Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 25, 2015

Medellin to Roldanillo Day 3

Our third, and what would be our final day of flying, although we didn't know it yet.  The hotel the night before was in a town so small I can't find the name on a map.  It was hopping though, even late in the evening when we rolled in.  We found out why when we got out hotel rooms...a tiny room with a fan and slits for windows...it was HOT.   Forget out about AC and hot water...but we weren't there for creature comforts.   
Things weren't looking so good on the short drive to Risaralda launch the next morning either.  When I had flown over this area a few days before, it had looked beautiful...but that was 3000 feet above it!   Now it was foggy and not looking flyable.   We sat on the shallow launch for hours, counting power lines and trying to see a landing zone through the fog, and amid the sidehills full of bananas, coffee plants and vineyards.   By 12 it was clearing, and by 1pm we had launched, everyone actually climbing out above the ridge.   Amazing.
The town of Risaralda sits precariously on a knife ridge
On the backside was our valley, and we wanted to fly home.   We made a valiant try at it, crossing low over the valley and losing Marty and Destin in the attempt.  They went on to have an adventure with the police at a checkpoint!  Read about the police story in Marty's blog: http://devietti.blogspot.com/2015/02/dies-y-nueve.html

Four of us were able to get high again, and at 4:40 caught the last thermal of the day, hoping to glide into Ansermonuevo.   Matt was the only one who made it, having gotten a little extra height climbing up on the side of the cloud.  He top landed on launch, and would drink beer for hours at a corner store, while waiting for us to collect everyone and  bring his cold dinner up to him.  I don't think he minded!  

Brian, Jim and I landed short, in a canyon near a river.  After packing up in a cow pasture, Jim and I had to crawl and claw our way up a steep slope out to the road.  We rolled onto the pavement sweaty and scratched from thorns, but happy to have made it that close....55 km for the day with such a late start was pretty good!  

Better yet, dinner that night was the best grilled chicken in Colombia.  It was late and dark by the time Marty had finished with his police stories, showed off his hat (again), and we rendezvoused with Matt up at the hotel near launch.   

It would be a short drive to launch the next morning, but unfortunately, the next morning it was raining and blowing off the back.  So for the second year in a row we were denied a triumphant flight back to La Union...I guess Ansermonuevo will be on the list again next year!   

Here's Marty's blog from our last day: http://devietti.blogspot.com/2015/02/viente.html

Marty and Destin get the police to give them their hats!?!!
Jim looking colorful on launch

Jim looking down over Valle del Cauca

View from the Ansermonuevo hotel on the hill!

February 23, 2015

Medellin to Roldanillo Day 2

With four of our group actually making it to La Pintada from Medellin yesterday, we stayed the night there in a truckers town.   Those four flights might just be the longest ever flown out of Medellin, at least that we can find online!   Luckily in the 24 hour town that doubles as a truck stop on the busy highway, we found a nice hotel with a pool, and cooled off from a very hot day of flying and traveling.  No hot water in the hotel but it had everything else, even AC!

Here's Marty's blog for the day, showing Jim and I eating cake for breakfast! Like everything else in the bakeries here in Colombia, it was only moderately good.  Not sure why that is.  http://devietti.blogspot.com/2015/02/dies-y-ocho.html

Our launch for the day was back up the hair-raising mountain roads we had traveled the day before, and getting there involved some getting lost and back tracking.  But eventually we found ourselves in a cow pasture laying out amid fresh cow patties.

Matt (Farmer) Beechinor negotiates the hazards on launch.  Photo by Destin

All 7 of us climbed out together and got to base in a slow climb.   Our goal for the day was to fly a canyon that looked like not many people had ever flown in before.  Unknown territory as it were.   We were assured by our drivers that there were landing placing in the narrow canyon, even if it involved taking a cable ride over the river!

We spread out gradually over the hills.  Farmer had a knot in his lines, and top landed to get it out.  Later he accidentally top landed again and had an adventure getting a ride up to a spot where he could relaunch.   A friendly local at the bottom of the canyon when he landed (for the third and final time), took him for a ride across the river (just for fun)...in a cable car that fits one cow at a time!

5 of us more or less stayed together until a strong valley wind kicked up.  Destin and I made a helicopter landing next to the road.

Jim and Brian and Marty were able to climb above the valley winds a little further, and Flacco collected us all at various points down the road.  Marty seemed to have won the day with about a 50 km flight.  That also might be the longest distance flight from La Pintada!

