Sunday, September 16, 2012

Annecy/Passy/Chamonix Sept 14-16

Plaine Joux cliffs
Photos of the trip!

After a rather bumpy flight to Geneva (courtesy of the remains of Tropical Storm Leslie) I'm now in Europe for the next 4 weeks!  Met up with Alex in Annecy and had a couple of flights off Entrevernes (the morning side) and Forclaz (the afternoon side).  Nothing XC-able as it was strong-ish north wind, but nice to get to see what the place has to offer on an XC day.  Fortunately I missed the rain by 1 day so it was nice and sunny, which is nice when staying in a tent :)

With the north wind we decided to try Passy and the Plaine Joux launch since it is south-facing, with a huge mountain behind it to block the north winds.  Met up with Denis Cortella and then we did a petit tour of the cliffs behind and to the west of launch.

Plaine Joux faces directly onto the north side of Mont Blanc, and it's right in your face.  This is a very scenic site, not only because of the rock cliffs behind launch, but also because you can see the snow and glaciers of the Mont Blanc even from this far away.  And you can fly to Plaine Joux from Chamonix...we watched some gliders come from the Mont Blanc direction.  With all the mountain ranges going in all different directions, I can see how pilots here can easily do 200km in the spring...much easier to do this here vs. Western Canada, where we have limited retrieve access to our mountain ranges.
Plan de l'Aiguille mid-station

Then it was time to fly the mid-launch at Mont Blanc.  The winds were predicted to be light and it was high-pressure so it seemed like a good choice.  We saw many pilots flying from the top launch, but since we didn't have crampons etc to access the snowfield we opted for the lower mid-launch.  A bit hard to get away from launch due to the stability and all the gondola wires to avoid; I eventually flew upwind, and then downwind, to find a slope that was working without all the obstacles and traffic.  Alex joined me and we flew to the Mer de Glace and the Grand Dru, which was totally awesome...I've never seen a glacier like that before!  We even had the pleasure of watching a huge rockfall on the way back, where a car-sized rock broke loose and fell down the mountain, obliterating a mountaineering traversing track (fortunately there wasn't anyone using it at the time), and breaking into several pieces.  The amazing thing about this rockfall was that it didn't tumble end-over-end, but rather slid on the ice and snow like a toboggan.

Mer de Glace
Amazingly, we met Matt Senior in Chamonix that evening; he will also be at the Coupe Icare before heading to the German Open.  Tomorrow we plan to head back to Annecy for some hiking and maybe some more flying, before continuing south to St. Hilaire and the festival which starts on Thursday.  And if the weather looks good we hope to also head to northern Italy for the German Open.

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