Reserve Ride In Spain

Photo: Seeing that old pic of my reserve/acro wing from two years ago, reminded me of this 'event'. Last Fall in Spain-</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>If you look close, you can see my shadow. Good times!

After my solo flying trip through the Alps, my girlfriend Tawny came and met me in Venice in the beginning of September (2013), so that we could make a six week trip through the Alps and western Europe. We visited many locations between the Dolomites and Portugal, mostly for rock climbing and paragliding. Towards the middle of the trip, in an area of the Pyrenees called Ager, I had something of a mishap- reserve ride #3 of mine. This is the tale-



Ager, Spain

September 2013

The day was all mine. Tawny was off exploring and driving around, and I was keen on flying as much as possible. I had never been to Ager, and knew nothing about it, but it seemed like a great spot for a nice out and back XC flight. I had my cross-country wing with me, and had been flying almost every day for the entire summer and fall. Everything seemed right, and conditions agreed.

I met a super nice guy at the campground LZ that’s closer to town. The two of us then headed on over to the LZ closer to the launch for the day. Our launch was at the west end of a nice limestone escarpment, which ran for many miles in both directions, but mostly to the east. The XC potential looked great, even though the locals were saying that it wasn’t the best time of year for that. I was optimistic and was planning on flying all the way to the next set of peaks to the east, and then back over launch, and go tag the west end before going out to land.

Leaving launch-

Everything was going well. A big group of about 20 of us launched more or less together, and no one bombed out. I started heading east slowly at first, and a few of us were out front. They all turned back as we got to the committing section where you had to cross a big gap over an area with limited landing options. But after this section, it became straight forward for the next 10 km’s or so. Here is a shot looking towards the committing section-

I made it across this gap, tagged the far peaks, and returned to the launch area about two hours later. I could hear my new spanish friends on the radio, chatting about the deteriorating conditions during this time. Most of them started to head out to land. The wind was originally south when we launched, which is the preferred direction, but it was switching to a very strong east wind. I felt fine, and continued to the west end of the peaks. Heading west back towards launch-

On my way back to the launch/landing area from the west end of the range, it became apparent to me that it was in fact windy. Duh. No big deal, I just smashed the speed bar to 60% and I was back on my way. There was enough ridge lift to get me back to launch, but now I had to go out and land.

My speed out from the ridge was quite low. I increased to 100% speed bar on the IcePeak. I was moving now, but slowly. I was sinking as I came out, and it was obvious to me now that I might not make it out from the lee side of a projecting ridge if I continued to sink. I was dropping into it’s low side, and would have to deal with the rotor. I didn’t have many options, actually none. I had to keep on bar, and push on past the ridge.

Just as I was thinking about all of this; whomp! The frontal was harsh, and the entire wing blew behind me. Because I was on full bar, the wing reacted severely. I spun around before I stabilized, and put it into a stable tailslide/stall. I let it out from the stall, like I have before over a dozen times, and this time it wouldn’t re-start. Shit. Not only was I in the rotor, but another probable contributing factor was that my line set was extremely worn, and was out of trim quite a lot. Anyway, the wing wouldn’t come back from the deep stall, so I put it back into the full stall.

I’ve never encountered a collapse/incident that I haven’t been able to sort out while XC flying, except in my first month of PG flying. Ever since then, I’ve been able to control my wing well enough to never need my reserve while flying XC. Even all summer long, in the Owens Valley. I’ve ‘lost’ the wing many times, but have always been able to sort it out and get it back. Not over-confident, just comfortable and relaxed in those scenarios.

Another attempt to get the wing flying only resulted in some helicopter type activity from us, it wasn’t looking good at this point. I could see the ground about 600 feet below, and knew that I only had one reserve with me and had to make it work. I put the wing back into the full stall, and then handed both toggles to my left hand while in the stall. This put me in a perfectly straight down descent without turning, and I chucked my reserve to the sky like my life depended on it. It did.

It had been about a year since I last repacked the reserve, and it opened perfectly.

At first I was happy to have the chute open, but very quickly I remembered that the show wasn’t over. I immediately started reefing in on my rear risers to get the wing in a stable configuration, and then got a good hold on all the lines. I didn’t have time to reel the wing all the way in to me, so I just held it out by the lines.

My reserve is not steerable, so I was pretty much done doing what I needed to do. I could just kick back now, for the next few seconds, and wait for the ‘landing’. As I took account of where I was falling, and where my drift was taking me, I got a little concerned- there was a giant limestone wall next to me. But on the other side, was the talus slope, which was covered in many small little trees and bushes. I hoped for the latter.

At first the wind was pushing me towards the wall, but as I got totally behind the lee side of the ridge, the wind decreased and I floated down towards the little trees. I smacked one of them dead on, and didn’t get hung up in it, but instead was hurled into it and bounced off into the ground. I tucked in and took it to the side of the harness, which was loaded down with my vol biv kit as back protection.

As quick as it all started, it was over. I was down safe and sound, in one piece. The wing and reserve were fine as well, no damage at all. Only a little bit of blood lost from a few small cuts, but virtually unhurt in any way. Lucky.

Now, the whole time this was going on, my new amigos were watching this go down, and were keeping their eye on me. As soon as I landed, they sent a truck with two of them to help out in case I was hurt or needed help of any kind. I quickly packed up, and hiked out to meet them.

We drove back to the LZ, where all my new friends were happy to see me back safe. We were all hanging out and relaxing, when Tawny pulled up. She knew nothing, and had actually heard that I had ‘landed in the bushes’ from another source. She actually laughed and said to the person that it must be a mistake, as her boyfriend is a good pilot and doesn’t land in the bushes!

When she showed up, and found out the entire real story, she was both freaked out and relieved that I was ok. We had a quick laugh though, over what she had told the other pilot who informed her about me.

I actually went back up to the area and looked for over an hour for my deployment bag and reserve handle. I looked everywhere without luck, and gave up. Luckily one of my amigos in the town had just bought a new harness, and had a spare Woody Valley handle and bag! I gave him some Euro’s and it was mine.

The next morning I repacked the reserve on the patio of a local PG guide in Algodonales, and flew a 80 km triangle like nothing even happened.



Dave Turner