DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels

Direction South – new flights in Chilean Norte Grande

Direction South - new flights in Chilean Norte Grande - Paraglider pilot's view while flying along The Atacama Desert coast in Northern Chile, Punta Arenas north of Tocopilla, Chile

Traditionally all longer XC flights in northern Chile are made in Northern direction. It is due winds which blow always more or less from the south and turn even more south as the day progress due to the Coriolis force. During few days with northern winds usually flying is not good at all. But this November was very unusual. For more than a week a very unusual strong center of low pressure set of the coast of southern Norte Grande and changed traditional weathern patterns of the area. This resulted in very high cloud base (1300m), light northern winds, and cloud streets over the coastal range.

On both weekends we flew south from San Marcos toward Tocopilla. Although I know very well the stretch between San Marcos and Chipana flying there was totally different than previously since locations of thermals were very different and the rotors zones you normally avoid in that case were the places to fly at. The deep and colorful Chipana bowl (traditional rotor) was the area of the highest and strongest climbs. After Chipana comes Rio Loa canyon with usual for this place canyon suck extending for over 15km. Weather at the Loa litoral is always govern by the canyon. Every time I fly there regardless of the general wind pattern the Loa winds are exactly the same. It does not matter where the general wind comes from south, north, west – at Loa it always blows toward the canyon. The wind there changes like in a Swiss machine – exactly above the river it turns 180 degrees. Crossing Punta Arenas (the most dreaded rotor for pilots flying north from Tocopilla) was uneventful – again no rotor because of the northern wind.

That day we had very high cloud base of 1300m (the highest I ever experienced in the Northe Grande). This allowed us to cross all the points by flying above them, as opposed to going around them. Not only it is faster but also much safer since the rotors were avoided all together and the altitude loss was minimal. Approaching Tocopilla tunnel I had to remind myself that I am at work and all my clients already landed. So I left the mountains toward the ocean pretending the never ending cloud street of beautiful cumulus clouds leading south does not exist. Anyway it was 87km – probably the longest flight in the southern direction made in Northern Chile. All my clients I guided that day made their personal bests. It was a flying day to remember.

I hope those new flights will contribute to developing the XC paragliding zone in Northern Chile and will rise local and foreign pilots appetite for interesting flights. The desert has so much more to offer than Alto Hospicio to Cavancha sled ride.

More photos here.

Photo: Paraglider pilot’s view while flying along The Atacama Desert coast in Northern Chile, Punta Arenas north of Tocopilla, Chile

Evening Session

Evening Session - Paragliding over the Desert Plateau south of Iquique, The Chilean Coastal Range, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Takeoff 18:00hrs. Landing 20:30hrs – half hour after sunset with strong thermals still kicking. High cloudbase over the Atacama plateau with beautiful orange light for aerial photos. Desert views to remember. Perfect Monday to start a flying week.

Photo: Paragliding over the Desert Plateau south of Iquique, The Chilean Coastal Range, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Still blowing from north

Still blowing from north - The Coastal Range between San Marcos and Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

If last weekend in San Marcos was very unusual this weekend in San Marcos was very unusually great. Similar unusual conditions with northern wind, high cloudbase, and abundant lift. Everybody in my group made their personal XC records! I flew up to the Tocopilla tunnel when I had to remind myself that I am at work and have to land. It is the longest flight in Chile going South.

Photo: The Coastal Range between San Marcos and Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Into The Desert

Into The Desert - Paragliding over mountain dunes near Cementerio 2 south of Iquique, the Atacama Desert, Chile

Yet another spectacular day of flying in the Atacama. This season is nothing but great. I am so fortunate to have this place in my backyard.

Photo: Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Tiliviche

Tiliviche - Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Just some fun flying with the setting sun at Tiliviche Canyon followed with The Vulture Ridge soaring until dark. It is a lovely location at the the deserted coast 60 miles north of Iquique. I think it is the nicest and the most inspiring place to fly in northern Chile.

Photo: Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Iquique in reverse – the marvelous

Iquique in reverse - the marvelous - Paragliding south of Iquique above Punta San Marcos, The Atacama Desert, Chile

I wonder what more miracles will the weather serve us in Iquique this season. So far it is the best season I remember with almost every day bringing excellent flying conditions. Today was not only superb but very very unusual. It was a rare day when you can fly far south. It happens here in the desert as often as rain in the Atacama. So we flown south from San Marcos past Chipana, past Loa, and almost to Punta Arenas and then back to Loa. It was something never attempted before. Not only that. It was unusually high cloud base – almost 1300m. This is higher than the permanent Atacama inversion. Today I had a chance to see spectacular desert panoramas as never before. Definitely a day for a record flight. It does not meter that I had to land early. Smiling faces and excited stories of participants of the trip made up for given up miles. Iquique and the desert at its best!

More photos here.

Photo: Paragliding south of Iquique above Punta San Marcos, The Atacama Desert, Chile