13 August 2005

Verbier 1

I have been trying for quite a while to catch-up with Jan and Khobi while they're on their European tour, but for one reason or another, didn't get it right for the last two years. This year at last, circumstances aligned and I am on my way to Verbier at last. I've never been there, and I'm surprised at how close it is to my place. Somebody tells me that Avoriaz is 27km as the crow flies (a bit further as the paragliders fly, but that's another story...)
After a few phone calls, a delicious meal at Le Millenium (I highly recommend their ostrich steak with chanterelles) and a few more phone calls, we manage to meet in front of the tourism office. Jan puts my glider with the others, on the roof of the truck he's driving, and I meet the crowd that's joined him for this year's edition of the "Smile while you scream" tour.
We drive up to one of the ski lift stations, where a few windsocks and streamers show this spot is used by paragliders regularly.
The wind seems to come from the right quite a few times, and I wait for a long time to take off. Very quickly, I find a thermal and circle in front of the take off for quite a while. There is a gulley to the left, but I want to be high enough to cross it as I suspect the outcrop on my right generates quite a bit of turbulence with the valley wind that must be quite strong at this time of the day.

Afte a few more minutes here, I decide to cross, and my hunch is confirmed, the area is fairly turbulent. I watch the other pilots to pinpoint the landing area. I'm still quite high, but I wouldn't want to be caught looking for the landing spot at the last minute. When I'm sure I know where to land, I then go back closer to the slope, trying to find some lift. I don't want to go back to the turbulent area, so my options are quite limited. After exploring the Northern side of the valley, I decide to cross, as the landing spot is closer to the Southern side, and there are a few slopes that look as if they might provide a bit of lift.
Panorama- Verbier
There is indeed quite a bit of lift, and I spend some more time soaring over the slope. he first few pilots have landed. I see Khobi still very high up on the Northern side of the valley, but most of the other pilots have landed or are on their way to the landing spot, so I line up to lose altitude upwind from the landing spot. The vista is amazing, with high summits all around us, although quite a few are in the clouds. A few minutes later, I'm landing safely in high grass, a few meters away from the folding zone, followed shortly by the rest of the crowd.

Technical data: Flight duration 0:30, Take-off altitude: 2103m, Maximum altitude reached: 2133m, Total climb during flight: 510m, Max rate of climb: +3.8m/s, Max descent rate: -5m/s, Landing altitude: 1000m.


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