Previously published in Cross Country # 99 May/June 2005. The two versions have different photos.




n the far northern reaches of Europe, where the sun
        barely clips the horizon in mid-summer, conditions
        can be fickle, the flying tricky, and the walk-outs huge.
         Yet the summer of 2004 saw a flurry of records fall
         including the Norwegian open distance to the ever-
         bold Frode Halse, as he reports.



Passing Kvam. Photo Frode Halse     FAILING
The last weekend of May 2004 saw great flying conditions resulting in several new Norwegian national records, yet somehow I seemed to get it all wrong. Four weeks into my four months' long record-hunting campaign, my flying form should have been close to its peak, yet the 'big one' was still eluding me.

Tuesday 1st of June, frustrated and still disappointed in myself, I woke up to brilliant conditions, a clear blue sky with late cloud development. At 12:26 pm, determined to get 'revenge' for all my recent foiled attempts at the record, I inflated my Omega 5 and launched from Vole in Vågå. Easily finding a 5 m/s thermal I was at cloudbase at 2500 m AMS just a few minutes later.

The westerly 4 m/s wind favoured a route down Gudbrandsdalen Valley towards Lillehammer and the going was easy maybe too easy and typically I got careless. Twenty minutes and 10 km out I was struggling in a turbulent leeside wind and nearly flushed to the floor. But, looking at the sky and realizing the potential of the day seemed to give me extra powers and I just managed to climb enough to stay airborne and limp on.
My low altitude forced me to take the Otta route instead of the more common transit through Heidal Valley till at Otta I finally managed to climb back to a comfortable 3000 m AMS. Suddenly the record-hunt was definitely back on.
50 km out and I was in serious trouble again, falling into some violent leeside air I plummeted 400 metres and was forced to deliberately fly through the leeside rotor to reach the thermals closest to the slope. The wing bounced and deflated more than I'd have liked till finally I hit gold, grabbed the goodies, and rocketed back up to 2900 AMS.

The sea breeze that blows up Gudbrandsdalen Valley from Mjøsa Lake often puts an end to southbound XC flights in the Frya area. Anticipating this problem as I approached Frya, I was delighted to find that my tailwind persisted! And I even found myself at the beginning of a giant cloud street! Realizing that this was my ticket to a 'long one' I hooked into the first big cumulus and began to fly dolphin-style, skipping from one cloud to the next. After 50 km at 2800-3600 m in -15° my mitten-covered hands were frozen and all feeling had gone, till the inevitable pain of the thaw set in!

Approaching Gudbrandsdalen Valley at Kvam after the shortcut from Otta.    
Promissing clouds above the plateau between Kvam and Frya but somehow I manage to  miss the lift cycles, only finding sink... Low again!

Surfing under the cloudgate. 95 km out and 15 km short of Lillehammer. Mjøsa Lake further south in the middle of the photo.

Passing Lillehammer. Photo Frode Halse

Passing Lillehammer which is sitting at the northernmost  shore of Mjøsa Lake. Photo taken with x 3 zoom.

Passing Lillehammer (110 km) on the eastern side I was in previously unflown terrain for paragliders and at 6:07 pm I finally passed the previous Norwegian Open Distance record of 123.9 km that had stood since from 1995! Euphoria!

The congratulations came flooding in by radio and mobile phone. Great, I was satisfied but how much further would I be able to go? I could feel the presence of the magic '150 km barrier' calling me from not far away...


Making history: seconds from breaking the 9 year old record! Photo Frode Halse

     History in the making! Seconds before the GPS "Go To Vole" topple over to 124 km. The nine years old record of 123,9 km is about to be erased. But the flight is far
     from over, time is 06:07 pm, altitude 2387 m.a.s.


The Mesna Lakes. The mighty Mjøsa Lake in the background. Photo Frode Halse     HEADWIND
Having enjoyed a 4-5 m/s tailwind so far, I now faced the dreaded sea-breeze from Mjøsa Lake. A straight line towards Elverum would grant me only a couple of extra km more before hitting the deck. To stay airborne I'd have to leave behind the luxury of trafficked roads.

Adjusting my heading from SE to E turned the headwind to a crosswind and reduced my speed by only 5 km/h. At 1600 m AMS, only 500 m above the high mountain plateau, trying to get across a 30 km cloudless gap that separated me from the Østerdalen Valley, seemed a formidable task, and landing out was going to result in a very long walk! The odds of success seemed terribly low.

Halfway across, and almost down, I caught a nerve-wrecking low save, escaping from a rocky riverbed with less than healthy landings. By 7.30 pm the sun was getting low, the thermals shutting down, but hey, who cared, finally I was through!

Seven and a half hours after launching I touched down having flown 153.6 km.

Nine years of planning and effort had finally been rewarded: I'd set a new benchmark for Norwegian XC paragliding. Life is good.


A few days later I learnt that my 153.6 km flight was also a new Nordic Record, beating Swedish Peter Wicander's 151 km from 2001. I couldn't have been happier. For a Norwegian, beating the Swedes is always a pleasure. I hope the Finnish pilots feel the same about Norwegians, because seven weeks later Finnish Jouni Makkonen took the Nordic record from me with a flight in Finland
 of 191,7km!


Exellent retrieve driver  Jørgen
brought with him plenty of cold beer, heavenly for a thirsty and triumphant XC pilot. Instant effect!




 Cross Country # 99.


Southern and Northern Mesnali Lakes, never previously visited by a paraglider! Mjøsa Lake in the background.
Transit to Østerdalen Valley, getting low.. Photo Frode Halse    
Halfway across on the transit to Østerdalen Valley. Altitude shrinking, next cloud too far away. Crisis! 
Approaching Rena in Østerdalen Valley. Photo Frode Halse    
Transit completed, gliding into Østerdalen Valley close to Rena.      



                                        Tracklog and relevant objects.
                                        The important U-turn before touching down, securing an indisputable 150 km +.  (Google Earth map)




Clipping from Dagbladet,  nationwide norwegian newspaper.

Local norwegian newspaper: Helgeland Arbeiderblad  - Lengst med paraglider

nternational webpage: world - Spring Records In Europe


(Reviced 2005-12-03)


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