How to Paraglide Safely in the Mountains

so we’re here at Luchon. see what happens
when you know friends — things get a lot better! look at this place.
check out that view! there’s a little bird circling out in front of us, down there. wow! that’s what I came here
for. enough of that Foix nonsense, we’re doing
Luchon today. the 2 tandem pilots have just flown off down there. it’s light it’s sunny
it’s beautiful …. let’s fly! Let’s wait for a puff, make it easier, we’re in
no hurry. that’s what I’ve come here for! ahh, it feels so much better proper scenic flying yeah that’s the way
to end the year off. getting my little recharge of beauty.
oh those peaks in the background are just something else! looking good mr. brown! there are small little thermals because
the sun’s at my back these thermals are gonna be weak and the
most obvious place to go is sitting over there in the Sun. yeah cool man all right let’s take a look at what’s
going on here. you’ve got a main valley that’s the exit there leading out to the
plains that lead to Toulouse, those are the French flatlands there, that’s the
only entrance coming in here. that’s the only entrance into this valley and it
runs up it keeps going this direction and it leads up to the high peaks of the
Pyrenees that way. so you can expect that the mountains behind me are gonna be
warming up during the day creating lift and thermals and that movement of air is
gonna draw air up the valley and that’ll happen anywhere you have this sort of a
valley system. we’ve got one Valley pulling leading up towards that heat
pump behind you. adding to this effect you’ve got this whole built-up area this
town area all of this is going to be warming up in the Sun from early on in
the day because it has faces that face south (and east) from each building and those are going to warm up so there’s a lot of fins here it’s like a radiator it’s
picking up a lot of heat so this town, I expect, is going to be a couple of
degrees warmer than the surrounding area and that’s going to create some lift and
it’s going to tend to track up the valley and up the hills and it’s gonna
add to that valley breeze effect so I can expect there’s going to be some kind
of valley breeze setting up through the day that would peak and around 2 o’clock
3 o’clock. as this wind strengthens the wind pulls
up towards the mountains so that’s the basic flow that’s going to happen in the
afternoon. I’m coming in here if you look at the shadows down at the bottom of the
picture you can see the shadows of the trees are pretty close to the trees and
they’re on the far side so you can see from that that the Sun is behind me and
it’s shining down on these trees and casting a shadow slightly that way that
side so you can kind of guess from that that North is somewhere over there and
South is somewhere behind me. so this whole slope here is a beautiful pyramid
shape facing South, so that is my slope that’s going to be heating up the most
particularly this piece up here that’s really really going to be heating up and
wanting to generate thermals wanting to guide the thermals up its warm faces as
the warm air rises and you’ve got quite a good feed from this town area down
here which is probably going to start running up the slope like that and it’s
got a beautiful heat pump there leading up the slope so everything that I’m
seeing on the slope especially this area is looking pretty juicy for making
thermals and I’d expect in midsummer that this is going to be quite a
powerful thermal area. there’s another one over here which looks quite good but
it’s slightly weaker because at the base of it you’ve got a forest.
so that isn’t going to be generating lift that’s going to be sucking the
sunlight in to warm up the trees and to create photosynthesis so all of this
area is a pretty poor thermal source until very late in the day when it might
start releasing some of its gathered heat. so that again suggests with this
town here as a heat source this slope here is going to have the most powerful
thermals in this picture. we are coming in here in the morning more sort of midday
and it’s in September, late September, so this is late in the year and
everything’s very calm so we’re really looking for the most powerful source
that we can possibly find. if you were here in the middle of June I would
suggest that from about midday on you’re going to be very careful of the power of
this valley wind that’s gonna come in because it’s gonna start drawing in so
strongly and it might start spilling over onto this slope from the other side
and it would certainly want to come and wrap around this corner and you might
find that all of this lift that you expect is actually really heavy sink
mixed with little sheltered dust devils coming up the back of the
slope and this area would be a real scary place to be if you’re coming in
low in summer and the valley wind is on because if you look at the base of
this picture, if you are there and you run into turbulence
you’ve got very limited landing options you’re trying to glide you’ve maybe got
a little patch on the grass here and that’s about it … you’ve got a long glide to push around over very built-up area to get to your
safe landing zone which is out near this arrow, that’s your
landing field, and across the river for emergency safety, you’d want to
get across that line because this is totally built up here it really isn’t
nice for landing. so this sort of a slope could be a bit of a trap in summer you
don’t want to glide in here low and then find it’s not working. so I would only
come in if I’m pretty confident that I can come in on this top section where
I’m sure that there’s gonna be some lift and if I hit some problem there
I’ve got enough height to still flick back to this side of the valley and use
this ridge to escape but definitely you don’t want to be stuck in this leeside
area when that valley breeze comes through. looking around the valley you’ve
got a nice spine running along on the other side there but these slopes, if you
imagine, this is north up here, these slopes here are all west
facing so the Sun in the morning is shining from this side it hasn’t been on
these slopes for more than an hour by this time in the midday and the angle of
the Sun is very very shallow so this is going to be cold over here there’s going
to be no lift on these slopes and any kind of breeze that runs along is going to tend to want to just follow the valley and not go up so I wouldn’t go across onto
