#213 Pierre Carter and Into Thin Air

Pierre flying off Everest

South African pilot and adventurer Pierre Carter has been at this game for a very long time, and he hasn’t wasted any time chasing thin air dreams. Pierre has been knocking off the world’s seven summits for nearly 20 years (some of them several times), and has flown off all but Denali (because it’s illegal) and has only Antarcticas Mt Vinson remaining. In between his efforts to summit and fly off the worlds highest peaks (including Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea) Pierre competed in the Red Bull X-Alps three times, organized the X-Berg hike and fly race in South Africa and most recently had a bit of an epic in Pakistan. Come along for an amazing ride with a very special gentleman.

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Takeaways

  • Pierre Carr has a passion for paragliding and mountaineering, which has defined his life and career.
  • Flying off the Seven Summits is a challenging and rewarding adventure that requires permission and careful planning.
  • The Red Bull X-Alps is a thrilling race that combines paragliding and hiking across the Alps.
  • Flying off mountains like Kilimanjaro and Denali requires skill, experience, and favorable weather conditions. Flying in the Dolomites can be challenging and requires knowledge of the area.
  • Food poisoning can have a significant impact on performance in the X-Alps.
  • Support teams play a crucial role in the success of athletes in the X-Alps.
  • Knowing the Alps well is essential for navigating the X-Alps effectively.
  • Knee replacement surgery can improve mobility and allow for continued adventure.
  • The Red Rocks race and the X-Berg Challenge offer unique and exciting opportunities for paragliding and adventure sports.
  • Climbing Denali and Carstensz Pyramid are challenging and rewarding mountaineering experiences. Flying in Papua New Guinea can be challenging due to difficult terrain and unpredictable weather conditions.
  • Obtaining a permit to fly off Mount Everest is a complex process, but it opens up the opportunity for a unique and iconic flight.
  • Flying off Mount Everest is a surreal and emotional experience, despite the short duration of the flight.
  • Pierre has future plans to climb and fly off Mount Vincent, as well as other 8,000-meter peaks. Methodical review helps in organizing and understanding the content of a conversation.
  • Identifying principal themes allows for a more structured and cohesive presentation.
  • Consolidating subtopics under primary themes provides a comprehensive exploration of the conversation.
  • Creating fewer, more expansive chapters enhances the listener experience.

