Peter had a passion for life well expressed through his ski metaphores. Article written for Couloir.
As he stands perched on peaks and mountain ridges, peering downwards into cornice topped couloirs of excitement and challenges that make life worth living, the man is close to the clouds. Indeed, sometimes they envelop everything, and he is something within it. But this is earthbound, and on days when ragged torrents rip and curl far above, he wonders - will they call again? He knows what it is, because he has been there, and many times on many days. It's just that, is there need to go there again, or more? He has found a father he never knew before in the sky, as in someone who was a father and a husband, to a son and lady, for whom it is 'Which of us shall reach you first?' The adventures in the snow deep couloirs, on the ridges and faces provide spice of life. Is there more, or rather, does there need to be more, now that he has known the clouds and what was there for him? Will he one day, even from snow, walk back down the mountain, his little friend now too not so young, beside him? It is true that there is excitement out there, and highs seemingly unsurpassable. Yet there can be prices for this. As with all things, the higher high, the deeper the lows. Who is ready to be so challenged, where this price may be measured not just in life or no more life, but in flesh and pain and what is left of the of the person from these things? Who is ready to be hero or heroine, a martyr or example of courage way beyond the normal realm? Did Florence or Nelson, Anne or Mikhail, Terry and now Barbara, know these things? When faced with it, they found this within themselves, as many others through history. So where would he be? Where would you be? You can only imagine, but you do not know. What may be the truth?
Ah, that simple tenet, so small a word. You painted it red. To say that you painted it any color other than red is not the truth; so you say you painted it red, and that is the truth. So now why did you paint it at all? Maybe it was easy, and someone paid you to paint it red. But then again, maybe it was not like that, it was just a while since it was painted before, you did not have much else to do that day, and red was just one of the colors you had in the shed. The truth gets more facets to it.
So what is the truth of why one does or does not do something? Take out of it now physical impediments or wrong place, wrong time, and relate to where it is genuinely optional. In moments the whole of life kaleidoscopes into patterns, some with beginnings and ends, and others with only beginnings, seemingly unrelated parts, or ends.
So he gathers the spirit of the rock and snow of the mountain, and once more, never quite knowing if it is the last time, without really knowing that truth of why - and drops in.
Will the clouds call again?
06 March, 2005
When that day that is possibly the biggest event of your life comes around, when you are holding that tiny being that is your child, your son or daughter, whether you may have been sort of scared of the prospect, whether you had thought that you wanted this or not, however it was for you - it IS an event that is a landmark in your life. This tiny child is depending on you, and hopefully the 'you' will mean both a man and a woman, that is, dare I say the words, a father and a mother. Sorry, I am a little bit basic in spots. I don't care if some laboratory can generate a new human being from the cells or whatever of two men or two women, or just one of either, we have two kinds of people, and two only, as in men and women, and thank heavens we do, and they are supposed to be different! Furthermore, it is supposed to take one of each not only to create a child, but to raise one.
So anyway, here he or she is, dependent on you. Now, if you were something like me, you just might have already bought them a pair of skis before they were even born! I mean, you know they are going to be needed, and why not get on top of things? Actually, there is a reason, which was in my case that all the equipment changed so much that by the time he was ready for it, I had to start over! After all, as any adherent to anything will understand, to do it properly, you have to have the right equipment, and if only the best is good enough for you...........'nuff said.
So you go from the living room to the front porch, and then to the driveway, little sloping lawns perhaps - and that about brings you to 3 years old! The first day at a 'real ski area' is another milestone event, and that very first lift ride is SO critical. Some small areas seem to specialise in kids, where the lifties are people who are or have been Mums and Dads themselves, and are comfortable physically lifting children about. That's what we did, and it worked, and it was a T-bar too. And you know what? From all the many, many wonderful days with skiing together that came after, this is one of those that I shall remember as fondly as any.
So it goes on, fearless just because basic learning is what life is all about at that age, together with all the tumbling and rolling and squeals of laughter, bopping about among the trees, and just plain having fun. It's about play as much as anything, except - it is skiing too. You keep sneaking in new equipment and whatever else is needed, most especially being there, and having fun too. 'Cause somewhere in there, it's not so much the hard stuff you are giving them, but that other - you.
Some years go by, and there is touring equipment that is small enough. Here comes another of those days. Bright sun, and fresh snow that is knee deep to him, but you break trail. Take lunch about three times on the way up, it's a different sort of walk with pic-nics with Dad. Skiing down, he looks, and is, so small on the mountain - and he skis it like he is supposed to be there. Something goes through you - and it stays. There are stories to tell with Mum, and everyone is smiling, everyone is happy, and everyone hugs everyone. More years and days and mountain ski trips go by, and it goes from "where are we going today Dad?" to "where would you like to go son?" to "shall we go there, Dad?", although you always hold the power of veto, as in it's your arse out there too! But gradually, what is happening, is something that is about more than skiing, be that the core of it maybe, but it's the shift of trust, from you to him, and now from him back to you; and most significantly, for you to accept this trust the other way around. Talk about raising your own partner - it's powerful. I mean, for whom else would each or either of you go to the most ends for the other?
