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Air

Nov 25, 2013

Paragliding 101

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WRITTEN BY

Murukesh Krishnan

Be a part of the flying community. The Outdoor Journal tells you how

Paragliding is an aerial adventure sport, where the pilot footlaunches and freeflies an inflatable fabric glider wing. The pilot is suspended below the wing, in a harness attached by suspension lines to the canopy. Air pressure into vents in front of the wing maintains the structure, and air flowing over it creates lift. Skilled pilots can soar using thermals, and fly long distances, or perform incredible aerobatic manoeuvres.

The Outdoor Journal and PG-Gurukul collaborated for a paragliding clinic from November 2 – 7 in Bir-Billing, Himachal Pradesh, northern India. With the sprawling Dhauladhar ranges (also known as The White Range for its limestone rock topography) in the backdrop and a mood of spirituality around, thanks to the Bir Tibetan Colony just 2kms away, the horde of foreign nationals flocking this small hill town around the year, isn’t surprising. What draws the paragliding community here is the elevation gain and favorable wind conditions that suit a para-flight. The location being chosen for the recently concluded Pre-World Cup Paragliding Championship shows the popularity of Bir as a free-flying hotspot.

Gurpreet Dhindsa, a BHPA (British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association) certified instructor and founder of the paragliding school PG-Gurukul, was the expert guiding the newbies. He has represented India at the Paragliding World Championships and World Cups in Russia, Turkey, Korea, Australia and many other countries. In his prime, he was ranked 120 in the world.

At The Outdoor Journal Paragliding Clinic, the aspiring free-fliers were all set for their P1+P2 certification course. Here’s what you’d have been doing if you were there:

Day 1 – Day 3

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TOJ Founder Apoorva Prasad ground-handling a glider, picking it up and off the ground to learn its behaviour, before actually launching off a hill.

The initial three days of the course were primarily on ground handling. The amateurs were told about the different components of the gliders, the linings, risers, breaks, harness and other attachments.

On day 1, you are told about the gliding equipment, it’s nomenclatures, design and other elements. Day 2 is all about inflating your canopy and stabilizing it with the wind flow and its directions. On day 3, if you’ve followed the instructions correctly and mastered the nitty-gritties of the trade, you get to do small hops on a tiny slope, giving you a few seconds in the air.

Getting into the details of it, you have to learn how to set up a canopy and the equipment, get yourself into position and then inflate the glider by pulling on the A-risers. As soon it inflates and is up, the pilot must drop the risers, stablize it sharply by damping the brakes and then running off the hill.

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Paragliding student Lorenzo Fornari learning to mushroom or rosette his glider.

For ground handling, that’s pretty much what you have to master. You have to be very comfortable with the way your canopy behaves with you, as once you’re in air, you can’t be clueless about what’s happening with your equipment.

Day 4 – Day 6

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Students setting up their glider before a flight.

After 3 days of intense training and technical know-how, you get your first solo flight on Day 4. You’re taken to a hillock at Dhelu, some 13kms from Bir. The flight takes you to a vertical elevation of 120 meters. During the shuttle, you’ll have two instructors – one at the take off and the other at the landing zone – giving you instructions on a walkie-talkie that’s strapped onto your harness. The idea of assisting you with a radio is to make sure you do as instructed. For instance – pick up the glider, make sure that’s it’s stable, etc.

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GPS coordinates from the first flight taken by Apoorva using a Suunto Ambit 2S watch with the ‘paragliding app’ – from www.movescount.com. A Google map of the first flight off Dhelu, taken from the Suunto Ambit 2S watch, via www.movescount.com.

If everything goes by the plan, the instructor gives a green signal and you take off. If, by any chance, you fail to get a proper launch, he’ll order you to stop and abort the launch.

Picking up the glider is a difficult technique to learn initially.