Chapters

00:00Introduction and Appreciation

01:48Early Years and Introduction to Paragliding

04:27Career and Seven Summits

06:36Paragliding as an Ascent Tool

10:29Denali and Flying Restrictions

13:05Flying off Kilimanjaro

15:00First Three Summits: Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro

23:00Red Bull X-Alps 2009

29:00Crash Landing and Injury

32:14Flying off Kilimanjaro and Red Bull X-Alps 2011

34:50Adventure in the Dolomites

36:20Falling asleep in the air

37:19Food poisoning in the X-Alps

38:43The role of support teams in the X-Alps

39:36Different strategies in the X-Alps

40:03The challenges of the X-Alps

41:06Goals in the X-Alps

41:34The importance of knowing the Alps

42:38The X-Alps experience of other athletes

43:08The impact of illness on the X-Alps

44:30The recovery process after the X-Alps

45:27Knee replacement surgery

47:09The decision to have knee replacement surgery

48:57The Red Rocks race

49:18The X-Berg Challenge

52:26Climbing Denali

56:40The challenges of Carstensz Pyramid

01:03:26The adventure of Carstensz Pyramid

01:07:54Flying in Papua New Guinea

01:08:54Challenges of flying in Papua New Guinea

01:09:23Flying off Mount Cook

01:10:19Flying off Mount Everest

01:14:10Obtaining a permit to fly off Mount Everest

01:16:13The experience of flying off Mount Everest

01:25:02Flying off Mount Vincent

01:37:23Future plans for climbing and flying

#212 The Most Important Flight with Marcus King

Marcus King has been flying pretty much full time since 1991. He spent many years with the early Ozone team and has been on the design team with Cross Country Magazine for ages. All those gear and wing reviews you see in the magazine (and a TON of the photos!) are compliments of Marcus. In this chat Marcus shares his background in paragliding, his work in the industry, the rise of the sports class competitions, his involvement in the Red Bull X-Alps, and his passion for flying in the French Alps. And then we switch to a very unfortunate totally benign day back in September when Marcus hit the ground hard. Marcus shares his experience of the accident, the rescue operation, and the injuries he sustained and of course the 20-20 hindsights that are always a part of the forensics of making mistakes. He emphasizes the importance of wearing proper safety gear such as an EN certified flying helmet; always communicating with folks before you head out so people know where you are; having all your emergency gear even for the “easy” flights; and the need to respect the risks involved in paragliding with every single flight you take. Marcus discusses his rehabilitation and recovery process, highlighting the mental challenges and coping strategies he employed. Marcus also explores the impact of the accident on his family and the decision to fly again. Important lessons for everyone to hear. Enjoy!

Takeaways

  • Wearing proper safety gear, such as an EN certified flying helmet, is crucial in minimizing the risk of injuries during paragliding accidents.
  • Rehabilitation and recovery from paragliding injuries require patience, mental strength, and taking one day at a time.
  • The paragliding community provides valuable support and inspiration for pilots recovering from accidents.
  • Respecting the risks involved in paragliding and maintaining a cautious mindset is essential for safe flying.

Chapters

00:00Introduction and Background

07:21Flying in the French Alps

15:35Wing Testing and Gear Reviews

20:06The Rise of Sports Class Competitions

25:13The Red Bull X-Alps Experience

32:38The Accident and Rescue

37:37The Accident and Rescue

39:05The Importance of Proper Safety Gear

40:02Injuries and Hospitalization

44:20Rehabilitation and Recovery

45:02Mental Challenges and Coping Strategies

46:24Lessons Learned and Safety Precautions

49:12Guilt and Support from Family

50:59The Decision to Fly Again

52:23Prognosis and Recovery

53:37Previous Accidents and Lessons

54:17Mixed Emotions about Returning to Flying

56:11Finding Hope and Inspiration from Other Pilots

01:01:13The Importance of Respecting the Risks

01:04:49The Desensitization to Accidents in the Paragliding Community

01:06:24The Illusion of Safety in Familiar Environments

01:09:07The Flow State and Risk Management

01:12:18The Importance of Tracking Devices

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#211 – Jake Holland and the New Way Up

Jake Holland is a British filmmaker and adventure pilot based in Chamonix. In this episode we discuss his totally wild experiences this season and last in Pakistan with professional climbers Will Sim and Fabi Buhl, and pilots and adventurers Aaron Durogati, Antoine Girard, Veso Ovcharov and others, and the challenges of capturing these high altitude adventures on film. We discuss the mission of using paragliders as an access tool to explore remote mountains, the economics of filmmaking in the paragliding industry, and the risks and safety considerations involved. Jake shares his background in flying and filmmaking, as well as the logistics of traveling with heavy equipment. We touch on the impact of paragliding on the climbing community and the accessibility of paragliding adventures in Pakistan. Jake discusses various themes related to adventure flying and filmmaking. We discuss the importance of understanding the sky and weather conditions and the importance of backcountry knowledge. The conversation touches on Jake’s Tanzania trip with Tom de Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens, as well as the challenges of filmmaking and maintaining creative control, and the difficulties and rewards of flying in Alaska and Pakistan. The conversation concludes with a discussion on the value of slowing down and embracing the adventure of being out in nature. Enjoy!

