Across Himalaya: The 2009 Challenge
Welcome to The Himalayas
3 main ridges cover more than 2400 km of mountain. Imagine endless snowcapped peaks, undiscovered silent valleys, breathtaking landscapes, mythical vibrations and hiding yetis. The Himalayas (the name is derived from Sanskrit, meaning the Abode Of Snow), is without question one of India’s most stunning natural treasures. The range extends from west to east in a massive arc for about 2500 kilometers. Passing through the Indian States of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, the mountain system is the highest on the planet. From ancient times this geographic wonder has irresistibly drawn man into magical interactions that have repeatedly broken barriers; both spiritual and physical. By its sheer grandeur, these mountains have compelled man to acknowledge the infinity of pure spirit and stretch the limits of human endurance. Early travelers and pilgrims of the famous Silk Road planted their feet firmly on the ground and believed that only initiated monks and birds could fly.
Across Himalaya is an ambitious 5 year project aimed at flying a virgin route across the 2400km Himalayan mountain range. The challenge aims to begin in India, then cross over into Nepal and Bhutan, to finish in India at Arunachal Pradesh.
The 2009 Across Himalayan challenge (First leg: route through India, ending at the Nepal border) was successfully completed by 7 pilots from 4 countries over 10 days. The 2010 event aims to grow to include 15 international pilots flying though India and Nepal, over a period of 20 to 25 days, tracing the the safest route possible.
Fly Himalaya, in a unique celebration of the oneness of the human spirit will have professional pilots fly a 1200 to 1400 km route across the range. The expedition is expected to stretch over a period of 25 days, but is subject to weather conditions. Flying from mid altitude to high Himalayan atmosphere peaks going up to 7800 m,Nanda devi and Dhaulagiri 8167 m.these exceptionally talented pilots will collectively take off from Patni Top (2200 m ASL) situated in Jammu & Kashmir and proceed to Sikkim on through to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand and Nepal . The connection will be done from peak to peak through bivouac flying and participants will proceed on foot only were necessary
Across Himalaya 2009 Newsâ€‹
April 5th 2009
7 pilots from India, Czek Republic, France and America are making the final adjustments before jumping on the plane headed for Delhi. One could imagine that the Across Himalaya challenge has begun for them. How does one pack Gliders, radios, GPS, camping material and winter clothing in less than 20 kgs? We wish them
good luck and a safe journey to India!
April 5th 2009
Everyone is in India!!! A nice Delhi discovery for the French and Czeck pilots, for most of them it’s a first taste of India! Before they get to the pure Himalayan air, they have to sample a little journey through adventurous city roads… walking between rickshaws, meandering holy cows and chai wallas! For the rest of the team, the foot of the Himalayas welcomes them with mellow spring weather. Adie is a million places at once to ensure all the details and routes will work. Brad arrived on road from Nepal with a Royal Enfield ready to forget the crazy bumpy Indian roads with some smooth fly action. Eric from California looks forward to stretching his legs on the ground. Bir in Himachal Pradesh, a quaint village marrying Hindu and Tibetan Culture gives them the opportunity to adjust their flying gear before the expedition. It’s a herculean task to stash supplies for 3 days into the harness. Tents, sleeping bags, food and all the technology requested. The Expedition spirit is really going now, aren’t we in the country of detachment teaching? As the famous Buddhist proverb says: “The Journey is a return to essential” They look like kids. Like when in school, preparing for that first summer camp. You spent days and nights trying to remember not to forget all the necessities. With an equally eager mother coming up with all the ideas from her own personal CIA resources… on your back reminding you with so much compassion “ Don’t forget this, take that, and this, Oh la la and that I heard is brilliant etc...” Today, I can’t stop smiling hearing them talking about all THE perfect things to do for every conceivable detail: for light, to purify water, the best homemade bag etc... They are real boy scouts with a healthy sense of adventure. Such a pleasure to see their faces light up; their eyes like fireworks on a holiday! You can almost read what is happening inside their mind, feel their blood bubbling at the beginning of their dream realization. It’s an amazing energy, almost as strong as thermic!
April 6th 2009
Pilots from Delhi will take the night train to Jammu, while the Bir team will start at 4 am on road to Jammu to meet them! We are looking forward to fill you in on details and the hot news of the Expedition!!!! May all the pilots have a safe Journey in the air.... The blessing of the Lama are protecting all of them. . Team reached udhampur and recieved warm welcome by J&K Govt.
