Born from the epic Fly Namibia expeditions of 2008-2010, Fly Morocco is the latest hang gliding adventure in Africa aimed at breaking world records and flying big distance. Organiser Erick Angles will be blogging here for the duration of the expedition
The group of top French hang glider pilots has set up camp in the super dry deserts of Morocco. Armed with trikes to aerotow themselves into the big skies of the Maghreb in Africa they plan to fly for a month. Their goal is simple: World Records!
Basing themselves near Ouarzazate, 75km south east of the Atlas mountains in the sub-Saharan plateau that runs into the main desert itself, the expedition will be the first we know of to try big distance flying in the area.
The terrain is dry and rocky with ravines and escarpments criss-crossing the barren landscape. The airmass is generally dry this time of year, giving high bases and good climbs.
If the flying turns on, big distances could be flown, with even longer retrieves if pilots land in any of the vast tracts of uninhabited land.
Blogging from the sub Sahara for XCMag.com is Fly Morocco organiser and pilot Erick Angles. He will be filing daily reports here as and when he can – check back to this page every day for updates from the edge of the Sahara.
DAY 16: Wednesday 28 APRIL 2011
The wind is not too strong early on and the cus are already forming; As usual, Bruno takes off first…He catches the service lift and hits base straightaway @ 3600m…He’s gone for the day! Aodrenn takes off next and goes north towards the Atlas as he did a couple weeks ago. Bernard, tired from yesterday’s flight helps me and Lucile to get everybody prepared to get towed…
Next is Patrick who also gets satellised at base and waits for Jacques, his flying buddy…JM gets towed up around 12:15 and hits ceiling @ 3600m also while Bruno is 30 Kms away @ 4000m.
Jacques finally takes off but some emitting radio pb from an unknown origin will get him and Patrick to land back at the camp…the sound is so unbearable and they can’t even hear their varios. We managed to over reach that signal trough the PC Radio and JM, Bruno and Aodrenn switch theirs off hoping for the faulty one to go out of battery asap…I have no more radio contact with the pilots ;o(
JM is following the N10 in smooth and generous lifts with almost full VG. He bumps into Bruno @ KM 75 (who just made a turn point at KM 93). JM continues up till KM 89 and decides to try to come back also. He will do the first 5 Kms in about an hour because of the strong head wind until he reaches the daily base @ 4420m just before Boulmane Dades. He then does a 10 Kms transition so smooth that he loses only about 100m…It’s getting late and he doesn’t have time to come back to base. He will finish his flight with a very long and silky glide and lands at KM 44 around 7PM with the sun setting on the Atlas while Bruno just landed back to base about 20 mns earlier…I receive a phone call as soon as JM landed: ‘Erick, this is the most amazing flight of my whole life!’
In the meantime, back at camp, Jacques and Patrick are so frustrated because of the radio pb that we are waiting a couple hours for the dust activity to calm down to get them towed again but by the time it’s good to go, Patrick doesn’t feel like it anymore and will help Bruno and Lucile to get Jacques ready for take off while I am getting ready for a little flight…
I finally get towed up by Edouard a bit after 4PM in some very punchy conditions; although, after zeroing for a while, I find my favourite service lift which takes me to base vigorously (an integrated +7m/s). I will stop
spiralling @ 4400m as I didn’t expect that so late and I didn’t take O2 with me ;o(
I go South towards a village that I have noticed a couple days ago, take some pictures and then go West towards Skoura. The head wind is strong but I have enough altitude to continue towards the palm tree plantation…The light and the ground colors and contrasts are amazing at this hour of a day and I stay a while before continuing South West towards Ozz and the Lake.
