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Paragliding is a sport that provides strong sensations to paragliders, especially during the take-off and landing phases. During the flight, the paraglider pilot uses several techniques to climb and gain altitude. Adrenaline Parapente presents the most common techniques that allow paraglider pilots to gain altitude during the flight.

The thermal current technique

The thermal method is well known to paragliders. It allows you to rise into the air and gain altitude on board your paraglider. In concrete terms, thermals are hot columns that start from the ground. The sun heats the earth and the earth itself spreads its heat into the surrounding air. At this precise moment, a « thermal bubble » is formed and rises to give rise to real thermal columns.

These beautiful cumulus clouds are actually the result of the condensation of the warm air as it reaches the top of its path. Birds and humans who fly non-powered aircraft (gliders, paragliders, hang gliders, parachutes, etc.) love them to gain height. Paragliders can therefore use these thermal air currents, also known as « ascents », « bubbles » or « pumps », to climb or gain altitude. However, to maintain altitude, the pilot must fly in the opposite direction to the thermal bubbles.

Flying over thermals is a very effective altitude gain technique. It allows paragliders to gain altitude over a long distance. Depending on the terrain and weather conditions, it is possible to reach and even exceed 2438.4 metres in altitude, or 8000 feet. If you are a paraglider or paraglider pilot, thermal flying is a sensational experience. Would you like to master thermal ascents to gain altitude during your flights? Enrol in a specialised school or training course to improve your paragliding skills.

The updraft technique

Apart from the thermal technique, the use of updrafts is another way to gain altitude. In reality, updrafts are air currents that rise towards the sky. They carry air upwards in a vertical direction through the atmosphere. The paraglider pilot can therefore use these air currents to gain height, without resorting to thermal bubbles. In fact, unlike thermal flying, the paraglider pilot does not need the ground to warm up in order to exploit the lift. Generally, this type of flight is possible because of the effect of the wind. The wind generates a rising zone that allows paragliders to gain altitude.

Gaining altitude with mountains or cliffs

To gain altitude, many paragliders use mountains or other high points such as cliffs. The pilot essentially exploits the dynamic updrafts found in mountainous environments. This technique of gaining altitude is known as dynamic flight or slope flight. In general, the wind flows against the mountains, hills or cliffs. This redirects its trajectory upwards, as it always goes around the terrain. This creates an upward space in which the glider can climb. The wing of the glider moves against the wind, thus ensuring its lift. For example, many paragliders go to the famous Dune de Pilat (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France) to gain altitude.

They take advantage of the convectional wind flow and the north wind (the bise) to fly their paraglider high into the sky. There are therefore a variety of flying techniques for gaining altitude with a paraglider. However, thermals, updrafts and flying close to a mountain are the preferred methods for paragliders. As a paraglider pilot, it is very important to master these different techniques of gaining altitude. For example, if you only master the thermal bubble technique, you will not be able to gain altitude in adverse weather conditions.

The same applies to paragliders who can only fly near a mountain or a cliff. They cannot gain altitude when they find themselves in a terrain-free environment. To master the common techniques of gaining altitude, we advise you to enrol in a school specialising in training paragliders. This will allow you to have an excellent level of paragliding piloting. The trainers give valuable tips and tricks. In addition, if you have an introduction to paragliding, you can take a refresher course to improve your level.

Finally, don’t forget that it is important to respect the safety rules that govern paragliding to avoid any risk of accident. Make sure you check the condition of your flying equipment (wing, glider, harness, vario, GPS, reserve parachute, etc.) before taking off.

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