Day 1: April 8th: Patni Top J&K
This day become a “Rest day ”, bad? No, bed! No wonder, the earth is getting generously hydrated, the clouds are playing with shapes of mountains and thunders are reminding humans how all is just vibrations! Mother Earth wishes all to get some proper rest and keep them in her warm hands turned into sleeping bags.
Some pilots have been sleeping all day, all night, all the time, others prefer eating all the “surviving” portion while the rest are zipping liters of Chai. For sure, these are already 3 world records! What a day.
Day 2: April 9th: Patni Top J&K – Khajiar HP
The team decides to take the road to the next leg, upper Dalhousie in the State of Himachal Pradesh. The road is spectacular, beauty of Himalaya slowly undress in front of our eyes… they all dream of touching the peaks with their feet. Instead, reality is nice laughs in the jeeps on Panjabi beats, lots of humor with the presence of Czech Mr. Bean (David ) and a few flat tires! Incredible India! However weather played foul for three four days and also there were safety concerns on proposed route so team decided to move slightly south east and start expedition from Jot pass which connects Kangra valley with Chamba valley.
Day 3: April 10 Khajiar Jot pass– to Bir/Billing 80 km.
Today is like on of these days, you don’t need to open you eyes to feel the air calling you, the sky is singing so loud that you can’t stay 1 minute more in the bed. From the balcony, I can hear all the pilots in the starting blocks. Nice breakfast at the mini Switzerland Hill Station where the local pilots are doing short tandem between horses, cows, plastic balls of huge proportion and a tiny lake!
“Challo Challo Challoooooooooooo” call the drivers!!! Time to reach the take off, in 20 minutes ONLY! “Tikey tikey” we all answer and there we go, more than an hour later at the fabulous take off. The view is just amazing. We have strait wind on the face after preparation Adie took off first and Stephan (FR) just behind , we were able to find lift just few hundred meters in front on the next knob in no time we were at 3400 meters as we were climbing ,Eric and Max took off but they did not find any good lift on the same place soon David and Stepan (CZ) also join them and still they were turning in zero s or few turns up and down again ,I was watching them and a voice in my head said they will find some thing for sure and I saw Stephane(FR) start to glide to next ridge .We fly about 15 km in 2 groups before we join again and flew together onwards , As we started bit late day was running short , after Dharmshala I knew the way So I start to push in front and speed up a bit so we can make it to Bir but at palampur about 20 km to Bir it was bit tricky to climb Max, Stephane(FR) and Eric got a good climb and went back to higher peaks ,after flying a bit at same place I glide to next knob too on the back side as I knew it work most of the time even late if you are just high enough to be there and it worked ,soon Max, Eric and Stephan join me there . Stepan (CZ) and David try to fly more in the front which was not a good choice that time of the day finally 4 of us made it to Billing take off and then to Bir village, Brad landed 3km short to Bir and both Czechs landed about7 km short , as we were packing our gliders ,they all arrived by car ,as we knew we can go up by car to take off next day to start we stayed in the Bir Village this night to sleep one more day in bed before enjoying the luxury of camping .
Day 4 April 11: Billing to Prashar Lake 50 Km
After breakfast around 10am, we were en route to the take off at Bir. But as the Indian army was running an Army competition there was a long line of pilot waiting on takeoff, And seeing the higher take off almost empty, we opted for the 5 minute walk up there instead. Conditions looked good and I suggest we set Rampur (140 km) as the days goal and then consider progress at around 4.00 or 4.30 p.m when we would start looking for a place to stop.
Day 5: April 12: Prashar Lake to Rohru86 Km/Hat Kothi 96 Km
In the morning Naresh ,Arvind and Hardev came up with fruits and chai. After breakfast we plan for the day. There were high clouds sitting south from us in the sky. We waited a bit until the sun began its magic and the birds began to climb and play.
