07 Feb 2018
has been exploring the mountains around the Southern Lakes of New Zealand ever since he learnt to fly. His latest 200km triangle attempt (still good enough for a new national record) had him landing just down the road from home. In his words:
The previous day after getting snowed on and waiting for over four hours on take off for cloud to lift, I'd had a great flight through the boonies until I popped out at Glenorchy and realised my SPOT subscription had lapsed! I landed on a ridge and spent a frustrating few hours on the internet before calling it a night, waking the next morning at cloud base with cold toes. By 10am I was already in the air, with a quick scenic run up the Earnslaw burn to check another fast melting glacier (the snow came after a month of record heat, it looks like late autumn) as cloud swirled around in the not so mellow southeasterly. Climbing just a few hundred feet before reaching cloud base at 5500' or so, I ran up and down Mt Alfred sniffing out a climb and then continued down the Dart valley, with a side trip into the Beans burn as far as I dared. It would theoretically boost my FAI triangle dimensions but it didn't work that way - the Alfred run was however beneficial in the end. I've been up the Dart so much now that I'm getting to know every nook and cranny but I still think it's the most scenic valley in New Zealand. I still couldn't get above 5500' though and the first little hurdle was getting through Cascade saddle, after patiently gaining height amongst the glaciers I popped over, if there were any trampers they would have ducked their heads. In the Matukituki valley now I ended up gaining enough height to get over the peaks I needed to get over - meanwhile the last task of the New Zealand Paragliding Open had started, in the same valley just a little further down (but they flew across the flats). I was off grid incognito though and kept pushing on, fairly doubtful that this triangle thing might work out but keen to give it a go. Cirrus slowed things down a little as I jumped over the next pass into the Shotover catchment, but this place works so well you barely need a full moon for thermals. Once I was on the Richardson range with evening sunny faces overlooking Glenorchy, I was pretty confident - until I had to push out to Mt Crichton on the corner of the Glenorchy Queenstown road. I almost faltered but decided I had to go with "all or nothing", and it was very nearly nothing. Losing height I went into damage control and took every last scrap of lift in the late evening. Thankfully a tailwind kept me on the move and I had some amazing glides between gentle climbs on golden spurs. Landing after sunset I had to choose between closing the triangle and landing in Mum's paddock, but it was only a quarter hour walk home. It felt great to fly over ten hours on a not so auspicious day - my sailplane flying friend said quite a few hadn't made it home today, and another paragliding friend said it was "just straight up f***ed". Of course the main factor is getting to the right place at the right time (not being limited by road access helps!). A tip of the hat to the Ozone Zalps performance as well - how to go far? Point the way you want to go, turn only if you need to, and plan a route over the pointy stuff!
For Nick’s track log click here.
Cheers from all the team!