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A quick chat with Lorenzo Fornari, one of the students, after his first solo flight:

# How was your first flight? Does it fall in the ‘perfect first flight’ category?

Lorenzo: It wasn’t perfect technically but it met my expectations for the excitement and possible complexity as one would expect from a first time launch down a hill face littered with boulders and other obstacles that can lead to a very untimely trip to the local hospital. As for the flight itself, the launch was perfect, the thrill of flying was incredible, controlling the glider was as expected, the landing was a little rougher than expected. I sprained an ankle as I grazed a boulder upon touchdown. At least I didn’t hit any of the goats. Then again it would’ve possibly made the landing more comfortable. For me at least! So in the end it wasn’t perfect by far, but it was a hell of an experience.

# Was it tricky?

Lorenzo: Yes. There are lots of factors to keep in mind when learning to fly. Gravity, especially, is rather unforgiving and until further notice, unhealthy from a certain height. Gurpreet was a great and very patient instructor and after 3 days of quick launches, exercises and a tandem flight from the top of the mountain (scary as hell to be honest but then after made me even more determined to do the course) felt confident enough to do a first solo flight.

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First flight off Dhelu, the only beginner’s hill in Himachal for paragliding pilots training to fly off the bigger stuff.

# What went through your mind before/during your flight?
Lorenzo: Running and at the edge of the hill telling myself “Fly, you fool!!!”. Followed by “Oh my, I’m flying!!!!”. And in the end, “Good lord, how do I land this thing?!”

Image © Murukesh Krishnan | The Outdoor Journal

 

 

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Video

Dec 06, 2018

Film Review: Ode to Muir. A Snowboarding Movie, and an Important Covert Education

Lost in amazing scenery, and one of outdoor's great personalities. Prepare to learn, even if you won’t realize it’s happening.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Before we get to the movie itself, don’t be put off by the narration that you’ll hear in the trailer. It’s a tone that you might expect from the X-Factor announcer, or any movie trailer that starts off with, “In a world…” and it’s important to give you an incentive to push on, in case you might need it.

To answer the question that I suspect you have… yes, the same narration continues throughout the film. I know, it doesn’t seem like a good thing, but I have my own personal relationship to that voice. Something that develops as the film continues, and you recognize its purpose.

WHAT WERE WE EXPECTING FROM “ODE TO MUIR”?

The film is called “Ode to Muir”, so an education about John Muir and the John Muir Wilderness? Probably. Great scenery? Sure. Another awesome Jeremy Jones snowboarding video? Very likely! I was correct on 2 of 3 fronts.

“Price of admission: lots of calories”

In short, this is a nine day, 40 mile foot-powered trek through the Sierra Mountains, as two-time Olympian Elena Hight, and a guy introduced as the “Sierra Phantom” accompany Jeremy Jones deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness. The remoteness is exactly that, and it is earned. Jeremy takes joy in mentioning the “Price of admission: lots of calories”. His point is a good one, that this is something that we can all enjoy. Crest after crest, the views are stunning and beautifully shot (as you might expect from a Teton Gravity movie). Jeremy indulges himself in pointing across valleys, and announcing that they must make their way in that direction. By his own admission, he has spent a lifetime in the Sierra, and continues to see landscapes the first time. The outdoors is a big place. 

Of course, Jeremy Jones does not need any introduction. His snowboarding movies have adorned bookshelves around the world for decades now. This, however, was something different. It was something more important. There is less of an emphasis on the music, or even snowboarding (don’t expect death-defying descents here). Instead, you will find more of an emphasis on Jeremy, the landscape, and more than anything else, Jeremy’s message. This is propaganda, just the positive kind.

Ode to Muir is a little like trying to subtly slip the bad news into an everyday sentence using snowboarding to distract us. “Honey, have we got milk at home, I crashed the car, because my parents are coming around this evening”.

Note: Whilst this is not your typical snowboarding movie, I could still hear the customary Jeremy Jones’ oooohs and ahhhhs from those sat around me.

THE MESSAGE

Time is spent on recalling a bygone era, when politicians spent time in the outdoors, they appreciated them and fought for them. They sat around fires, and really experienced the outdoors, they didn’t just swing clubs at The Mar-a-Lago Club. This movie is a call to action, that we must do something now, but gives us hope, that things can be done correctly, with the attitude that we have seen in presidents past. 