I was the first to start with Brad and the rest of the team getting air borne quicker than other days. The first pass to the next point looked a bit tricky. A big lake with a dam sat right below in the bottom of the valley. We waited until we all climbed to 3000 meters before crossing but Brad got stuck and landed shortly after crossing. While the retrieve team moved to pick him up, the rest of us managed to climb and keep flying towards Rampur .As the sun climbed higher the day started to get better too and we began to climb up to 4500 meters. Trying to fly together made slow going, as time to time few found good climbs to cloud base and a few needed more time to get higher. I wanted to fly north to get more height but saw few OD and shavers of rain in that direction and so remained in the direction we were going. Around 4 o’clock I found that my radio ran out of battery. I shouted to Eric waving my radio so he could understand. We knew about the big transition in the Rampur valley as we had discussed it earlier and soon we were there high enough. Crossing Max, Steph(FR) and Eric took a good line. Stepane(CZ) was a bit low, so he went to a big slope in the wind more to the left and I stayed with him and David. As it was drifting too much with wind there I pushed forward to next knob more to the south where I saw Eric climb earlier. Stephane (Fr) was already high and as I got there in few minutes I was high together with Eric but we still had to wait for David and Stepane (CZ). A bit low right below us. We went further on the course line keeping an eye on both of them .
Eric and I drifted more than climbed in next thermal and Eric decided to go more to the north. I saw Max and Stephan going east to course line as they both were much higher than I. I however decided to fly with Eric. We found thermals one after the other but none with climb more than a few hundred meters. I saw the town of Rohru to the right of us as the day was drawing to a close. Being out of battery I decided to land at the football field in Rohru town. Eric was trying to find a place to top land when I saw David and Stepane(CZ) also coming and flying away low to the next valley .
I called Anita and Anna on the mobile to let both cars know where we were and to check if they had any news from Max and Stephane(FR). After a while I got a message from Anna confirming both top landed about 10 Km south east from us .As I knew the rest of the pilots were close to me (except the French) it was best idea to meet . After packing I took a room in a small motel in town, close to the bus station. Eric confirmed on phone that he landed in the bottom too, a few kilometers to the north. I asked him to look for CZ as they should be somewhere nearby. I also asked him to pass the phone to a local person so I can give directions in Hindi to help Eric and CZ pilots to reach Rohru. Luckily the local on the phone had a car and was happy to drop Eric to the motel and try to help find the CZ’s too. Perfect!! I booked few more rooms so all of us could stay together and after a good shower I put my head to the map trying to find a place for launch tomorrow morning. After an hour or so Eric and both the CZ arrived. Both the cars were still on the way (about 30 km from us) but it took them more than 3 hr to reach us, as roads were in pretty bad shape .They arrived around one o’clock tired and hungry and finding no open restaurant or shop to eat, they ate nuts and dry food to survive the night .
Equipment however, was in the car, so I could charge my radio and use the computer to look at Google earth to check where Max and Stephane were. ..if it was reachable by road or foot and for other options which Eric saw before landing .We could not find any promising take off after looking at the map and post talking to locals we figured it was more like taking a risk. We then sent a message to Max to check if he thought we could start somewhere lower from the same hill. We went to bed then as everyone was tired and we decided to think it through in the morning. It will be an early start at 7 am.
Brad was the first to launch today and I was next a few minutes later .I climb 400/500 meters in front of the take off in the house thermal as it was still no significant climb in the front and I then went on to the next ridge to find better climb toward the east ( in the direction we were going) rather than going back to north as the rest of the pilots flying around. As expected I found a good thermal going up to 3100 meter and as I was still alone, I went back to the higher peak and waited for a bit until Debu joined me there with Max. Debu took good climb and glided towards the east while Max and I remained as we waited for the group to join us. Soon Brad and Stepan (CZ) arrived and together we headed east before we could jump to the higher peaks behind. After a few kilometers we saw Debu coming back and we wave to each other. A few more kilometers and we heard Stephan and David on the radio and they were not far behind. So we waited until everyone joined the same thermal and were high enough to jump behind to the higher valley. We all decided to cross the valley from that point which was only 3 or 4 km away but here we did not have a good landing option at the bottom of the valleys. However, fortune smiled on us and as we approached the next hill we found a good thermal climbing till 3800mts.
We saw high clouds rapidly covering the sky from the north and soon it was overcast. Bard and Eric were in next valley trying to get a good climb and that valley was in the shade. We watched Brad climbing and we proceeded to join him, except for David and Stepan (CZ) who got a tad bit stuck. Sure in the knowledge that the sun would soon hit the ground and they would be able to climb again ,we kept going progressively onwards and attempted to keep in contact with both via radio. From time to time we heard them talking in CZ ,so without a clue as to where exactly they were, we decided to top land 50 kms ahead at a perfect place. Max was the first to top land while the rest of us still enjoyed flying around with Himalayan Griffin Vultures and taking some pictures for posterity. I saw the lake and Temple below us, Wow we are at Paraser lake. I try to talk to our ground crew and they reply that they saw us flying over and they can see both the Czech coming from a distance too. Perfect!! I ask them to start driving to come and join us.
