Climbing and Flight as a New Pilot
By Chris Diebold 10/10/2021
Technical mountaineering is a sport that completely draws ones focus into the task at hand. It’s a sport that can easily take everything out of you just to reach a perceived goal that is usually a summit. I had always grappled with the reasons that I continue to mountaineer and climb, as it is most certainly a heinous suffer-fest most of the time. But after years of wrapping my head around the reasons for doing such a thing, it’s actually quite simple. It is to dive into the unknown, explore a place that I would otherwise never find myself in, to put myself into a situation that is completely foreign yet at the same time entering a level of risk that requires complete and undisturbed focused on one thing and one thing only, climbing… at least until that turned into paragliding.
Baldy launch from the North side (my second flight off of Baldy with a more robust lapse rate)
After that first flight from Baldy and easily landing in the wash, my confidence started to build. I spent hours going over topos and Google Earth looking at every single landing option in the San Gabriels so I could fly deeper and take the chances of pushing North rather than South. As long as there are safe landings everywhere, I felt confident enough to attempt a flight. When I built up the courage to do this, I ended up flying over 50k into the desert and reaching altitudes of 14,000 ft. My progression since, has been to fly farther in more remote locations to gain comfort with flying in new places.
The wash at the base of Baldy on the South side for an easy LZ
Flying over Devil's Punchbowl after the hike and fly off Mt Baldy.
A few things that have been super useful as a new pilot trying to do these riskier endeavors is a clinic Emily (my wife) and I took in Columbia with Eagle Paragliding. This was a trip full of super talented mentors that taught valuable skills in flying XC. Taking an SIV is extremely important for me personally. Building instant reflexes when an unexpected event happens is even more important when flying XC specially launching from a place that is relatively not flown.
Sierras looking at the mountain adjascent to the launch off of Kid Mountain
Sierra at 16,000 after hiking up Kid Mountain (12,000ft launch)