|That's Happy Christmas to you non-Spanish speakers.
I've been extremely busy in the last week or so, hence the lack of news.
Nicky, Alex, Izzy and Hugo all arrived last week in Santiago de Chile
from London via Madrid and finally a seven hour bus ride to Mendoza...
with no luggage. LAN Chile had left it in Madrid. I thought it a bit
risky to believe their promise that they would forward it on to Mendoza,
but they did, eventually.
Beto did even better than was originally promised and arranged space in
a half-empty hangar at the aeroclub for us. The two aircraft owners,
Eduardo and Lolo are the most helpful and kind people, the same can't be
said of the hangar owner who keeps his motorhome in there. He seems to
be permanently in a rage about something, when he first discovered we
were there he barely acknowledged our existence but Beto persuaded him
not to actually throw us out so long as we didn't obstruct his crappy
old Mercedes van. Fortunately we only saw him twice, but we had to be
constantly ready to instantly move all our kit out of the way should he
want to go out. Last time he came we actually thought he was going to
drive away, we moved all our stuff in a few minutes, he started his
thing in a cloud of smoke, drove it backwards and forwards a few metres
and then locked it up and shoved off... Many years ago I learnt a
Spanish word perfectly describing this chap: Jillypojas. (no idea if
the spelling's correct, but it's not a word you'll likely find in the
Having extracted my trike from the crate and assembled it, the rest of
the time I've been working away at 101 modifications. I modified the
trolley to fit his new go-faster control bar (or rather one of Beto's
mates did it for me), did lots of little electrical tweaks to radios and
things, Beto arranged for Oxygen to be delivered, etc. Etc.
It's generally reckoned to be a 19 day trip to climb Aconcagua. This is
a serious mountain, nearly 7000m, and the highest anywhere outside the
Himalayas. The normal route is not so much of a climb as a long slog,
it's very accessible so lots of people do it, however there are
reputedly 60 or 70 frozen bodies up there, mostly people who
underestimate the mountain and go up too quickly and then die from one
of the altitude related conditions such as cerebral edema.
I was therefore a little surprised to learn that Angelo intended to
climb it (with film crew in tow) and be back today or tomorrow; 9 or 10
Almost as soon as they set off though we started getting messages like
'too much wind', 'very poor conditions' Etc. Etc which made it sound
like they were unlikely to summit, and were in fact going to be back
much earlier than originally suggested. Then we got messages from Plaza
de Muelas, the advanced base camp from where you actually start the
climb, saying 'perfect conditions, gone paragliding'.
They were back here in Mendoza three or four days ago. I'm still a bit
mystified what the purpose of the trip was. I suppose they got a bit of
filming done, Angelo has an opportunity to suss out the area a bit, and
they found a good emergency landing place which they fixed on a GPS and
scraped a big X on the ground.
Nice to know there are alternative landing sites, but unless something
really badly goes wrong I can't imagine this will be of much use; our
advanced base camp at Desvio Las Leñas is 4 Km vertically and only 19 Km
horizontally from Aconcagua summit so as long as I keep high then in the
event of an engine failure I should easily be able to glide my Pegasus
trike back there. Angelo is of course flying an aircraft with at least
a three times better glide than mine.
What with Angelo getting back early and all, we've been doing a few test
flights at Aeroclub Mendoza. This has been a useful exercise, mainly
because he hasn't actually flown with his torpedo nosecone before.
Our tests a month ago in the FIAT wind tunnel had shown that there was a
risk the thing could fog up leaving Angelo in a very little World of his
own, and it isn't easy to remove. NelTec came to the rescue here and
gave me a couple of prototype electric demisters for motorbike helmets
to try. The lexan nosecone itself isn't brilliant optically so I cut a
hole to fit the fairly clear demister like a 'bomb aimers' window. This
worked great for Angelo in the glide, but because of the different trim
position in the flight tests he still couldn't see me much at all on the
tow. The Mk 2 attempt therefore uses both windows, the second one
underneath the original one for the towing position.
Our preparations are done and we're ready to move up the mountain to
our advance base camp at Desvio Las Leñas tomorrow. Everybody else just
left for the three hour drive (plus probably two for photo opportunity
stops). As it's Christmas day, I've gone on strike for the afternoon
and we'll be going there tomorrow. Apparently the weather won't be much
good until until later in the week anyway, so we're not holding anything up.
Beto has promised me a flight in his trike this evening which should be
interesting. We're now up to five cars and two vans; two more 'special'
FIAT's have arrived by plane from Italy (more about these later) so
transport is not a problem, 5 of us don't have to squish into my van and
Nicky's got a car to drive.