I talked to Stephan and explained our coordinates and after few minutes we can see them flying towards us. After they top landed, we pick a nice spot to make camp and Max and Stephan were keen on a fire. As the sun went down we could see a few more camp fires in the distance on few of the other peaks towards the north. We could see the great Himalayan snow peaks of Ladakh and beyond sitting tall and proud… shimmering in the last light of day. As the sun set, the view took on a surrealistic quality and we could feel the peace and joy in every bodies face as they watched and tried to capture the moment in pictures.
I heard Naresh on the radio after a while asking us who like to come down for dinner!!! Wow, wonder of wonders there was a small shop next to the temple where they prepared food for everyone. Few of us went down to eat and the rest remained on top. After dinner Anita and Anna also came up to spend the night with us at camp, on the way they bought a few beers for a small party on the top. Wohoooooooo Stephan and David were amazed and totally happy. We sat around the fire before we went to bed under the big blanket of mother nature. A million dancing stars watching us from the sky in the moon light.
Day 6: April 13 Rohru Hatkothi to Naogaun 42 Km/Heltari 35 Km
Sleep did not come easy with thoughts of the next days launch. At 6.30 the team was up and tea and breakfast was to go. We received a message from Max that morning confirming that they could see a road about 500 or 600 meters below them and few empty field’s in the way. Looking again at Google earth and the map we dicided to go to join the French team. Better the devil you know…..
It took us about 1 hour to reach bottom of the hill and another 2 hours to drive up, simultaneously we were on the radio with Max trying to locate exactly where they were and we were already pushing 11.30am. With not enough time to walk all the way up to join them, we start to look for a alternative launch spot by walking in 2 groups. Brad and Eric went more towards the west as Max told us they already have strong west wind up there. Stepane (CZ) and David waited mid way and I saw an empty field facing south ,not too big but it could work, right above us about 100 meter higher. I asked Arvind to have a look, in few minutes I could see Arvind making a ok hand signal. I asked Brad if they could find any good spot where they scouted…”Nothing” replied Brad ..ok then lets regroup we might have found a small but serviceable spot.
I saw a few vultures climbing a little ahead, in the front more to west of us but still no cumulus clouds. “ Huh I thought it should work we have good wind on the face birds were climbing high too”. Brad was prepared and eager to fly today after yesterday’s trip sitting in the car. I launched with Brad just after me. I found a week 1mtr or less lift and hoped that it will be rocketing up high but instead it only turned 50 mts and then turned 0. I decided to try toward the west where the birds were climbing earlier and found zilch…nada…nothing but strong east wind low and bombed out in the bottom of the valley….. shiitttttttttt !!!!! Brad bombed out too after trying more towards the east face, Stepane (CZ) was also flew with same result but he landed few hundred meters lower than the next road ….good choice!!! I ask Naresh on the radio to come down and pick up Brad on the way.
Meanwhile Eric and David took off and climb pretty easy. Max and Steph too. One of those days when you know you don’t want to make a mistake and you do ….we started too early for sure.
Eric proposes on the radio that we should try to fly again and that they will fly slowly and wait along the way. Why not…everyone agrees !!! As it was already 1.30pm, I asked few people if they can find me a taxi or car to drive up or at least to bottom of the hill as I was other side of the river about 2 or 3 km away from starting point. I do get one.
Naresh arrived with Brad and Stepane(CZ) and we drive back in a rush hoping we will manage to start again on time. On the way I start looking for another start point next to the road as the wind was stronger now on the face.
Naresh however stopped the car… we had a flat tire !!! A unanimous “ NO!!!” and a deadpan faced Naresh says “yes” . Ok then let’s do it. Brad and I helped Naresh to change the tire and in less than 5 minutes we were driving again.
Having limited time, we look for another take off and find one on a cliff 20 meters higher than the road. Stepane (CZ) decided not to fly as he was not comfortable with the spot and Brad and I prepared quickly and took off in a few minutes. After ridge soaring for more than 10 minutes, we manage to climb to cloud base and flew 35km before we landed at Haltari Village 15 km north from Eric, Max and Stephan.
