Valley of the Brave

posted in: Jeff Shapiro | 0

Ahhh, Valle De Bravo.  What can I say about that place.  It’s a free flight paradise, basically.

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I was lucky enough to be invited to compete in this amazing venue by “the man”, local, HG instructor and tandem pilot, Rudy Gotes.  I’ve always wanted to see and visit Valle based on the photos I’d seen and the reports of strong lift, consistently flyable conditions and what sounded like a super cool town.

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My good friend, Patrick Kruse and I met in LA, flew to Mexico City and enjoyed a casual 3 hr drive to Valle.  We were again, super lucky to be offered a place to crash at Rudy’s house, just 5 k’s from town.  Un-shortpacking our gliders in the sun with paragliders soaring a site in the distance promised for a great trip.

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The next day, we had a nice practice flight, getting a tour of the area from my good friend, Rodrigo, whom I’ve flown with all over the world.  It was cool to see him and while on the radio, he was generous with his knowledge of thermal triggers, convergence and terrain considerations.  That, coupled with our own impression made me feel pretty race ready.

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Unfortunately for me, a car accident a couple weeks prior (with some neck trauma) and/or something I ate caused for some serious issues on the first comp day.  None of the common stomach issues were involved but, after around 3 hrs in the air,  intense conditions and good racing had me out in front and on my way to goal.  Getting low, I was feeling dizzy and very nauseated.  Unable to concentrate, I landed and proceeded, with a monster headache, to puke my guts out for the rest of that day and all night.  Most is still a blur but, I woke the next day around 3:30pm, having missed the second day of racing.  Needless to say, after waking up to perfect clouds and what looked like ideal conditions, I was disappointed to have missed it.

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The next day, I flew and, even though I lost my lunch 3 times on route, I raced in to goal feeling much better.  The following two days (although one was stopped because of storms on course) were some of the best flying I’ve done in the last few years.  Strong lift, base at over 14,000′ and courses that took us toward the snow capped Volcano that overlooks Toluca (where the Monarchs migrate).  So good!

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The comp ended with a great party and lots of laughs.  I can’t overemphasize how amazing the local Mexican pilots are.  These folks are some of the most accommodating and kind people on the planet, as well as being great pilots.  I can’t wait to go back next season.  Sick or not, it was one of the best comps I’ve ever been to.  Media was present and the event was well organized.  The comp was run with professionalism and felt quite safe.  Retrieve was easy and with how this year went, I hope, and have a strong feeling that next year will be a much larger pilot list attending.  See you there!

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