Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tour du Mont Blanc

Today I flew the classic 'Tour du Mont Blanc'.  Here are some photos from the day:

Self portrait flying along the SE faces from Champex - I'd left first but had expected the guys on comp wings to overtake me, but they didn't so I flew as far as Mont Blanc on my own (I can only assume they were enjoying the view too much!)

Looking back and down on the top cable car station above Courmayer.

The Col Du Meage (3400m) from about 1000m above it!

Mont Blanc in the background.  The plan was to attempt a summit landing but after getting there first at around 2pm, I 'only' managed to climb to 4600m, after some time above 4000m the altitude was affecting me and I had very cold hands so decided not to wait.  Later on, around 4pm, a number of pilots including Damien and Uli did top land.  Bravo guys!

Chamonix valley, looking vey, very small!

Heading back via the 'tiger route' round the top of the Trient glacier

Looking back at Sylvain D'Honneur showing quite how extreme the terrain was that we were crossing.

Looking back at Sylvain again - now heading back out to Champex

Friday, August 12, 2011


Normal life is gradually returning after the X-Alps and the post race recovery period.  Dad and I are starting to write up our adventures - more information to follow in due course.  In the mean time I just wanted to pass on my long overdue thanks:

Firstly to the fantastic support we had from equipment sponsors: 
Lyon Equipment in the UK provided a Petzl leighweight helmet, which was perfect for the race.
New Concept Sports in Geneva gave me discounted race shoes, but more than that, spent literally hours ensuring I had the right shoes and that they were a perfect fit, a process without which my feet would have been in a mess for sure.  As it was I was one of the few athletes in the race with feet largely unaffected by the pounding they recieved!  Thanks Laurent!
Suunto, as well as sponsoring the event, sponsored me with a training watch including foot pod and heart rate monitor, this together with the training plan from Frederic meant I was well prepared on the start line on July 17th.
High 5 provided all the sports nutrition products we could need, and then some.  Their 4:1 endurance formula kept me going day in, day out and their energy bars kept my calorie intake up between the multiple and massive meals I was eating each day.  Such great products definately helped me to keep going day after day.
Sup'Air, in Annecy made a fantastic harness (the 'Delight') which weighed in at less than 2kg and was just perfect in comfort and performance.  (They've now certified a slightly heavier version of the harness and should go into production soon if any one is interested).  They got a new reserve to me at short notice when I was not allowed to fly my 'small' one in the race - thanks guys for the great products and great service!
Ozone.  Above all I need to thank Ozone, for the fantastic lightweight M4.  The wing was perfect for this race, with excellent performance and ease of handling.  It was also much lighter than many other wings thanks to the great attention to detail from Ozone.  This wing really is superb.
Pringles Xtreme showed their confidence in me, and demonstrated that this race has widespread appeal and interest way beyond the paragliding community by supporting us with a team vehicle for both the race and a period prior to the race for training and preparation.  So much about this race is being well prepared and able to cope with extreme conditions that being able to live in some comfort during the race made all the rest much easier to deal with.  I'm certain that having the perfect support vehicle did give us an advantage over many of the other teams.  Thanks guys!

Secondly there are some key people I need to thank:
Firstly a thank you to everyone who followed the race, added comments to the guest book and generally wished me well.  The fact that thousands of people were following my progress kept me pretty motivated!  Also to all those who came out and met me on the course, offered me showers and food, walked with me or even those who just wanted a photo, it was always great to see people! 
Thanks to the X-Alps organising committee for organising a great race and to Christoph Weber, who as race director probably had less sleep during the race than we did.  He even had to put up with complaints from tired and irritable athletes, including me (sorry!). 
I need to say a VERY big thank you to Tom Payne, who helped me get prepared for this race, offered advise and the loan of endless bits of kit from via ferrata connectors to heel lifts!  Moreover, he kept me positive throughout the race through his messages of reassurance and encouragement.
My father was the perfect supporter, somehow always knowing what was needed and quietly getting on with stuff.  During the race he was a man of action and kept me in good shape physically and mentally through constant food, advise and reassurance.  This really is a team event far more than most people probably realise watching on the live tracking and it was great to have such a perfect partner.
Last but not least I need to thank my wife and kids.  Competing in the X-Alps is in many ways a selfish endeavour, not least because the training sucked up most of my spare time for about 9 months before we even made it to the month of the race.  Their endless support, encouragement and sacrifice, even though it was hard for them, was of course key in getting me to the start line in the right frame of mind.  I'm sure I also provided a few opportunities for worry, apologies for that!!  I'm extremely lucky to have such a supportive family.

