Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

August 10, 2015

Red Bull X-Alps 2015: Day 10

The clock was counting down toward my last day in the race. Whether that was 2 days or 4, I didn't know, but the winner, Mauer (SUI1) had finished in just over 8 days, putting the cap on the whole race at 12 days.   What I had to do was keep flying the best I could, and hope to make some progress.

My flight for the day would be another midday "put all your chips in the pile" attempt.   The isolated pass was out of phone contact, and all my supporters had left to make the lengthy journey around to the south to find me on the other side.  This time, hiking over and flying down was probably easier than their drive past Lake Como and Lake Lugano.  I needed to fly down one way or another.   And a sled ride wouldn't be a good option, as the valley were twisty and I would no longer be on an optimal route.

The pass itself was a tough place.  A finger of rock shot up along the ridge itself, only passible along a narrow gap.  There was no where nice to launch, and the sharp rocks meant I needed to launch either facing west or east.  The west face was in total shade, but nice thermal were coming up on the sunny side, so I choose that.  It wasn't too steep and had the option of landing amid boulders if the lift wasn't working yet.   Even so, launching meant hopping from rock to rock as my wing inflated, not an easy one on a deserted mountaintop where tracking was still not working.

Yet again, it went perfectly and I was airborne, scratching and then climbing out above the peaks.  Joy!   I could see where I needed to go, and pointed my wing at the first valley crossing.  Conditions were really perfect, and with no wind, I could thermal up on all sides of the mountain tops.   I made a few bold moves in the air that I think showed my growth as a pilot during this race...before this I might have taken the secure route and ended up on the ground.

90 km later, I had been up to 4000 meters at times, and had a wonderful flight to the Neufenen Pass.  It was getting late in the afternoon and somehow I couldn't figure out how to get over the pass with a headwind.  So I landed near the pass instead, walking down to the vehicles and having a snack while waiting for the wind to calm a little.

Launching back off the pass was easy, although my equipment deck zipper broke, and I couldn't see the screens of my vario.  At least I could hear the beeps, and I was on basically an extended sled ride into the main Goms valley.  As I flew by a glider port hugging the hillside,  I wondered why this hadn't been on my airspace map.  I had checked airspace before my flight, and seen nothing coming up.   Unfortunately there did seem to be airspace here, as I found out after landing just past it.  An irate lady showed up, insisting that I pack up and come to the glider port to apologize.   After calling the race officials to check, they agreed that I could travel by car to the glider port, apologize, then drive back to where I had landed to continue on.   Oops.   Another new valley to fly through, and it's impossible to know what is coming up without some local knowledge.

But, again I had a great flight, and now I was in a paragliding highway in the Alps.  I hadn't had to land going backwards today either!  Better yet, I was ahead of Gold (AUS).  So walking down the valley wasn't really necessary as I could fly from any grassy hillside within view.  I walked a few miles down the road to my campsite, we got pizza along the way, and I had another shower and an early night.  I could get to enjoy this type of racing :)

My morning commute

This dog's bark is worth than its bite...look closely at the one on the left.  
Launch is up there

Back in Switzerland!

Landing at Neufenen Pass

No comments:

Post a Comment