Friday, August 05, 2011

Invermere from near Revelstoke via the Bugaboos

In the last 48 hours I've top-landed in the alpine twice, camped high, had a ton of help from friends in Revelstoke and Invermere, and flown the coolest mountain flight I've ever had. And sunk out into a cut block, but escaped this time!

I have some wicked photos of flying right through the Bugaboos, a flight I've dreamed of for going on 15 years. Never have I flown so deep for so many hours, so stoked! From just south of Revelstoke to Brisco to landing on the beach in Inveremere, where a bunch of friends were having dinner. The Spot log should show the line, I'll post photos when I get home as all I have is my phone. Today's weather doesn't look as good but Swansea launch awaits, want to try and fly home... Fired up!

-sent from my rotten Apple.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Aerial hero to cut block zero?

I'm out, ripped to shreds by the alder and cut block debris but stoked for the last two days... Not sure what the next move is but got a ride to revy and planning tactics. Making this up as I go for sure, great adventure so far. The freedom of going anywhere in the air is great, but I've learned some lessons.

edit--I just looked on the Spot tracking page, the satellite photo is NOTHING like reality on the ground! Nothing!! The photo must be from 20 years ago, most of the roads in that photo are no longer visible at all...

Not all cut blocks are launchable. In fact most are barely landable!! Logging roads grow over to the point where they are worse than the bush, even if they show on the gps. BC bush is really fierce. There's a fine line between vol bivouac and vol bushwhack, and I got well on the vegetation side of it.... I landed high in Plant creek about as deep as you can get in the Monashees, thought I had an ok cut block (logged area) that would be good to launch out of but wound up hanging 6 feet off the ground. Solved that, good thing i had a wrench for links on lines and can climb ok, nice night with morning bear, could not escape my block for hours in the morning. Priorities went from launching to finding a place to launch to just getting out of the valley I was in, epic bush. Totally impossible to move through that logged bush at more than a few hundred meters an hour. Finally called my mom on sat phone (you know it's bad when u call mom) who found a way out on google earth. Hiked about 10k of bush nasty grown over skidded trail and another 20 of road, got ride (thanks Becky!) to Revy. Happy to be here, developing new plan and solving tech issues with Spot etc

The flight was super fun, walking from the greyhound station in vernon to launch fun, fighting out of bc bush 80k later not so fun but not boring!! Flight conditions were not great, really happy to have flown what I did.

I'm not done yet. Forecast today not so good but I'm destroyed anyhow, see what I can come up with. Will solve Spot issues this morning...

A huge thanks to Doug N. for the help in Vernon!

-sent from my rotten Apple.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Aerial Exploring: Vernon East

From here to There?

After two weeks of frustrating delays due to bad weather I'm off at one tomorrow morning on a Greyhound bus to Vernon, BC, along with my glider. The basic idea is to ride the dog 350k west to Vernon and then try to fly and walk back home or to the eastern edge of the Rockies somewhere. I should be walking from the bus station toward the Vernon paragliding launch by about 8:00 in the morning. Beyond that I don't know much other than there's a lot of mountain terrain (all of the Columbia and Rocky Mountains) between Vernon and here. There aren't any "rules," but I want to do it all under my own walking power or by flying thermals, and do it self-supported meaning no chase crew.

The inspiration for this trip comes from a few places: The incredibly cool Red Bull X Alps that just concluded, and the uber-suffering Tour Divide/CTR bike races. I raced the Red Bull X Alps almost ten years ago, and loved covering terrain by foot and in the air, it's a magic combination. The Tour Divide bike race is a self-supported monster-length backcountry bike race from Banff, Alberta, to the Mexican border. The Colorado Trail Race is similar but more on trails and less on dirt roads, and crosses Colorado by mostly burly single track. My brother, Toby, starts that race tomorrow, so there will be some suffering Gadds by eleven or so tomorrow morning. What I like about both bike races is that racers bivouac wherever they can; in a hotel if they are near one, but mostly just by stopping beside the trail and sleeping. The rules in both races are "no non-commercial support," meaning hotels and gas station food is OK, but you can't have yer mom bring you a sandwich because that's not there for all racers.

