hope of catching up. But I could still chase. Side note: As it turned out, MD went straight across the lake to Montmin where he benched up for his next assault.

With a good thermal in the back of the ridge, I made a bid for Montagne du Charbon, a peak just south of Doussard. I got there with enough altitude to take a line to the back and explore for lift. With none found, I switched back to the north to land at Doussard LZ. Ike was setting up to land as well, since we had two cars there and needed to get them back to Talloires. When I was overhead, I realized that I had enough altitude to try and connect to the mountainside on the east bank that leads back up to Montmin.  I thought I would just try it, but leave myself enough altitude to double back to the LZ if I couldn't. Well, I made it, and got zoomed right back up to 7000 ft. Ike saw that coming. Now I'm thinking about landing close to home at Talloires and drinking beer.

Just then, I heard Mad Dog on the radio. He is over The Parmelan and heading toward Annecy town. Parmelan? Where was that? It took a few minutes, but realized it was where the girls had gone for a hike earlier last week, and it was way up there, off my scope and not even on my "study list" of terrain. Well, why not go there myself? I tanked up over the Dents de Lanfon and pointed it to what looked like a good line. Along the way, I programmed the approach into my GPS and realized I was going for the wrong point. I corrected to the left (away from the rock feature's lee & rotor), and settled in for the long glide. Then I began to hit that inevitable sink that lives in the valleys and completely destroys the good feeling you have when you think you have the glide ratio to make a big transition.  Finally, after craning my neck for viable landing options, I connected with lift at the foot of the approach. But I was below the tree line and below the "make" altitude that MD selected for this point. It worked anyway, and I began to climb steadily along the most dramatic, expansive cliff walls I've ever flown. The only company I had were a dozen soaring birds and MD ahead on the radio, now headed for Semnoz. I believe Jeannine was already running chase, but it didn't sound like Semnoz was working too well this late in the day.

I was now high and upwind and connected easily to Mt Verier. MD's fate on the west side of the lake made it an easy decision to stay on the east bank. There was good lift here that put me still higher over Talloires. I thought about drinking beer again, but then remembered the other car at Doussard. I looked straight down and called Tommy on the radio (enjoying beer at the hobbit garden at Les Granges), and he said, "Yes, the car is still there." and "If you could get it, we would really appreciate it". So, I took a contour line flight path that took me back to Doussard LZ for an unintended 38-mile figure eight and drove myself home. Unfortunately, Ike drove the pimped out Benz, so I was stuck driving the compact that Tommy was renting. Mad Dog did much the same on his flight, only with a grander scheme and intention, and a retrieve from his lovely wife Jeannine. It was late when he returned, and I believe he went straight home for dinner and bed. It was a good flight on his last day.


  1. Tommy Landed at Dossard also and it was a Benz Nick rented That was a fun day of Flying

  2. Sounds like a really great day, tagging all those features around the lake in a single flight! I've only ever been across to Rocs de Boeuf, but never to Charbon, Veyrier, Parmelan, or Semnoz. By the time I get myself back to France you guys will be tired to tagging those nearby spots and I'll have to figure them out myself!

  3. Thanks Ike. Keep me honest, cuz I cannot remember all the details anymore. Just trying to archive the events for posterity - and for the next time we go. Alex - I think that one good day around the lake is a "must do" for everyone. I don't think I would ever grow tired of that. But I do want to go somewhere next time... and you & MD will be leading the way, I'm sure!