My sincere apologies if I've forgotten anyone, as I said more to come in the future on the race and our experiences.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Last Post

Well the last post for a while as both Jon and I will have other priorities on our minds over the next couple of weeks but you can of course continue to follow all our exploits and those of the other competitors on including our diaries, and position.

So thanks for taking an interest in us so far and see you in Monaco.

Jon & Richard

Friday, July 15, 2011

Drug tests

I thought it was going to be a day of getting mundane things done.  The campsite this morning was full of teams sorting out their vans, doing washing and cutting toe nails.  All vitally important, but of course, rather mundane.

We went into Salzburg to check the first bit of the route out to the Gaisberg and bumped in Phillipe from FRA2 doing the same thing.  After our final bits of shopping we whizzed up the Gaisberg for a final check on the length of my speed system.  In two minutes I was airborne, checked it in the air, spiralled down to land and I was packed up in 6 mins, good for the fast packing/unpacking practise too!

Back in Fuschl we attended a medical briefing where we were informed all athletes would be tested for doping following WADA rules, and promptly lined up to give some blood.

That is about it for today.  Of to the dinner now!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Storms and briefings...

Weather took a turn for the worst here yesterday with a thunderstrom rolling through yesterday afternoon.  Following that we've had low cloud and drizzle... suddenly everyone seems to be contemplating the walking routes rather than discussing the intricacies of Salzburg airspace!

Still, briefings continue.  Of note we learnt that even the might of the Red Bull organisation has not been able to negotiate the use of Mont Gros launch for the final fly down when we get to Monaco - it seems instead we'll have to use an alternative take off, or, would you believe it, walk!  Details of exactly how this will work seem vague, but I expect it will become clear for those that get there!

This afternoons briefing was a technical briefing on how the logging data works for the live tracking.  It seems that the live tracking is massively updated this year with 1sec recording intervals, so you'll be able to see the minutae of our flights!  Given the data is sent in packets, there is a small delay though on what you see.  Try not to get too addicted!

As for us, we are feeling pretty relaxed and mostly on top of things.  We still have a list of stuff to do but we are onto the finer details now.  Next big events include the pre-race dinner on friday night, a press conference in Salzburg on Saturday morning and then of course the start itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sunshine Superman

No, Jon's not writing this blog it's the good looking one for a change. This is a picture from the official photographers during the pre-race photo shoot that we mentioned yesterday. It could almost have been the last picture the photographer ever took as he was in grave danger of getting a kick in the head. Still he survived fortunately so we have been able to post this.

Well another day nearer race start, a few technical problems to overcome i.e amending the speedbar (again!) and having to source a slightly larger reserve but with luck that's all taken care of now.

A host of technical briefings to look forward to tomorrow starting at 8 o clock for goodness sake, thought this pre race week was supposed to be a rest!

Equipment Checks...

I've spent the whole morning here in Fuschl doing equipment and branding checks.  The organisation here are checking every detail of everyone's gear - any modifications are being thoroughly checked - they seem to be being particulalry strict on harnesses.  Some peoples kit is very impressive - the most minimalist I've seen so far is Vincent Sprungli's gear,  including a very basic harness with no speed system, back protection, pod or even a stirrup!  I thought I was doing well with minimum equipment weighing in at 8.7kg, but it seems some people have got it quite a bit lower than that!  Still, the average is closer to 10kg so I'm happy.

