It was one of those forecasts where it could be really good, or over-develop too fast and become crap. Oriol posted on the Parapent Bellmunt group that he thought it would be excellent, but only we and Marc wanted to come out to play. We hooked up with Marc at Les Preses to leave a car there and then drove up to Bellmunt. There was cumulus popping off everywhere and we needed to get a move on, given the forecast of possible over-development. We spent 20 minutes assessing the sky, but each cumulus that started to tower collapsed again, so we decided to take-off. First goal was the Val d’en Bas and then we’d decide which route to take.

Oriol launched first and had no problem staying up. He headed west along the ridge, while Marc took off and rocketed up to cloud base. I was next and by the time I was half way to base, Marc was already making his way to the Col de Bracons, which is the pass that leads along to Puigsacalm and the Val d’en Bas. Oriol came to join me and together we climbed under a cloud. What we hadn’t appreciated on launch was that the fluffy stuff in front wasn’t matched behind the ridge, where the cloud has spread out and was completely shading everything. Geoff was stuck on launch for a while with little wind and no sun to bring it on. Oriol and I were surfing the front of the spreadout and making good progress, but Geoff, only 10 minutes behind us, had his work cut out, racing against the advancing cloud cover.

The clouds were wide, so you couldn’t see what was above you and I decided to proceed with caution. I would test if I was still in the thermal or was being sucked up by the cloud by flying bigger circles and pushing out to the edge of the cloud. Once I was in cloud suck, I went on glide, making the most of the lifty line. Going across Puigsacalm is a bit of a wind-up. The pass is at the top of a massive bowl, covered in trees and usually there is a strong venturi effect, so you do not want to sink into the bowl. The top of the ridge, Puigsacalm, is 400m higher than take-off, so you need a decent cloudbase to cross. I have only done it once, three years ago, when the higher base was over 8000′ and I crossed comfortably. This time I got to base and put big ears on at 6300′ AMSL, and glided to the edge of the Puigsacalm ridge and arrived there at ridge height. Below me, and to my horror, I could see Marc scratching at the foot of the mountain in the bowl. Given his postition, I assumed there wasn’t a strong wind, but there’s only limited, small, steep landing fields or the road. He managed to land in a small area next to a tunnel.

Oriol showed me the guaranteed lift trigger, which was beyond the sheer wall of rock and the waving walkers on the summit. Having seen him crab along the ridge and then hit the lift, I was reassured that it would work for me too, and if it didn’t I could make it out into the valley, which is jam packed with massive flat fields. We got a thermal at the end of the ridge and then had to decide which route to take… along the Val d’en Bas to Olot and beyond, or down the valley to Santa Brigida. I could see a big fire with its smoke stuck to the ground blowing SW, so we decided a better plan would be to fly to Olot and try to cross the ridge to Castellfollit. I promised him beer and olives on our terrace if we made it.

Oriol chose a better trigger and got high, but I went to a cloud that wasn’t working and got low over Les Preses. Twice I got a low save, but with no drift didn’t make any progress in any direction. In the end I landed about 300m from Marc’s car. He arrived about 4 minutes after I landed. Oriol tried to head to Castellfollit, but hit a strong headwind once at Olot, so he turned round, flew back and landed with us.

Meanwhile, we hadn’t heard from Geoff and couldn’t reach him by phone or radio. The spreadout had caught him and he wasn’t able to get a second thermal to cross the pass, despite being at 1600′ ATO. He had to fly back and land in Torell√≥. He was busy walking up for the car, but with nobody going up, he walked for an hour (with PG), before a passing car gave him a lift. Once he got into the Val d’en Bas, the sky was clearing and he decided to drive to Santa Brigida for an evening flight. He texted us to meet him there, so Marc and I drove down and they both had a really nice evening flight in residual thermals (getting about 700′ ATO) and restitution, landing at 6pm.

See photos of today.

See my flight tracklog.