Xinduqiau: In search of new flying terrain

In search of new potential

Seemingly lost in the abyss of western China, a decent internet connection opens the link back to endless intellectual resource.  From the connection at the Zhilam hostel in Kangding City, Sichuan Province, Western China, I set out to research the possibility of paraglide flight in the valleys outside of town.  Cross-referencing google earth and some free-flight weather resources, I picked out a few locations that looked promising and readied my kit to head out and attempt to fly.

The following morning at the crack of dawn I went down to the ‘minibus street’ of Kangding, searching for a ride back to Xinduqiao.  The haggling process for the minibus drivers is a game of friendly competition, and I was bounced between several different vans before enough passengers had been consolidated to form a sufficient van-load.  And then we were off.  Blasting up and over the pass, past ‘The Lovesong of Kangding’ hillside, and in to the epic valleys beyond.  The driver was pumping energetic Tibetan music and we were all feeling the freedom of acceleration on the open road.  Real life.  I was dropped off at a promising location in the Xinduqiau valley, and began to hike in to the hills to find a decent launch into a hopeful looking thermal.  Again, being only 2 seasons in to my flying career I really had no idea what I was doing, and my primary target as always was to launch and land safely.

Searching out a clean launch

I found a beautiful SouthWest facing launch with prayer flags for wind indicators on the summit and smooth grass all around to lay-out.

Looking to the SE, with Gongga Shan in the background


My intention was to work the lift on the sunny SW faces and run down-wind to the NE, following the highway back towards Kangding.  However I waited until too late in the day for the cycles to ease up, then picked a weak thermal to launch in to, so that all I really did accomplish was the primary goal of safe launch and land.

Trying on the glider

I sank out like a rock.  Some might call it a ‘ploof’.  But it was experience in the bank, and as I landed on the hillside a local Tibetan man came running up to investigate. Together we packed my glider, and he showed me down the hill to a small temple.  We had a brief look around and spent a moment or two expanded in to the time vortices that often surround spiritually enhanced places.

A small Buddhist temple in the hills

Then he showed me the way down to the road to catch a ride back to Kangding and my girl Caroline.

Cross country potential

Regardless of my poor performance, the XC potential of this place is insane!  Paraglide pilots looking for new adventure, it is extremely easy to get to this area on your own and explore.  Don’t bother finding a guide, don’t even worry about a truck.  Take a bus to the hills out of Kangding city and fly!