July 01, 2012

Flying the Vallee Blanche


Flying the Vallee Blanche from the top of the Aiguille du Midi. A 2500 meter sled ride or plouffe as they call them here. The Verte, Droites, and Courtes can be see in the lookers center-left of the photo.

After three days of sitting in a classroom  at ENSA doing the French Recyclage (Continuing Professional Development), my head was about to explode! The morning after the course ended, I caught an early ride up the Aiguille du Midi in hopes of flying the North Face of the Midi or the Vallee Blanche. The forecast winds were not perfect, but it was a nice morning in the valley and I was starved for action, so I figured it was worth a look.

The winds at the bridge connecting the cable car station with the rest of the Midi seemed reasonable so I put the crampons on and cruised down the snow arete to the south facing launch. A tandem pilot had just shown up and he was stoked on the conditions - which seemed like a good thing. I laid out my wing in the snow, waited for some wind in my face, and tak! After a few seconds of ass-skimming-ground, the terrain rolled off and I was away. 

Of course, one good flight deserves another so after lollygagging in town for a while, I caught a ride up the lift and tried again. At this point, the winds had become quite swirly and cross and I botched two launches before admitting defeat and taking the tram back down to the Aiguille Plan.

Yesterday, Tony Touch and Trina (of Squamish / Annecy ) passed through town on their way from Annecy to Berlin. Tony didn't bring his wing but we decided to cruise down valley to Chedde / Plaine Joux to check out the local flying spot. When we rolled up to the LZ, it turned out that the Gin Rep was on hand for a demo day. Without signing a single waiver, we were fully equipped. When the rep asked Tony if he was an experienced pilot, Tony knew exactly what to say, "Oh yeah, I've been flying for 1 year..." The Rep stared blankly for a moment as the peanut gallery let out a hushed chuckle. But being France, they gave us the gear and let us go.

Throughout the day, I demoed theYeti Ultralite Harness, the Speedride Harness, a Yeti Ultra Lite 19 Wing and a Yak 18 Speedwing. I had so much fun on the smaller gear that I would have bought everything if I could have.  In the end, went for an ultralite para-alpinism set-up that included the Yeti 19 with the Speedride harness. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to work for the next 3 months straight to pay off the purchase.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So good. I'll bet the flight was amazing. Cheers to new adventures. -Samm