Leh – Bir Vol Biv

Leh – Bir Vol Biv

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Hi everyone. Hope you all had a great Team Meeting. Wish I could have been there.

I’m getting on the plane tomorrow to Delhi then Leh where I meet 4 friends to begin a vol biv adventure. We hope to fly south over the Himalayan Ranges though the Hemis National Park, Padum and Keylong, then ending up in Bir some time in mid october.

We should begin flying on about the 12th of October if the weather is good to us.

I will be posting points and updates on a Delorme InReach Mapshare page https://share.delorme.com/BRYANMoore
See you in the sky



Well, we made it to Bir in the end! Here’s a brief report of how it went. We had some problems with altitude and equipment as you will see, but what a fantastic journey.

Looking up the Zanskar from the Indus confluence

Looking up the Zanskar from the Indus confluence

The team consisted of myself, Glen Stevens (NZ), Grey Hamilton (NZ), Christin Kirst (Ger) & Helmut Blaime (Ger).

06-10 Oct: Acclimatsation days around Leh. We did treks in the mountains up to 4600m so we could fly without oxygen. Glen had problems acclimatising and left the trip to return to NZ. We also had one frightening practice flight where the landing was too small and I ripped my harness badly landing on rocks.


Christin hiking to the first launch above Sumdo Chenmo (4300m)

11 Oct: Day 1. Take off from Dung Dung La (4600m) above the Zanskar River near Chilling. Grey decided the mountains were too big for him and he would land at Chilling. We all climbed straight to 5700m then Helmut’s GPS malfunctioned and he had to land. Christin landed too as they are a couple and had agreed earlier that both would land if one had problems. I opted to continue alone and headed into the Zanskar Gorge. There are no landings or ways to walk out for the next 30km. The gorge looks very similar to the Grand Canyon and is the most committing flying I have ever done. Once past Nerak township I crossed a m

Team campsite on Dung Dung La before the Zanskar Gorge flight (4400m)

ountain range into the Padum Valley. Here thermals were reaching 6700m and the flying was superb. Over 4 hours were spent between 5500 and 6500m. Incredible scenery, but so cold! At Padum I headed up the Tsarap Valley, landing at 4600 on a peak after 107km. This was a perfect start place for the next day. A 300m hike down to the river meant I could replenish water supplies and carry a sack of firewood back up to my campsite.

12 Oct: Hiked to the ridge crest at 4900m and launched into a moderate south wind. Unfortunately this wind increased and I was forced to land in the valley below take off. The next good launch was on the 5100m Shingo La, 25km away so I started walking.


Team campsite on the Dung Dung La (4400m) before the Zanskar Gorge flight. 20km later I camped at the foot of the pass in a blizzard. Very cold. Hard work. Not fun at this point.

13 Oct: 0600 start to climb the pass. Beautiful views. Hard going with a 25kg backpack. I found a launch at 5200m above the pass. Again, a strong headwind put me on the ground after only 6km. More walking down a hot dusty valley. At the bottom of the valley I went for a quick glide late in the afternoon to gain a little more distance. Incredibly, smooth lift took me to 6300m and amazing views of the surrounding mountains. I flew 30km to land at the head of the Keylong gorge and took a taxi 10km into Keylong for a shower, food and comfortable bed. The next day was a rest day waiting for the others to come from Leh via jeep and check out the takeoffs above town.


Flying at 6500m above the mountains behind Keylong

15 Oct: All the team launched from the Shashur Monastery along with two other friends Kat & Mel. After one hour at over 6700m without oxygen, Helmut had symptoms of altitude sickness and landed with Christin in the valley north of the Rohtang Pass. Grey and I crossed the Pir Panjal range into the Ravi Valley climbing to 7070m along the way. Again no oxygen was used, so we were both suffering a bit from cold and hypoxia – but what a fantastic day! Some of the best flying we have ever done with huge mountains and glaciers everywhere. The Ravi is a scary valley with strong winds and poor landing options (see John Sylvester’s article in XC Mag a couple of editions ago) so landing in here was not a good plan. I got low but scratched back up, while Grey blissfully cruised along at 6000m. Eventually we crossed back over the Kaliheni Pass into the Manali Valley and landed at our goal for the day, the Sari Pass  (3700m). Bir was closed to flying because of a cricket game but we could see the Billing launch below us 15km away! Our other friends, Kat & Melanie had landed near Keylong and were arrested for 6 hours, then prosecuted by the local magistrate for flying at Keylong. The Indians are quite stressed about potential terrorist threats from Pakistan! Be aware this is a sensitive area to fly now.

16-17 Oct: still waiting for the flying ban at Bir to end so we flew 30km to Manali then the next day flew from Kullu to Bir


Left-right: Helmut, Christin, Bryan & Grey at Billing take-off on the last day of the Leh-Bir expedition

at last, with Grey, Christin, Helmut and myself all top landing at the Billing take-off for a celebratory Chai before gliding down to Bir.

A fantastic trip. Beautiful mountains. Difficult Indian bureaucracy.The season in Bir was the best I have seen there. In total I managed 9 flights over 6000m, with the highest altitude reached being 7070m – all without supplementary oxygen.

I had many difficulties getting access to a computer to download tracklogs – as a result, most of the flights have only ended up on the PG Forum Leonardo server – but they are all publicly viewable there. Here are the links to the three longest flights on the Leh – Bir expedition:

(11 Oct – 107km – Max alt 6700m) http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/1532891
(13 Oct – 24km – Max Alt 6300m) http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/1532898
(15 Oct – 61km – Max Alt 7040m) http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/1532899