Thermal Crossings Blog Update #3
Published May 20, 2016
Am I taking Agile Existence too literally… Nah, I’m just getting started
This VIP update is looooooong overdue — sorry about that guys. I’ll be honest, I’ve been swamped with cross-country and thermal training, getting ready for a summer long vol-biv, organising some other challenges I’ll announce soon, and I’ve also had the longest writer’s block I’ve ever experienced…
But now I’ve left the comforts of a guaranteed hot shower, fully equipped kitchens, my MacBook Pro and a solid wifi, I figured it was a good time to put thought down on paper–smartphone in this case–and share some behind the scenes.
Until next time Algodonales
After an epic 6-weeks getting back into the rhythm of riding thermals to cloudbase, I finally left Algodonales last month with the intention of heading to the highest peaks of Europe. However, the weather still wasn’t looking too paraglider friendly, and due to an impossibly budget, I knew I’d be wild camping for the bigger part of the season, so the temperatures needed to rise a little more…
Not only that, but I still didn’t have a few essentials like an ultralight tent, sleeping bag, and air mattress, so an invite to stay in my home town, Pinoso, came just in time.
The Alicante region rewarded me with some decent XC training. With the little 49cc scooter I mentioned in the first VIP update, I was able to get to the flying sites–slowly–but I still got there
I made the most of my stay and flew some pretty decent lines that had been on my radar since getting into the sport. Sure there’s room for improvement, but I was mostly flying alone after analyzing local track logs, so I’m happy with the results. Here they are:
> 46.6km free distance from Palomaret
> 45.37km free distance from Buey
> 20.61km FAI triangle from Palomaret
The sites are a mix of small mountains and desert flats… It’s really really dry there, and most of the launches are pretty nasty on the gear. There are also lots of rules that prohibit some of the best XC sites during the best parts of the year, so until the launches get a makeover and the site restrictions get lifted, I don’t recommend this region unless you are happy hiking to take off, and going a little Jason Bourne… especially seeing as Algodonales is only +-300 km away.
That said, going XC there is beautiful, so if you don’t mind a little adventure or the lack of infrastructure, the flying there can be extremely satisfying, and there’s the potential to go BIG. +200km big…
To give you an idea of the terrain, here is an afternoon ridge run from El Buey to Jumilla:
If you ever plan on exploring the XC potential of the region, I recommend looking for accommodation around Monovar. It’s not too exciting but you will be bang in the middle of the best sites:
- El Carche — Best on nil wind days
- El Buey — Best on SE & NW days
- Palomaret — Consistent sea breeze (Attention with airspace!)
Getting lucky: saved by the domain
When I arrived to Alicante, I only had three weeks to get ahold of a few important items before heading to the alps. However, after all the project’s expenses, I only had about €1000 left to work with. The thing is, I needed that money if I were to feed myself while crossing the Alps. So I actually had zero budget for the gear, and hadn’t yet started conversations with brands — no bueno amigo…
Wait, it gets worse.
Because I’m dedicated to working with gear that meets standards, I promised myself that I wouldn’t bring any gear sponsors on board before testing their stuff in the field.
So to clarify.
I was in need of a lot of gear. I needed it delivered fast. For FREE. Without offering the official sponsor status — talk about a hard sell, right?
Well, I got lucky…
One morning I received a random email from a BIG name in the US who wanted to buy a domain off me. I own about 50 domains at any given time and have never ever sold one, so you can imagine that I’m still a bit surprised.
After a little negotiating, I sold it for just enough to buy all the gear I needed to make an extended period in the Alps a little more feasible.
At this point all the gear arrived and I’m all set to go vol-biv in the Alps — I’m actually slowly making my way there now. But before I can start crossing the Alps, I need to kill a few more days in Catalunya until I get a Russian Visa (more details coming in next update).
Field test was a SUCCESS
In case you’ve forgot or If I haven’t communicated it well, all this training is for a 1000km vol bivouac expedition. Unsupported vol-biv is the paragliding discipline of hiking and flying with the goal of crossing mountain ranges my foot and flight — wild camping along the way. Think survival trekking meets free-flight-paragliding.
I’m basically carrying everything I need to soar like a condor and survive in the mountains in a 110L back pack.
Vol-biv bag vs base camp bag
My entire setup weighs about 22kg — big improvement on last season’s +30kg. And this Wednesday was the first time I got a chance to test it all in the field. With all my gear and one day’s worth of food and water packed into my harness, I flew a line that had the 2016 Tarragona X-PYRteam follow me on the ground and congratulate me upon landing.
Jordi Estaper, y Maximo Vela
It all fits…just. The only change I’d make at this point would be to change my walking poles for a pair that are foldable and can fit into my Delight 2 pod harness.
Where to from here?
I’m going to focus the remainder of the budget on familiarizing myself with alpine cross country paragliding and learning how to stay safe and healthy in the mountains. At this point I want to demonstrate that I have a solid enough foundation to build off quickly, so long as I can secure further funding for the next training legs.
If you are in a position to support the project with further funding, or if you know someone else (person or organization) who might be, it would be great if you could get in touch to talk more. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for this update. I’ll try and publish another one as soon as I have a better idea of what I’ll be doing over the next weeks as I have some BIG news coming up.
Thanks again for the support.
Is there anything you would like me to start sharing more of?
PS: Tshirt update:
Had confirmation from Ivan from Aloft, that the TShirts are in production and that we will have an expected timeline soon… Your patience is really appreciated.
A bit about me: I’m Rhys! I’m a 28-year-old adventure addict from England. In 2017 I crossed the Pyrenees, powered by the elements…rock’n a high performance paraglider. I turned the project into the most interactive adventure of it’s kind. Here’s a sneak peak into day-9, where we flew for 7 hours, covering more than 137km in-flight. The project began as a crowdfunding.
Follow me on Twitter at @AgileExistence