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Hike & Fly 101

It's that time of year where the mountain air gets crisp and smooth and still, and for many of us here in the South Island that means hike & fly season!

We have such a fantastic playground of mountains and the options for H&F missions are pretty much endless. However, although the flying conditions are the easiest they'll be all year, this is balanced by some pretty challenging launch conditions: nil wind, long tussocks or sharp rocks, undulating terrain or drop-offs, and more.

Whether it's your first hike & fly or your five hundredth, no-one is immune to having an accident or incident on launch, and with a number of accidents already this h&f season it's important that you take extra precautions to make sure your mission into the mountains ends with a smile rather than an SOS callout.

1) Triple-check your lines

Spotting knots and twigs in your lines is pretty easy on a normal launch, but can be a challenge on hike & fly, especially if you're setting up over tussocks and scrub. Double- or triple-check your lines to decrease your risk of launching with an obstruction. If you're flying with friends, watch each other's launches - it can be hard to spot a knot when you're forward launching on difficult terrain, but a yell of "STOP!" from an observer is hard to ignore.

2) Give yourself extra room

Nil wind means a longer takeoff run, and if you hit a katabatic zephyr you could be running longer again. When checking for obstacles or other hazards, look down your launch as far as you think you'll run, then double it as a safety buffer. Keep in mind that if the terrain is undulating you may lift off temporarily and then touch back down at speed - a constant slope is best if you can find one.

3) Carry a PLB/InReach/SPOT

Cell reception can be spotty (at best) in the back-country and the last thing you want is to be badly injured on the side of a hill while your mates frantically try and hike to the nearest spot with reception to call you a helicopter. It's highly unlikely you'll need it, but try and have at least one PLB/InReach/SPOT per group - and make sure the pilot launching last flies down with it, so they can't get stuck at the top injured and all alone without any means of communication.

Wishing you all many beautiful hike & fly missions, safe launches, and happy landings!

Paraglider launching in light snow on mountain
Photo by Petar Loncar via



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