Friday, November 11, 2011

Sun  Journal

Face Time: Johnna Haskell — Ever-climbing Mainer to be among first to fly from Mount Kilimanjaro

Published on Sunday, Nov 6, 2011 at 12:12 am | Last updated on Sunday, Nov 6, 2011 at 12:12 am

In October 2012, pilots from around the world plan to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and jump off in paragliders.
Among the 200 will be Johnna Haskell of Carrabassett Valley.
In part, she wants to help the people of Tanzania, where the 19,341-foot mountain is located. Together, the pilots will give $1 million to the Tanzanian people.
There's also the chance to check off an item on a long bucket list.
"What I'm trying to do is live my dreams," Haskell said. "I've turned 50 this year and I've got to do it before I can't do it." 
What's the tallest peak you've paraglided from? I learned to paraglide off Merriam Crater (6,385 feet) in Flagstaff, Ariz. My best height has been up to 7,100 feet off a 3,000-foot mountain recently in my first cross-country flight in Spain.

Once you've climbed Kilimanjaro, what's next? I like to focus on one major goal at a time. I have a lot of training to do and flight time to achieve as well as an SIV (simulated in flight) training of collapses before climbing Kili. Since this is the first time permits have been granted to fly off Kili, this is an opportunity of a lifetime! There are a lot of mountains to climb and fly in the world, so the sky is full of limitless possibilities!

For more on Johnna Haskell, find her on Facebook and at

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Johnna demonstrating the harness attachment.
     I gave a talk about my paragliding trip to Algodonales, Spain at the SugarWood Gallery featured artist reception in Farmington, Maine. In the background one can see many of my framed photographs of wildlife and landscapes hanging on the walls. At the left I was showing the harness and seat attachment which fills with air in the back and seat for safety. Also a reserve is underneath the seat for backup.
     As part of my training I was logging hours in Spain. I did my first cross country of 26km and had over 15 hours of thermalling with the Griffon vultures. I had lots of "first" experiences such as first xc, flying in rain, clouds, first beach flight of 20km, bush entanglement, fence greeting, flying at 7100ft, and finding lift at cloudbase.
    It is rather cold at cloudbase so I wear ski gear. Turning the paragliding in thermals is like carving ski turns or a kayak in whitewater. Yet the challenge is finding thermals in the invisible air to maintain one's height above the earth. Following the Griffon vultures or smaller birds can give you lots of clues to finding the fun uprising air. Paragliding is as close to flying like a bird as one can imagine with only the wind on your face. Below I was showing the fabric of the glider and what is required to inflate the paraglider for flying.

The paraglider concertina folded for packing.
It was impossible to open up the glider in such a small area, but I enjoyed talking about flying and answering everyone's questions. In Europe, paragliders are often seen among the mountains and there are competitions to thermal and reach specific GPS points. So there are as many paragliders as skis for ability and type of flying such as cross country or acro. Paragliding has opened up an exciting fun way to descend mountains that I climb.

Thank you to the Franklin Journal for the photos above.