Another day, winter time in the mountains at home, more bright sun, the gully is knee deep in rocky mountain pow, a few little trees that give perspective and dictate some lines, a comfortable drop over and in, and at the bottom it's all smiles. Just the two of you. Not another soul around. It was Christmas eve. "Merry Christmas, Morgan!" That was all I could say. "Don't you be long!" Mum had said; but she was happy too.
It goes on. The trips get longer, the lines get longer and sometimes steeper, the conditions more varied, not all of it is either easy or even the turns so great in miscellaneous crusts and all the anything else but nice pow. What you get is what is there, and in the take it or leave it, sometimes 'leave it' is not an option, there is some commitment, and you have to do it anyway. There's that two way trust and dependency again. Through all this, when you see him carving turns down and away, solidly, coolly, stable and looking so easy and relaxed, expressing himself maybe yet without knowing it, disappearing round the curves of the couloir, or powering down toward you, then truly you can say, that "If I have given you these things, my son, then I have given you my soul."
Written 02 March 2005
PS: Just to say the obvious, it could just as easily be she and daughter. It's just that in the lottery of life, for us, it was he.
If you have ever experienced a floating, out of the body sensation, then you have touched a wisp of what free flight is about. All those fantasies about soaring with eagles - they are not fantasies. Yin and yang, the balance of things, are concepts incurring the existence of other places, and other dimensions. There is another world over our Mt 7, shared by really so few who manage to break the earthbound bonds of ordinary mortals.
We have the 7 wonders of the world; the 7 seas; a biblical army marched 7 times around the walls of Jerico, and then when they shouted, it's walls fell down; the plains indians bound their teepee poles 7 times, in the direction of the sun; and from a pattern in the snowmelt that appears every year, we have Mt 7. From mythical to magical, it takes its place. For as long as the rivers flow, the sun shines and the winds blow, there will be Mt 7.
We are talking about hang gliding and paragliding, although the mechanics of it are the same for sailplanes. To explain that one then, both hang gliders and paragliders are foot launched. The hang glider is the one that relates more to a fixed wing aircraft, and the paraglider to what is commonly referred to as a parachute. The sailplane is the one commonly referred to as a glider. Actually all three are gliders, simply meaning that they fly without any motorised power.
So what are we doing? Picture a pot of boiling water, and the bubbles shooting up. Thermals are bubbles of hot, rising air. As things like rocks and dark areas heat up, bubbles of hot air begin to form, until they are so big or strong that they break free, and shoot upwards. We are riding these bubbles. We call it thermal flying. Closer to the ground, or their source, they are smaller and stronger; as they go higher, they get larger and smoother. Catching a thermal low down and managing to core it, as we say, is a big part of the game. Knowing where to find it is another. Strong, tight and violent, all the way to big and smooth, or just very light, it's all part of the game. Now imagine a wind blowing the rising thermals, and then add mountain ridges and other features, and you have a living, constantly changing environment to fly in - except, you cannot see any of it!
What is so special about Mt 7? Passing on the flowery rhetoric, it goes like this.
The Columbia valley and its bordering mountain ranges runs SE to NW. This means that as the sun reaches its hottest part of the day, it is pointing pretty well perpendicular to the range on the east side, maximising its heating effect. It is called the Rocky Mountains for a good reason! There are exposed rocks, cliffs and ridges all the way. So, there are thermals all the way. The valley is also quite agricultural, so there are places to land all the way. There are restrictions to landing areas, which are important, but it does not affect the principle. So it makes for excellent cross country flying, as we call it. Now, add that 7 is immediately adjacent to town, and there is a 2 wheel drive road all the way to launch. There is launching through 180 degrees of wind direction. It gets pretty good. The final, and in many ways most important feature, is the regular landing area. We have the field at Nicholson. It is big, and is very easily reachable by the gliders. It has gone through several owners over the years, but is now owned by a couple who are both paragliders. In very short, it is simply as good as it can possibly be. In fact, for the flying community, this 02 July, there is a ribbon cutting opening day of GEAR - the Golden Eco Adventure Ranch, which is including a campground and RV Park as it progresses.
