Tips for paragliding in Bir, India

Paragliding in Bir is a magical experience. The reliability of the weather and varied terrain make this a world class site.

Pilots can bite off as much as they can chew. Low airtime pilots can cruise the front range fine tuning their thermalling while more experienced pilots can explore the back range where on a good day you can aim for a few 6000m peaks.

The Alpine flying environment works like textbook. Go to the next pointy bit, boom, a thermal. Head for the ridge with a grassy clearing, boom, a thermal. Go the the rocky cliff, boom, a thermal. Despite the relative ease of flying here there are a couple of things to be wary of.

bir_billing
Looking West towards Bir-Billing Launch

1) Fly with a Satellite Communication Device

I highly recommend pilots fly with a Garmin inReach (best device in my option as you can send custom messaging) or a spot. If you do land out and go walkies make sure you leave your device on so your retrieve has your current position. Check out Outdoor Gear Lab’s reviews on the Best Satellite Messengers and Locator Beacons.

Do not plan for mobile reception while flying or even when you top land on the ridges. Unlike Australia, where it can be guaranteed (even with no bars on the ground), reception is pretty much non-existent when flying both the front and back ranges.

Note: I have heard of pilots being questioned (one was detained for 5 days!) when bringing in Garmin inReach devices because customs have seen the Iridium logo. Satellite phones are illegal in India but at this point in time Garmin inReach devices are not. All of these pilots were carrying them in their cabin luggage. Best fix is to pack it in your check-in luggage and/or scratch off the Iridium logo (thanks for this tip Debu!).

2) Fly with a VHF radio

Most international pilots fly on VHF. The exception being Australians and New Zealanders. On my first trip my friend and I were the only people on VHF. He threw his reserve and his wing landed in one tree and reserve in the other. He found himself

tree_landing
Stuck in a tree. Fly with dental floss or a tree rescue kit.

suspended 10m off the ground with no way of escape. It was just by chance I had my radio on the same VHF channel and I was able to communicate with him and mount a rescue. Due to his location he would have been hanging in the tree a long time before anyone noticed him.

3) Rotor still exists on windy days

Weather in October can often be so reliable that some of the fundamentals can be forgotten, like rotor. On trip my low airtime friend threw his reserve when he became complacent and found himself on the wrong side of a ridge. This was on a windier day than usual and he found himself low, downwind of a ridge, in autorotation.

4) Keep an eye out for early clouds

If you see clouds building before 10am chances are it will overdevelop at some stage during the day. Plan your flight accordingly.

mamatus
Mammatus Clouds in the Barot Valley, North of Bir.

5) Look out for storm clouds to the South (the “flats”)

If you see any storm clouds building within 20 km or so to the south then please be cautious. These clouds can build very quickly. Pilots got caught out by gust fronts  in the past.

6) Bring warm gloves and/or chemical hand warmers

If this is your first time flying in Bir and you usually fly in warmer climates at lower altitudes then consider bringing a beefy set of gloves and/or chemical had warmers. My fingers are sensitive to the cold, I have not worked out the perfect solution yet. I will be sure to let you know when I crack the code.

7) Bring some food from home

Food from home
Leave the beef jerky at home

Any room left in your cabin or checking luggage? Let’s face it we don’t usually have any spare kgs on the plane but consider bringing some of your regular flying food like muesli bars for inflight and dehydrated meals for camping. Samosas are tasty and make good flying food but they can be a crumbly and difficult to eat with big gloves.

silver_linings
Silver Linings – Coolest cafe in town

A local cafe called Silver Linings (shameless plug for my friends) make great flying bars. you can find them if you walk 3 minutes west of the main landing. Lost? Ask a local. (ps: They also make the best coffee in town and great meals at a reasonable price).

8) Watch out for power lines

“Always look out for power and telephone lines! Oh and if something looks like a landing option from 500 meters above ground, it very likely isn’t because of some lines crossing the field. Always have second options when you get low.” by Fredi Bach

9) Fly with a paragliding safety kit

This kit weighs in at just 350 grams and lives in my harness. I feel this is a necessary item and is particularly useful for adventure flying, if you get into trouble. Click to read more.


Additional tips taken from Tips and Tales from Bir in India by Ruth Jessop

  • Bring a conventional magnetic compass.
  • Watch out for Jungle chicken (a sort of pheasant) and flying squirrels launching themselves into your wing when close to the terrain.
  • The area has quite a few trees. Carry a ball of dental floss or a tree rescue kit.

Please Contact me if you have any additional tips.

Resources

 

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