As we could not climb high enough at the end of the day to top land above Haltari village we ended up at 3100mts and the tree line went up to 3400 Mts or little more. So we hoofed about an hour or more before calling it a night in order to shorten the distance for the next day with the help of kailash and Deep Singh from Heltari.
The people from the village wanted us to stay and leave the next morning but Brad and I both chose to walk instead in order to assure an early start. David decided to land and join Stepane (CZ) in the car. Both of them came to India not only for flying but also to document the trip.They worked together as Documentary film professionals in Czech.
Day 7: April 14 Naogaun /Heltari to Guthu 76 km
Kailash and Deep Singh woke us up around 5.30am. They were so excited to help and guide us that they forgot to bring food and sleeping gear for themselves.But it was no big issue and we share our food and soup with them and they slept inside the wooden shelter close to the fire. But I guess it was not easy for them to sleep, I could hear them talking much earlier than 5.30. And it turned out that we were really glad to have them with us as they knew the way to the top and also the places where we could find water to drink. It was almost 11 when we emerged from the forest onto open ground, albeit on the south west face. But as the day heated up, thermals would develop on the face, so we decided to stop walking and prepare a further 50 meters higher, on a nice empty field, high enough from the tree line to be safe to launch .|
We waited until we saw cumulus developing around and until we could feel the thermals with wind coming up strong enough to stay high. Brad sent a message to the ground crew and to Eric with the others waiting on another hill 20 km south of us. He signaled the launch and instructions to fly towards way point number T18 pass at Uttarkashi (about 90 km) ahead. As we were high we could start a bit earlier than the other group. After launch at around 1 o’clock we were both circling under cloud base pretty quick. Brad communicated with Eric as we headed towards the next hill. This day cloud base was about 5000 meters and we both flew pretty high all the way except for a few times when after a long transition we arrived a bit low at the next hill but still above 3000 meters, high enough to find next thermal easily. After 50 km we had to change our direction to the south as cloud base was lower and it was not possible to fly in a straight line towards the course. We received news that Eric and the others had top landed 17 km before T18. We were about 25 km from T 18. After a few minutes they could see us flying and indicated they were at the top of the next hill with a white temple. Easy to find and we both landed and rejoined the group. We both carried extra food supplies for the group. Max and Stephan had been camping for the last 3 days in the row and were short on supplies. We sent a message to the supporting team about our position and where it would be possible for Czech’s to take off the next day with GPS coordinates. Satish told me he had used a place en route, to hang glide years ago !!
Day 8: April 15 Nag Devta Temple to Guthu village 10 km
A lovely, sunny day in the morning. Soon the sun was shining high over the snow peaks and us. We could see some rain in the distance towards the north and some over development to the west, but east looked nice and clear, as if nature was pointing us a way towards our goal. I walk around in search of water for about an hour or so but found nothing.
We looked at the map for the next point to target today…a place where we could meet the ground team as our food supplies and water was fast depleting. Brad pointed a place close to Turn point 19. A place he had been to a few years ago with a road close by and few small hotels too.
So we send a message to the supporting team asking one car to drive towards T 19 and another to stay and ensure that the Cz’s could come over as well.
Around 10am we could heard Stepane (CZ) on the radio… both CZ7s were walking to the top to lanch from the hill that Satish had given coordinates for.
Naresh and Anna were in another car that drove almost all night to go ahead of us. We were very pleased to hear them on the radio. As the day wore on, we could feel the wind picking up slowly. Around 1pm we were ready to start….but the CZ’s were still walking. Confuse and tired towards the unknown takeoff??
Brad launched first, Eric was next followed by Stepane and myself. Max took off last as he was helping us launch. Brad was already flying onto the next hill as we were trying to find stronger lift to climb. But it was blue thermals with strong wind and a bit bumpy air as well today. After some time we heard Brad top landed. I could see him on the next hill as we crossed the next valley…and forest fires. I stayed high and waited for everyone to start together.
A really funny day. We were still flying in next valley for almost an hour or so. At one point Eric was stuck low and as soon as he could climb we lost sight of Stephane. Max and Eric flew more towards the south and got stuck again really low this time but they managed to climb again and at the same time I saw Stephane flying towards us.
With no battery in my first radio, I could only communicate with Max with my sub radio. All of a sudden Stephane started to do acro and lose altitude. I was not sure what was up and then I heard Max on radio saying Eric saw road going to the top. Maybe we could land at the bottom of the valley as Brad also decide to walk down rather than fly in the strong wind conditions. 4 of us landed at Guthu Village and Brad walk down to the next valley to the east.
