I was still 70 km from Zermatt by Turnpoint 7, my (new and improved) goal for the end of the race. With elimination coming up in 24 hours, I was on the chopping block. Gold (AUS2) was 17 km behind me, but on the same ridge as I was with an easy glide to get to me. Ahead of me were a few biggish valley crossings so it was probably inevitable that he would catch up. Plus he hadn't used his night pass yet and would probably pull it as this was the last elimination of the race (he did use it).
Mental stamina is a fickle thing, and with the end of the race in sight, it was hard to charge ahead with the same enthusiasm that I can carried through for 10 days. From the valley I had a 1000 meter climb, which today felt like I had reached the top of Mt. Everest. It didn't help that it was steep pass, not nice stair steps or any thing but loose dirt and tree roots and eventually grassy pasture.
I arrived pretty early, in case it turned on early as this valley can do sometimes. Although I was alone on my hilltop, a steady stream of paragliders cruised by me from nearby launches powered by cable cars. They were going with the wind, not getting very high, and it wasn't time for me to go yet. I would need to fight upwind and could use every bit of height in the air for that.
So I took a nap. It was rather nice to languish in the sunshine and check out the scenery. A few hours later, it looked like the lift was getting better. I launched into what still weren't great conditions but getting better. Unfortunately just as it was getting good, Gold did catch up to me and we found a great thermal together. At this point, I saw the scenery behind me and my jaw dropped. It was the Aletsch glacier, the largest glacier in Europe, and it was beautiful. I made the decision to let Gold go ahead of me and flew slowly to take pictures and enjoy my last flight of the race. But i was able to keep him in sight, so together but separately we flew onward to Zermatt.
The valley winds were strong as usual, which affect even our flight which sometimes was up at 4000 meters. Then it was time to cross the main valley at Brig, a difficult move at anytime I think. Luckily the wind was blowing where I needed it, and I was able to climb up in ridge lift and get into the Zermatt valley. I won't say it wasn't difficult, a lot like my flight along the Oetztal where I just sat in ridge lift before speeding down to the next ridge.
I caught up and passed Gold here, but I was like a horse to a barn and had Zermatt in sight. All I could think about was landing there and finishing my race in style. Unfortunately, a mixup with my vario meant that I didn't tag the turn point before i landed. Oops. I would end up walking about 5k through town and up to the Matterhorn to finally tag it. Oh well. I was able to find my friends, Jim and Chuck caught the train into town, and we had a nice celebration dinner and drink!
|The Aletsch glacier behind Fiesch|
|Zermatt with the Matterhorn towering over it|
|The mess of electronics that needed to be charged every night|
|Reminders for morning and night when I was too tired to think very clearly|