yourself glued to a greyish cloud base
1800 meters above a desolate, treeless mountain terrain. Groundspeed is
perfect due to a tailwind and the thin air. Clearly visible as they cross
the glacier, a herd of reindeer come to your attention. The first living
creatures you have seen in hours. Leaning
back, you stretch your cold feet, and once again marvel at the beauty of
the scenery. Time for some refreshment ? Trying to drink
from your water bottle you discover that it is frozen solid. Driven
by hunger you reach for a chocolate bar but it has to wait, you are
suddenly caught in a violent 8 m/s up. Threatening to tilt you over, the
thermal calls for a lot of effort, sapping even more energy out of your
aching arms. Some kind of vacation! Welcome to Norway……
Yet another article bragging about one`s home turf? Why should XC in
Norway be something special? Mountains dominate this longstretched
Scandinavian country, as with many other countries, however, the kind of
mountain it has to offer is different. Many of the Central-European
mountain ranges resemble saw blades, with their tooth sharp summits, long
winding ridges and abyss deep valleys. Flying XC in such an
environment forces one`s mind to focus on safety, constantly being on the
look out for lee sides, landing possibilities and road access. This wild
Scandinavian country also has its share of this scenery, but in addition,
it has huge mountain plateau’s, situated in the central Southern part,
within easy reach of several main roads. This region has two main valleys,
Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen,
necessary routes to follow during spring and early summer, when the
surrounding plateaus are still covered with snowclad plains.
usually plays the role of end station for flights from the Western to the
Eastern region. Most XC’s are done in connection with the Gudbrandsdalen valley ( North to
South) and in and between the
Jotunheimen, Rondane and the Dovre
Cruising at 35OO M.A.S., passing Rondane Mountains
crossing between Gudbrandsdalen Valley and Østerdalen Valley.
The plateaus offer safe and interesting ”flatland” crossings from
valley to valley. Some of the crossings have been conquered successfully,
but they are outnumbered by the ones never achieved, or even attempted.
Many of them eagerly talked about in front of
an open fire in the comfort of a log cabin or in the local
clubhouse. Knowing that you are a potential pioneer gives an extra thrill
to the experience, the only obvious risk being a very long walk if you
stretch your luck too far. Landing far from the nearest road is not so bad
if you fly a paraglider, but slightly trickier with a hangglider! Streams
are plentiful, so drinking water is never a problem, and the high mountain
wild life is fascinating, although the swarms of mosquitos may be rather
aggressive! If landing on the Dovrefjell
plateau, look out for musk oxen! Mobile telephones are not to be
relied on once you are out of range of valleys and main roads.
In the heart of this area (310 km from Oslo),
the National Centre for Hang- and Paragliding is situated in Vågåmo
(“Vågå”), a small community in the Ottadalen
valley, a side branch to the Gudbrandsdalen
valley. The centre is open from the beginning of May through to the end of
August, offering information about flying sites, local weather conditions,
local rules and regulations. In the centre you will find a pilots gadget
shop, snack kiosk, living rooms, showers and saunas. This is the place to
collect information and team up with other XC fanatics revelling in both
sports. The main launch site Vole, is
close to the centre, having a height difference of
700 meters between take-off and landing on a well groomed lawn
outside the centre. This is an ideal launch site for both local and XC
flying for pilots of all categories.
Taking off in
Bøverdalen valley (50 min.
drive from Centre) you are on the threshold of first
class alpine flying. Thermalling over the naked snowpatched terrain,
topping out at 2600-3100 meters you will view Norway’s highest peak Galdhøpiggen
over glaciers and
ravines, wingtips close
to a vertical cliff, your pulse accelerates
and your mind is in overdrive.
These surroundings might etch a long
lasting impression on you, they have on me! (Cross Country no 34
“Getting High in Norway” and no 52 “Trapped” ) Height difference
between the highest launch (1850 m.a.s.l.) and the lowest landing field is
valley at Espesetra (40 min.
drive) thermals are very consistent and at times quite strong, easily
pushing you up to XC level. For the less experienced, flying here during
peak hours could be scary. The resemblance to a washing machine followed
by a tumble dryer has often been mentioned!
The best launch site for record attempting
flights is probably at Bismo (1
hr. drive). A novice pilot once asked one of the XC-Hot Shots where he
could land close to Bismo. –We
never land here, we only start here-, was the arrogant reply. Well, it’s
not completely true, there is actually a landing field for the unlucky few
that bomb out!
The best XC
conditions are from mid May to early August. Thermal activity is normally
manageable, but during peak season some generators produce columns that
will hit you with 7-14 m/s. Paragliders are grounded some days due to strong winds. In the
middle of summer it never gets really dark and you may fly all around the
clock! ”Magic air” conditions sometimes last close to midnight.
Norway has some reasonably good pilots, but until now most of the elite
(especially the paraglider pilots) have been heavily engaged in
competitions at home and abroad, and therefore lacking time for serious
XC. The 1999 season introduces a new system, incorporating XC-league
flights into the national pilot ranking system. (Have
a look at
Paragliding XC League)
This will inspire top
pilots to spend more time on XC flights thus raising the level and
interest for Norwegian XC.
The current Norwegian free distance record is 123,9 km for a paraglider,
set by Per Arne Soldal in 1995. For a hangglider 189,9 km was set by
Werner Johannessen in 1996. Both
records were achieved by starting at Bismo
and crossing several mountain plateaus.
In case the weather conditions do not favour flying,
there is no reason to sit and gather dust. The Otta valley is well suited for activities such as mountain biking,
fishing, canoeing, wind-surfing (a 35 km lake) and of course trekking.
There are even a couple of well-known and excellent summer ski resorts not
far from the Centre. Organised rafting is performed on the Sjoa river in the
parallel Heidalen valley.
The Geiranger fjord
is the fjord closest to the Centre. The spectacular view of the fjord from
Dalssnibba is a treat for sore
eyes and also, if you have got the stomach for it, a hair-raising launch
site for a memorable 1476 meters descent amongst majestic mountains down
to the Geiranger community.
If you prefer over-crowded launches, gaggles and
landing fields, you will get bored in Norway. Also, if heavily restricted
air-space is to your liking, you will not feel comfortable here!
On the other hand, if you feel this pull towards harsh mountains
and fancy flying through huge areas of untouched wilderness, when will I
see you around ?
focuses on the very best XC area in Norway. In addition you can have both
challenging and pure leisure flying in all parts of Norway. For further
The National Center for Hang- and Paragliding in Vågå.
Telephone + 47 61 23 21 00
47 61 23 20 75.
The Norwegian Aero Klubb (NAK)
Telephone + 47 23 10 29 40
Telefax + 47 23 10 29 01
The NAK web site is www.nak.no.
(Previously published in
Cross Country no 63 in 1999)