A big group of people and kids surrounded us and wanting to know how did we end up there. With a million questions about our gear, where will we headed blah blah … It was surprising for us as few local told me that it is second time they see a paraglider here. We knew very few people had flown this part of the world. It had to be Bob Drury and John Silvester .
After packing our glider we walked to the village. I found a telephone and called Anita and explained our position and the place that both the CZ’s were at after they gave up post a 4 hr walk. No trace of take off in sight.
Naresh and Anna was further ahead on the way so I asked them to look for Brad and stay in the front for next day. Anita and the CZ with Vijay drove to join us. I found only one hotel with one empty room. All the other rooms were occupied by a Dam company working there on contract to built a new Dam. Having no other option I asked the care taker of the hotel if we can sleep on the roof and use one room for shower and our things to store. He was very friendly and helpful. I also asked him if he knew where the paragliding pilots launched the last time around. I also asked him to find few mules to carry our gliders to the top for tomorrow.
Anita and the rest of the team arrived around 8 o’clock and we all have dinner together at the small shop near bus station: rice, chapati and beans with vegetables. Simple but it was a pleasure to eat something fresh. Something other than packed food and nuts. Everyone was happy to have a shower before sleeping and tried to find electric points to charge every single thing possible… radios, cameras, GPS, telephones.
Upon requesting the staff from the Dam company, we ended up using every available point for charging and internet connectivity : ) ..
Day 9: April 16
After a good nights sleep we were all excited about the day. Vijay went to the village to find a place for breakfast. We wait for the requested mule at the hotel and after breakfast we still have to wait for the animal to arrive. It took another 3 or 4 hours before we could sort everything and start the walk up. It was first time gliders were strapped to the mule but we managed just fine after experimenting with a few different loading methods. The CZ’s took the opportunity to take pictures and video around the village.
Finally after an hour of legging it, we were at the top. Wind was coming in from the south /south west and it was more clear towards the east face than the west and south. We needed to clear some of the brush and it took us close to an hour to create a space clear enough for launch. Stephane (FR) took off first but after trying for few minutes he was on the ground pretty fast. It was almost 300 p.m so we decide to wait until the next day and camp there.
Anita and Vijay returned to pick up Stephane from where he landed. A school teacher from the village offered us a place to stay at the school for the night and to join him for dinner. We were happy to camp and sleep outside but it seemed like it was going to rain and we might have need for shelter. We request him to leave the key with us and we could use it if needed. To which he readily agreed and further offered to bring provisions up and cook at camp. Amazing person, we had to force him to accept money. At least to cover the cost of the food bought.
The team was busy talking and taking pictures with locals. David was fascinated by the local girls who he captured with his camera, video camera and very special gesture talk interspersed with a few words of English. It certainly looked like language was definitely not a barrier if one really wanted to communicate!! And this despite the fact that previously he was lying down on the ground a bit sick. Right then he looked full of energy and power while chatting and taking pictures.
We receive a message from Brad that he took a bus ride and joined Anna and Nareshafter which they drove to Chopta (Chamol), so he could fly from there the next day.
Day 10 : April 17 Guthu to Bedni Bugyal 95 Km
Our wake up call was sounded by the teacher who indicated that breakfast was ready and that he had to leave but he would return by 11 to watch the launch. We received a message from Brad that he was close to Chopta and he would be able to fly today for sure. I suggest we should fly to Bedani Bugyal and top land there as it is at high altitude and almost mid distance on our route. If all goes well, we will have a good position for the coming day. A start close to Trishul and Nanda Devi, the highest peaks.
We waited until 2 o clock, as it was still blue thermals around us and we could not see any cumulus forming around. Max and Stephane took of first and Stepan (CZ) after them. They found no significant lift and were maintaining ridge soaring at the same place.