Reserve loadings are being carefully checked, and here I need to move up to a larger reserve as I was a whisker over the maximum load for my reserve.  Doh!  The debate about 2-liners doesn't seem to be completely solved - it seems they are going to be allowed in the comp, but there may still be some hurdles for the pilots of these wings.  Last thing I know for sure was from speaking to Martin Muller (R11 pilot) yesterday afternoon he undserstood that competitors on 2-liners may need to do some additional in-flight tests.  Not sure that is actually happening now though as we received this email from Christophe Weber, race director this morning:

"Dear Athletes,
to solve the problem about not certified gliders competing in X-Alps 2011 we need a declaration of the manufacturer of the glider telling that you are having sufficient experience to fly this wing in the X-Alps competition.
Otherwise we have to force you to participate with a certified glider.
We will inform your manufacturer about this situation asking for the needed document."

Of course this is for all uncertified wings (which includes almost every pilot as we are all on lightweight versions of standard wings even where we are flying 'serial wings').  So for example my lightweight M4 is a standard M4 except in lighter fabric and different risers, but that means it is not certified.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A busy day in Fuschl

Busy day today - here is a photo montage of the day!
 The race office is open!  We aimed to be the first to arrive in order to get the paperwork out of the way (and to be in the habit of being first!) alas, Martin Muller, SUI3 was already there in front of us!

Registration - lots of stuff, including loggers, phones, cameras lots of clothes and another 3 (!) pairs of shoes.  Not sure where we can put it in the van, but we'll work on that (Dad says once he gets rid of me it will be easy!)
 Registration done, and we are on the Gaisberg for a pre race flight.  Lots of competitors are there, including Martin in the photo above, FRA 2 & 3, Max from Canada, Ogi, Pierre Carter and Honza Reijmanek.
 Launching - wind was light and the day was stable...
 Very stable - here we are thermalling in a weak climb below launch.  We never broke through the inversion and in the end only managed around 10km down route.  Still, it had been a good day and we headed back to Fuschl for a refreshing dip in the lake...
We thought our work was done for the day and we were just beginning to relax when, still dripping wet from our swim we were accosted by Ludwig, one of the photographers, and promptly asked to head back up the Gaisberg for a photo shoot.

The photo shoot took about 2 hours, including every item of sponsored equipment.  Here I am supposedly making a diary entry on our team Leica camera, whilst Oliver photographs me.  So you could say this is a photo of someone taking a photo of me taking my photo!

Monday, July 11, 2011

X-Alps HQ

Only days now until the X-Alps starts and we are now at the race headquarters in Fuschl am See.  We parked up in the team campsite with only the Romanian team already in residence but it wasn’t long before the Dutch team pulled up alongside us in their huge campervan, followed soon afterwards by Richard Pethigal from Brazil.  We’d bumped into Richard earlier in the day checking out part of the route at a place called Filzmoos close to the Dachstein.  We also saw Max Ferndl in town this evening, so a few others are beginning to arrive.

Tomorrow is the first official arrival day so we’ll be able to do the equipment checks tomorrow.  Hopefully I’ll get that out of the way early so I can still head up to the Gaisberg to fly later.  From Wednesday briefings start, so tomorrow will be the last chance to see what the XC route from the Gaisberg is like.

Dad and I spent today on the Dachstein glacier (for those of you who have been following this blog you’ll know we spent quite some time there in June).  Why were we there again, you might ask!  The reason is that we were sure there was a better walking route than the one we had already found.  Indeed there is and we finally found it, after going wrong on numerous occasions, even walking right to the bottom of the glacier at one point, only to have to hike back up!

I’ll try to keep you posted with what is happening here at race HQ for the next few days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chamonix again

Time is literally flying past and the X-Alps seems to be almost upon us.  Scarily it is now less than 2 weeks away and I just spent my last training weekend (let me write that again - last training weekend!) in Chamonix.

