Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 8 Italian lakes

Day 10, hiking to regain the 1000 metres I’d just lost in the air

On day ten (yes, a rather long race this year), I needed to put some points on the board after the hit and miss diversion of my northern sojourn. I slept alone at a mountain hut, waking up in time to position myself to fly literally as the 6am curfew opened. I wasn’t waiting for thermals anymore, and in fact it felt quite good to be on the move.

First glide of day 10, on my way to the same landing as in 2015!

After landing within twenty metres of 2015, a small clearing surrounded by forest on the hillside, I climbed up to repeat. Despite lots of alpine grass it can still be hard to find a take off and despite being careful I managed to break another brake line as I left to cross the valley. Coming into land I could feel that thermals weren’t far away, and on the next flight I spiralled up over a rocky spine with the whiff of mountain goats in the air. Up high over the mountains I could see the Matterhorn in the distance and set off on glide across the Tessin valley.

I crossed with just enough height to land high on a spur, surrounded by forest, but I had no reason to think that the conditions here were completely different to where I’d just been. Unfortunately I paid the price of ignorance with one thousand metres lost altitude before slope landing, rather disappointed, for another long hike. For some of it I even was bashing through the scrub. When I emerged 1200 metres higher, conditions had deteriorated further and it even had started raining lightly as I took a glide closer to the next pass. Landing just minutes later I packed quickly, walking up to the pass as a storm moved through. I was hungry and also critically low on batteries so it was into airline mode – no instagram posts today!

Inspecting the damage

Flying back to Locarno felt like quite an achievement, it was really like emerging out of the jungle. Another situation in which you’d prefer to not have to demonstrate your landing skills in tight places. The lake was always a backup option, but a few carefully executed climbs kept me out of trouble. Locarno was to be my first available possibility for a rendezvous. Some confusion on the specifics left me frustrated but in the end I was recharged.

How did that village get there?

On the hillside near Locarno I’d walked with Nelson (FRA3), who seemed to be in quite a hurry. He had pulled his night pass intending to get within striking distance of the Matterhorn from the Italian side. I made a similar evening flight as he did, a little later, but I believed we landed in the same narrow field – the forested gorge filled with cables didn’t leave many other options!

Day eleven started well, although there was some funny business with disappearing tracks and getting slightly lost in the Italian wilderness. Initially the flying was easy, but I knew things would change when I had to cross into the deep main valley over Domodossala. I spent ages trying to get up to a decent altitude but in the end I decided it was futile. Rather than push a death glide into a hot humid Italian valley, I decided to go tailwind into Switzerland. This was a really cool end to the flight (with another interesting landing, spotting cables), and with the fohn arriving in force that afternoon, I felt I didn’t miss much.

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Back on the road and I made steady progress up towards the Simplon pass. Again I had a few visits from xalps fans, probably wondering what the hell I was doing there. Meanwhile Chrigel had flown into the coast and we were quite happy for him – it meant we were on track to finish the race, and make our airline flights back home!

6am on the dot

too much time sitting on launches in the last couple of days

it’s a good feeling to make some progress

I’m a bit nervous about this launch as it’s so rocky

nice breeze from time to time

ah.. broke a line

just a brake line

I’ve got to fix that brake line, eh?

the Matterhorn is that way

my next move is that one there

not much happening here

I wonder why

that is bloody annoying – I was going well

so there’s rumbles of thunder

I just want to make a short flight before it starts raining

to get to shelter and if I’ve very lucky,
electricity and food

I doubt that

it’s just started raining

so I’m starving. I’ve just climbed..

… a thousand metres, I actually think it’s 1200 metres

there’s shelter, a little bivvy cave

let’s pack it up, quick smart

I managed to hook up the camera backwards

so you can see my launch. I did a “forward” this time

what a crazy place this is

look at these villages

oh.. that’s a day

I thought that besides wearing a helmet is probably a good idea

I’ll document some of this…

on ground stuff

saw a deer before… I assume this is the bit I was supposed to come down

still haven’t seen where it goes up on the other side

but I guess not there

so I think I can see little steps cut into the rock

ooh, here’s a wire

there we go, very encouraging

someone has been here before

the deer can sleep easy now

(these humans getting themselves into trouble)

piece of cake

lovely, good to be in the air

so far things are going a lot easier today

stuck here for ages

haven’t got above 1400 metres

so either pushing south… or

for better or for worse I’ve decided to go to Switzerland

yeah I thought I’d have a high risk of landing in a hot, sticky, sweaty Italian valley

.. if I’d kept pushing ahead. I couldn’t get very high

a bit of soaring in a little nook

not a lot of landings, I can see a bit of green

yeah – try not to land down there eh?

going up like a rocket

4.5 – 5 metres per second

cool bridges in that creek

yeah it’s looking good

didn’t get nailed going over the back, it was a bit sinky

it was a little bit bumpy

so Mum has managed to find the cable that I had to see when I landed

Ben still can’t see it – it’s up there

but you have to see these things or you can crash into them, bloody scary!

Mum you believe me (there’s a cable there) don’t you?

I can see it

then you take your eyes off it, you’ve moved a little bit
and where the hell was that cable again?

About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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