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.
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!
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.
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.
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?