Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

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! 

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