Vol Bivouac“Voulez vous Vol Biv avec moi?”…

I said to my wife one evening as we sat in the garden sipping wine.

She rolled her eyes and glanced at me with the usual look of contempt sharpened over years of me convincing her that launching off a hill with a nylon wing attached to my body was a good idea.

To be honest, it’s not been too long since I found out what Vol Bivouac actually is. I had a rough idea that paraglider pilots sometimes fly in remote countries and occasionally camp in their wings as a “make-shift” sleeping bag, but the idea of flying with a complete camping setup stowed away in my harness bag was absolutely thrilling.

Trying to explain this concept to my long suffering wife, however, was a challenge that I wasn’t fully prepared for.

She asked me what would happen if I got sucked up into a big cloud.
“Don’t worry dear.” I reassured her. “I’ll use Big Ears to get down”.

(Ironically I do, in fact, have big ears and I suspect she actually thought I’d use their parasitic drag by removing my helmet and presenting my head to the wind.)

I started to tell to her that some flights can go for more than 100km. The look on her face was telling me that my enthusiastic explanations were doing nothing to allay her fears. More the opposite probably.

I’m an avid listener to the many paragliding podcasts available online and the adventures of Gavin McClurg have always entertained and inspired me.

Crossing the Canadian Rockies, largely unsupported, not to mention the ever present risk of Grizzly Bear attack, was an incredible feat of endurance and determination.
In the UK, the most common dangerous animal is normally an irate landowner with a shot gun shouting at you to “get orf my land!”.

But when I think of the absolute beauty of flying through territory like the Rocky Mountains gliding wingtip to wingtip with eagles searching out thermals and being the only human for as far as the eye can see, there can’t be many experiences more intense or profound.

After spending many years in skydiving, (which can quite reasonably be described as quick, expensive thrills for the lazy) having a Vol Biv adventure that lasts days if not weeks has a massive appeal on many levels. It obviously requires fitness, navigational awareness, flying skills and an almost sixth sense for reading the weather.

Vol Bivouac with CompassOn Judith Mole’s podcast website The Paraglider, Steve Nash and Dean Crosby tell the incredible tale of crossing the Pyrenees unsupported.
Flying from hill to hill, camping in breathtaking scenery and picking up food and provisions along the way, to me, sounds like heaven. They also talk in detail about the equipment they brought: tents, walking poles, shoes, harness and, of course, the wing. Hearing first hand of their adventure and a review of what worked and what didn’t is invaluable information for anyone seeking to take on a Fly Camping trip.

Will my wife ever Vol Biv with me? I’m not sure.

The only time she’s has ever got excited about paragliding was when I’d ordered a new rucksack and the parcel arrived with the word “Gin” on the side of it.

It’s more likely that she would become a slick one-woman support team, meeting me every few kilometres with sandwiches and biscuits.

My skydiving days are definitely over, but Vol Biv? Now that is exciting!


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