Everest Gliding Part 2 – the Polish Expedition continues

About a month ago Sebastian Kawa and his Everest Gliding team returned to Pokhara’s airfield afoot the Himalayas. While the Polish expedition took a Christmas break in their home country the ASH 25 Mi had spent the shortest days of the winter in Nepal. Sebastian Kawa is now busy checking out the soaring conditions around their “base camp” and explores the ridges and waves along the Annapurna Range, which still has to be considered as local. Pokhara’s rules and regulations did not yet allow for an extended cross country. Annapurna’s highest summit “Annapurna I” is 8,091 Meters high, the tenth highest mountain on Earth, however not Everest…

This time, a female pilot Jolanta Pieńkowska has joined the team. On March 2nd she took a 3-hour introduction flight to become the first woman to soar in a glider over the Himalayas. Great news!

Jolanta Pieńkowska, first female to soar the Himalayas

Jolanta Pieńkowska, first female to soar the Himalayas

Browsing through Kawa’s Polish Facebook page there are a lot of wonderful pictures - as you can see here. The cameras outside and inside the cockpit seem to work perfectly: The colors are amazing, the mountains look very impressive. But still there is no picture of the ASH 25 Mi above Mt. Everest. Why? Pokhara’s air traffic control seems to be very restrictive. The glider is only allowed to fly locally. During their first flights the ASH-pilots were asked to share the airspace with lots of other small and light aircraft and regularly had to submit their position. Before every take off, a lot of paperwork is needed to obtain a permission to fly for the day. The crew then receives a slot, sometimes three hours and on lucky days even more. Occasionally the paperwork eats up daylight and the next morning the weather does not cooperate…

Perfect conditions...?

Perfect conditions...?

The whole story sounds like they might never achieve the dream that Klaus Ohlmann was allowed to do fulfill in early February. Is it the two different aircrafts being used (Stemme versus ASH 25)? Or did Klaus have better connections?

Despite the frustration Kawa's Facebook posts are still optimistic: Two hours without a single circle along Annapurna’s rock faces let us hope for more good news. One flight took the pilots up to 4.200 meters in wave, offering wonderful views to the North where they are not allowed to fly to… The wave soon faded, but the glider managed to stay aloft using thermals. Sebastian has more in mind: His biggest dream would be a contest in the Himalayas.

Lake at the Annapurna

Perfect views: Lake at the Annapurna

Difficult subject: On top of the airspace issues some natural barriers seem to divide the weather into different areas, which makes for very interesting soaring conditions. Plus the political situation in the Himalayas and the different countries’ cultures might not allow for much more than an expedition? Well, at least not many Europeans did fly as much as the Polish team during the past winter. While Kawa is gaining experience and logging "air"time most Northern clubs are still polishing their ships for the next summer season.

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen started soaring after she finished her school and college education and found herself locked into a small office for the next 45 years. In German soaring clubs she met a lot of new friends, enjoyed a great way to get out, could see things from a different angle, and gained a better overview.

Meanwhile, she has traveled a bit, flown a lot, and lived in the US.She is happy to now know glider pilots from the US too and says, “they are as amiable as everywhere on the world.” She feels fortunate to have found a temporary soaring home in Boulder, surely one of the best and most scenic places to fly on Earth!

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