Arriving at Plaine Joux landing on Saturday morning, I walked up to the Plaine Joux take off (there was a French A-league comp going on there).  I took off but it was still very early on this stable day, so I flew down the east (leeside) face of the Prarion, mainly to see what the options for getting over the col at Les Houches were like and to check out the take off on the Prairon itself.  As the wind was blowing down the col (more or less as expected) I landed on the piste and walked up and over the top to fly again.  By now conditions were better and other gliders had flown across from Plaine Joux.  I flew around for a while before gliding over to Mont Joli.  I didn't really need to land here, but figured it was all good practise so I put it down in a tight little space and walked up to another take off just in time to join the comp task heading south.  Not for long though, as they pushed out east to a turnpoint and I continued south before crossing over Megeve towards the Aravis.  The wind was quite strong from the West and it was well into the afternoon so the sun was onto the west faces by now as well.  I wanted to have a go at crossing the Aravis from this side, a tough call with the lowish base in the lee and the shade but I fancied the challenge.  About 200m from the point I'd picked to cross the ridge and still at least 200m above it, I realised I wasn't going to make it - I hit the downwash from the rotor, I was literally being flushed from the sky and barely going forwards, so I did the only sensible thing and turned and ran back into the Passy valley.  I arrived too low to get back up on the otherside, so landed, walked to my van, filled up my drinks, grabbed some food and set off walking up to Paine Joux a second time.  This time I got to enjoy a lovely bouyant evening flight with Tom Payne, proud owner of a crispy new R11.  Boy that thing is fast. So, by close of play, I could count 4 flights and over 4 hours of walking up mountains for my labours!

After food and a bit of XC planning it was already late, so a good nights sleep in the camper van in Chamonix, followed by an early morning run up to Argentiere and back and I was ready for another day in the air.  This time conditions were supposed to be better.  On launch at Plan Praz it still looked a bit stable but, launching at 11am, Tom and I managed to climb through the inversion and head across to Plaine Joux.  Many other people were there in Chamonix, including fellow X-Alps competitor Clement Latour flying tandem with his girlfriend.  Along the cliffs at the back of Plaine Joux, Tom and I soon joined up with none other than Phiphi Barnier (X-Alps team FRA2) who'd walked to, and launched from, the Varan launch.  All three of us were stuck under the inversion, and after a bit of a battle, Tom decided to rejoin the competion by top landing at Plaine Joux (the day was not as good as we'd hoped for XC).  Phiphi and I eventually climbed out but went in opposite directions.

Crossing to the Quatre Tetes and the North end of the Aravis should have been fine, but it was still very inverted.  I came in low on the shallow grassy slopes and, skimming across the ground a few metres up, I disturbed a bushy tailed fox that went bounding off in front of me before diving down a fox hole.  It turned out I was just a little bit too low to get up from here, so after losing a little too much height scratching around, I landed and walked up a few hundred metres to where it was working and launched again.  It was working here but still painfully, painfully slow.  It took me an hour to climb out to 2800m above Point Percee, with its tiny summit crammed with a handful of happy climbers.

I thought things would improve now but my flight south down the Aravis was unbelievably slow, as each climb was weak and broken. It seemed to take an age to get to the Charvin, and looking at my instruments I saw it was already 4pm (how long had it taken!?!).  Passing L'Etale on my way back north it was as though someone had just switched on the thermals.  Crossing the col I took a great 3.5m/s climb to 3000m, pushed north, topped up to 3200m, crossed to the Varan, climbed again in a screaming climb to over 3000m and pushed back to Chamonix landing from there.  What had taken me most of the day on the way out took me two and half climbs and about 40mins to get back!

A good weekends training, but I was tired and wanted to be home, so jumped in the van and sped back to Geneva.