After a while Stepan (CZ) ducked down to ground but David ,Eric and Max could find a good lift which took them above the ridge. I took off last and joined Stephane (FR) and finally after struggling for a while, we climb too. We wait for next thermal to climb further but it was not climbing more than 2900 meters. We all flew back to the hill were we camped 2 days ago and climbed there to 4000 meters before we could start towards the next valley cross. Max and Stephane (FR) were flying together ahead and Eric and I were behind them. Anita picked up Stepan (CZ) as he did not want to try again and they started by road to Badni Bugyal . We could see lots of forest fires and because of the smoke we did not have good visibility around us. After 30 km or so we were in a thermal behind Max and Stephane. Max told us it was not climbing good enough on this route and suggested we should try to fly towards the north to higher peaks .Eric glided towards north to change direction. I saw David little bit lower behind him and decide to wait for him. It took a while and he was going forward and backward but still could not climb high enough to cross to next valley. The next thing I saw him gliding back more to east . I lost sight of all the others and flew towards the smoke and climbed around 2800meters and keep gliding towards our goal. In the next valley I got low but manage to climb back to 2900 when I saw David flying over much higher than me. It took me some time before I could climb high over the peak where I was flying .At the end of the day I made a mistake and landed 17 km short to Badni Bugyal. Before I landed I could talk to Anna and Naresh on the radio and give them my position . I decide to land high near a small village at 2400 meter as I could not see any safe landing in the bottom of the valley.
More than 50 people surrounded me in absolutely no time. It was first time for them to see a paraglider. After a few pictures with everyone and a bit of explanation with reference to the glider and myself, I asked them for the closest road and how long I needed to walk to get there. I found out later that Brad would join Eric and they flew together and top landed at Badni Bugayl. Max and Stephane (FR) landed lower at a small village close to Bedni Bugayal and asked villagers to place a call to aresh or the supporting team.
The villagers were a bit worried and terrified at seeing 2 foreigners decending from the sky in the paraglider. Naresh explained the expedition and asked them to help Max and Stephane for the night and the next day if they needed something. David !!! still no news from him.
It took me about one hour to walk down to the road and another 20 minutes or so before Naresh and Anna could come by with the car to pick me up. I asked Naresh how long we need to reach Badni, it was about 58 km on road and 14 km by walk from there to the top. We stop for dinner and drove more than 6 hours before we stop again because of a flat tire on the road around 4 o’clock. We decided to sleep a bit in the car before changing the tire. I could not sleep. Too excited, a bit tired, a bit frustrated from yesterday’s flight and worried about today’s flight. I did not want to halt the expedition..
Day 11 : April 18 Bedni Bugyal to Pithoragarh 72 Km
Its an early start at 5:30 am. After changing the tyre we start the drive and a after few kilometers we could hear Stepan (CZ) calling for David and we join up after over an hour. We asked the locals for David. A few kids confirm they saw one glider landing nearby and flew again and landed the other side of the valley, we guess it had to David. Naresh found a sherpa for me to carry my glider and to show me the way to the top. Although after seeing the guy I was like are you sure he can walk all the way with glider??
It was a difficult walk we start from 2100 meters climb 700 meters up, then 900 down and finally climb to 3400 Meter. On the way I could talk to David who was near me at a lower hill at 2800 meters ready to start from there. Max and Stephan were still at the village arranging a mule to carry their gliders to the top. Brad and Eric were at 3600 meter right above me.
After taking a short break and some fresh water from the spring nearby, I get my gear ready to fly the final day of our expedition. The view from there was just splendid and breathtaking, the sound of wind, the view of Trishul and Nanda Devi standing high and proud, glinting in the sun light with little puffy clouds forming above it. All I could hear was the sound of the wind and birds and feel the warmth of sun on my face. It made me forget about everything in the past. The walk, last nights drive, yesterday’s flight. Nothing was on my mind except for one thing. I want to fly!!!
As I prepare I wait for a low wind window to start as wind was blowing a bit strong. I saw Brad talking off just over me and then Eric. When I took off they were already on the way to the goal towards Pithoragarh. I fly around talking to Max on the radio They still need some time before they can launch. I climb to 5400 meters above the take off and 5700 on the way, I could see Brad in the distance but I flew under the cloud street, more to the south before I change again towards the east to join Eric in the same thermal about 30 km before the goal.
There were a lot of forest fires here as well. As we glide towards the next hill we could feel strong head wind from the east. Just before the hill we were trying to cross, Eric flew to the north towards a lower point of the hill and got really low. I found a good thermal but rather than climb, I was worried for Eric so I just keep circling keeping eye on him. He managed to climb high enough to fly back down wind and land at the village close to the river. I was still at 3000 meter but as visibility was really poor and I was alone I decided to land with Eric….. 17 km short to our goal.
During my flight I had lost my radio antenna so I could only hear people close to me. I was almost about to land when I heard Max on radio giving direction to Naresh about our position and soon Max and Stephane also landed at the same field where I was surrounded by a big crowd from the village around us.
