Flight: Spain, Andorra: The Virtues of Stupidity / La Virtud de la Estupidez

Castellano abajo.

It wasn’t a day that I would have imagined I could fly. Thunderstorms roared up in a continuous formation off the Pyrenees, sinking slowly south as the afternoon progressed. In the period after the storms moved on, the sun surprisingly came out, though the air was humid and opaque, which meant that it wasn’t worth chasing photographs.

As the afternoon entered into evening, I got the fanciful notion to head into the edge of the Pyrenees, to view some of the puffy cumulus clouds hanging around on the ridge, a sort of idyllic sea of clouds and mountains, where I didn’t need to venture into them, merely looking at them from the edge.

Intuition said not to do it. Naivety said to hop in the plane.

So, as one would logically expect of an intelligent, experienced pilot, I took off.

Reaching 10,000 feet, the stationary cumulus clouds were giving off some odd characteristics, along with more turbulence than I was in the mood for. Yup, this probably was a bad idea. [continues to climb]. Reaching 10,500 feet, I proceeded a bit north, noting what was an overcast cloud deck parked against the ridge in Andorra. Oh, and there were the lenticularis clouds at 40,000 feet indicating mountain waves. Whatever… “those are over there, not here. Besides, the tow pilot said it was fine when he went up.”

As I approached 11,000 feet, I noticed what looked like cloud wisps forming off the ridgelines here and there. “Oh how pretty. I have seen this in America many times.” [Intuition: “this is really bad and I am probably screwed.”][keep flying] Then I noticed that my groundspeed was very, very slow, meaning there was a lot of wind. Zooming in on the “cloud” formation below me, I noticed with the zoom lens that it was blowing snow. Nice. Then I looked along the whole ridge, and all of it was blowing snow.

I then decided I had an opportunity. “It’s probably stupid to be up here, but I am here already, and at least the air is tranquil.” [look right: mountain waves, left: blowing snow, forward: clouds doing weird things, behind: clouds doing differently weird things] I took some photos, until I ran into some descending air, then decided to get the Sam hell out of dodge.  Yikes. There is only so much stupidity I can take in one dose.

The escape route was around a bunch of mysterious clouds doing weird things (read: rotors), over the valley away from the waves, and in the safe, loving arms of Cadí-Moixeró, a 1500’ wall of rock that acts as a windbreak. Then I descended down into the valley, only to find on landing that the weather had changed, the humidity had been blown away, and the wind was blowing strongly out of the north, a telltale sign to not go precisely where I just went. Figures.

For the record, none of this nonsense was on the forecast. Such is mountain flying.

No fue día normal que pensaría volar. Fueron tormentas en la tarde, formado de los Pirineos y se movieron al sur lentamente como progresó el día. Después que salieron las tormentas, el sol se presentó con excepción que el aire fue muy mojado y mal para fotos.

Cuando pasó la tarde al anochecer, tuve la idea pasar al lado de los Pirineos, mirando en la dirección de Andorra a una mezcla gran de nubes y cumbres, sin la necesidad actualmente volar adentro las montañas.

Intuición dijo “no.” La ingenuidad dijo volar.

Como alguien lógicamente concluiría de un piloto inteligente y experimentado, despegué.

Logrando a 10.000 pies, las nubes cúmulos tuvieron características extrañas, con más turbulencia que quise. Sí, esto es mal idea. [sigue subiendo]. Alcanzando a 10.500 pies, pasé al norte un poco, notando un techo de nubes en un lado de la cordillera, con lenticularis a 40.000 pies, lo que indican olas de montaña. “No importe, el piloto de remolque indicó que todo fue bien.”

Finalizando a 11.000 pies, di noticia que apareció que hay nubes formando en las cumbres en varios lugares. “He visto esto en los Estados Unidos tantas veces. ¡Qué bonito!” [intuición: “esto es muy mal y probablemente estoy puteado.”][sigue volando] Así entonces, fue evidente que mi velocidad actual fue muy lento, indicando la presencia de mucho viento. Con la cámara de enfocar, miré a los “nubes” abajo y lo que pensé fueron nubes actualmente fue nieve, moviendo en el viento como polvo. Qué bueno (estúpido?). Miré a la cordillera que es la frontera de Andorra y España, y todos tuvieron nieve que sopla.

En este momento, decidí que fui en posesión de una oportunidad. “Es obvio que es estúpido volar aquí ahora, pero ya estoy aquí, y al mínimo, el aire está tranquilo.” [mirando al derecho: olas, izquierda: nieve que sopla, adelante: techo de nubes, atrás: nubes moviendo extrañamente]. Tomé algunas fotos, y salí rápidamente. Hay una cantidad de estupidez que puedo aguantar y ya está.

La ruta de escape fue adentro las nubes extrañas (=rotores), sobre Bellver hasta lograr a los abrazos amables de Cadí-Moixeró, una pared de 500m vertical de rocas que sirve como bloqueador de viento. Descendí por La Cerdanya, aprendiendo durante aterrizaje que el tiempo había cambiado, ahora sin aire mojado y con viento fuerte al norte, que es señal famosa no volar precisamente en lugar que acabo de volar.

Esto es volar en La Cerdanya.

Puigpedrós 2.912m
Mountain Waves (1 of 11)

Are these clouds forming?
Mountain Waves (2 of 11)

Nope – that’s blowing snow.
Mountain Waves (3 of 11)

More blowing snow. It was granular, frozen stuff, not powdery, so that is not a good sign about the wind speed.
Mountain Waves (4 of 11)

A little bit of unwanted descent. The shadowed knoll in the center right is the convergence of the borders of Andorra, France, and Spain.
Mountain Waves (5 of 11)

It is inadvisable to go in there.
Mountain Waves (6 of 11)

Puigpedrós, with mountain waves. Time to get the hell of out Dodge.
Mountain Waves (7 of 11)

The way out is through these sneaky clouds doing weird things.
Mountain Waves (8 of 11)

Cadí-Moixeró with Pedraforca hiding behind, and the receding thunderstorms behind it.
Mountain Waves (9 of 11)

Cadí producing some clouds – even better.
Mountain Waves (10 of 11)

Snowshoe paths.
Mountain Waves (11 of 11)