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Takeaways

  • Paragliders can be used as an efficient and lightweight tool to access remote mountains and explore new lines.
  • Filmmaking in the paragliding industry can be challenging due to the economics involved, but there are opportunities to collaborate with outdoor brands and create marketing films.
  • Paragliding adventures in Pakistan offer unique flying conditions, with high cloud bases and the potential for long-distance flights.
  • Flying with skis and landing in high-altitude environments requires careful piloting skills and consideration of the weather conditions.
  • Traveling with heavy camera gear and equipment can be a logistical challenge, but airlines like Turkish Airlines offer free ski bags for international flights. Understanding the sky and weather conditions is crucial for adventure flying.
  • Backcountry knowledge, especially about snow conditions, is essential for safe flying.
  • Drones have revolutionized aerial filming, providing filmmakers with unique perspectives.
  • Adventure flying is gaining popularity, attracting more people to explore remote and challenging locations.
  • French pilots are known for their daring and innovative approach to adventure sports.
  • Filmmaking in remote locations requires careful planning and balancing creative control with budget constraints.
  • Flying in Alaska presents unique challenges due to unpredictable weather and flying conditions.
  • Pakistan offers incredible flying opportunities, but conditions can vary, requiring adaptability and patience. Unplugging from technology and immersing oneself in nature and community can be a deeply fulfilling experience.
  • Exploring the Grand Canyon during the winter offers a unique and less crowded experience.
  • The Grand Canyon offers a wide range of activities, including hiking, camping, and whitewater rafting.
  • Dreaming and planning for future adventures can bring excitement and anticipation.

