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:

so I’ve come up to this nice grassy
launch here southeast aspect

no Sun at the moment but there’s quite a bit of blue sky around

but there is a bit of precipitation in the forecast
light winds at the moment

a lot of the clouds are moving sou’westerly I guess
but yeah I’m still happy I came up here

rather than highway bashing but it was a
tricky decision whether to go over the

pass and fly to Passo del Bernina or to
come up here and try my luck

just over the back there is Passo del Bernina
I’m sitting on the Italian side of the Swiss border

let’s hope we get a few hours.. of good flying

I got up a bit and it looks pretty gloomy ahead
there’s sun here..

if I can get up a little bit higher I guess that’s my next move

on the high ridge I was sinking out so
I was forced to cross the valley

here it was shady so I had to wait

the day is too young to give it up

wow, slippery grass here

I have to say it was worth the wait
this was a really technical and interesting flight

I guess I say that
about just about every flight in the xalps

really tricky flying, I’ve been trying to follow convergence along this ridge

there’s wind coming over, and it’s also coming this way

so I’m going to try and get onto the next one

getting as high as I can at every opportunity, obviously

it’s good fun, pretty nice scenery too

a bit windy

coming across there all the wind
funneling through that gap (Bernina pass)

I was pushing 3/4 bar and
I was going on a 45 degree angle to my heading


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

so I’ll just take it where it leads
some more nice views again

a weak climb, and I’ve just spotted another paraglider – way up

don’t give up yet

pretty shady as well, but it’s not raining

I’ve got to be quick before that wind arrives

well let’s pack this thing pronto

completely dry and showers

just below me on the slope was a restaurant
where I waited for the storm to pass

but re-flying proved very difficult and
in hindsight I would have been better off

pushing down the valley and setting
myself up for a long ride

a lot of the local Engadine pilots were impressed though
and tried to help

this day gets more and more bizarre
very strange air in here

it was gushing out of this valley
now it’s blowing back out again

I’m just trying everything. I think I’m still at launch height now.. I got a couple of hundred metres above

earlier.. it got to windy across the slope, so I pushed into the wind this way

strange.. there’s another pilot down there, that’s even stranger

he launched from over there

gday. We got your dinner ready okay

some locals are tagging along

that little hut with the lid, keep going

am I famous?

so it’s been a frustrating day
today I woke at 7:00

well I left at 7:00 thinking that that
was well early enough to get a thermic

but in hindsight I should have forgotten
about the thermic flight because

it clouded up and I was in cloud and rain for hours

so I took off late, lost about 1000 metres

and had to wait for it to start to work and
it didn’t really ever get beyond weak

got to go into Canungra or Conondale flying mode
slow, slow, slow, desperate, tiny little thermals

just gained 50 metres very slowly

you might think I’m high but I’m not
I’m only 20 metres higher than launch

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

just a slow climb here, but I’m pretty desperate, so I’ll take any kind of climb

and a lot of cloud, I don’t know how Seb [GER1] got over

I was above this wall, and I crossed from there
Gained a bit of height, lost it again

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

struggling… it just got more cloudy too

I’m around 1000 metres

and looking like landing pretty soon

landing! that’s the next thing to worry about!

I had to do everything right here
stay away from the road

swinging underneath the powerlines
swing back around this little hedge

and then pop it down just before getting back to the road

there’s not something you’d want to do too often

so I had a really tight landing
and then walked up

and restocked with Mum and Ben at a
tiny little village on the way

and now they’ve sent me into the storm
so there’s thunder rumbling away

there is a little village up here and despite
me liking to go new places and not

go the same way as everyone else or as a
way I’ve previously been

this is the exact trail I went on last xalps

so I’ve come down from that pass on the left

sort of around the right and then down
to these other huts that were locked and

then I bashed through the bush and I’ve
only just found this trail which is a

bit of a relief it’s getting a bit life
so there’s a hut just on the other side

of this little pass – should be there
within 20 minutes I hope

About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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4 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

  3. The 39ers says:

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what you’ve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.You’ve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

    • sharemyjoys says:

      I used to do blogs as standalone but now I have less writing, and more just a collection of Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube links all in the same place so they’re easier to find.

      By the long text you just mean the YouTube transcript at the end? The other text has lots of pictures if you include Instagram etc

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