The xAlps finished Friday July 19th at noon. This is 12 days after the start and was the minimum time set for the race. Crigel Maurer set a new record and finished the race in just under 7 days and it took more then 2 days longer for the next guys to arrive in goal.
From the start, I felt pretty good and was very happy with my pace and performance until I had to do an emergency landing past Innsbruck (by Seefeld) into restricted airspace and I received a 48 hour penalty.
I could have done a tree landing (in very rough conditions) on top of a ridge to avoid the penalty, but I decided to land 500 meters lower, and to my disadvantage, safely in a field. The good part was that Christa Vogel and Juergen Kraus (flying friends from the 80′s) lived near by and we could enjoy visiting them and were treated with their amazing hospitality. It got even better as the kids just showed up for a visit and stayed with us for the 2 days. It was fun to invite all the other competitors for a snack or meals while they passed us, or landed in a field close by. After 2 days of watching 13 pilots pass us, we had to refocus and get back into race mode. Thanks again for the mental support from Stewart Midwinter to be able to start my own race and adventure from that position. We came from the very back of the pack (only 1 hour ahead of the last person) and fought ourselves into position 23. I was enjoying being in a close pack with such a great group of people/pilots and I was always close to my good friend, Andy Froetscher, who finished 17th. I was hoping to finish the race with him or better.
Overall, it was an amazing race with very good flying conditions. We experienced a lot of set backs due the lack of local “area” knowledge. It was very frustrating thinking you know where thermals “should be”, what ridges and terrain would work better than others, only to find myself flushed down from 3500m to the ground and ended up having to hike up very high mountain passes more often than the “locals”
The good weather also brought a lot of windy and dangerous conditions as well. We had flights in plus 50 km winds, in rain and thunder storms, but at the same time we had some long flights (one over 150 km) flying over glaciers and very beautiful terrain. We had hikes in areas we never would have gone to and met such a wide variety of people along the way, some who we’re sure were the start of a long friendship.
All this would not have possible to do without the support I received. Thanks again to Mik Broschart for all his technical support, and who drove with his “fancy” RV and made it possible that Penny could walk and fly most of the route with me. Penny did an amazing job as a pace setter, along the flats, up the mountains, and because she figured she needed more of a workout, she’d run back down to the valley!! My stats for hiking was, 6 km/hr, 471 km distance and 40 km elevation gain. I would say that Penny did at least 90% of that, plus going down, cooked dinners, cleaned most of the dishes, checked weather, and was up earlier than Mik and I everyday to have breakfast ready, and everything ready and prepared for the day ahead ….. she is more then living up to her name (Powers).
I would also like thank everyone who cheered us on and supported us throughout our training and during the race, A photo gallery will follow soon.
Wow, where is the time going??
The weather forecast was good for today and we decided to stay and fly at Chamonix.
We got up early in the morning and hiked up to the mid station of Mt. Brevent (south side of Chamonix). When we got up there, there there were at least 40 pilots up there and the launch site was a very busy place.
Soon we got airborne and I flew to Passy. The cloud base got lower and I decided to come back to Chamonix, from there I headed north until I could go no further due the north wind. Dave landed and I decided to come down as well as I planned to head to Germany to meet up with Penny and the kids. Dave was set to take up the gondola to Aiguille du Midi (3842 meters). Instead of heading back, we headed up to Aiguille du Midi. Wow, what a incredible place, I am sure glad we headed up there. We could not fly from the top, but the views were incredible. We took one gondola down to the mid station (2300 meters) and setup for a flight from there. The wind was strong, but once airborne it was great. We were able to fly over the glacier and had a great flight. After the flight we got a quick bite and started to hit the road to Austria which is about a 7 hour drive.
More pictures of this day at
So we drove to St. Hilare and prepared our self’s to go hike and fly for the next day.
The next morning,the clouds start to build early and at 8:30 am the cloud base was about 200 meters above launch. At 9:00 am the first paragliders started to ridge soar and playing with the clouds and we decided not to go hiking up any higher and get ready for a flight.
The first flight was about 2 hours and I flew low all the way east to the Les Marches control zone and back. Top landed and adjusted my harness to make it fit perfect.