Chapters

00:00Introduction and Background

02:58The Mission and Filmmaking

05:27Using Paragliders as an Access Tool

08:01Personal Flying Background

10:09Transition to Filmmaking

12:20Economics of Filmmaking

13:56Risk and Safety in Paragliding Filmmaking

16:06Collaboration and Project Development

19:08Impact on the Climbing Community

21:06Flying Conditions in Pakistan

23:00Top Landing and Challenges

25:07Gear and Equipment

28:32Flying with Skis and Challenges

31:44Logistics and Traveling with Equipment

35:04Risk Factors and Accessibility

38:28Understanding the Sky and Weather

40:09Backcountry Understanding of Snow

41:32Flying and Filming with Drones

45:19Increasing Interest in Adventure Flying

47:17The French and Dreaming Big

49:19Tanzania Trip with Tom and Horacio

51:47Filmmaking Challenges and Creative Control

56:59The Challenges of Filming in Alaska

01:01:46Balancing Filming and Flying

01:06:45The Struggle to Complete the Alaska Expedition

01:10:05Unpredictable Flying Conditions in Alaska

01:13:39Flying Conditions in Pakistan

01:14:32Flying in Pakistan and the Potential for Bigger Flights

01:15:38Conditions for Cross-Country Flying in Pakistan

01:16:38The Potential for Even Bigger Flights in Pakistan

01:17:11Flying in Remote Areas of Pakistan

01:17:52Future Plans and Exploring New Possibilities

01:19:17Use of Oxygen in High-Altitude Flying

01:21:16Closing Remarks and Appreciation

01:21:25Final Question: What Wasn’t Covered in the Conversation

01:21:46Discussion on Filmmaking and Future Projects

01:22:19Working with Pablo and Filming in Alaska

01:23:17Flying with Oxygen and Acclimatization

01:24:17Flying in National Parks and Emergency Landings

01:25:42Future Project Ideas and Flying in the Rangel Range

01:27:04Comparing the Rockies Traverse and Flying the Length of the Alps

01:28:21Using a Helicopter for Filming and Logistics

01:31:33Kenny’s Role as a Bush Pilot Mechanic and Recovery Specialist

01:37:19Appreciating the Slower Pace of Filmmaking and Enjoying the Wilderness

01:40:41The Value of Slowing Down and Embracing the Adventure

01:44:05Desire for a Raw and Less Polished Film

01:45:06Enjoying the Experience of Being Out in Nature

01:45:50The Joy of Unplugging and Connecting with Community

01:46:02The Grand Canyon Special

01:47:01Dreaming of the Grand Canyon

01:47:30The Magic of the Grand Canyon

01:47:58Parting Words and Future Adventures

#210- Louis Tapper and Reducing Carnage

Adventure often runs in the blood of Kiwis, and in Louis Tapper it runs thick. Long before Louis got hooked with flying he broke a world distance record in kitesurfing in Brazil and was (and remains) a pretty hard-core paddler. When he discovered flying he dug in hard. Louis competes regularly in World Cups around the world; is a 5-time New Zealand National Champion; and currently holds the out and back triangle records in New Zealand. In this episode we explore many aspects of managing risk, beginning with his epic in Brazil. We discuss the crossover between paddling and flying, best-practices for progression in paragliding, and the lessons Louis has learned from flying sailplanes. The conversation then shifts to the topic of the recently published New Zealand Safety and Accident Report, which Louis and several others researched and penned. We dive into what the comprehensive report uncovered, why it’s almost always a string of errors that lead to an accident, where the greatest change is needed, who is most at risk, and why too many accidents in paragliding, speed flying, and hang gliding keep happening. We explore the concept of human factors in accidents and the potential for applying lessons from commercial aviation to improve safety in free-flight. Turns out it remains pretty obvious: it’s the basics that can make a big difference- ground handling, launching, and landing. Louis emphasizes the importance of margin and observation in reducing accidents and the importance of personal approach, wing handling, and situational awareness. The conversation also highlights the significance of decision-making and why pilots don’t throw when they should, the risk assessment for different pilot levels, and the need for a community-based safety approach. The slow progress in changing the safety culture in New Zealand (and around the world) is acknowledged, along with the compromises in safety associated with lightweight gear. An important talk with a fun individual! Enjoy!

To read the Safety Task Force Report go here.

To see the FlyTop approach to safety that Louis discusses in the show go here.

What is old is new, 20 year old recommendations for the Hang Gliding community that still stand true today.

Éxcellent collection of safety ideas and concepts- Now in English

French study on Paraglide instructor accident rates (turn on subtitles)

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Takeaways

  • Persistence and thoughtful decision-making are important in extreme adventures.
  • Observation and risk management are crucial skills in paragliding, hang gliding and speed flying.
  • There is a need for better accident reporting systems and a focus on human factors in paragliding.
  • Lessons from other sports, such as backcountry skiing, can be applied to improve safety in paragliding.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