Here's my XContest flight info for today: http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/flights/detail:westrumd/18.2.2015/15:58

Medellin to Roldanillo Day 1 Blog is here
Day 3 Blog is here

Matt gets a ride on the cattle car across the river!
I'm not sure which way is down in this photo!

February 22, 2015

Medellin to Roldanillo: Day 1

Our vehicles loaded up and ready to travel!  Photo by Marty
After a few weeks in Roldanillo, it was time for an adventure.  It was an off week for Eagle Paragliding guides Matt Beechinor, Marty Devietti, and Brian Howell, and we all wanted to get away for a few days.  Along with Destin Peters and Shane Ebersole, Jim and I and the guides piled into 2 4x4 vehicles to see if we could fly from Medellin back to Roldanillo.    As we started out, the same route was being completed the other way by Red Bull X-Alps pilots Alex Villa and Tom de Dorlodot.   They were doing it the purist Vol Biv way....hiking and flying the whole route.  We were more into a little comfort and hotels at night.   We skipped the hiking too...Jim and I actually needed a break from exercise after many days of hiking up to launch in the heat.    We called our style of traveling...Vol Hotel!

It was a long drive up to Medellin, but fun to walk around the Poblado district and enjoy a good meal in town.   Marty's done a much better job of blogging about the travel parts of our trip, check out his blog here!  The next morning, we launched from San Felix, which is a famous acro and tandem site overlooking town.
Looking down over Medellin.  Photo by Marty

It took some work to get up and out of San Felix...I guess not that many people ever go XC from this area.   We managed to head west, and got really high very quickly.  Matt managed to get over 12,000 feet that day...it was the coolest we had been in a month!   Most of our route was straight south to La Pintada, along a very high ridge with a vertical wall of cloud over it.   It was absolutely amazing, but we were able to surf up the side of the cloud, getting higher and higher but still staying in clear air.   That was the best flight of the trip for everyone hands down!

The rest of the flight wasn't as easy.   After cruising for a while, I got low on a crux point, barely scraping over a ridge and finding nothing on the other side.  With no where to go in gently sloping terrain, I aimed for a deep canyon that would allow me to get out over the main valley.  Unfortunately, I quickly saw high tension power lines crossing my canyon right at my level.  Cursing the birds thermaling just on the other side of them, I had literally nowhere to go.  There was a tiny bare spot between rows of trees, and the space was just big enough to fly straight into the steep hillside and land.  Probably the hardest, and most difficult landing I've ever had to do.  But I was down safe and that's what matters.

The Bus...filled with couch and groceries
The adventure really started as I tried to figure out how to get out of there.  Construction workers building a pipeline near my LZ said there would be a bus in a couple of hours going down the mountain...I was still really high above the valley.   Sure enough, hours later a bus came through, full of people, lumber, and an entire sectional couch!   The open bus barreled along the dusty gravel road, coating everything in a layer of dirt, and disgorging passengers, sacks of flour, and eventually the whole couch.   When it reached a paved road, I got off, only to ascertain that there were no buses heading in my direction.  I found a taxi instead, zooming down a wonderful paved road in comfort, all the way down to the Rio del Cauca, which carves a deep valley as it flows all the way from southern Colombia north into the Atlantic Ocean.   At the river, I switched over to a motorcycle taxi, and with my pack on my back, had maybe the most relaxing motorcycle ride I've ever taken.    It was a wonderful road with almost no traffic along the river for miles...with a cool breeze in my face.   A very nice finish after a early but safe landing so high up.
...and finally empty again
We planned our route using  http://xcplanner.appspot.com.  This website allows us to see where other people have flown (in paragliders of course) around the area, and see how long our planned flight might take us, and where the airspace is.  It's a pretty cool program actually, one I will use to look at the Red Bull X-Alps route once it comes out!  Our planned route from Medellin to Roldanillo and turn points are available here.  The key if you use this program is to choose XContest under Preferences, and turn on Skyways (under Thermals).   Skyways are awesome, it really shows where there are popular flight routes.