these slopes until slightly later in the day when if you’ve got the sun
shining from this direction in the afternoon then
this starts heating up and then you’d expect the thermals to be running up
these little spines as the valley breeze pushes in and you can start working
these upper slopes so I transition to that later in the day and these slopes
on this side would start working but in the morning and up to the middle of the
day my target is going to be this slope if the wind is very light and I’m pretty
confident that I can ride that and then I would try and work along the top of
the spine. now this other area I might go and investigate once I got high, I would be
looking at this and this slope but bear in mind that the feeders are pretty weak
there’s not a very good reservoir of heat to feed up onto those thermals but
the fact that there’s a really nice high ridge line protecting that valley means
that this valley breeze effect that’s gonna come up here isn’t gonna affect
this valley, it is gently rising up here the river is leading uphill so
your thermals going up along here gives you a good play area without significant
valley winds to come and mess it up so you can use that that sort of blocker
ridge in the distance to create a route to get you through and maybe you want to
fly in that direction with your cross country route. otherwise my main plan
would be to follow this ridge to get high here maybe somewhere hopefully get
get a climb up there and then try and go on a transition across to get up onto these slopes, sort of midday, and then I can go off and
explore that way and maybe come back along those ridges with this lovely
warming happening from the westerly Sun before coming back to land. right
let’s carry on! the ground speeds 37 which means there is absolutely no wind drift at all. I can see down in the valley the wind is coming very lightly up the valley
which would make this slope very very slightly in the Lee. kind of an ideal
combination with the sun shining on it and the slight low pressure created by
the lee should give me some thermals to work. look at the difference here I’m on
glide and Ceri is using a bit of bar and his glide stays flat, he just comes past
me! 29 km/h … that means to optimize my glide I should be on a little bit of bar you want to try and keep your ground
speed close to 30 so Ceri’s got a bit more glide, you can
see that separation happening now between an EN C and a high competition glider, it means he’ll come in just a bit above me on that slope so I’m looking at the trees now I’m
trying to identify if I can see any wind blowing up the slope I can’t see much
movement, there’s something coming up there, I can see something pulling up the
gully, gives me the confidence to carry on and ignore the spillover that might
be happening. Ceri’s flown into something now I’m getting myself ready
for a thermal I can see a bird climbing ahead of me so I’m coming off
the bar a little bit getting ready for the thermal engagement. there it is! three
two one … good enough. it felt like I was right on the edge there come back a
little bit there and I can hold on to that piece now. I could shift my circle
further forward, but while I’ve got something I’m going to hold on to it. I need every little bit of height I can get here 0.2 … not as good as I’d want. so now
I’m gonna push more into that core that’s good I can just come around on
that there’s no lift there so I want to tighten my next turn up … three two one,
I’m weight shifting before the vario starts singing. still lost it again.
Ceri’s climbing faster than me now so I think I need a shift across a bit more. that’s good it’s a little hard to turn
on the transition right at the edge of the thermal there I need to anticipate it …
three two one, roll weight shift! there that was a better one. Still good lift there. I feel better centred now I’m not
getting so much of that transition change. that’s good there. Ahh, I’m right on the edge, I can feel I’m right on the edge there, I need to move my circle further
this way I’m doing that by just tightening up there that was just a little tweak with my right hand, that’s all I needed. should hit it in three, two, one … I hope
you enjoyed this short tutorial on flying in the mountains remember to keep
yourself safe by keeping a lookout for approaching wind and think carefully
about where the heat is gonna be generated and where the winds are gonna pull. bear
in mind that I’m comfortable in these mountains because I’m confident of slope
landing on any of these slopes below here. don’t put yourself in one of these
deep valleys without any landing options if you don’t have developed landing
skills. as always, thanks again to our patrons, you guys rock you! you keep the
channel humming and give me a lot of motivation to keep going into the studio
and editing these things, so thanks guys. I noticed quite a change in his altitude
just on that one turn so I know he’s flown into lift I’ll take the forward line here, he’s going
for the back, but somewhere over here is a nice big rock face. I don’t want to be
at the back of it you know too far back and I might miss the thermal, I think the
thermal is over here somewhere. Ceri is sinking, that helps me make my
decision to turn in this. okay I’ll be careful because I’m doing 360s low here. If I feel any squirrelly feeling in the air I’m gonna abandon my turn this way
around and do a figure-of-eight. it’s okay I’ve still got reasonable contact with the
inside wing. Oh I see what Ceri has gone for it’s tempting. I’m gonna glide across and
I’m a bit lower than he went through I’m gonna hope that I just make it up on
the average through this bowl and get to that nice climb out front. okay now this is a position where you
got to be careful this is the Lee with the wind coming through and this is an area that would create turbulence … and thermals! south facing so this is where
the heating is happening but I’m flying on red alert when I come through here
very close to the ground and I’m in a potential turbulent area. all right let’s
get some lift. now to be expecting a bit of turbulence on this corner just where the
wind has a chance to come around this lip guys these movies are all funded by flybubble, so you can help us by getting your gear from flybubble. We promise
you excellent service. try the email address if you’re outside the EU and you
might be pleasantly surprised!