02:32 Kitesurfing and Distance Record

04:03 Challenges of Flying in Brazil

05:09 Sailing Experience and Challenges

06:06 Risk and Safety in Flying

08:34 Unofficial Distance Record

09:35 Learning from Mistakes and Challenges

10:25 Managing Cortisol Levels

11:46 Nick Neynens and Independent Thinking

16:13 Crossover between Paddling and Flying

20:23 Progression in Paragliding

22:58 Flying Sailplanes and Paragliding

28:24 The Importance of Accident Reporting

32:24 The Safety Report and its Purpose

35:02 Underreporting of Accidents

38:08 Human Factors in Accidents

41:36 Applying Lessons from Commercial Aviation

43:08 Backcountry Skiing and Paragliding

43:54 The Future of Safety in Paragliding

44:19 Addressing Basic Mistakes in Flying

45:58 Importance of Ground Handling and Margin

47:00 Key Factors in Launching

48:16 Common Mistakes in Landing

49:38 Lack of Observation and Margin in Landing

51:42 Personal Approach to Flying and Safety

53:09 Importance of Wing Handling and Situational Awareness

54:28 The Role of Decision-Making and Throwing Reserves

55:53 Risk Assessment for Different Pilot Levels

58:19 Risk in the First 100 Hours of Flying

01:01:40 Successful Safety Approaches in Norway and Other Countries

01:09:33 Slow Progress in Changing Safety Culture in New Zealand

01:14:26 Comparison of Risk Between Expert and Intermediate Pilots

01:17:39 Compromises in Safety with Lightweight Gear

#209 Thad Spencer- the Comeback

Thad Spencer returns to the Mayhem to discuss a very different topic than we did in our previous chat. A little over 18 months ago Thad went out with his friend Alex Peterson for what looked like a pretty good day to go big in western Minnesota. Alex towed up first without incident, then Thad hooked in and began to tow up and things went pretty quickly from good day to lights out. Thad discusses the selfish nature of paragliding and its impact on relationships. He also talks about his experience with the Zeno 2 glider and launching in challenging conditions. He shares his experience with emergency response and the hospital, as well as his injuries and recovery process. In this conversation we discuss various aspects of overcoming fear, taking risks, and embracing challenges as we age. We also delve into the topic of retirement and the process of redefining self-identity and finding purpose in this new phase of life. Thad shares his personal experiences and insights, highlighting the importance of confidence and the journey of releasing and rediscovering one’s identity. The conversation concludes with a humorous story about Bill Belcourt’s halo and a reflection on their shared love for flying. This is a humble and at times very funny story about bad luck, good luck, fear injury, family, pain, laughter, and returning to flying. Enjoy!

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SHOW NOTES:

Takeaways

  • Overcoming fear and taking risks can lead to personal growth and new experiences.
  • Injuries can have long-lasting consequences and make individuals more cautious in certain activities.
  • Confidence is crucial in extreme sports, but it’s important to find a balance between confidence and caution.
  • Retirement can be a challenging transition, but it also offers an opportunity to redefine self-identity and find new passions and purpose.
  • Creating and making things can bring fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment in retirement.
  • Releasing and rediscovering one’s identity is a journey that takes time and self-reflection.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

03:00 The Importance of Communication and Emergency Contacts

06:00 The Selfish Nature of Paragliding and Its Impact on Relationships

09:00 The Zeno 2 and Launching in Challenging Conditions

18:00 The Accident: A Big Frontal on Tow

26:00 Emergency Response and Hospital Experience

32:00 Injuries and Recovery

01:08:30 Overcoming Fear and Taking Risks

01:09:22 The Consequences of Injury

01:10:18 The Importance of Confidence

01:11:07 Embracing Challenges as You Age

01:11:37 Retirement and Self-Identity

01:12:31 Finding Purpose in Retirement

01:13:55 The Transition to Retirement

01:14:49 Accepting Aging and Redefining Self-Worth

01:16:14 The Process of Retirement

01:17:43 Creating and Making Things

01:19:01 Releasing and Rediscovering Identity

01:20:33 The Journey of Retirement

01:21:17 Walking and Reflecting

01:22:11 Bill’s Halo Story

01:23:22 Closing Remarks

#208 A Love Affair with Flying- Phil Hystek

Phil Hystek

“Flat out Phil” Hystek has been instructing free flight in Australia longer than anyone. It began with a fascination of hang gliding in the 70’s, becoming a hang gliding instructor in the late 80’s in California, being “forced” into paragliding in the early 90’s and his energizer batteries are going stronger than ever today. Phil has racked up 171,000 meters of vertical ascent in his back yard to date this year (at age 65!), just returned from a 4 weeks of vol-biv flying in Bir, India and is a story teller for the ages. We travel the world, meet the legends, pull off the absurd in Telluride, pack it hard in Bali, and find out who thrives in this sport and who should maybe take up a different activity. Sit back, crack a cold XXXX and enjoy, this one will have you in stitches!

Phil’s bivvy site in India

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#207- Behind the Scenes of the Red Bull X-Alps with Tarquin Cooper

Patrick Von Kanel approaches the Tre Cime Turnpoint in the 23′ race

Tarquin Cooper has been the voice of the Red Bull X-Alps the last few editions and this year was joined by your host and four-time X-Alps competitor Gavin McClurg to add some commentary and live footage from the air. In this episode the two of us sit down to share our own unique perspective of the race as we chased the athletes and teams around the Alps and had our own adventures (and misadventures!) in our mostly frantic attempts to keep up. I go into the full details of the unfortunate “tree incident”, we hear about Tarquin’s wild sail in the Fastnet race immediately after the Red Bull X-Alps ended, the athletes who most impressed us this year, Chrigel’s continued dominance, what it was like for me to be covering the event instead of racing and a lot more. If you’re in a bit of Red Bull X-Alps withdrawal this episode should help bide some time until 2025! Enjoy!

