The flying weather is upon us but I always need to get some exercise in as well. So I woke up at 5, reluctantly left our cozy camp site, and hiked up to the pass in time for a early launch.
Today we launched from Paso Tonale in Italy hoping to cross the border into Switzerland, preferably in the air. The sidehill at Tonale was the best I've seen in days...a huge ski hill with (finally) no trees or any other obstructions. Considering the hillsides we have been launching from lately, this was an amazingly huge open space.
Winds were coming up the pass from the Brenta side, so would be behind us on our flight. It was just a matter of waiting long enough for the thermals. We launched at 10:15 and it was too early, so we top landed at the end of the pass to wait longer. Then it was time to scoot across a big valley and get on the main ridge.
Unfortunately, waiting on that ridge amidst the lift was a gigantic Golden Eagle, an angry one. The first I heard it was when it hit the top of my wing, tearing a small hole, then flying at my harness with claws extended! I screamed at it and eventually it went away, only to take turns flying at the guys as well. Dave and Krisha escaped, but Eric wasn't so lucky, ending up with two basketball sized holes in his wing. He pulled big ears and dropped into the valley to land.
The rest of the high flight was tame in comparison. Lift took me up to 3200 meters, well above the peaks, and there seemed to be a tailwind. Even on a huge valley crossing where I lost 1300 meters of elevation, I was still high enough to get up again! It was pretty amazing.
My flight took me all the way to Bernina pass in Switzerland, flying with Krisha almost all the way. Pretty amazing after the short low flights and bad weather that we've been working through for what seems like weeks!