Marty, Destin, Brian and Matt made it to our goal for the day of La Pintada.  Matt went even further down the canyon to the south, and ended up setting a site record (as far as we know) for the Medellin area of 101 km!  Here's the XContest track log for his flight:  http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/flights/detail:Farmer/17.2.2015/16:42

Here's Marty's Blog for our first flight: http://devietti.blogspot.com/2015/02/viente.html

Medellin to Roldanillo
Day 2 Blog is here
Day 3 Blog is here

Matt Beechinor's 101 Km flight from Medellin
Drivers and guides Flacco, Dubin and Boris.  Photo by Marty
Marty playing with the clouds! 

February 17, 2015

Ozone X-Alps Sponsorship: Testing the Alpina 2 and Ozium!

So as I've said recently, Ozone is sponsoring me for the Red Bull X-Alps race in July!  This week was my first chance to take some practice runs in the setup I'm going to use for the race.   While I've been flying a Delta 2, and love it, of course I'm going to want something lighter.   The Alpina 2 has the same design as the Delta 2, it's just made of lighter material, and it weighs almost a KILO less than the Delta 2.   My harness also got a lot lighter, I'll be using the Ozone Ozium, and the manufacturers tell me my race harness will be an even lighter version of the one I'm testing now, which weighs in at only 2.4 kilos.   The Alpina 2 weighs about 4 kilos, and my whole kit should come in at about 8 kilos, or under 18 pounds.  That's before I add a bit of water and food, etc.  What I know already is that on my back it seems really light...I've carried it up a 9 mile hill (and 3000 vertical feet) to launch a few times already, and I've been able to keep up a great pace!  Not to mention being able to fit my pack into small places after flying down here in Colombia (taxis, buses, motorcycles, etc!)

I'm carrying it all with Ozone's 62 L backpack, which is barely enough room to fit in this harness,
Hiking up to launch with everything on my back.  
helmet, reserve and wing. (I'm using the standard foam in the harness rather than the lightweight stuff for training).   If I sit on it and stuff it in, I can get the zipper closed.  Which makes it a perfect fit.  There's plenty of pockets on the outside of the pack for water bottles, snacks, etc.    I even snug my trekking poles on the elastic strap and I'm good to go.

But it's not enough that it's light and small and I can carry it up a hill.  Can I fly it and will it work for me?   And that's a YES to everything.   I'll start with the harness, which I love.  The Ozium is similar to the Advance Lightness, which I liked except for the fact that I had to have a front mount reserve.  With the Ozium, I can mount my reserve underneath (see red handle in photos), and not worry about it.  I like the harness for the fit as well...right out of the box it was really comfortable and I haven't adjusted anything.   Yesterday I had a 5 1/2 hour flight in the Ozium, and never got stiff.  In fact, I've just flown 17 hours in 4 days, and it felt comfortable the whole time!   I have added a bungy cord to the pod (connected to my shoe) for getting into the pod easier after launch.   It's a definite must so you're not kicking around looking for the footbox while hanging in the harness. The speed system seems to push pretty easily and with one rung I can go to either 1/2 or 3/4 speed bar.

Lightweight harness or not, there is still a small deck, which I am easily able to adjust to see my GPS screens.  I love the side pockets for radio and camera, and there is enough room in the storage areas for extras...I hate having to cram everything in and the Ozium has plenty of room.  As long as you don't bring the kitchen sink.  I think even a Vol Biv would be possible if you are very good at packing your kit into small spaces.

As for the wing, I love the Alpina 2 as much as I love the Delta 2.  I can't really tell the difference between the two wings in the way they fly, which is fine with me as I am flying great in both of them.

My first 3 flights in the Alpina were 68 km, 72 km and 84 km....I think those numbers speak for the
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mselves!   Check out my flights on XContest for the 9th, 11th and 12th of February :)    My first flight, I got rained on a little bit right out of launch, and thermal'd up next to a rainstorm (Kids, do not try this at home....Colombia is a special place to fly).   Check out the cool photos below of flying near this rainstorm!   The rain (ok, sprinkles)  didn't seem to affect the handling, although since the weather wasn't very good I almost landed.   What got me hooked into a thermal only 100 meters off the ground was the thought that I didn't want to have a first flight in the Alpina 2 and land with my wing all wet :(    I was able to get back up, fly away from the rain, and have a really nice day of flying with Jim in his new Delta 2.   Matt Beechinor was kind enough to come along as well, and provide us with some really cool photos!

My first flight in the Alpina 2....with some gentle rainstorms in the background!
I added the tiger tail to the zipper pull, don't worry that's not standard :)
Jim flying his new Delta 2 in front in front of the rainstorm...
....Believe it or not, this was the view looking the other direction from the rain in the mountains!
Photos (aside from selfies) taken by Matt Beechinor

February 16, 2015

Flying with Red Bull!