Friday, July 1, 2011

More photos from 26th June flight in Chamonix

Here is a link that has just come to my attention... when I was in Chamonix at the weekend there were lots of people taking pictures, and a pilot by the name of Jacques Vuffrray has posted some really great photos at take off and of me flying see

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dinner with Team France 3

Last night it was my pleasure to host team FRA3 (Clement Latour and Sylvain D'Honneur) along with Tom Payne (X-Alps 2009) to dinner and a session sharing what we have learnt from our various recon trips on the X-Alps route.  As a few people have remarked, the X-Alps is less a race against each other than a race against the mountains themselves - sharing information will, I'm sure, help both of our teams do better in the race

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chamonix & spectators

Once upon a time I used to be able to turn up at a launch, say, 'hi' to the few pilots I know and then take off and fly an XC with friends.  Things have changed, and all because my wing is now covered with X-Alps logos.  On Chamonix take off yesterday I seemed to be centre of attention, as people wanted at look at my wing, my harness, ask about the Pringles sponsorship etc.., etc...  When I finally did pull up the wing to launch it was with at least half a dozen people positioned around launch with cameras to get piuctures of 'the X-Alps pilot' launching.  A small taster I guess of what life is going to be look for the next month or so as the hype around this race builds up to the climax of the start on July 17th.

Suddenly it all seems terribly close.  I'm see-sawing from feeling wonderfully prepared, both physically and with my kit, to the next minute worrying about the multitude of things that I still need to sort out before I leave in 2 weeks time.  None of them major but the clock is ticking...

Anyway, back to Chamonix.  A stable day meant that flights out of the big massive were unlikely to be terribly successful.  Even in chamonix climbs weren't more than about 1.5m/s and the sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen.  Even so, despite being slow, I had a lovely tour of the valley, finishing with a flight along Les Aiguilles and the very face of Mt Blanc.  This side of the valley becomes a no fly zone later this weeek as the July & August exclusion zone takes effect (in order to allow the rescue helicopters free reign of the massif to collect unlucky or stupid mountaineers).  Still, I patiently climbed in the weak climbs to over 3000m to skim along glaciers and buzz the refuge on the route up to the Dome de Goutier.  Suprisingly, given the number of pilots on launch earlier in the day I had the mountains more or less to myself.  And that was the amazing thing - because it was so stable you could fly extremely close into the mountain, literally looking down deep crevases whilst swooping the glacier and whooping over ridges.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

These shoes were made for walking…

Well running actually. 

Since getting back from our extended trip to learn the route, life has been rather hectic, but for once not with X-Alps activities.  Instead I’ve had the pleasure of some family time, and the less pleasurable, but necessary, demands of work to manage.

Still, for those of you following my preparation – the glider is now complete with X-Alps logo on the top surface and Pringles Xtreme logo on the under surface – I’ll hopefully get a picture this weekend and add it to the blog.

Now to the title of this post – before leaving for Austria I spent a whole morning in New Concept Sport in Geneva, where Laurent patiently made me try on almost every shoe in the shop, and run around the block in many of them (often with a  different shoe on each foot).  All I can say is that the people in the cafĂ© two doors down must have been quite amused!  Anyhow, the point of this exercise, together with the treadmill analysis and foot contact area analysis beforehand, was to find the ideal shoes, both trial shoes and road shoes.  I didn’t write about it straight away as I wanted to see what they were like to run and walk in.  As we say in English the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Now, having covered several 100km’s in the last few weeks, I can confirm they are perfect.  I’d more or less eradicated blisters, at least in training, but with these shoes there are no signs even of rubbing, and the trial shoes seem pretty water resistant (even though not theoretically waterproof) given after 5hrs walking in the mountains in the rain I only just started to get wet feet.

So my thanks to Laurent for a thoroughly professional job – for the record the trial shoes are Adiddas and the road shoes are Brooks…

Final news for now is that I am now entering my final phase of physical training, which means the effort actually ramps down, eventually to a week of total rest prior to the race itself.  Rather nice after averaging 60-70hrs training a month for the last 6 months!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The week in Pictures...

Here are some pictures from the last week or so that never made the blog posts:

Walking in the Dachstein mountains

Breakfast - we're going to need a consdierably bigger bowl!

Contemplating the Gross-Glockner turnpoint

Evening light at Bad Moos

Bad Moos again...

