The X-Alps / Day Seven

A high pressure system started to settle in over the Alps which generally is a great thing to fly in the high mountains, but it also means a lot of stability lower down, especially in the areas adjacent to the italian flats in the south.
And that’s where we and a lot of other athletes were. The next turnpoint was the Matterhorn, the famous mountain in the Alps with its iconic pyramid form. Again, we had different options to choose from to reach the Zermatt valley. Push north from the Engadin towards Disentis to connect with the racetrack that cuts through the center of Switzerland and provides fast flying. Fly west through Italy, cut north at Bellinzona to reach the Wallis via the Nufenen pass, as I had done in the preparation. Or fly all the way west south over the Simplon or directly towards the turnpoint. The later option fell through as stability in the south was going to be a big concern and if you were to land, you’d walk a long way.
So like the majority we chose the line we had taken before, over Chiavenna and cut north at Bellinzona.

When me and Dave stood on our launch over the pass of Maloja, winds were weird. There was a north component that I didn’t like. And also the flying became a sketch fest. Because of stability, thermals were a mess down low and the north wind made things worse and lee sidey. I didn’t like it at all and after getting my a*s handed to me multiple times I landed at the bottom of the pass.

Dave flew and headed towards Chiavenna, but never able to really punch through the strong inversion. Everyone seemed to have big issues to get over the col past Chiavenna into Switzerland and most of the pilots sidehill landed to tackle it on foot, as did Dave.

Tom de Dorlodot, always one step ahead of us, seemed to sit on that very col for a long time. His live tracking wouldn’t show movement. I learned later, that he had a bad launch and pounded into the scree below, luckily getting stopped by his wing before he would fall down a cliff. He pressed his SOS button and was flown out of there by a helicopter rescue team within minutes. You have to love the Alps for the ultra quick response time of those helicopters. Always carry a SPOT or and InReach with you! We were all very glad to hear that in the end he had only sprained his ankle very badly, but luckily nothing vital or broken. But it was a shame to have him out the competition. During the whole race he was our ‘carrot on a string’. Always a couple of hours ahead, we were never able to catch him.

It takes a very long time to drive around this part. It took me over three hours driving alongside the stunning lake of Como to reach the Tessin and Daves line. But again, due to my Michael Schumacher channeling, I got there just in time to see Dave fly overhead. I even had time to buy some groceries before he got downed by the strong stability in this part. But the day was nearly over anyway and most of the field was already walking north towards the Nufenen. We hadn’t lost connection to the main field, but we hadn’t gained neither.

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