Day 11, 24/7: Bourg - Maurienne
One of those days… The good news of the day I noticed when I woke up, was that the wind had dropped… The bad news was that the sky was completely overcast. It was also looking like it was about to rain!!!
“Quick Dav!!!, if you don’t want to walk down the few thousand meters to Bourg St Maurice.” With my eyes half stuck closed and my mouth all dry from the sleep, I took off and did a proper top to bottom and landed on the edge of the road just above the official landing field of Bourg.
Down in the valley, with such bad conditions I decided to go for a long days walk. I didn’t want to waste any time trying to fly. I thought I would be better to use the day to escape from the area. My plan was to take off from the W faces above Maurienne in the evening and glide to Valloire somehow. Looking at it afterwards, it was very optimistic!!! Anyway, I walked along the road towards Moutiers and then walked up to the higher sommet, the Cheval noir. This may sound pretty easy but was the hardest day so far!
The walk down to Moutiers was long and walking downhill along the road for few hours, did some damage to one of the muscles in my foot. The massive inflammation that resulted made walking a real problem until the end of the competition… From Moutiers, I walked in the direction of Val Thorens, still on the road and eventually ended up on a foot path which took me to a high pass. After 35km and 2100m of ascent from Moutiers, I made the top at 19:’30 … knackered, frozen, and in a really bad state. My day was far from to be finished though…
The wind was more across the slope than I had expected, and the launching place that I had chosen wasn’t quite working. I had to walk along this sharp rocky ridge and found what could be called a super steep rocky slope, just enough room to put my glider in between massive rocks. It was so narrow and so steep that I couldn’t inflate my glider. Somehow I managed to inflate the center, jumped up and backwards to avoid my lines to catch the rocks around my tips, then the tip managed to inflate above my head and I had thrown myself into the sky… “It bloody worked !!!”
This was the stupidest take off ever and I made it! When I was on this cliff, with my glider in the middle of the rocks, so late, so tired, so high, I really thought that I was trying very hard to kill myself on purpose.
Flying at the top of this mountain, at the end of the day was a real pleasure. The light, the clouds, the landscape, everything was like a gift that the nature was giving me after enduring such hard tasks … but nature was about to give some more emotions!
I was cruising along, following these ridges, direction… ? “Fuck !!! where am I going to???” The top of all the mountains where in the clouds, the sun was very low on the horizon and combined with a very hazy air made the visibility very bad. I suddenly realized that I couldn’t really tell where I had to cross the valley, because I couldn’t recognize the valley going up to Valloire. On top of that, I eventually went down and noticed that the valley wind was still blowing at 50-60km/h despite the late time (8pm …). I organised myself for landing backwards on a car park between a lake, power lines, highway … and that’s what I ended up doing!
“Everybody knows that you don’t fly in this valley in summer !!! What am I doing here ?”. I think I was in shock : I had been pushing the limit a bit further everyday. For sure I was free in my decisions, and I was doing the things Ihad decided to do, but this was turning in something really stupid ! I was pushing too much. I knew it, but couldn’t help it. The adventure had turned into hell. At this stage, I had started to loose reason. The routes I had chosen, the weather conditions at this time of the year and the weather this specific year weren’t making my life any easier. The final straw that day, was that with the bad visibility and the general stress of the landing, I had flown past the place where I should have stopped. I had flown 10km more than I should have done !!!
I just sat on the edge of the road, my body completely run down, The inflammation of my foot was so bad that I couldn’t walk anymore. I managed to make it to a “truck driver” restaurant next to where I landed and had dinner whilst waiting for Nicky to arrive. I felt finished. I felt like it was the end for me. Too much effort, my body was at the end of its energy reserves, I had experienced too many scary emotions during the last couple of days… I just felt like I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. Nicky turned up, quite late as she had had quite a struggle in the middle of the mountains catching up with me. I told her that this was probably the end for me. She quietly said “just go to sleep, take some painkiller, start early tomorrow, and you’ll see”.
Started day at 9:15. Took off at 9:15. Finish day at 21:00
Total flying 1h40min, 39.5km
Total walking 9h45, 2100m up, 35km
Max altitude … by foot 2700m