All we need now is a very big piece of paper...


Piz Palu & Piz Bernina in a rare moment of late evening sunshine

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Matterhorn turnpoint

On the final day of our trip to learn the first part of the route I found myself back in known territory - the Valais is a local flying area for me.  The weather also decided to play ball with thermic conditions despite a layer of high cloud (which slowed the development and was probably a blessing otherwise the day may have become quite stormy quite quickly).

A quick hike up to a launch spot above the Goms valley proved that take-off spots are not always easy to come by.  The spine we were walking up was incredibly steep, but I still managed to find just enough space to throw myself off (almost literally) on what has to go down as the most extreme launch I've done yet.  No video I'm afraid as I needed the help of my father to help me launch. I flew from there down route towards Zermatt, although once again I didn't really have the height to penetrate into the Zermatt valley so instead we travelled up to Zermatt by car and train to check out the walking route up to the  turnpoint.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Water & Walking

I always thought paragliding was a summer sport, alas this training trip has largely proved me wrong because a low cloud base interspersed with rain has rendered flying impossible again today. Still it could be like this in July (heaven forbid) so it’s all good practice. Talking of water, Jon forgot to mention on the last post of an amusing moment in the small medieval town of Glurns yesterday. As we drove through the quaint walled town I noticed a water fountain in the central square. As Hannibal was almost out of water (that’s drinking and cooking water not engine coolant) I parked in the square next to a large tree, the benches beneath which were the afternoon haunt of the elderly men of the village. Jon went to start filling up a water container whilst I undid the water filler cap and made ready with the large funnel that the hire company have provided for such purpose. Hannibal has only the one obvious filler cap and that is the water, the diesel filler is hidden away under a flap by the driver’s door. After filling Hannibal with three lots of water, one of the elderly gentleman wandered across “Wasser?” he enquired, “Ja, wasser” I replied “Es ist sehr billig” which unless my old german teacher is turning in his grave means it’s very cheap. The old man shook his head and wandered back to his friends where much muttering took place. So if you are running a garage in Glurns and many of your clients have suddenly got water in their fuel tanks it might just be our fault.

As for today, after an earlyish start we drove down through St Moritz and down the valley to Chiavenna.  Just outside of Coloredo I left Jon to climb across the Passo di Forcola into the Mesocina Valley. The walk up from the valley floor was significant with about 2000m ascent to negotiate, still Jon made the top in a little over 3hours and was soon down the other side.  Not contented with walking over a mountain range he then set off for another couple of hours walking down the valley!

My journey to achieve the same end required driving up the Splugen pass which is not for the feint hearted in a slightly underpowered campervan after which the St Bernardino pass back south was a doddle.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Duty free, border guards and a jolly nice man at a campsite...

We still have poor weather in our part of the Alps, but less rain forecasted. So, ever optimistic, I walked up the mountain this morning hoping for a fly down, between the clouds, into the valley below.  At 2000m the rain started so I continued up, just for the hell of it really.  Higher up I spied a take off, just clear of the higher cloud and the rain had temporarily ceased.  I quicked my pace, but finally to no avail as by the time I arrived at the hut (2350m) the cloud had rolled in again. I waited a while, ate some food and realised the situation was not going to improve so headed down.

It wasn't until I was back at 1400m that I finally came out of the forest still high above the valley floor with a nice grassy slope - and for the first time in what seems like an eternity - sunshine!  I threw out the glider and launched, but of course the sunshine was immediately causing some mega cloud growth and the congestus behind me was sucking up rather too nicely.  Squeezed the glider down in a very small football pitch surrounded by trees, and that was that, back to driving in the rain as the overdevelopment quickly engulfed the valley.

So to Lavigno, a sleepy valley in Italy that seems to have some strange tax free status - we filled Hannibal with Diesel at some ridiculously cheap price (Euro 0.94/l) and continued on into Switzerland near to the Piz Palu turnpoint.  As well as duty free fuel there were many opportunities to buy duty free alcohol, so it was no great suprise that this was the one border crossing with plenty of guards who wanted to check our paperwork and van.  Still they were very nice about it.  I like Switzerland!

