Storms and a Death

Storms and a Death

On the second day, we were all late taking off (jeeps breaking down on the road up). Clouds developed with ominous rapidity whilst we were in the air. There was a rumble of thunder. Suddenly what had looked to me like comfortable altitude (it was the day of this photo) became a dreadful race to get down. Look closely at the picture in the top left hand sector and you wil see a few kites way below me circling to get down. I spiral dived too as fast as I dared to lose height. The vario said I was still going up - the effect of the updraught into the storm. In desperation I circled even faster, but rotated so fast I got dizzy and couldn’t maintain it. Being sucked up into the cloud was not a survivable option. Then I saw the outflow from the storm thundercloud, a great swathe of rain advancing down the mountain slope towards the landing ground. The air there had to be going down, didn’t it?! I headed straight for it … (don’t do this at home). On breaking into the rain band I immediately had to pull on as much speed as I could to match the increased wind and even so only just maintained station vertically above the landing ground. Certainly I was descending now - about 2000’ in a couple of minutes. The kite descended vertically like a helicopter.

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As I neared the ground the cadets rushed underneath and leapt up to grab any parts of the kite they could reach and then I was safely anchored on the ground, relieved indeed but not fully comprehending risks I had taken. The cadets told me that a German pilot had just landed but had hit a rock and was killed. Read Judy’s book.
On the third day, the clouds were also building up early. I decided not to go up the hill, but to stay in the hotel and consider the wisdom of what I was doing. Storms developed that day too. There was a 10 day cycle to the weather, we were told. The storms would clear the air for five or six days before the next stormy spell built up. We flew the next day.
Gloomy faces of Judy, Chris Bulger and Joseph Guggenmoss at the top on a day when we didn't fly. Despite the fatality the contest continued. It was a heavily sponsored event - it had to. The next picture was a typical view "over the back" in clearer weather towards mightier and mightier mountains. "Don't go there!" was the instruction. A retrieve might take a couple of weeks.

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