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.

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