Thermal Crossings Blog Update #6
Published December 28, 2016
Thermal Crossings 2017 | Pivot from plan A to the plan that works
Wow. Where should I begin…
With 2017 just around the corner, I felt it was a perfect time to send out the 6th Thermal Crossings VIP update.
In this update, I’ll briefly cover:
- What was achieved in 2016
- What’s in store for 2017
- Why this will likely be the last VIP update, and what will replace them…
Hope you like what’s coming.
Year in Review | 2016 | I can Vol-Biv… kinda
When I started this project, my paragliding skills and experience really weren’t where they needed to be to Vol-Biv “safely”. I’m not saying they are 100% now nor am I saying vol-biv can be made safe… However, thanks to all of you, I’ve racked up a good number of flight hours over terrain I wasn’t previously familiar with… mountains.
So I’ll start by saying a big thank you. Without your generosity, I simply wouldn’t have been able to get this far so soon. Remember that I started this project with little over €1,000, had ZERO experience as a sponsored athlete, and had one hell of an ambitious goal… So you really did nudge an adventure into existence.
With that said, lets talk specifics.
My training started off in Algodonales which is a great site for consistent thermal flying throughout the winter. I arrived early spring and flew a decent number of cross-country flights, which served as a perfect opportunity to get used to the new pod harness and wing setup (The Ikuma and Delight 2 work really well together).
One of my most memorable flights was a 100km blitz to the coast, from a site called Montellano.
You might remember this view.
From Algodonales, I slowly made my way to the Alps to get my first taste of mountain flying but ended up getting stuck close to Barcelona for a week, due to visa holdups in preparation for an outdoor lifestyle event I was invited to in Russia.
The trip never happened due to Visa issues, but even if I’d have managed to avoid the delay, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways because this season’s spring did not deliver great flying… Especially if you were without wheels!
That’s worth highlighting, actually. If you want to fly the Alps in the spring, be prepared to drive several hundred km to chase the good weather. Spring in the Alps is characterized by lots of instability, so there’s lots of overdevelopment and the record cross country windows are brief and very location specific.
I started off my Alps training in Nice, but strong Northerlies and thunderstorms had me walk from Nice to St Andre-les-Alpes over the course of 3 days. I had seriously over-packed without the appropriate level of training, so under such loads, the long 25–35km hikes on hard tarmac hurt… I ended up breaking myself with severe shin splints, which took the best part of the season to heal.
Looking forward, I really need some support in the fitness and nutrition, so if you know someone who has experience putting out athletes, please point them to the team page.
When I finally got around to flying the southern French alps, I was blown away. Scary strong thermals. BIG terrain features. A decent mix of technical, fast and deep lines. I felt like I was thrown into the deep end, really gaining an appreciation for why pilots hire guides. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget for guides, so sometimes I had to point the wing downrange and see what happens.
The region provided an epic training ground, though, so I stayed there until eventually running out of money late July, at which point I lucked out with a job and worked all of August. The extra cash allowed me to continue training during the Autumn but the time out really hurt my progression.
Once I finally got back to training, the weather had me travel to a site just North of Milan, Italy. I was able to put out a tiny–but still challenging–solo vol-biv there. The sheer number of small towns in such a small space surprised me, and made landing out exciting–yes I spot landed in the middle of a football field ;).
Because it was so late into the season, though, the weather went south quickly, so I ended up retreating to Chamonix, France, to meet with Mark Balwin (Sparky). After getting rained on for two days straight, we did not waste time and hightailed it South, back to Spain, in search of the last vol-biv weather window of the season.
It ended up becoming the most amazing adventure of the project so far. The Pyrenees can get WILD, quickly…!
Mark and I started off in Berga, and over the course of a few days, ended up in Pobla de Segur, which is when I had to cut the trip short, and desperately search for work, because at this point, I was down to a few hundred Euros.
It was a life changing trip and I can’t wait to show you some of the footage. I’m waiting for Ian Burton from Image Impossible to deliver on his promise of putting together the short movie about that trip. Here’s a teaser I put together.
Upcoming Adventures | 2017 | X-pyr
I’m currently living back in Algodonales where cost of living is cheap, and where it’s still possible to fly… Busy working and planning new adventures.