All three events are races, and each is about taking a cool line across the terrain than just the fastest line. The Tour Divide follows the continental divide as closely as possible, the CTR takes the proud mountain biking line across Colorado, and the X Alps traverses most of the chain from the mountains to the sea. All of these events are races, but the on the X Alps each athlete has a "supporter" driving a van loaded with happy little presents like clean socks and food. This is good, as the vast majority of the walking in the X Alps is on paved roads. I hate walking on paved roads (every athlete in the X Alps is far tougher mentally than me, I would shoot myself in the foot before I'd walk like that again on paved roads), and in the Alps it's nearly impossible to be more than 10K from a paved road. I also like the self-reliance concept of the long bike races, that suits my individualistic style more. And I'm not going to race anyone; if I land high on evening I intend to enjoy the place.

One of my paragliding heroes, Pierre Boulliux of Sup'Air (one of the sport's originals, along with my friend Gin Seok Song, who runs Gin gliders) also did a lot of what he called "Vol Bivouac" flying in the alps. The point of this flying was to fly and stay high in the mountains, and what I want to do probably most closely follows this ideal. Some of the Pemberton monkeys are also on this program.

So my idea is to walk on paved roads as little as possible, ditch the "supporter" concept, and fly far while camping high. The forecast is pretty good, there's a lot of interesting terrain between Vernon and east side of the Rockies, let's see what happens! Ideally I'll fly during the peak hours of the day, then land high in the alpine, go for a bit of a walk around the landscape I love being in so much, and then take off in the morning from a happy little high alpine meadow (unfortunately our mountains lack the cows of the alps, so there are far fewer perfect little meadows, but there's the idea). If I land low in a valley I'll beat my way through the BC brush back up to the alpine or a logging cut block and take off again. If I can walk on a trail or even logging road I'll do that, but I flat-out refuse to walk on paved roads just to make distance.

Another huge chunk of inspiration is really the biggest source of motivation for me: Flying in remote areas. I've flown all over the world, but the mountains here in Canada are relatively unique because of their low population densities. I've done two or three forays into remote areas in the Rockies, but by approaching the Columbia and Rocky Mountains with a sleeping bag, tent, food, and expecting to land in remote areas I'll be totally mentally free to fly the coolest lines, not just the lines near roads. In paragliding we often talk about "Tiger Country," or places with no retrieve. I'm aiming for those places on purpose. I want to get high over Vernon, look east and take the best possible line even if there are no roads there to get retrieved on. I think that's going to be a tremendous feeling of freedom, of throwing off one of the most basic ideas of paragliding, to land somewhere where you can get back to where you took off...

My good friend Othar and the Red Bull X Alps team is also planning to run a race somewhere in Western North America next year, which I've been helping a bit with. Othar and I talked about doing a long hike and walk trip in Canada (we also did one in that involved hiking completely across the Andes with our gliders but not flying once!), so maybe my trip will help out a bit with understanding the unique challenges of an X Alps style race in North America's much more rugged mountains. Years ago my friend Jim Grossman and I flew our motorized paragliders across the US too, so there's some history in this idea.

I figure it will take about a week; I wanted to do more, but I have another time commitment coming up, and with the delayed start due to weather I want to do something I think I can get done in a week. This is gonna be fun!


Part of the fun of this was to do it with the gear I have lying around. So I have an old light harness, Gin GTO paraglider, BD First Light tent, ancient but still solid Feathered Friends sleeping bag, some food (no stove, weighs too much), bear spray, bug spray, vario, sat phone, and a Spot for safety and so friends and family can watch the game unfold. All told it weights about 20Kg, not too bad. I'll put the Spot tracking URL up later in case anyone wants to watch the silliness that will ensue. I hope to blog a bit from my phone if I can get cell service, which is increasingly likely from up high even in the mountains here...