Posted by: powellpjc | February 7, 2009

When Facing a Cornered Dog

Wishing I were on the ground.

Wishing I were on the ground.


‘Experience comes from surviving situations encountered due to a lack of it.’




‘It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were up there than being up there wishing you were on the ground.’

                                                                                                        Someone else.


The flying here in Iquique in February has been ok. Not great. There have been some extra good days though and yesterday was one of them. Big, soft thermals were everywhere and the flying was easy. I managed to climb to 1200 metres which, for me, here, was a personal best. And I had the mountain ridge to myself. For some reason the other 40 pilots in the air decided to go to a closer beach to land. It is a lot of fun to have the air to yourself, especially when it’s a good day.

Today was different.

It looked to be the same conditions as yesterday. A high overcast and light winds from the south. I waited for a few others to launch (why go first, ever?) and then I took off. The air was a little rough in spots but there was abundant, if choppy lift. I buggered off from the crowd and headed down the ridge, same track as yesterday.

In the usual spots I found good thermals but a few times the air snapped me around. It was a good day, but one needed to be careful. After an hour of flying I was again all alone on the big mountain ridge behind the city. I explored the various thermal trigger spots and discovered that the wind was building from the south, cutting the thermals off at about 600 metres. I had a hard time reversing my track into this building wind but I persevered. I had to travel a few kilometers south before I could cast off the ridge and glide to the main beach.

I entered the mouth of a ravine on the mountainside. Well, I stuck my nose in. I knew this place to be a great trigger for booming thermals on almost any day. And I was right. I started climbing right away. That’s when I found the bastard air-dog and things turned to shit. I was going up but something did not feel right. I looked up and the wing was there but had a funny, compressed shape to it. I looked down and I was going backwards. The wing went parachutal and I started dropping like a stone. Full speed bar. The wing folded in half and I went down faster. Then a violent series of spins and tumbles. When flying these paragliders one has little control at the best of times. Now I had none and my eyeballs were out on stalks watching the fast-approaching cliff, rocky and steep, come up to bite my ass. I did the best thing to do in these circumstances. I gave up. Let the wing fly itself. And with one majestic swoop next to an ugly set of rocky teeth the glider came to its senses. The air-dog let me go. I had barely enough altitude to make the glide to the beach, but no nerves left.

The glider and I coasted quietly to the Pacific, leaking courage all the way. The dog was silent behind me.

Not for the first time I’d thought I had it all figured out.



  1. You should be charging for stories like this!

  2. these are the kind of things daughters dont like to read about.. especially followed by long periods with no emails. dont forget your emergency blanket!

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