In case you forgot, this project was kickstarted with a crowdfunding campaign where my original thought was to hike and fly 1000km through parts of the Tian Shan mountains.
I’m still very keen to explore places like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but realistically, my skill level and bank account won’t let that happen this year. However, that does NOT mean the project has failed!
My goal is still the same, to inspire a generation by showing that you don’t need to be rich or superhuman to accomplish the seemingly impossible. By mixing crowdfunding and sponsorship, I’m exploring new models for sports expeditions, which will provide the learnings for future content.
I’m still very much in the planning phase for next season, but over the next few months, I’ll be working on securing funding and equipment sponsorships, which are crucial for the next phase.
What I can tell you, though, is 2017 is all about the Pyrenees. I’m going to attempt to hike and fly coast to coast, the entire length of the Pyrenees!
It differs from the Alps, characterized by shorter “obvious flying lines”, aka highways, and to connect one highway with another requires flying over the boonies. It will be a good training for bigger things, and will really test my flying abilities.
The Pyrenees crossing will take place at some point in June, and I’ll likely attempt the crossing with one or more pilots who are also keen on putting their skills to the test.
As soon as I have more details, I’ll announce them on the Agile Existence blog, so be sure to subscribe to the email list to be kept in the know.
Where to from here | It’s all about HD video
Thermal Crossings at its core was and still is very much an experiment, exploring the overlap between entrepreneurship and sports expeditions. And just as most entrepreneurs find out that their original business ideas don’t fit reality exactly how they imagined it, I’m finding out that if I’m to make this project at least cover costs, I’m going to have to make some adjustments.
The reason being that I’ve been mostly self-funding this project since summer, apart from a few occasions where I needed some emergency support from some of the high flying backers (THANK YOU!). This means I’m juggling between finding work to be able to eat and trying to progress with the project–HARD!
As much as the original crowdfunding got the project this far, I’m realizing that It would have been better to set a shorter deadline, and raised the budget for smaller milestones, perhaps launching several crowdfunding campaigns along the way. But the fact is. Fundraising is a full-time job.
Who knows, maybe I pursue a second crowdfunding campaign again at some point in the future. With the learnings I took from the first campaign, I’m sure I’d do a much better job the second time around, too.
But that’s not my where my focus will be in 2017. HD video will be…!
I can’t share too much just yet because some of the ideas are still half-baked. But over the coming months, I’ll announce what is essentially Thermal crossings 2.0. The project will be an attempt to move more in the direction of producing video and trying to do so profitably as a way to fund my training, as well as a range of different trips and expeditions.
I won’t be doing this alone, but before I give away too much, here’s an example of a collab video I planned, shot, and edited just before Xmas. It did over 7,000 views on Facebook, in less than a week… To put that into perspective, that’s almost 7x the number of views the crowdfunding video did over the span of 6 weeks!
This pivot towards a joint venture as well as a bigger focus on video means a slight move away from Thermal Crossings, however, I really do see it as a natural evolution of the project. One that would NOT have been possible without your support.
Which is why I’d love to have you along for the next part of this journey. Please subscribe to the Agile Existence newsletter now to make sure you don’t miss an important invite.
For now, though, here’s what you can expect.
- I will be adjusting the wording on the crowdfunding campaign page in the coming weeks in preparation for ending the Indemand feature. After that, it will no longer be possible to contribute towards the campaign.
- I will publish another Thermal Crossings Indiegogo update announcing the evolution of this project and how you can get involved as soon as there’s something to show.
- I will continue to publish Thermal Crossings videos to my Youtube channel (subscribe to get notifications).
- Facebook and Instagram are still good places to find out what I’m up to.
- I will close the private FB group sometime late Jan and will replace VIP updates for posting more frequently to Agile Existence.
- When I attempt the Pyrenees crossing, you will be able to follow my progress via live tracking available here on the Thermal Crossings site.
- I’ll try to publish one 2–3 min Youtube edit a month
That’s a wrap for now. If you have any questions, please do feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment in comments section below.
If you’d like to help support the 2017 Pyrenees crossing (gear, movie prod, etc), you can make donations with Paypal and Bitcoin here. Alternatively, you can ping me an email for bank details.
Thanks again for the massive support, and I wish you all a happy new year!
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 peek 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