Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 7 northern sojourn

Up high bright and early, day 8

Day 8 and 9 saw me take a large detour, some kind of nostalgia for the 2015 route perhaps. Initially, on day 7, I drifted north off the route because I could not stay on the route without landing early (in the end storm outflow got me anyway). This route added distance, risk and weather dependence, but it also made things more interesting. In hindsight the weather was better suited to glides than thermalling, and I spent a significant amount of time waiting on a hillside while other athletes made steady progress along the course line past Sondrio, to my south. Eight minute video with subtitles

Day 8,9 NZL and GER1 (south)

Some morning sunshine got me over the first range but then cloud shut things down and I waited on a grassy hillside near the Bernina pass. When the sun came back I had a really interesting flight down towards St Moritz.

With showers making their way up the valley I opted to land on the hillside where I could fly again. Some pilot in the valley saw me disappear behind trees and called the emergency services, but the landing was fine.

After waving them off I waited out the storms in a nearby restaurant where I had lunch, where I was interrupted by them calling my mobile phone – all was well. In hindsight I would have been better landing in the main valley and positioning myself for a long glide down the valley, because conditions after the storm passed were fickle. I had a couple of flights working anything I could but generally struggling. Some local pilots were flying nearby to try and help me (I met them later), but they realised the usual rules of thumb did not apply. In the end I resigned myself to a long bash along the highway as the storms returned, pushing into Maloja just before the 10:30pm curfew. I was certainly glad that it was only four hours, I couldn’t imagine doing that all day. I was also joined for a time by various local pilots who all had good things to say about my unique route finding qualities!

A bit of a slow learner, I had the optimists expectation of clearing cloud and I failed to take an early glide the next morning, preferring to position myself for thermals.

After several hours getting wet and cold in whiteout I took the first opportunity to get off the hill. Meanwhile Ben and Mum were sipping hot chocolate in a beautifully preserved Italian village. I interrupted them with a skype request to update our facebook feed about the cloud being the reason for the slow progress – a social media emergency!

Mum did say she was very anxious however, and when we met on the hillside in another well preserved village near Chiavenna, she sensed my frustration at having wasted lots of time in the last few days, so she gave her blessing of my plans to continue. They sent me into the storm. Late that night I found a Ben Venuti sign outside a cosy hut in a high alpine meadow, apparently maintained by a private family. Inside I set myself up for the night, finding a blanket stowed in a storage container in the loft which I dutifully returned the following morning.

Hear Pal’s thoughts on my wayward route:

0:00:03.810,0:00:09.309
so I’ve come up to this nice grassy
launch here southeast aspect

0:00:09.309,0:00:15.610
no Sun at the moment but there’s quite a bit of blue sky around

0:00:15.610,0:00:19.720
but there is a bit of precipitation in the forecast
light winds at the moment

0:00:19.720,0:00:26.560
a lot of the clouds are moving sou’westerly I guess
but yeah I’m still happy I came up here

0:00:26.560,0:00:31.029
rather than highway bashing but it was a
tricky decision whether to go over the

0:00:31.029,0:00:36.660
pass and fly to Passo del Bernina or to
come up here and try my luck

0:00:39.220,0:00:45.540
just over the back there is Passo del Bernina
I’m sitting on the Italian side of the Swiss border

0:00:46.360,0:00:51.540
let’s hope we get a few hours.. of good flying

0:00:55.040,0:00:59.280
I got up a bit and it looks pretty gloomy ahead
there’s sun here..

0:00:59.280,0:01:03.080
if I can get up a little bit higher I guess that’s my next move

0:01:03.080,0:01:06.480
on the high ridge I was sinking out so
I was forced to cross the valley

0:01:07.520,0:01:09.820
here it was shady so I had to wait

0:01:11.180,0:01:13.260
the day is too young to give it up

0:01:13.480,0:01:15.160
wow, slippery grass here

0:01:19.040,0:01:23.320
I have to say it was worth the wait
this was a really technical and interesting flight

0:01:24.100,0:01:27.200
I guess I say that
about just about every flight in the xalps

0:01:27.200,0:01:31.360
really tricky flying, I’ve been trying to follow convergence along this ridge

0:01:31.360,0:01:35.020
there’s wind coming over, and it’s also coming this way

0:01:36.160,0:01:38.960
so I’m going to try and get onto the next one

0:01:43.340,0:01:47.100
getting as high as I can at every opportunity, obviously

0:01:49.600,0:01:52.160
it’s good fun, pretty nice scenery too

0:01:52.160,0:01:53.480
a bit windy

0:01:53.480,0:01:59.900
coming across there all the wind
funneling through that gap (Bernina pass)

0:02:00.900,0:02:06.780
I was pushing 3/4 bar and
I was going on a 45 degree angle to my heading

0:02:07.400,0:02:08.400
crazy

0:02:09.840,0:02:15.840
well there was sink in front of me, so I pushed out
and there’s some kind of convergence here

0:02:17.080,0:02:21.080
so I’ll just take it where it leads
some more nice views again

