July 7th – July 23rd, 2012
I didn’t expect to accomplish the same quantity or quality of paragliding while staying in Manali after my 6 weeks in Bir. One factor was that the monsoon was approaching all of north India but another reason is that the topography and meteorology around Bir is more favourable for flying. Nonetheless, over the 3½ weeks I planned to stay in Manali, I hoped to get some flying in.
I called Ajay, a local pilot and one of the best in India, to see about the conditions. I flew a tandem flight with him last year from a launch called Marhi which is up past Snow Point on the Rohtang Pass. It was a Tuesday and I forgot that the Rohtang Pass is closed for road maintenance on Tuesdays so we made plans to meet up and go up the mountain the following day but since it was a lovely day, I hopped in a rickshaw and headed off to Solang Nalla, a small winter ski hill where one can fly although its inundated with tandem paragliders.
I was a bit shocked to have to pay 500 rupees ($10) to ride up in the gondola and then further surprised that I had to hike back down 1/5 of the way to the launch spot. I think next time I’ll just hike up as it was only about 300 meters up from the landing area. I took off and just boated around about 100 meters above the launch area but then finally started to get a bit bored so I decided to try and cross over to the next mountain to the east. It was a low crossing but I continued to ridge soar along the mountain and travelled about 3 kilometres to the base of the Rohtang Pass and then made my way back and ended up landing in the zoo of a landing zone at Solang (a zoo as there’s a constant mayhem of tandems landing, people riding on horses & motorbikes or rolling down the hill in Zorb balls...with a throng of people watching).
The launch at Solang:
Flying above the gondola:
Looking down at the landing zone:
Flying over the launch:
The landing zone circus:
Some guys from Delhi on holidays who were kind enough to give me a lift back towards Manali after it started to rain:
The next day I headed up to a launch called Marhi with Ajay but the conditions weren’t great and I ended up just having a sled ride (a top to bottom flight) but it was still fun to get in the air. About a week later I went up for another attempt. After parawaiting for over an hour, waiting for the low clouds to clear, I took off and had a couple hour flight but I never got above launch and most of it was spent ridge soaring on the mountain between Marhi and Solang and I did enjoy flying around with 5-6 Himalayan Griffon vultures.
Flying over Snow Point (which is not so snowy right now):
Flying over the switchbacks:
The landing spot at Kothi...a bit hilly but it worked:
Some ridge soaring:
Flying close to trees:
Hmm...should I launch? Maybe not just yet...a wee bit cloudy:
Hugging the hillside:
Flying towards a big rock face:
So no epic flying in Manali...at least after my time in Bir but still fun nonetheless.