Plattenkogelspitze 16th December 2021
Write up by Graham Rowlands
It’s funny how life plays with your head sometimes. Ruth’s accident has focussed the minds of two keen Wingbeaters. Horrible injuries and many many hours of hard work and pain. Her willpower and general bloodymindedness means that she is on the way getting back in the air well ahead of schedule. Good food for the soul but the situation has caused me to pause and brought many questions. A test that goes hand in glove with the tempting joy of flying paragliders. I’ve been working on my fitness, far too long neglected. I’m 18Kg lighter now. I can’t get younger sadly. Time to put attitude to the test in one of the more remote Wingbeat sites.
The Plattenkogelspitze site is at the western end of the Pinzgau and southern end of the Zillertal. The main spine of the Alps in Austria. I am so lucky to be here. Hike to the top runs through woodland on to the pistes at the top of the Hochkrimml Ski Area. At the top there is the reward of a great view of both valleys stretching out in different directions. Weather today is windless above the inversions holding the cloudy mists which fill both valleys. The weak sun in the clear blue skies is struggling to shift the inversions. It means the flight will fall less than half the height it could. The walk to the top is a steep challenge. Steep enough in places to make Bridgend blush. Sometimes each step sinks below knee deep into the soft snow. Sometimes you praise the work of the piste bullies giving the snow a hard top with some grip. Each step gives the reward of being a step closer and the time to go through in your head everything that you are carrying on your back. “Did I really need to bring that ?”, “I’m sure I could shave half a kilo off”, “The air is thinner up here”, “I need to shed a bit more weight”.
Catching breath at the top takes the hike into a distant memory. Wow. Time to prepare. Blow away the cobwebs and shake off the rust. The skiing starts tomorrow so there is no-one here. I cautiously unpack. Check. It’s been too long. Check again. I’m nervous. I never flew here before. I never saw anyone fly here before. I have no local knowledge or wisdom as a guide.
Switch on the Syride and it’s time to go. Weak Katabatic wind on launch. No resistance would grip the nose of the wing if I were to try a reverse launch, even if I were to use the pumping technique popular in these parts. Forward launch. Deep breath, lean forward, pressurise the wing and bring it up behind you. Three or four steps with weight on the chest strap and we are flying. Joy. Air is creamy smooth. Nothing thermic. A few gentle gusts coming from the cliff face to the right of take off slightly unsettle the wing but it’s controllable and responsive. Oh how I have missed this.
It’s not a long flight but great to boat about again. I land on a windless upslope, flare a little early but still end on my feet. Safe but lacking some polish. I’m elated. As I am mushrooming up the wing a thickly bearded gentleman approaches … he introduces himself, Matthias. A 35 year paragliding veteran (yes thirty-five). A cheerful chat ensures, partly in German and partly in English. Seems I am going to be doing some more flying with the help of local wisdom. Another of the Wingbeat sites: Hollersbach beckons.
It really is time that the club took advantage of some of it’s more neglected sites. Ah away with you ‘rona !