Now what of competitions then? We certainly have them, and Mt 7 has and will continue to have them. The format is a bit different to most sports. It is all totally dependent on air conditions, and there is no controlling that! If you think powder skiing is touchy on conditions, it's got nothing on flying! In the overall scope of things, the little bit that we can effectively fly in is a pretty small, between so calm you get nowhere, to so strong and violent that you fervently wish you were not flying, assuming you manage to survive. So each day, a task is set. The classic types are race to goal, such as to Invermere; out and return, such as to Harrogate and back; and open distance, which means go as far as you can. This is the basics. There are lots more details. Partly due to the vagaries of weather, flying meets run over several days to a week or more, to maximise chances of getting enough flyable days. In terms of records, there is quite a procedure to recording one. At a competition is one of the easiest occasions for this, as the observational and proofing arrangements are in place within the organisation of the meet. It is a simple fact that records are frequently set at Mt 7. In fact, almost every Canadian record has been set here, and several world records. What is more tangible for the ordinary pilot, is getting what we call a personal best, as in your own records. Time and again, visiting pilots have had personal bests on their very first flight here, or within a few days. This means things like higher, longer, further, faster, and faster rate of ascent. A flight around Mt 7of about two hours, going to 12,500 feet, with a fastest climb rate of say 1200 feet per minute, and landing in the 40 acre field, is a very nice flight. Add say an hour, and make that an out and return to Parson and back, or Moberly Peak and back, and say 13,500 feet, soaring with an eagle for several minutes, and you start to get the idea. From these altitudes over Mt 7, the view of the world you are in stretches from Assiniboine to the east, the Clemenceau to the north, the Selkirks to the west, and to the south the range and valley merge into the horizon maybe as far away as Invermere.
On some of our fine summer evenings, you can watch the sunset from over 7, in air as smooth as velvet, and then, because it has been sundown half an hour or more down in the valley bottom, work your way down. Work it is, because at these times, it is up everywhere. We call it glass-off. It can take a solid hour of hard work to get down! The challenge then includes making a landing before it is really dark!
The meet coming up at Mt 7 in the immediate future, 23 July to 01 August, is the Annual Willi Muller Memorial Challenge. Fly as far and as much as you can, learn as much as you can, have as much fun with your friends as you can, and make as many new friends as you can. Scoring is an honor system. There are always lots of prizes, many coming from equipment sponsors, and we have been blessed with all sorts of things from local businesses over the years. Here is another place to say a “Thank You” to all those persons and businesses. To give you a little insight, at the closing assembly, there may be, “Hands up anyone who was scared this week!”. At least 50% hold up their hands. “Hands up anyone who was not scared this week!”. No hands are held up! Although many of the prizes are, of course directly for flying performance, it is broken down into skill categories, and then there are things like who got the most involved overall, or who helped without being asked the most. We remember those of us who are not with us in a worldly sense any more, like Willi and his son Chris, and carry on the way where having fun, joining in, and helping one another come first.
In Chris's words, “We don't know why we do these things. But it sure is fun!”
Peter BE, 23 June 2005
It's rippin'! Here comes a boomer - CLEAR! Pace, pace, pace, down the ramp, and swoosh! Crank that glider, beep, beep, beep, up, up, up, over launch at first pass. Do up the last zippers, punch the flight instrument to “Go”, hands in the mitts. Stay in this first thermal now. Relax a little. Over the upper launch, hook one in front of the 7. Wow! UP, big time. Over the peak in ten minutes from launch. Twelve grand. “I'm heading out boys”. Stuff that bar, straight over the back bowl to Kapristo. Twelve-five, lookin' good. Woa! Everything goes quiet as the ground below starts to rush upwards. There's sink out here today too! It levels out at ten-five. Phew! There went two grand just like that. But this is still over the top. Kapristo nets a fearsome thermal, back up to eleven-five, then move on to the smooth ones that come out of the far side of the Washout. Willi's Peak. Wonder what the old man will do to me today? Awesome, a huge one! Get all centered, no other control inputs required, and go for the ride. At thirteen grand it starts to top out. A street is forming! Nudge up to cloudbase, and it's a straight run all the way to Harrogate. Just don't get sucked in, you might not get out! Later on it gets more broken up, and moments after passing over a ridge all hell breaks loose! There's a strong drift today, and those rotors are really happening. The glider bucks and bumps, and takes everything you've got to control things till you are out of it. Somewhere else there's a big twang, as you seemingly fall back from a loose hang strap onto a tight one after every wire on the glider goes slack from being punched by a shot of down air. It goes on, down the range, maybe to Inveremere.
A hang glider flight from Mt 7 on a classic Mt 7 day. It's much the same for paragliders, though they have some technical differences. You are going for as far as you can, as fast as you can. It adds up to points in the meet, the Willi Muller Memorial Challenge, a Golden Mt 7 special event. There's about 50 of us, assorted HGs & PGs. Some days it rains, and there's more time to socialise and get to know the new pilots and visiting pilots from far away. Swap stories, tell tales, exchange hugs, and drink beer. Not too much of that though, if you want to fly tomorrow.
Soaring with your friends, and soaring with eagles. Awesome is a good word!
Peter BE, 24 June 2005