I've had some big flying days this week (and month) but today topped it all.  Today was my 4th time of hiking the 9 miles up with my lightweight Ozone kit.   It still feels really light...almost like hiking with no pack at all.  Perhaps I'm getting in shape?

There was a south wind in the valley, so I went north.  Very good choice.  Base was higher today,
Thermaling in the cloud
and after making the first big crossing, I thermaled up into some clouds, then got to fly straight for at least 20 km.  I was cloud surfing at 2400 meters...legal in Colombia, scary anywhere else!   It's still a little disorienting...after I while I think I'm turning in circles when I'm really going straight.  It's hard to believe the compass on my GPS but my eyes are glued to it because nothing else is visible!

Ahead of me near Ansermonuevo were a couple of pilots, so I decided to catch up to them.  They led me a merry chase for a while, it was actually difficult to get up to them.   When I caught them, I realized why...it was the Red Bull posse flying from Cali to Medellin!  I'd thought of joining them (they offered) but decided I could get more flying every day from Roldanillo.   But, I'd been following their progress via online tracking.  For 2 days the North wind had stifled their attempts, but today it was finally on to go north.   I introduced myself to Tom de Dorledot in the air (HI, I'M DAWN!), (HI, I'M TOM!).  I guess you could say we did a wingshake.    Actually I kept looking down at their wings, thinking..."That's what mine will look like in the Red Bull X-Alps!"

I thermaled and stayed with them for about 30 km.  It was actually pretty easy to stay up with them on glides...I'm not sure what wing they were flying but the Alpina 2 kept me right there with everyone!  Near the end of the narrowing valley, we crossed and got on the high ridge above the Risaralda launch site.  That's about 80 km north of where I launched btw!  At that point, I let them continue without me to the north while I turned back south to try to make it back home.  We were actually driving to Medellin the next day...unfortunately I hadn't packed yet or I would have just had Jim bring my luggage so I could have kept flying north!  

But it was pretty easy to go south, too...at least from where I was at 2900 meters...screaming high!   More cloud surfing kept me pretty high for a long ways until the ridge gave out.   Then it was time to check the map on my iPhone to see exactly where I was.   The hills kinda gave out for a while, and I think my energy was too... I landed in a cow pasture near a gas station....thankfully so I could get some snacks and water for the bus trip home.   I shared the bus with a lot of passengers, 4 dogs, and a pet bunny rabbit.

Here's my track log:  http://www.xc-hikeandfly.com/flight/1210

Thermaling with Tom de Dorledot and the Red Bull crew
Still in the clouds, very high

City on a ridge top...I think it's nice up there, a lot cooler than down in the valley!

February 15, 2015

Red Bull X-Alps Route Revealed....

...On March 19th.

I know, I can't wait that long either!    I am training, hiking, and flying as much as I can, but until I know the turn points for the race, I can't really start planning route.

Be sure to tune in https://www.facebook.com/redbullxalps on March 19th to see where we will be headed starting July 5th!   Then the true strategizing will begin....

February 14, 2015

Hike and Fly with the Ozone Alpina 2!

Matt, Dawn and Jim....Flying with the crazy socks!
My third time carrying my wing up the hill was a charm.   Jim, Matt Beechinor and I were still trying to break the FAI Triangle record here in Colombia.  But really, we were trying to force a flight plan the weather wasn't suited for.   After butting into the wind for 20 km or so, I lost everyone and decided to turn and run with the wind.   Sometimes it's just time for a new plan.

The mountains were really ratty, so I finally found my way out to the flats and headed south.   There were people in the sky here and there to show me some thermals, so I had it pretty easy.   Then the wind seemed to turn back north again!  That made it an easy choice to go back home, and save the bus ride for another day.  I got really high, so much I was cold (that doesn't happen very often in Colombia), and I landed pretty much in the front yard of the hotel.    After 5 1/2 hours and about 80 km.   That was good enough for an even bigger overall lead on the XC Hike and Fly website.  http://www.xc-hikeandfly.com.  I'm sure that will last until the skies get nice in Europe....

Here's my flight log:  http://www.xc-hikeandfly.com/flight/1196

My Alpina 2 near the village of Zarzal, Colombia
Matt Beechinor high over La Union