Team Adventures

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

  • August 19, 2014

Over Development forming over the back of Francis Peak

I think that most paraglider pilots would concede that paragliding is as much of a mind game as it is having the best or right equipment.  I know this has certainly been the case for my own progression in paragliding.  When I have been asked by non pilots what its like to be flying they often jump in and say, “I bet its very peaceful” which yes,  it can be, but a fellow pilot summed it up perfectly.  He said, “paragliding is one of those things that when your doing it you are 100% in the moment.  I’m not thinking about anything else other than what is the glider telling me.  Where is the next thermal going to be?  I’m fully engaged in the now.”

Often times as pilots we have certain goals.  Sometimes I can be so focused on what the goal is I have a hard time enjoying the flight or I even miss out because rather than listening to my glider and paying attention to the present conditions, I want to follow through with the “goal” even if its unrealistic for that day.  Let me share an experience.

A little over a week ago the Skywalk team and a bunch of other pilots were looking to put in a good long group flight.  The plan was to head to Randolph, one of my favorite sites in the state.  Unfortunately the conditions were not ideal as it was predicted to be over developed.  We were flustered to say the least, we had a plan!  We were going to fly Randolph.  We frantically tried to come up with something else but we were all a little lost on which site would yield the best results.  It seemed like everyone in our group had a opinion where they wanted to fly but nobody would really step up and say this is the best option, let’s go with it.  After about 50 text messages, hours (not literally) of weather watching and countless phone calls back and forth the decision was made to fly Francis Peak in Farmington.  We had a bit of a dry spell so we all wanted to get in the air and had high hopes.

I found myself frazzled.  The plan was disrupted and I needed to hurry and gather my troops from Logan so we could make the drive down and meet the others in time for a good flight.  As we met up all were hoping for a good XC flights but it was starting to over develop over the back and the wind was a bit stiffer than we are used to at that site.  After sitting, watching and feeling the wind Jeff Ambrose launched followed by Dan Tea then myself.  Jeff crept down the ridge and crossed the canyon south heading for the V.  We followed.  I was pleasantly surprised when I launched,  I was expecting much rougher air but it was really pretty smooth.


Keenan getting a good look at what’s going on behind the mountain.

Soon after the rest of the group, Clark, Matt, Clay, Todd, Les, Shari, Jonathan F., and Jeff S.  were able to launch and have good flights.  But for some reason my head wasn’t in the game.  Jeff, Dan, Clark and I all ended up flying past the V in Centerville and landing at Mueller Park Jr. High School on the SE bench in Bountiful.  During the flight I was climbing a thermal that took me a little over 9500′ and I got a look at the massive cloud that was over the back.  It had finally started to dump out the bottom and the top of the cloud had reached the upper inversion layer and was spreading across that ceiling.  I got on the radio and let everyone know what I was seeing.  At that moment it seemed like we all got a little rocked.  Jeff and I felt it as we went over the V and Dan immediately reported he experienced a huge frontal.  Other than that moment the conditions were quite smooth yet I wasn’t content.  I wasn’t really enjoying my flight.

Clark setting up his landing at Mueller Park Jr. High

I’ve noticed a trend throughout my short career flying.  If I try to control what’s happening its most likely not going to end the way I want it to, but if I have an opened mind and am able to adapt to the situations that arise while flying, I have some of the best, most enjoyable flights even if I’m not logging a lot of miles.  Breaking through mental barriers are part paragliding.

If there is a lesson that I and fellow pilots can take a way from the experience from Francis a few weeks back,  its that flying is a gift and I need to see it as that.  As pilots we need to improvise, adapt, and overcome.  Yes the “plan” was shaken but as I landed at the school I was all smiles.  I had to take a step back and see the flight for what it was, a great day with great friends.  Sure I had high hopes of logging hours and miles but in the end I was pushed a little out of my comfort zone and I know I progressed as a pilot.  Paragliding can be the most peaceful experience if we let it.  I have to agree with my fellow pilot, “flying is being 100% in the moment.”  Although we may have specific goals we want to accomplish, if we aren’t open to change and make the proper adjustments we will be limiting ourselves.  One thing I love about this sport is no matter how much I think I know, I’m constantly reminded how little I really do.

By: Keenan Ryan