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Bonus Episode! Decoding the Invisible with Calef Letorney

The bonus episode on leaving the nest with Calef was such a big hit we decided to do another show, call it the "201" version, or the next step. At this stage pilots are a couple hundred hours in. They are chasing cross country, getting more comfortable with bumpy air, they've hopefully done an SIV and are actively trying to decode the invisible. We take a deep dive into finding the special sauce of flying XC.

This content is only available to Members of the Cloudbase Mayhem. If you have subscribed to our newsletter or have supported us in the past through PayPal, Patreon or another way you should have an account all set up with us and you can login below (username is typically your email). If you aren't a member, all we've ever asked for is a buck a show so please if you can join now! Can't afford a buck a show? We want all our content to be available to the flying community regardless of your financial position, so just send us an email and we'll sort you out.

#206- A Walk (and Fly) down Memory Lane with Paul Guschlbauer

Paul Guschlbauer has been on the podium more than anyone in the Red Bull X-Alps other than of course Chrigel. He began his X-Alps journey back in 2011 when by his own account, he was a pretty beginner pilot. But that year the weather was horrific and he is a beast on the ground and he managed to nab 3rd place. This result lead to becoming a Red Bull athlete, a spot in that year’s Dolomitimann, and the rest is…well at least history in the making as Paul is far from done! This year’s Red Bull X-Alps was Paul’s 7th edition of the incredible race and a lot has happened over the more than a decade since. Paul now has two children; he’s flown his supercub from Alaska to Argentina; crossed the Alps not only 7 times in the race but twice more (once with Tom De Dorlodot during their ill-fated “Adriatic” expedition”); and he and Aaron Durogati have their own hike and fly series, the Wanderbird. In this episode Paul and I dive into his races and get into the stuff that fans probably haven’t heard. His huge mental struggles during the 2013 race; being in “flow” in 2015; his amazing run through the Lakes in Italy in 2017; what led to the very cool finish with Benoit in 2019; some very funny moments in 2021; and finally some thoughts on the outrageous pace in 2023.

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#205- Chasing the Monster with Gordon Boettger

On June 19th this year in the blackness of night Gordon Boettger and his copilot Bruce Campbell donned expedition clothing mountaineers use to climb the highest peaks in the world, stepped into a specialized high performance sailplane, put on their night vision goggles and took to the skies of the Sierra mountain chain at 0230. They didn’t know it yet, but they would be in the air flying “wave” (aka the “monster”) for over 17 hours and go farther than anyone ever has in a glider, ultimately ticking up 3055 kilometers, or 1898 miles. Gordon has been chasing the monster for years. It’s his specialty. It’s a little more tame than his day job, flying commercially for FedEx…and it certainly isn’t tame. Flying in the lee of mountains with winds that border on hurricane strength isn’t for the feint of heart. When you get it right you fly straight for huge distances, the vario beeping consistently and you can enjoy the view, which is pretty astonishing at heights that can reach well over 30,000 feet. But when you get it wrong it’s a pretty serious game of holding on and trying desperately to find an out. Rotor is extreme, the sink is alarming and it’s like trying to stay on a very pissed off bucking bronco. As the saying goes, when you’re high you’re high, when you’re low you’re low.

The pilots approach Mt Whitney at 0500 on second leg northbound

In this episode Gordon takes us through his history of flying gliders since he was a teenager and we crescendo with the record flight. He discusses a very close call on a previous flight in the Sierras where he missed the wave and found himself battling obscene sink. And we discuss what’s possible looking ahead. On a day Gordon called at best a 5 out of 10, what could pilots who chase the monster pull off?

“Watching with the (goggles) it was amazing to see the sky,” he said. “The Milky Way was blowing up, there were shooting stars all over the place — it was absolutely breathtaking. We were at 23,000 feet in the middle of nowhere. It really kind of opened a whole new door.”

Buckle up, this one will blow your mind.

The conditions at high altitude can be pretty extreme, even in a protected cockpit
Over Lee Vining looking east over Mono Lake on 2nd leg northbound
Looking south into the Owens at 1400 12 hours into the flight
Crossing 3,000 kilometers…

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