The movie is interwoven with animations that paint an important, and scary picture with regards to the future of our climate and planet. Key messaging that continually remind you that this is not just a snowboarding movie. This is an education, but not algebra, the information is presented well, it sinks in and you immediately recognize the importance. You’re going to bring this up and discuss these newfound stats when you’re next hanging out with friends.

Whilst the animations play an informative role, Jeremy contextualizes them. He refers to the terrifying term “last descents”, the chilling concept that people are now doing things that might not be possible in subsequent years due to climate change. As someone who lives in the outdoors, Jeremy can see these detrimental changes in his everyday life, and of course, it means a great deal to him. He isn’t just using what he is, but who he is to pass on this important information. Not stood behind a podium, but communicating important information to us whilst he uses his skills, and the beautiful shots to hold our attention. Jeremy obviously loves what he does, but he now chooses to do what he has done for so long, in such a way that communicates an important message. It’s commendable. What’s more, this isn’t a one-off, Jeremy is the founder of “POW”, or “Protect Our Winters”, an initiative with a mission to turn passionate outdoor people into effective climate advocates.

Find out more about POW: Protect Our Winters.

Still, an important point is made, real change can unfortunately only be sparked in the wilderness. Walking up the mountain isn’t enough, we need to walk up to the White House, and up Capitol Hill too.

THE PERSONALITIES

“The older I get, the more I love my snow”

A great element of this movie is easy to miss, Olympian Elena Hight trying to understate her own abilities. Elena is, of course, a very accomplished snowboarder, she’s more than comfortable on the snow and her modesty with regards to split skiing wasn’t fooling anybody. It’s an attitude that is great to see, but will make your average Joe, with your average abilities (like me), smile. Her reservations regarding her own ability are not shared by anybody else. Nor were there any problems for Elena when it came to the descents. She’s awesome, and a great addition to the film.

Jeremy introduces the “Sierra Phantom” pretty quickly. In effect he’s presented in a way that you would describe what Mogli is to the jungle, “ he’s out there all day and you just see his tracks”. A brief appearance, but worthwhile. 

Elsewhere, there are laughs from those who are sat around me watching the movie, as Jeremy reaches the crest of ridge and summits alike. You might expect “f*ck, that was hard” or “Jesus, I need some air” but no, invariably you will only hear “Good job”, another “Good job”, or “The older I get, the more I love my snow”. As impressive as Jeremy’s attitude is, and of course, it’s due to his familiarity with something that he has done for so long, it is also the relaxed nature of those that that summit with him. You won’t hear them telling JJ to “shut up and pass me the water”, it’s all fist bumps!

The movie ends with JJ suggesting a moonlight ride, to “get the last bit out of it”; spare a thought for those that might have fancied an early night. You would really have felt for the production team, had it not been for the stunning shots caught under moonlight. As someone who can relate to these guys, they live for such shots, and wouldn’t have required much encouragement. Not that their skill shouldn’t be acknowledged, something special is happening behind the camera. Many of the shots are powerfully engaging, whilst the audio is picked up perfectly, regardless of powder being thrown around.

BACK TO THE NARRATION

Here’s the thing about the narration. What would the movie be without it? Whilst Jeremy brings credibility as someone who is acutely aware of “last descents”, John Muir’s words hold unparalleled sincerity that can only belong to a different time – a time when people were less cynical, and in this context, given that this is propaganda, a perspective from that time counts for something.

I had a relationship with that voice. So much so, that I almost felt apologetic by the end. In a way, the voice is synonymous with the film, you need to absorb the delivery in order to absorb the information. It was just harder to do so in comparison to appreciating fresh pow.

Who would I recommend the film to? People who like ski docs? People who care about the environment? Just general outdoorsy people? It’s of interest to each, they all cross-pollinate in a way that was definitely intended.

This is an important film to watch, it’s incredibly digestible, and it will raise awareness of important issues. It’s the kind of content that we need more of.

You can find more information, and a calendar of tour dates should you like to go and watch the movie for yourself here. We encourage you to do so.

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