After five days on the saddle, it feels good to have this stop! In addition the weather is promising so this ensures us good flights. I didn’t come here by chance! Very attached to the Pyrenees because it is in these mountains that I discovered most of the activities that I practice now: mountain biking, ski touring, paragliding. This massif was a great playground during my studies, and I could not cross it without passing by Arbas. Well known place to the Pyrenean parapentists, a small “bocal” (local flight area – no idea of the English translation) with breathtaking views over the high snowy peaks. It is not to mention that we are hosted at Thierry (my former paragliding teacher) so the stay will be very comfortable!
The main déco (takeoff site) is not very far from Thierry’s, about 6 km and 400 m of altitude difference. Days will often start with a sunny breakfast followed by a morning hike. The first day is an introduction for Séb and a reminder for me. There has been almost six years since the last time I flew on this site. Two flights in the morning (in quiet conditions) with my Eazy2 and a nice flight for Séb who discovers the site.
The afternoon program is to go shopping to prepare a good gratin of ravioles, a typical dish from home, to our host. Between the pedestrian and hitchhiking option, the second one seems more appropriate for the 13 km to reach the store. Barely our thumbs up that a car stops. The driver will bring us to Mane and wait for us in front of the supermarket to bring us back! Despite our efficiency during the shopping, we still forgot to buy milk, so that back in Arbas we try to buy from the butcher who also sells cheese. Unfortunately, the butcher did not have any… But Raymonde, who was in the shop to chat, offered us some generously. In the village center, we also met the owner of the camper from the landing site. To sum up, in less than 30 minutes we met three friendly locals. The Pyrenees are one of these very welcoming place in France.
This evening Laurent and Franky, my paragliding instructors, are joining us for the dinner – Séb and me are taking care of the food and the instructors of beverage… The gratin of ravioli is a success as well as the plum liquor, which will ensure better digestion. With hindsight, this day has been a perfect introduction to the Pyrenean atmosphere!
Hike and fly and cross-country
It’s a difficult awakening. Coffee won’t be enough. We decide to leave with one glider and the video equipment of Séb to practice ground handling the takeoff Cournudère. The hike starts at door step! 700 m and a sandwich later, the Eazy is out, ready to get some fresh air. The breeze flow is constant and blows at 15-20 kmh, perfect conditions to play a little with the paraglide. After 15 minutes, a parapentist joins us at the summit. A good Guinea pig to see the conditions in flight. After a flawless takeoff, he flies towards La Baderque, the village below. The conditions are calm, everything is fine. So I’m going to fly and Séb will join me at the landing. A nice flight awaits me with nice thermal winds (vertical air flow used by paraglider to fly up), it is 15 o’clock.
This type of paragliding practice is called hike & fly. This consists of walking either up to an official takeoff site or an unofficial site (depending on the pilote’s skills these can be a bit anywhere) and take off!
On Saturday, we are now more familiar with the site so we arrive earlier at the main takeoff: the Planot. The previous days we always found the same local pilots, but today the site is saturated! I’ve never seen so many people – which is confirmed by a local pilot the next day. Several minibuses brought the region’s best young pilots. The best of them will try a cross of more than 150 km and the “less good” are going for 60 km.
I leave for a morning plouf (flight in quiet condition without ascendances) and barely the paraglide packed that I am offered to go back. I jump on the occasion and go back to Planot with four people from the Club of Argeles. I will make an hour and a half flight with some nice ascendances.
Sunday is the last day of Sébastien in the Pyrenees and I will leave on Monday to continue my adventure after this parenthesis in the air. This day is always as steaming, but not too chemical as we say in the jargon. That is to say that the thermal winds are well installed but not too violent (“low” climb speed) and in addition the “horizontal” wind is not too strong either. Today we are taking off at the same time with Séb and we climb in the same thermal in front of the takeoff. I will manage a long flight of two hours and Séb a return trip to the pic du Cagire! Beautiful exploration of the sky with great views of the surrounding valleys.
The day will end with a pre-heating of the legs for me: after four days of break, nothing better than a climb of 500 m to train! Séb has to leave in the early evening for Grenoble, I hope to have converted an Alpine more to the Pyrenean spirit! In any case, these four days “at home” comforts me in choosing to carry 8 kg of load “little” useful!