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Going Deep On A Paraglider

Vol Bivy: A wild new mission, and some history…

Vol Bivy

On August 1st Gavin McClurg and I are going to start the biggest paragliding adventure I’ve ever attempted. You can track us using our InReach Explorers here.

The goal is simple: Fly our gliders from Northern BC, Canada, as far south as we can, maybe all the way to the US border! There’s only one rule: all forward progress must be done with the paraglider. We want a continuous flying GPS trace of the whole trip, start to finish, across the coolest mountains in the western Rockies. Because the terrain is so wild (Few trails. fewer paved roads. Lots of bears.) we want to fly all day then land high each night so we don’t have to fight our way through the Grizzly bear infested bush back to a launch. Which we’ll end up doing regularly. We’ll fly with enough food for four days at a time, and see what happens. It’s going to be great! Or not when we’re camped in the rain on some ridge for a couple of days waiting for weather, but it will be interesting!

One odd thing is that we aren’t sure where we’re going to start. We know it will be in the “Rocky Mountain Trench,” somewhere between roughly McBride and Mackenzie, on the east side of the Rocky Mountain Trench. But there are some huge fires burning in the area, and we don’t need that hazard in addition to all the others. We also don’t know what’s possible with our new”Flying style,” meaning no walking just to make distance as is often done. It’s not really possible to walk much of our preferred line even if we wanted to as there aren’t any roads!

Yesterday I tested all my gear by flying in the southern end of the Rocky Mountain Trench, near Golden. In my 90L Gin paraglider bag I had a paraglider, harness, reserve, helmet, four days of freeze dried food, a Black Diamond First light tent, a light stove, sleeping bag, really everything I needed. I landed four times in various places just to see what it all felt like, and I can’t wait to start the trip! I haven’t done a big paragliding trip in a couple of years (I flew from Vernon 400K home a few years back in a week), fired up! Flying is freedom, and the freedom to fly the coolest possible line in the sky among awesome peaks without regard for roads or retrieve is a delicious idea to me.

This style of flying and bivouacing is called “Vol Bivy,” and it was really popularized (not that it’s at all popular today) by Pierre Bouilloux. He’s an amazing flying pioneer, and he loved to fly his glider around the Alps, landing and sleeping high and enjoying the wild places he found. He was really into the experience of flying and then contrasting that with life on the ground, and how flying allowed him to experience the landscape. Notably, he did not define his trips by how far he went in total (walking and flying), but how far he could fly. Walking was a way to experience what was on the ground and get back to launch if he couldn’t land high, but not a means to complete his distance goal. Flying was for distance. Pierre deserves huge credit for his accomplishments, amazing guy I was lucky to meet once.

Anyhow, Gavin and I hope to channel a bit of Pierre’s attitude and fly the best possible lines in the most interesting places in the western Rockies (or Purcells or Monashees, who knows!). By having enough food and camping gear we can fly lines in places that would be near-impossible to otherwise fly, or too risky to fly into if you didn’t have gear… We’ll have a film crew chasing us, and a friend in a truck who will try to meet up with us on old logging roads etc. We want this to be primarily human-powered, so walking to launch from the ends of logging roads, and always connecting the flying line. We’ll also do our best to fly this as team; this terrain is just too crazy to be traversing by yourself.

I’ve been working on this project now for months, and as I like to push into new mental or physical ground in my sports. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what “Vol Bivy” means and how the history of it might shape the future. Vol Bivy flying has become “Vol Walk On Roads Endlessly Bivy” flying, so we are calling our simple rules, “Flying style.” We only have one absolute rule to complete the longest true paragliding trip ever attempted: Each time we launch that day’s flight has to cross the previous flight’s line so we have a true “flying line” either to the US border or as far as we can get in our two-week window. It’s better to fail in a cool style than walk along even a relatively pretty and remote valley logging road to “succeed” Many of the places we’ll be have never been flown, have no access roads, and no people in a way that is very different than most other mountain areas where “vol bivy” is commonly practiced. It’s gonna be awesome, a true epic adventure battle!

Oh, and while we’ll have a film crew we want to go at this as naturally as we can so we’re not doing a big tracking page with live tracking etc. We will have a page where people can see our InReach tracks and a few updates when we hit cell service, but we’re going for it and there won’t be cell service for most of the trip anyhow…. The film will be our “share.”


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