So in the hot morning sun, I climbed from just 300 meters ASL up to over 2000 meters. Whew. I would have preferred to fly from the main launch, but it was pretty low and close to the main valley. It might have wasted my time if I had sunk out. Luckily, since I walked right by it and there was a tram, Jim and Boga were able to meet me up there above the town of Lana with snacks, smoothie, and more water.
With the steepest climb out of the way, I then continued higher. By midday I had reached the launch and was waiting for conditions to get as good as they could. Within minutes, both my mom and my supporter Jarek had informed me that Stephan from South Africa was just minutes from me on the hill. Since he had landed about 30 km from me on the ground, but near this launch area, I guess it was fate. He should have arrived much earlier, but got a little lost enroute....
It was nice to have someone to fly with, even if it didn't help much on the first flight. We launched and climbed as high as we could, but it wasn't enough to get us across the valley and over the 2000 meter pass to the south. We reluctantly landed before the pass but only had a couple of kilometers to hike to the next launch.
Unfortunately by then it wasn't early anymore. The athletes who had launched from here at midday had made the Turnpoint 5, in the Brenta Dolomites. We could only hope to get that far, but neither of us had flown here before. It was the blind leading the blind, I'm afraid.
Once again it wasn't an easy valley we were flying down, rather a series of small fingers to cross over before getting into a main valley. From there it was another 20 km to get to the checkpoint. Lift wasn't very good and we were lucky to climb up to 2600 meters, which was only a few hundred meters above the mountaintops.
When we made it to the main valley, the winds were suddenly confusing to me, switching from south to east, and it took me too long to figure this out. Instead of crossing the valley and connecting onto the Brenta group, I found myself speeding west on the valley floor looking for a landing. I didn't exactly land going backwards, but...I wasn't going forward either.
Stephan had stayed right with me, so we knew that the rest of the evening would be spent walking to the turn point. While we were disappointed not to fly there, I knew I had just flown over some of the most difficult walking terrain of the entire race. Hot, twisty, and tiring. So I was happy to get this far. The turn point was still surprisingly far to the south, and we made it about 12 km before calling it a night. I was surprisingly tired and sore...I had only walked about 35 km but with 2000 meters of climbing at the halfway point in the race, my legs were feeling it 6 long days of walking.
|Looking down on the Merano valley...not many places to land|
|An Italian villa|
|A solo chairlift|
|I seem fascinated with my shadow today...|
|Launch is up there somewhere|
|Stephan and I getting ready to launch|