I don’t find any lifts on my way there so I turn around after a couple miles and finally find small varios at the Northen end of Skoura…The lifts get stronger @ 2500m and I am back @ 3200m when I decide to follow the N10 Eastward, North of the road. The transition to the Antennas about 10 miles further is very smooth and the landscapes are delightful because of the time of the day…at this time, (it’s almost 6PM) and because of the radio pbs earlier, I have no idea that Bruno and JM are both on their way back. I think I am alone and decide to go land back to camp after a couple hours flight and my head and go pros filled with memories. Butterfly landing with quite a bit of wind, I just have time to put my glider in the ‘tent’ helped by Samyr and Hussein when I hear an ‘Howdy’
above my head: I look up and sure enough, it’s Bruno who is getting ready to land! Bernard, Patrick and Jacques who went to the village for a coke get back to base at the same time…
We are very excited by the fact that he just finished his 200 Kms circuit…in about 8 Hours! Samyr and Hussein prepare the tea which we all drink together when Douchka, Bruno’s wife arrive at camp with the traditional six pack ;o) It’s sunset, All the pilots have landed (JM just called me) and we all have a drink before getting back to the Kasbah…
The retrieves are tedious, especially Aodrenn’s who landed in the Moroccan Pampa again but let’s not spoiled a great day with this…
DAY 15: Wednesday 27 APRIL 2011
The weather forecast is similar to yesterday’s and we get to the camp around 10am. As usual, Bruno and Bernard are in the air by eleven as well as JM who goes North East hitting ceiling straight away at 3600m. The climbs are uneven and he hits a low point at the exact same spot as Bernard a couple days ago. The wind gets stronger at all levels and he decides to land. Better safe than sorry…
Patrick and his Tsunami are in the air by noon but decide to stay and fly locally. He stays hits the ceiling @ 3,600m and flies a couple hours before landing back to base like a butterfly.
Jacques, who took off right after gets countered by the increasing wind and lands in the Oued just before Skoura…
Bernard and Bruno finally hit ceiling after about 20Ks and fly wing to wing eastward for another 100km vith very generous climbs (+5-6m/s), up till the Alnif road junction where they get into a ‘confluence’ where the two different
air masses conflict with one another. Bruno, not enjoying the flying conditions anymore, decides to land at the exact same spot where Bernard landed yesterday…
I finally get towed up by Edouard much later in the afternoon, once I had taken care of everybody. My second flight at the feet of the Atlas range. I hit the ceiling straight away @ 3,600m in one smooth +6m/s climb, but it’s too late to leave for XC flying; but since my wrist still feels weak anyway, I enjoy a nice local flight and will land a couple hours later with the scenery and colours engraved in my brain forever…
Meanwhile, Bernard continues to follow the N10 Eastward while the terrain and the topography changes quite often: from a valley opening to a huge stone desert followed by a yellow and finally red sand desert. ‘It’s splendid and so spacious!’ He gets himself a bit lost in this immensity; it’s amazingly gorgeous…he hits a low point at KM 151 but finally catch a lift on his way to Erfoud.
He still doesn’t know that he got ‘lost’ and zigzags for about 50 km contemplating from above an unforgettable dust devil ballet. Getting to Erfoud, he sees from a far distance a large oasis in the middle of the red sand
dunes. He finally knows where he is and decides to follow the N13 towards El Rachidia to the North. He flies above a gorgeous valley filled with many oasis in the middle of a canyon.
After a little soaring above the canyon to wait for the 4×4 to get closer to him and he lands in a Moroccan little soccer terrain surrounded by kids who gawp with astonished eyes over his weird bird…The retrieve gets there a few mns later with Khalid, Bruno and JM onboard. On the way back to the Kasbah they experience an unreal late day lighting on the Atlas; the colours are amazing and the atmosphere so mystical that they decide to stop on the road to eat a traditional Moroccan tajine with the fingers…and bread ;o)
Bernard goes to bed with his head filled with unreal landscapes and priceless memories from that flight…for everything else, there’s Mastercard ;o)
DAY 13: Monday 25 APRIL 2011
Bruno and Bernard are ready early and get towed first as usual. They follow the N10 eastward until they hit a low ceiling and shitty climbs at Kelaa M’Gouna. They fly on until they arrive very low at Boulmane Dades, the beginning of the Gorges of Dades, where they finally get strong lift which takes them to a ceiling at 3,400m.
From there they continue towards Tin Ghrir (The entrance of the Valley of Tograa) cloud hopping below very cute cums and amazing landscapes.
Sadly, Bernard is getting quite cold and starts avoiding lift, hoping to warm up in the air lower down. He landed at 120km while Bruno made a turnpoint at 112km and started his way back to base.