Finally to our current place of rest, Camping Plauns in Pontresina.  The chap who runs it is a paraglider pilot and learning we were in the X-Alps insisted we helped our selves to a 'good bottle of wine' for free from his little shop.  It is a great campsite too.  I really do like Switzerland!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rain, rain, rain and more rain

It seems to have rained incessantly for the last few days, so driving and walking have been more the order of the day rather than flying.  Nevertheless we've seen a lot of the route and found some cunning shortcuts (in one case my walk over the mountains took about the same time as it took my Dad to drive around in the van!).

The highest point we've been to was the top of the Stelvio pass, where we spent a cold night and woke to fresh snow on top of the van (can someone please tell the weather that it is June!).  I leave you with a picture of Hannibal (as that seems to be what the van is now called) at the top!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Mighty Dolomites

Tre Cime from the Tre Cime hut at 2450m
We are currently sitting in the van (thank heavens for small mercies) with rain falling in stair rods all around us, so cannot say that this Dolomite weather is really suiting flying at the moment. Still today has not been a complete waste, we did achieve something before the weather stopped play. We began the day in Bad Moos on the northern side of the Tre Cime turnpoint, expecting the weather to worsen, Jon set off early (well not proper X-Alps early but early enough) to begin the walk up to the Tre Cime hut and then the col to the east of Tre Cime where he then took off to the bewilderment of several onlookers. I meanwhile had driven round to Misurina where we had guesstimated that the glide down would take him to. However, a non-straightforward bit of flying after take-off had dictated some concentration during the first few moments of the flight so Jon had not been focussing completely on route findings. Misurina has a small lake around which the town nestles but then so does Auronzo and guess what! Still at least Jon is unlikely to go the wrong way there in the X-Alps now he has done it in practise!
Contemplating the Cortina valley!

We then drove across the Tre Croci col and parked up to explore take off points high up on the Ski resort on the southern side of the col, alas whilst some decent prospects for take offs existed the wind and by now the rain, rendered all of them useless for today, luckily however we got back to the van (Hannibal) before the worst of the weather. Since then we have been mainly looking for somewhere to park the van with access to wifi with which to post this blog (amongst other things) but with absolutely no luck so by the time you get to read this we will have moved on, the delights and complications of Bolzano airspace the next challenge.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dachstein take 2

Thwarted by the snow on the Dachstein Via Ferrata yesterday but today we came up with a cunning plan... use the cable car, so after negotiating a small mortgage for the return fare we arrived at the top and wandered along the edge of the cliff to find a suitable take-off point. That done Jon duly took off in a steady wind, (the signpost at the base of the mountain said wind speed 60kph, a slight over exaggeration) intending that the flight would possibly be just a top to bottom with the bottom being at Radstadt some 15km away. I drove down the mountain and duly made my way there. Once in the ‘Radstadt’ valley the sky was blue and the clouds fluffy, I just knew he would not be there. Sure enough by this time he was well on the Way to St Johann im Pongau so I gave chase. Eventually threatening clouds forced a landing in Goldeggweng so today being Sunday and with the Supporter having failed on the bread buying front yesterday we treated ourselves to a lunchtime pizza.

On the way up the Gross-Glockner pass
After lunch a drive up the valley to Wurth which is a direct route towards the Grossglockner turn point. No road access exists at the top of the valley although it would be a good bad weather route (if walking). We then drove back towards Zell am See and up the Grossglockner pass pausing on the way only to part with another king’s ransom to the Austrian Highways authority to be allowed to use the road. Spent some time at the top surveying various route options before Jon elected to fly down the other side to explore the westerly valley towards the turnpoint (see picture below!) Strong valley winds eventually brought the flight to a halt on the mountain slopes as Jon had no desire to revisit the type of landing he had in Sondrio a few weeks ago, ie 15kph backwards. Tomorrow Lienz and who knows how much further.