100 thoughts on “How to Paraglide Safely in the Mountains

  1. Greg- magnificent stuff! The 'freeze frame' in combo with your terrain analysis and thought process for planning your line is pure gold. Please keep these coming!

  2. Amazing explanation! thank you sir!

    But a short suggestion: what about painting with different colours. For example when you started talking about the situation in middle of June (8:15) maybe using orange or so, so we could still tell the difference lateron.

  3. Man just an amazing video! So much rich of good learning. It takes years of experience to learn those simple things

  4. These videos are priceless!
    It's incredibly helpful for a learning pilot to compare his/her own estimations of the scene to what you experienced guys read in the terrain and what the actual circumstances are in the end.
    Great work. Please keep doing this!!!

    Happy landings 🙂

  5. Oh man I love everything about this video. It's the kind that's so hard to find and teaches me so much. Please please for the love of God … Give me more

  6. Wow! Please keep making these thermal theory videos. The drawing on the screen was incredibly helpful. Thank you!

  7. Just great you made me realize I know nothing!! good thing I sit in a trike lol great read of the landscape I learned a great deal, always enjoy your videos, thanks.

  8. This is excellent ! Very educational, I know the basis of what you describe but you provides a wealth of contextual clues and details that add a lot to my learning and interpretation. This is all easy to understand and more importantly to retain. Most of what I do is ridge lift but I am now slowly venturing into XC and thermal lifting where I can find it. Many thanks.

  9. New to free flight mountainous terrain, I have searched the internet for a few months for the knowledge explained in this one vid.
    Thank you FlyBubble.

  10. This is so informative and quite fascinating to see the thought processes when flying, thanks for sharing Greg

  11. I don't fly as yet (sadly) but I love watching your videos Greg…. there's always a lesson in it. Keep up the good work and happy and safe skies.

  12. Cracking video there Greg, the theory is extremely insightful and the use of the 360’ and GoPro very slick with good sound quality also. I may even invest in a 360’ camera looking at the angles you can get. As for the FlyBubble shop comment at the end, I purchased my Gin Genie Lite2 from you guys and Carlo spent three hours helping me chose the right pod harness, and then got it set up really well. Extremely good service.

  13. I really like the instructional videos where you stop the action and diagram out your thought process. You did a great job on this as well as the video accessing potential LZs. Thanks as always.

  14. Super explanation with all the valley, wind, heat logic. Please make more videos like these for XC flying. As, I learn something new every time and things that I never anticipated.


