I wrote a post a while ago about my first cross country hurdle (getting over my fear of landing out). Since returning to paragliding my mindset has completely changed. Previously when I attempted an XC I would still feel somewhat anxious. Because I had got over the fear of landing out, I didn't even realise it. This resulted in very few attempts to actually fly XC.
It's not until now that I realise I was anxious about all the uncertainties that come with XC flying. In this post I will take a look at four key things that give me peace of mind whilst flying XC.
Checking Out The Route Beforehand
This has made a huge difference. When I am flying, I am so focused on flying that I rarely have time to look at a map, so I memorise the route and potential deviations from the route beforehand. I use Google Maps and Google Earth to ‘fly’ the route multiple times. Whilst doing this I am also checking for potential landing options, triggers and dangers. When I am on Launch, I then mentally go through the route.I will also use XC Planner to check airspace, I also find the skyways feature really helpful to see flying highways and plan routes.
I was always envious of those pilots who have small light weight gear, infact I was so envious that after Slovenia I went out and got myself a new lightweight harness, the Gin Yeti Convertible. It is reversible. It is comfy, it has an airbag, it has a light reserve and to be honest does everything I need it to do. Okay, its not a pod, its not designed for long XC flights, but for me, for now, it is perfect.
My wing is not lightweight, I can’t justify the cost of a new wing. But it doesn’t matter. The wing fits inside the harness (just) and all together it weighs little over 8kg.
Add my other gear and bits and bobs, and I am carrying no more than 12kg on my back. What does this mean for flying XC? Well I can land out and hike. I can hitch a ride and not worry about squeezing my ginormous bag in the car. I just feel so much more able when on foot and that in itself had made a big difference.
If the sun is shining on a rock face it is is likely going to work. I was told not long ago to trust the terrain. As I was soaring up a ridge towards a col that I needed to jump over, I became more and more concerned I wouldn’t make it. As the landing options in the valley ran out I had no choice but to have faith that the terrain and my abilities to make the most of the lift would allow me to skim over the col and into the next valley. Sure enough it worked! Now whilst I fly I’ll attempt to evaluate any feature and decide prior to getting there whether or not I think it will work and whether I will be able to stay up.
In just doing this and having faith in both my ability to read a feature and the feature itself, allows me to arrive low and work my way back up. Previously I would have gone on glide, got low before reaching the feature, freaked and landed.
Always Having A Landing Option
Always having a landing option is a tip I picked up from a fellow British pilot and it has helped SO much. As I am working my way down a ridge or am on glide from A to B I will pick a landing option, decide that’s the one. Then continue on my way. As soon as that landing option is no longer a glide away I choose another and so on. This has helped so much. Previously when I got low I would panic and spend most of the time debating with myself where the best landing option was and how I would approach it thus meaning I was flying inefficiently and not focused on staying in the air. Now, when I am on glide and in heavy sink I remain calm because I know I have a safe option to land if needed.
By applying the above to my flying has made the biggest difference. In the 18 days I have flown since returning to paragliding I have flown over 400km, this is so much more than I flew in the 2 years prior. By adopting a positive mentality, choosing beginner friendly sites and applying old and new knowledge, I am finally able to push XC flying and truly enjoy it at the same time.