On November 1st, Klaus Ohlmann arrived in Kathmandu (Nepal) after travelling all the way from Germany in a Stemme S10, D-KKOP. His goal is to do research flights in the Earth’s highest mountain range – the Himalayas. The Mountain Wave Project (MWP) had everything well prepared, but bureaucratic issues stopped Klaus from travelling on to the mission's base in Pokhara for almost six weeks. His team members were patiently waiting for him while Klaus tried to obtain the necessary flight permissions. The election in Nepal was in his way, offices were closed during several days, officers had no idea about MWP… but finally on December 9th the lights for the mission turned green. The Stemme was dusted with six weeks of smog, however after a little washing ceremony the shiny glider launched to travel on to Pokhara and could finally leave the bad experiences in Kathmandu behind.
Still there were some problems to solve, like waiting in line on a very busy airfield, then realize the Stemme had a flat tail wheel, and finally an expired flight plan… or organizing the $8 / liter fuel, but Klaus and copilot Anssi were now excited to start the mission in the mountains. At an altitude of 8500 feet (above cloud base) they were allowed to fly north-westwards. While the engine hummed the pilots enjoyed the views of Langtang, Manaslu and Annapurna. A short try to soar some ridge lift in a valley close to Pokhara did not work too well and the crew quickly decided to move on. Pokhara’s Controller was all smiles: "What a wonderful plane". Klaus answered: "What a wonderful reception." What a relief when the Aviaclub Nepal welcomed the Stemme pilots. Almost like at home?
On the following day Klaus could finally fly into the mountains. After a morning wash for the glider, a briefing for the pilots and with the official permission from Kathmandu, Klaus and Anssi aimed for a first flight to Jomsom in the Kali Gandakhi Gorge – the Earth’s deepest gorge. By the way, Dr. Jo Kuettner has been exploring this same place many years before to measure air movements. Unfortunately the weather conditions did not allow to conquer the gorge without using the engine. After climbing to 3500 m between some huge clouds, the giant mountains rose into the sky next to the glider. The wind was not very strong. With 25 km/h from 300 degrees in 5000 m, Klaus tried the ridges of Annapurna though. He found it very difficult to estimate the distance between the wings and Annapurna's huge rock face. While passing over into the next valley a giant gust lifted the Stemme up, 12 knots appeared on the instruments. Klaus immediately catches the thermal, cools down the engine, and it … quits. The clouds below did not allow for a long decision process, the Stemme had to be turned around and fly through sinking air. Reaching Baglung’s airfield still at a comfortable altitude, they tried to switch the engine back on. It worked, but the crew realizes that flying in these mountains will not be a walk in the park!
Klaus offers everybody to follow him on his SPOT page where we can maybe learn a little more about the geography of the Himalayas. On his website he provides a lot more information, photos and stories, most of which are available in English. Soaring Café wishes good luck and fair weather for the research challenge!