  15. Too short! 🙂
    Very great video.
    Many thanks as it is lot of work to produce a such tutorial video.

  16. negative votes… how did that happen. Greg love these videos. the more and over more diverse terrain the better. makes us all better pilots.

  17. I'm impressed with your video and especially from the camera position. Would you share your camera setup?

  18. nice vid, although the first impression seeing a dude flying with no gloves, opened harness storage and not holding the brakes feels like it doesn't go together with the title – 'how to paraglide safely' 😛 Also I'd be careful claiming that the valley winds in French alps are negligible in September, people make take it too literally.

  19. Greg,
    Extremely informative. I'll echo the comments about the on-screen drawing, it makes the explanation so much more accessible to me. Your video, audio and editing upgrades make your already excellent videos even better. Please keep them coming. Cheers.

  20. What an excellent tutorial on reading the terrain and thermal centering. Thanks … your videos are outstanding !

  21. Great explanation, thanks! Question, how can you tell that the wind through the valley on the right is flowing from the North to South, and the valley on the left flows South to north? Is this simply knowledge of your local spot, or am I missing something?

  22. Greg, all of your videos are good but this one was especially instructive on a subject that is difficult to find information on. Thanks for your efforts and I look forward to more in the future.

  23. Very good information, nicely edited.. this is a real help for less experienced fliers out there, thanks!

  24. Hello Brother bird,
    My name is Robin (just like the bird) you have been a very big inspiration for me & my paragliding adventures sinds a couple of years right now.
    I would like to know if you would like to help me sharing my Youtube channel "The butterfly Tribe" maybe we can work together on sharing our magnificent paragliding lifestyle?
    I hope to hear from you soon Butterfly! keep on flying high to inspire us.
    Kind regards

  25. This video would be a valuable asset to anyone producing flight simulations which feature paragliding. Thanks, and keep up the great works! 🙂

  26. very instructive video. But you are not quite right about the woods. Wood is one of the best thermal areas that exist and already starting much earlier than people think. Albedo is near zero and this is what counts finally. People think to much about the shade and the cool air at the bottom of the wood but the energy is released higher near the tree tops. Wood also adds humidity, and humid air is lighter compared to dry air, enhancing the thermal. So if you have wood below a granit face, thats better than having field or buildings there.

  27. Pods must be the ugliest part of the paraglider. Ugh. Their shape is also completely nonsensical: wind tunnel studies show that what reduces the drag is the fairing in the back while the covering for the legs in front does practically nothing. This had also been confirmed in recumbent bicycles studies. That's why airplane wings have their dull edge facing front and the sharp edge facing back. It's a total mystery to me why the pods shaped like the one shown in this video are manufactured and sold at all, it's clearly done only because pilots buy them. Reversing the shape – no legs cover but with back fairing – can cut the drag almost in half! It's also a bit of a mystery to me that paraglider pilots do not object to the pod obscuring the view front-and-down. This view is considered paramount for hang glider pilots and considered the essential part of what it means to be bird-like. (For the record, I am a paraglider pilot.) There are many bizarre manufacturing religions like that: digital SLRs, roof-prism binoculars, etc. Long story 🙂

  28. Thank you SOOO much for sharing your knowledge! I have been learning a ton from your content, and I really appreciate your channel. As a result I will be a faithful customer to flybubble from here on out 🙂

  29. So much knowledge passed on in this video, and the view was just out of this world! as a total newbie I learned so much, keep on making these kind of videos!

  30. Really instructive ! You might have avoid some future incident and stressfull situation for some of us

  31. Hi, I really want to know how you set the camera to get this point of view (from behind you and next to you), and not use the stick. Alex from Venezuela

  32. Great adventure! Here is mine:

    Subscribe to my channel for more adventures and tours 🙂

  33. I’m so thankful for your teaching, and your calm style of teaching. I’m new to the sport and I’m thankful for your knowledge and willingness to pass it on! Good job and great video!

  34. 16:38 Amazing. After all the explanation & still thermals and everything. Everything about this video is fantastic.

  35. Why didn't he go to the other side of the mountin, instead he chose to ho to the right very low with only forest under him

  36. Watch out this valley there is where we have a circuit pattern for planes (and gliders on the other side). If you fly towards Toulouse be sure to check if area R46 (in red) is active, is it often is, because when it is there are low alt flying fighter jets.

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