Day 7, 20/7: Trinn - Brig
Trinn - Brig
Nicky helped me to carry my extra equipment to the top of the mountain. It was a nice walk along a smooth path and we could really enjoy it as we hadn’t started too late. The day was again a brilliant blue sky day. “Looking good for big distance. Watch us Kaspar, we’re coming back !!!”
I waited on take off for a bit and decided to go at 11am as I was preparing to go I saw Will G who had just arrived near the top of the moutain. ” You’re late buddy today !”
The ridge where I was wasn’t working very well so I glided to an impressive cliff facing East/South East above Flimms. What I was expecting was there. I climbed easily to cloud base and started the flight in this famous valley. I knew I had to cross the passes of Oberalp and Furka : I’ve always heard that it was difficult to cross them!!! But I had never flown through them in the past, so I was impatient to see, but also very anxious about what would happen (I knew that Kaspar managed to cross them in one go the day before …).
In the direction of the first pass (the most easterly one), the Oberalp pass, I noticed two local guys who had started in Flimms and they were flying as fast as I was. Not good as I’m meant to catch up with Kaspar!
I forgot about my ego and decided it was good enough as the main aim was to cross the pass- late may be - but not land before the pass!
I had the satisfaction of seeing that my decision paid off at the crucial bit. I was following the highest ridges, spiraling above the glaciers. I managed to climb to 3600m and crossed easily the Oberalp pass. I took another brilliant thermal above the pass which helped me to cross the massive gap between the two passes.
On the other side, the wind was blowing quite strong W. Where I arrived on this slope, the landscape looked like a massive stack of rocks (each ones the size of a van or a truck) which where on top of each other, as well the top of the ridge which was really sharp and aggressive. Behind that were the biggest glaciers of the Alps, huge lakes, and humongous cascades.
My feelings were in switching between fascination and pleasure but I was also really impressed and I could feel a bit of fear just there, in my heart… The few minutes full speed baring along these massive rocks in that strong head wind wasn’t enjoyable, I can tell you.
I eventually managed to climb to the top of the ridge and then into the peaks, cliffs and glaciers. Imagine yourself flying along the Aiguille de Chamonix, on the North East of the Aiguille du Midi and you will get an idea of my surroundings. I climbed as high as I could and glided in direction of the Furka pass, without knowing which direction the wind was blowing.
“I made it !!!” I screamed. At a little over 80m above the pass things weren’t great, I didn’t know what was on the other side as the valley was turning NW just after the pass… I glided along the road full of caravans, and flew 10m above the bottom of the Rhone glacier, which was spitting out all the melted ice at this time of the year. I waved at all the tourists who were enjoying this wonderful landscape…
But on the flying side, I didn’t know what would happen to me as I could feel the cold wind blowing down from the glacier pushing me down into the valley. I worked a few places and despite the general darkness (all cloudy up there!) I managed to stay at ¾ of the mountain’s height. I crossed the valley at a good moment and managed to get to cloud base at 3400m and flew to Fiesch, where the shade was waiting for me (is it always cloudy in Switzerland or what ?!). I decided to cross the valley to the S, once more, and as the first time it worked very well.
That sounds very easy, you’ll say… You fly there, cross over there, a bit of speed bar then, and scratch along there. Even boring these cross country descriptions : But here it is : Everyday , since the beginning of the competition something happened ! I’m flying for 15 years. Intense 15 years of flying, competing, cross country, acro and testing… But the few days of the competition had been really rich in new experiences.
As I crossed the valley, I suddenly had this feeling that something unusual was going on. I could feel some strange little movements in my harness. It was like the tips of my glider were loose and moving a little sometimes, making me feel this unusual pendulum. After looking at my tips, I decided it was being caused by all my equipment packed in the bottom pocket of the harness. I checked by doing a search with my hand… off the back of my harness, and I touched a big thing hanging behind me!!!
“Fuck, it’s my reserve!”. Looking at the valley below, I didn’t fancy going down without any control of my direction!!! I very carefully grabbed the reserve and took it, paying attention to not open the bag, and did put it on my knees. The reserve stayed like that just because the velcro of my handle was strong enough!!! Lucky, eh!
“Now, I have to fly with this reserve on my knee”. The space wasn’t big enough to be able to pilot and to be sure that I wouldn’t loose it. So I decided to attach it by passing the chest strap through the reserve handle. Proud of my idea, I’ve undid my chest strap, put it through the handle and tried to do it back up. I’ve been tried hard, but I wasn’t able to fasten it again. There was no way I could do it: The only solution was to keep flying with my reserve on my knee, about to fall any second, and with my chest strap opened! Exciting, isn’t it?
Just to make things even easier, I fucked up the crossing of the valley and ended up low, where the wind was blowing down! I tried to escape, thinking: “should I land or should I trying to fly further”. Then I spotted a superb valley facing the sun and the wind, so flew quickly there, very enthusiastically.
The ideal spot turned into the ultimate nightmare of the day, as I ended up not going up (that’s not too bad), but backwards inside this wild valley full of trees, where massive power lines guarded the exit!!!
Imagine me, doing some wingovers near the trees in the turbulent air, forced to fly under the power lines, with my chest strap opened and my reserve on my knee (ready to interfere with my plans).
Somehow I manage to escape from that. I really screamed with anger, to release the tension. “That’s all for now. It’s too much for me. I’m fed up with all these mad events that I’m living every day.” I landed in Brig.
The people who know me, could tell you that I’m not a sensitive pilot. But adding up all these days made me feel like I had had enough of it!!! To tell the truth, I didn’t know then, but what was coming for the rest of the competition, on the way to Monaco, would turn out to be as mad!!!
Nicky arrived and did a good job of cheering me up. My mood cleared up slightly, and I decided to walk to the bottom station of the cable car of Blatten : 700m up and 15km walk. When we got there we decided it was time to treat ourselves and ate in a nice restaurant…
Started day at 8′40. Took off at 11′36. Finish day at 19′50
Total flying 5h40, 121km
Total walking 3h10, 1630m up, 8km
Max altitude 3847m