I take off for a nice little local flight mid-afternoon after the Tsunami and the flexwings had been towed up. Luc, JM, Patrick and Jacques fly east on the N10. I hit base at 3,400m with my first climb and I bump into Aodrenn who
had stayed locally also. We fly together for a while a bit north of camp (Atlas direction).
Jacques lands at the gas station of the village of Skoura while the others land just outside the first village the opposite direction. Aodrenn and I land back at camp a bit later.
We waited for Bruno, who had had a real hard time since his turn point due to a fairly strong headwind. He was now having a great time with beautiful 4,000m cloud streets. He’d flown over camp and towards Ouarzazate, the Dam and the Lake, but his wife, Douchka, was waiting for him with a six pack at camp. He finally decides, after an eight hours in the air, to come land back at base after a whooping 256km circuit!
DAY 12: Sunday 24 APRIL 2011
Cums are forming pretty early today. Phillipe and Doms, the two Swiss pilots, decide not to fly and help me at the camp with the take offs etc.
They are so efficient that Bruno and his VR10 are towed up just before 11am and head east. ten miles in they catch some snow flakes! What the F!? He comes back towards the base and is joined by Bernard, his usual flying buddy and Patrick with a Tsunami.
The three rigids leave towards the west and the Palm Tree Forest/Oasis but the CBs are forming and well. They are on their way back when I announce rain drops at camp. They land a few minutes later at the exit of the first
village without a drop.
The Atlas range and the Mt M’Gnoun are gorgeous with their brand new snow blanket (Doesn’t usually happen in April either…)…
The wadi (River bed) by our Guest House/Kasbah, which is normally dry, is filling up
quickly. By night, we’re on a big island and left wondering how we’ll leave the guest house the next morning. But ‘Ma Ken Muchkin’ – ‘No worries’ in Arabic – Tomorrow is a new day.
DAY 11: Saturday 23 APRIL 2011
Today is the day for me to get back on the horse after my little accident a couple months ago. Everybody helps me getting ready cos I am a bit stressed. It’s actually a very cool feeling at the time to have my pilot friends being so nice.
The towing goes actually much better than I thought it would, besides for the couple glances I take at the landscape, which doesn’t help my flying, but I can’t resist it. I finally see what I came for! I catch a bubble and spiral in it a couple times. My wrist still feel a bit weak. Then it’s time to land.
The wind gets stronger by the minute. Damned F*%$… wind. Nobody else takes off today.
DAY 10: Friday 22 APRIL 2011
There is a bit less wind (W.S.W 15-20 km/h) but the air mass is pretty dry and stable. A couple pilots have already gone home (Schoeb father and son) and Phiphi is leaving tomorrow. Everybody is getting ready ASAP to takeoff.
Three Rigids and two flex-wings manage to fly on following the N10 towards the east, while the others stay stuck and fly locally. The stability and small climbs are confirmed.
Two VR 10s, Bernard and Phiphi are flying wing to wing at 2,500m above the N10 for quite a while. They can’t find any lift and Phiphi has to land, Bernard manages to get a zero and continues for another 10km/h. However, the wind is getting stronger at all levels (about 40km/h now). For precautionary reasons he decides to land after about 75 km and has a very hard time folding back his glider alone.
The two kingposted flex-wings, JM and Jacques also ended up landing because of the strengthening wind. Jacques on a plateau above Kelaa M’Gnouna in the ‘Valley of the Roses’ and JM at 60km. The highest ceiling of the day was 3,300m
It was not the best weather but everybody is very happy with their day.
Days 6,7,8,9: Monday 18 – Thursday 21 APRIL 2011
All the pilots are here but basically, too much wind to do much distance flying.
The people from the area, looking at us like crazy people when we are towing at the camp, tell us that there isn’t usually that much wind in this season in the region…well, we seem to have lots of it since we arrived.
Some pilots still get very high (4,300-4,500m) in very smooth, generous thermals and the amazing shades of colours and diversity of landscapes remind me of Colorado, Nevada and Utah. The only difference is that here, we get the Atlas range thrown in free of charge ;o)
Personally, I am still grounded due to the fact that I am still in recovery of a broken wrist a few weeks ago but I hope to fly soon.
