Nick Neynens and his 200km triangle at home
Nick Neynens has been exploring the mountains around the Southern Lakes of New Zealand ever since he learnt to fly. His latest 200km triangle attempt (still good enough for a new national record) had him landing just down the road from home. In his words:
The previous day after getting snowed on and waiting for over four hours on take off for cloud to lift, I’d had a great flight through the boonies until I popped out at Glenorchy and realised my SPOT subscription had lapsed! I landed on a ridge and spent a frustrating few hours on the internet before calling it a night, waking the next morning at cloud base with cold toes. By 10am I was already in the air, with a quick scenic run up the Earnslaw burn to check another fast melting glacier (the snow came after a month of record heat, it looks like late autumn) as cloud swirled around in the not so mellow southeasterly. Climbing just a few hundred feet before reaching cloud base at 5500′ or so, I ran up and down Mt Alfred sniffing out a climb and then continued down the Dart valley, with a side trip into the Beans burn as far as I dared. It would theoretically boost my FAI triangle dimensions but it didn’t work that way – the Alfred run was however beneficial in the end. I’ve been up the Dart so much now that I’m getting to know every nook and cranny but I still think it’s the most scenic valley in New Zealand. I still couldn’t get above 5500′ though and the first little hurdle was getting through Cascade saddle, after patiently gaining height amongst the glaciers I popped over, if there were any trampers they would have ducked their heads. In the Matukituki valley now I ended up gaining enough height to get over the peaks I needed to get over – meanwhile the last task of the New Zealand Paragliding Open had started, in the same valley just a little further down (but they flew across the flats). I was off grid incognito though and kept pushing on, fairly doubtful that this triangle thing might work out but keen to give it a go. Cirrus slowed things down a little as I jumped over the next pass into the Shotover catchment, but this place works so well you barely need a full moon for thermals. Once I was on the Richardson range with evening sunny faces overlooking Glenorchy, I was pretty confident – until I had to push out to Mt Crichton on the corner of the Glenorchy Queenstown road. I almost faltered but decided I had to go with “all or nothing”, and it was very nearly nothing. Losing height I went into damage control and took every last scrap of lift in the late evening. Thankfully a tailwind kept me on the move and I had some amazing glides between gentle climbs on golden spurs. Landing after sunset I had to choose between closing the triangle and landing in Mum’s paddock, but it was only a quarter hour walk home. It felt great to fly over ten hours on a not so auspicious day – my sailplane flying friend said quite a few hadn’t made it home today, and another paragliding friend said it was “just straight up f***ed”. Of course the main factor is getting to the right place at the right time (not being limited by road access helps!). A tip of the hat to the Ozone Zalps performance as well – how to go far? Point the way you want to go, turn only if you need to, and plan a route over the pointy stuff!
For Nick’s track log click here.
Cheers from all the team!