For one and a half year, acting as a reminder and
inspiration, I had a
picture postcard of Galdhøpiggen on the dashboard in my car. Studied
maps and did some flights close to Galdhøpiggen. Got information from
hanggliderpilots that where familiar with the area. Therefore, this flight
was no act of impulse !
By Frode Halse
A sweating hot June in 1993:
In town some people cool down with a beer at the sidewalk restaurants,
others look for adventure, like the
author, a devoted XC
pilot who left the crowds behind to drive way up into the mountains
of Norway. This time pure distance was not the issue. His mind was set on
a "challenge" with a very special mountain top.
15:00 in the "Jotunheimen" mountains. Blue
sky, 2/8 Cu and a NW wind of 3-4 m/s. Accompanied by 4 fellow pilots I
take off from a snow-covered slope (1500 m asl) above
"Raudbergstulen", an old chalet turned into a hotel for
Conditions are promising for an attempt at reaching Norway's
highest mountain "Galdhopiggen" (2469 m asl).
(10 km) and height gain of 1000 m required are not very impresssive but
the summit is surrounded by glaciers and therefore difficult to reach.
Three years before, 3 hang glider pilots were the first to land there
successfully. I don't know their speed or glide ratio which makes things
even more challenging, but I'm determined to be the first paraglider pilot
to copy their achievement.
1.Leg:Galdhøpiggen is the second furthest to the right.
Spiralling upwards easily in a 4 m/s lift, I reach
cloudbase at 2900 m and drift with the wind straight against target
picking up lift to maintain altitude (1.leg).
The landscape of dark boulders,
scarce vegetation and moss are separated by patches of snow and marsh.
Small creeks running through it look like blood vessels from my point of
This mixture produces great temperature differences at ground level
generating nice thermals.
Having told others about my plan before take-off, I expected to come across at least someone.
But now I'm on my
own. It's just me and the wilderness.
A good feeling.
3.Leg : At cloudbase a couple of km`s from the
Approaching a lake and the "Mytingsfjellet", a snow-covered mountain, I'm at the threshold
of a very difficult flying terrain.
Diverging from the straight line
course I avoid the sink area above and around the lake, steering towards a
dark mountain slope facing the sun
Arriving 20 m above the slope's top
section, I fly into the core of a strong "one",then shoot to
cloudbase at 7-8 m/s.
Now the summit is in sight only 4.5 km away,
its mantle of "eternal ice" bathed in sunlight. This
"lady" is no easy date; last summer she let me down only 2 km
short of contact forcing me to
make a hasty retreat from her hostile
: Gliding down to Galdhøpiggen from 3000 m.a.s.
Three clouds forming a cloudstreet seem to
be my ticket to ride. Cocky and
content, I jump-
fly from base to base at 3000 m (3.leg). It's freezing; feet and
hands have gone numb. A layer of ice covers the edge of the helmet
Leaving the last cloud, I abruptly hit sink going
down fast! I fall towards rough rocky ground on one side and a glacier in
a deep valley on the other (4.leg). Undoubtedly, there's no place to land. I
consider turning back but push past the point of no return.
a semi-circular crater inbedded in a mountain wall, I smell lift! Reaching
the crater very low, I'm prepared for a
fight with tight thermals, not the
jacuzzi I'm suddenly engaged in!
| Standing on top of the
|| While the vario yells frantically, I
||kinds of deflations each time closer and closer to the
But I am going up, in fact rocketing into the sky at 8-9
m/s, leaving 2200 m and topping out in yet another cloudbase!
I set my course across the only remaining
obstacle, the "Styggbreen" glacier
(5.leg). Once again having left
cloudbase, sink is enormous due to the great snow-covered plains.
This is it. Leaning back, stretching my legs, I try to sit as
aerodynamically as possible, producing minimum resistance to get maximum
glide ratio. Will she be mine this time? 500 m left - alt 2700 m, 250 m
left - alt 2550 m. The summit rises, threatening to align the horizon!!
Passing 10 m above the edge, the glider trembles in sudden lift but I
don't take advantage of it. Too much is at stake. One error now in this
abyss of sink could be fatal. Carefully I do a 90 degree turn adjusting
for a hillside landing and tumble down on the snowy mountain top on cold,
uncooperative legs. But my head is boiling with success!
Four young skiers happen to be there, preparing
for their run down the steep snowy slopes. They are bewildered and
curious. Did you jump out of a plane? It wasn't easy to convince them that
I wasn't a skydiver. Nevertheless they did assist me by taking some photos
to document my feat before skiing downward and leaving the
For half an hour I enjoyed the magnificent view
and a chocolate bar while savouring the moment and completion of one and a
half year's worth of planning and expectations. Silence is total; no wind,
no movements, only the pumping of my heart. The desolate landscape engulfs
the lone viewer in a mood of peace and composure. But dwelling too long
may cost me dearly. The sun is getting weaker (17 h). If I am not able to
fly out, an exhausting walk will make the end of anotherwise superb day.
A RISKY RETURN
After several starting attempts I am getting desperate. The old faithful
Voodoo with its hyperporous cloth refuses to inflate since there is no
wind and practically no running
| The route shown in
distance. Finally I run down
a 60 deg. steep snowdrift ending in thin air 200 m above the “Storgjuv”
glacier. The paraglider, overshooting as I jump off the ridge,
frontcollapses, forming a crumpled rosette. Falling 20-30 m I apply full
brakes, all the time keeping the vertical wall behind me in the corner
of my eye. Therefore successively releasing the brakes as the glider
inflates, I fly away from the vertical beast!
BACK IN BUSINESS
“Lille(Little) Galdhøpiggen” (2369m) is only 500 m away, its dark rock
face being my only chance of an aerial return. Nerves tingling I cross
“Porten” (the Gate) the void between the twin peaks. Time for the
verdict. The strategy works. The rock wall is “alive”, its strong
thermals pushing me 400 m upward. Then it`s over. But it is enough. I
have escaped the glaciers dangerous crackinfected surface. Leaving the
twins I take use of any small thermals barely managing to stay airborn.
The former tailwind is now my enemy giving me problems in the
lee-rotors. With great difficulty I fly parallel to the “Storgjuv”
glacier, finally reaching the “Leirdalen” valley. Shaken but in safety I
land in turbulent valley winds amongst grazing cows. As the summer heat
start to warm my frozen body tension decreases replaced by an incredible
happiness. I did it, first paraglider pilot on “Galdhøpiggen”, an
unbreakable record!! Slowly I pack the glider together. Soon a retrival
car will pick me up. Laying in the grass I look at some butterflies
recapturing the flight. Within seconds I doze off…
(Previously published in Cross Country Magazine issue 34/1993 )
The flight draw a lot of attention, making it to the pages of
"VG", one of the two major newspapers in Norway.