DAY 5: Sunday 17 APRIL 2011
Phiphi, Luc and Edouard just arrived last night but the weather forecast wasn’t
look great for XC.
Pascal took off around 10am to finally try the repairs he has done to his
basebar. It’s a real Moroccan craftsman’s work. It seems that it does the
trick though. Nicki Warad…all is well.
The wind gets stronger and we have another electrical problem on the ULM.
After pulling apart the whole electrical system and finally finding the faulty
switch, we decided to go spend the day in Ouarzazate. We split in to two groups. One to fix the ULM and the other
to do some sight seeing. With the plan to meet them a couple hours later after a little
stop at the local Ali Baba’s Cavern, where we have been finding everything we need, from
O2 tanks to electrical switches. It’s time to visit the Atlas Movie Studio where
scenes from Khundun, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra were all shot, but no Star Wars, that actually was shot in Tunisia ;o)
The weather forecast for tomorrow announces 4,000m to 4,500m ceilings with again
some serious wind…
DAY 3: FRIDAY 15 APRIL 2011
A very quiet day with only two pilots towing into a fairly stable airmass and a veiled sky with such poor visibility that we very can’t even see the Atlas Mountains.
Guillaume Schoeb was first to leave at 13:00 on his first Morroccan XC. It was hard to climb and he only reached 3,000m after 30km. He landed an hour later near the first turnpoint on the list Bernard Leclercq has prepared, just beside the road in front of a hotel restaurant. Loads of children came out to help him and entertained him till his retrieve arrived
Aodrenn took off right behind but wasn’t able to get away. He lacked motivation after the super high cloudbase yesterday.
Three drivers arrive tomorrow at different airports and with them comes a forecast of bases of 4,000m to 4,500m!
DAY 2: THURSDAY 14 APRIL 2011
Hard to say what was the ceiling today but it was well above 4,000m over the relief!
Aodrenn took off first around 2pm, but had to wait at 4,100m, already higher than the Mt Mgnoun, as we still were not equipped with oxygen.
South wind on the ground with a strong southwesterly in the air, which prevented him getting back to base. His GPS wasn’t switched on so we don’t know how many miles he ate, but he still pulled off a very nice free distance flight.
He landed nearby a little village where the locals watched him in awe. One man even offered him his daughter in marraige.
Apparently it was a very smooth flight with smooth +5m/s lift. A very pleasant and unforgettable flight altogether.
No one else flew due to stronger wind later in the afternoon and serious dust devils. It seems important to takeoff early and be in the air when it’s not good on the ground anymore…Like St Andre, only stronger!
DAY 1: WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL 2011
Nice weather forecast with a nice blue sky with lots of cus. Lots of inertia
to get started though; lack of sleep for some and two gliders that just arrived by plane in parts which needed to be put back together.
Besides some strong dust devils early afternoon, the first three pilots were able to do some try-outs: air-towed take-offs later in the afternoon for a local flight.
Aodrenn who took off first had to come back to the camp due to a radio emitting problem… he was already on his way towards the Atlas when he turned around…
Then it was the Schoeb family’s turn. First Pascal, the father, who was actually
the only one to take a Moroccan lift on the first take off allowing him to have
a very nice local flight…
A bit later, Guillaume, hit ceiling almost straight away at 3,600m! Too bad
it was almost sunset and he had to come back and land for security…it gets pitch black quickly in the desert…
DAY 0, TUESDAY 12 APRIL 2011: FIRST FLIGHTS
The first ULMs and dollies are built and in place. At the end of the afternoon we made our first flights amongst superb colours. It’s magnificent. It’s just like the moon of Tatooine in Star Wars IV, which is no surprise as it was filmed here. It’s a completely incredible landscape. In Ouarzazate we found the film studios used by George Lucus and visited them on foot as we are in the TMA airspace.
We are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. The Atlas is right in front of us. Mont Mgoun (4,060m) the second highest peak in the range is only 100km away as the crow flies. Or by hang glider…
Check out the album for the day
And the video (French language only)
For more on the planning behind the month-long expedition, see this Oz Report post here
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