The 2nd flight was again ridge soaring and the the cloud base got up to 1400 meters. I tired once to cross the valley, but returned as it was to early for the other side to work. About 45 min later I tried again and I managed to find some lift on the other side and worked my self up to cloud base (1600 meters). The clouds made it impossible to fly my planned route to the south and I ended up flying low to the west towards Grenoble and then to the south. After about 30 km I top landed at a higher plateau and contemplated to hike about 10 km south to a higher and more open mountain. I decided to try to fly but ended up to ridge soar only in valley wind and eventually landed at Sechelienne.
When Dave picked me up we headed further south and stayed overnight south of La Mure.
The next day we tried to hike up another mountain along the route, but felt that the wind was picking up quite a bit and pretty soon we realized that the north Foehn was starting up. We decided to drives further south to Lac de Serre-Poncon. The Foehn was full on and we watched the kite surfers and wind surfers playing in the strong winds. Later this day we decided to head back to St. Hilare and pick up the new Mentor 3 light. Well, the wing was still not there and we ended up driving to the DHL depot in Grenoble to get the parcel.
After that we headed back towards Germany as Penny and the kids will be arriving soon in Germany.
We stopped at Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte as we heard there was a site where you can fly in a north wind. Once we got there and after a short hike it started to rain and hiked back to the campsite.
The next day, we headed to Chamonix and at Passy we could watch a couple paragliders flying and thermaling up right under the clouds. We found the landing site but no hiking trail and the only way up was on a long paved road, so we decided to drive. Wow, what a place to fly, the conditions were perfect and after 1 hour of flying the clouds were sucking a lot. I decided to top land to bring the car back down and Dave landed in the Valley.
It was great to fly the new Mentor 3 light in such good conditions and I have to say that I am very happy with it. The difference to the normal Mentor 3 is that it launches even easier and it even turns nicer, which is hard to believe as the original Mentor 3 is already a very nice wing. Not to forget, the weight of the wing is a lot lighter then the normal wing and the packing seize is just about half form the regular wing. Well done Hannes and crew, this is a very nice wing.
Big thunder and heavy rain woke us up in Chamonix. At least we got a good thunder concert as we could do nothing else around Mt. Blanc.
We contacted Clement and Bruno (from Supair) if we could come for a visit to Supair’s headquarters in Annecy which is just an hour from Chamonix. They had time and made us feel very welcome and wanted as much as possible feedback of the new harness. In the mean time Bruno added and adjusted small bits and peaces on the harness he wanted to do anyways. I had some issues with the shoulder straps of their backpack which resulted into pain in my shoulders and Bruno knew right away what it could be and added more padding and changed what needed to be done. Wow, what a service, thanks a lot again Bruno and to your team.
Clement (manager in Sales for SupAir) is also a xAlps competitor and was very helpful to give me valuable information of the Chamonix to St. Hilare section, thanks again Clement, it all made sense wen we saw it the last couple of days.
After the SupAir visit, we headed to Villard sur Doron stayed overnight and the next day we hiked up to Mount Bisanne. This site is known as a very popular XC starting point, but when we got up, it was still covered in clouds and once the clouds lifted, we had a good north wind which is from the wrong direction. After spending some time up there, we hiked down a couple minutes and launched in some week lee thermals and managed to fly down instead of hiking down 1200 meters.
After we packed up, we headed to St. Hilare and checked out the route Clement was telling us.
We planned to hike up Dent de Crolles (2062 meters) which is just above St. Hilare, but the cloud base was just about 100 meters above St. Hilare (900 meters) and we could watch the first para gliders playing in the morning sun (9:00am). After watching this for 20 minutes, we decided not to hike and start flying. My first flight was about 2 hours and I flew part of the route back to Les Marches and back to St. Hilare, top landed had some lunch, adjusted the harness a bit and got ready for another flight. Cloud base raised up to 1400 meters but it was still not enough to cross the valley to follow the xAlps route. After my 2nd attempt crossing the valley, I managed to thermal up some small bumps on the other side and could work all the small bumps and ridges to the south west passing by Grenoble. Cloud base never got higher then 1800 meters which made it impossible for me to follow my way-points which were leading me into the higher mountains (about 2500 meters). I ended up at a ridge soaring site on a high plateau by Lac Mort, top landed there and contemplated to hike about 10 km south to a open grassy mountain. Instead of hiking, I launched again and tried to fly east and to work myself out of this area, which resulted in a landing down in the valley. Overall I had a great flight and spend more then 6 hours in the air trying out different things.
Today we plan to hike up another mountain and head down south towards Monaco.