Brad landed 8 km behind us. David flew twice but bombed out both times before they started out on road. We spent the night in a hotel at Nachani where Brad already booked a room for everyone.
I had to spend another few hours with police officials this night trying to explain our expedition and how it was legal to fly and land….but it’s a different story in India when it comes to permission and paper work for every single thing. Especially when it is not common and they have no clue about what to do. It was difficult and I won’t go into the details here.
In Over all we stopped 17 km short to our original goal, but all of us were glad and very happy with this trip and the experience of doing it together as a team…more like a family. Sharing the same dream from different angles and aspects. Contributing our knowledge, skills and the time to make it happen .
It was an18 hour drive to return to Delhi.
I would like to thank again each and every member of our team. A big thanks to our supporting team for all their help and the support provided at every step. When we need you, you guys were right there. Thanks again Anita, Anna, Naresh ,Vijay, Arvind, Hardev, Satish and Anita Mother. Thanks goes out to all the others who supported us during this trip and AxisPara for my sponsored glider for this expedition.
I cannot not stop thinking about the next trip and what it would be like to attempt it again. Going at it until we can fly over the complete range of the Himalayas. Connecting India, all the way over Nepal and Bhutan to finish again in India at Arunachal Pradesh.
The Across Himalaya’s next challenge will be conducted at the same time next year …flying over Nepal to finish at Sikkim, India (about 1400 km distance as the crow flies) over 20 days….providing nature and weather permit us.
Across Himalaya Pilots List 2009
Born in India and living now in Japan for almost 12 years. Adie started flying in 1998 in India and subsequently honed his skill in New Zealand and Australia. In 2003 Adie held the Indian Champion title and has been the Indian League champion for the last three years. An Axispara team pilot since 2005, Adie is one of the most experienced competition pilots in India. He was one of the very first Indian pilots to enter the international competitions arena where he placed within the top 50 pilots in world ranking, Organizer and assistant meet director for Pre world cup India in 2004 .Focused, experienced and also a spiritualist, Adie brings meditation and energy healing to team preparation.
Initiated into paragliding at the age of 14, Max went on to study engineering in Grenoble. He has worked as a test pilot with a few paragliding companies and is currently working with Kortel Design harness manufacturers. Max is a member of the French National Team and has been competing in World Championship and World Cup for the past 10 years. His accolades include 2nd overall ranking World Cup and 2nd place in the French League 2005. Max is more attracted to the cross country flying style and is an excellent acrobatic pilot in addition.
Stephane Drouin is from French Alps ,an paragliding instructor near Albertville in France.He has a big experience of cross country before he started to concentrate to take part in traditional international competition for last 5 past years.World cup pilot for 12 years
2008 results: 1st nation with French team in Europeans
4th in PWC Grindenwald
Brad started flying in February 2003 and in November of the same year started to travel internationally with a focus on paragliding. With over 400 hours of fly time clocked in the US and 9 other countries ( Thailand, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia and Brazil), Brad thinks that paragliding is an amazing way to see the world, interact with diverse cultures, make incredible friends and learn about himself. In May of 2007, in Pakistan, Brad decided to combine his love for travel and flying in a commercial way so that he could share the adventure with others. His goal is to provide an unforgettable but safe travel experience for anyone who would like to visit this beautiful country. Brad is the world record holder for the highest solo flight reaching an altitude of 7750 m and also the world record holder of the highest tandem flight, 6990m.
David Sachl David
David Sachl David (alias Jackal) is a professional photographer and cameraman. A graduate of the Film and Music Academy in Prague, David’s work (short films) has received numerous accolades at various film festivals. David works as an external documentarist for Czech television. David will participate and document the Fly Himalaya venture and also utilize a helicam (camera mounted on remote helicopter) to do so. From an early age, David loved to wander in the mountains of Transilvania and Romania with small groups of people, through which he felt he could appreciate humanity and friendliness. It was in Himachal Pradesh, India in the year 2001 that he stumbled upon paragliding and fell in love with it. Since then David has taken part in competition flying as well. Many of his aerial documentaries and pictures can be found on www.helicam.cz
I was born in 1976 in Prague, where I am living till now. I started flying in 1996 in Slovakia. From 2005 I am joining competitions such as national championships, national leage and few others. I am working as ICT administrator and we are running helicam business with David.
For more images of the 2009 trip go to Facebook: www.facebook.com/acrosshimalaya/