0:02:23.340,0:02:27.500
a weak climb, and I’ve just spotted another paraglider – way up

0:02:29.000,0:02:30.120
don’t give up yet

0:02:31.400,0:02:34.200
pretty shady as well, but it’s not raining

0:02:36.780,0:02:39.740
I’ve got to be quick before that wind arrives

0:02:52.540,0:02:55.380
well let’s pack this thing pronto

0:02:56.440,0:02:58.840
completely dry and showers

0:03:00.260,0:03:03.500
just below me on the slope was a restaurant
where I waited for the storm to pass

0:03:03.500,0:03:07.070
but re-flying proved very difficult and
in hindsight I would have been better off

0:03:07.070,0:03:11.750
pushing down the valley and setting
myself up for a long ride

0:03:11.750,0:03:15.500
a lot of the local Engadine pilots were impressed though
and tried to help

0:03:15.500,0:03:19.020
this day gets more and more bizarre
very strange air in here

0:03:21.320,0:03:25.560
it was gushing out of this valley
now it’s blowing back out again

0:03:30.500,0:03:35.000
I’m just trying everything. I think I’m still at launch height now.. I got a couple of hundred metres above

0:03:35.700,0:03:42.120
earlier.. it got to windy across the slope, so I pushed into the wind this way

0:03:44.840,0:03:49.320
strange.. there’s another pilot down there, that’s even stranger

0:03:50.180,0:03:52.020
he launched from over there

0:03:52.020,0:03:55.400
gday. We got your dinner ready okay

0:03:55.400,0:03:57.300
some locals are tagging along

0:04:01.580,0:04:03.920
that little hut with the lid, keep going

0:04:03.920,0:04:05.640
am I famous?

0:04:09.540,0:04:13.260
so it’s been a frustrating day
today I woke at 7:00

0:04:13.270,0:04:17.920
well I left at 7:00 thinking that that
was well early enough to get a thermic

0:04:17.920,0:04:22.570
but in hindsight I should have forgotten
about the thermic flight because

0:04:22.570,0:04:27.140
it clouded up and I was in cloud and rain for hours

0:04:27.860,0:04:33.220
so I took off late, lost about 1000 metres

0:04:36.800,0:04:42.760
and had to wait for it to start to work and
it didn’t really ever get beyond weak

0:04:45.200,0:04:51.840
got to go into Canungra or Conondale flying mode
slow, slow, slow, desperate, tiny little thermals

0:04:51.840,0:04:56.740
just gained 50 metres very slowly

0:04:58.580,0:05:03.380
you might think I’m high but I’m not
I’m only 20 metres higher than launch

0:05:04.620,0:05:10.620
all these low clouds. Even though I’m low and want to get higher, the clouds are still lower

0:05:10.900,0:05:16.100
just a slow climb here, but I’m pretty desperate, so I’ll take any kind of climb

0:05:17.080,0:05:20.600
and a lot of cloud, I don’t know how Seb [GER1] got over

0:05:20.600,0:05:25.440
I was above this wall, and I crossed from there
Gained a bit of height, lost it again

0:05:25.440,0:05:31.420
and then came back, I’m all over the shop
but I don’t know what to do about getting over these mountains

0:05:34.340,0:05:37.140
struggling… it just got more cloudy too

0:05:39.380,0:05:40.900
I’m around 1000 metres

0:05:42.060,0:05:44.540
and looking like landing pretty soon

0:05:45.620,0:05:48.740
landing! that’s the next thing to worry about!

0:06:16.700,0:06:20.070
I had to do everything right here
stay away from the road

0:06:20.070,0:06:24.060
swinging underneath the powerlines
swing back around this little hedge

0:06:24.060,0:06:28.320
and then pop it down just before getting back to the road

0:06:32.500,0:06:35.700
there’s not something you’d want to do too often

0:06:38.180,0:06:42.060
so I had a really tight landing
and then walked up

0:06:42.060,0:06:48.450
and restocked with Mum and Ben at a
tiny little village on the way

0:06:48.450,0:06:55.620
and now they’ve sent me into the storm
so there’s thunder rumbling away

0:06:55.620,0:07:02.280
there is a little village up here and despite
me liking to go new places and not

0:07:02.280,0:07:07.169
go the same way as everyone else or as a
way I’ve previously been

0:07:07.169,0:07:10.060
this is the exact trail I went on last xalps

0:07:11.020,0:07:13.820
so I’ve come down from that pass on the left

0:07:13.820,0:07:18.390
sort of around the right and then down
to these other huts that were locked and

0:07:18.390,0:07:22.080
then I bashed through the bush and I’ve
only just found this trail which is a

0:07:22.080,0:07:26.550
bit of a relief it’s getting a bit life
so there’s a hut just on the other side

0:07:26.550,0:07:31.250
of this little pass – should be there
within 20 minutes I hope

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About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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2 Responses to Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 7 northern sojourn

  1. Pingback: Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 8 Italian lakes | Flying paragliders in the mountains

  2. Pingback: Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 8 Italian lakes | Flying paragliders in the mountains

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