Once we got to Interlaken, we could not believe how many tandem flights are happening there. I heard they have about 8 tandem companies with about 10 tandem pilots each. This town is insane with tourism, I would say it is about Banff multiplied by 10.
We hooked up with a couple locals and followed them to the Niederhorn. This time we did not hike as it got kind of late and the Foehn was supposed to come in pretty soon. So we took a bus to the mountain train and after the train ride with a gondola up to the Niederhorn. It was great to chat with the locals and to find out what can be done if the weather is very very good. For me, I got a very good opportunity to take it all in and get used to the area. Once we got to the top, some pilots and tandem pilots started to pack up to rive back down as the Foehn already started to come in. It was not to bad yet and we got ready right away, took off and had a extended sledder to the landing site.
After that, we headed to the lake for a quick swim to cool off (it was very cold) and then headed to Kandersteg to start hiking up to the Loetscher Pass. On the way up, we met some hikers and they told us to turn around as there is to much snow on the pass. It seams that this year there is way more snow in the alps then usual. We took the advise, turned around and drove to Kippel. This was a interesting drive as we had to go through a long tunnel on a train (with the car). From there we decided to head up to the Loetscher Valley and stay up there (1768 meters) due the amazing views and the cooler temperatures. We heard that in Sion the temperatures got up to 36 Celsius and staying overnight there would be kind of warm.
The next morning we started hiking up to the Loetscher Pass from the other side (Kippel) and half way up we watched the Foehn clouds build in the valley. We decided to fly down as this might be the only chance we had as the Foehn will come again. We had a great flight and I could stay up longer and play with the thermals. This valley is very protected from the Foehn due the high mountains around it. After we packed up and drove to Sion, we could not believe how strong the Foehn was there, it must have been at least 50 to 70 km/hr winds.
From Sion we headed to Chamonix to check out this area and finished out day to set up camp in the Chamonix campground.
Here are some pictures of Interlaken.
Floehn in Flims, just as the weather forecast stated. Dave and I still decided to hike up to Naraus to check out the area. Once we got up, we were able to sneak in a flight to get back down to Flims. The conditions were strong and it was no problem to get high over the rock face (just behind the launch site) We played around in the area, which gave me a good opportunity to take some pictures of my new harness in the air. After about 45 minutes of flying we landed in Flims and then headed to Interlaken (Meiringen) via the Oberalp Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass.
In Andermatt we stoped for a Coffee at a Internet Coffee and met “Banz” (owner of the shop), which turned out that he used to live in Invermere and is very well connected with Daniel Zurgilgen and Lusti. At the same time “Banz” gave us pretty much all the xAlps route info for this area we came here for. We found the best route from Chur to Interlaken and from Interlaken to Zermatt. Thanks again “Banz” we had a great time and really enjoyed meeting you.
More photos of the flight is at
Today we hiked from Davos up to the Strela Pass and once we got up there we could feel the Foehn (Chinook) blowing in. To bad as it would have been great to fly around the famous Davos area or fly to Chur.
Dave hiked back down to Davos and I kept going to Chur and hiked for about 27 km for the day. It was good to practice these longs hikes with the new SupAir backpack, like everything, it all takes some time to change from what you are used to.
It was also good to see how well my insoles from “The Orthotic Group” are working for long hikes and on the pavement. These insoles did not change anything on my posture or what ever, but give me support at my foot at places where I got week over all these years of hiking. During all the training and now here in the Alps, I really want to give them my thumbs up and thanks again to Chris Wilson who got me on those.
The poles do show some wear and tear now, they are great, but the handles wear off pretty fast as you can see and I hope I can get them exchanged soon.
Tomorrow we plan to go flying from Flims, if the Foehn/Chinook is not messing up our plans again.
Today we checked out the turn point Sulden.
We explored the option in how we could fly out from there and shortly after we started to hike up Piz Chavalatsch. Dave flew from there back to the car and I headed to the OfenPass. This was my first flight with the new Supair harness and I was glad I spend the extra time yesterday to get it all set up. The harness felt great and all was working the way it should be. I was happy about that as the thermals were strong and in no time I was up at cloud-base (at 3200 meters). Shortly after I realized that I had problems penetrating to the south due the strong south wind. I lost about 1000 meters to gain about 3 km. I kept working to the south and drifted slowly to the OfenPass and then landed.
Once Dave caught up, we headed to Davos and plan our next flight from there.
I have some more pictures posted at