Day 3, 16/7: The start of catch up
Taxenbach - Buch (Innsbruck valley)
Started early and walked in the direction of the summit. The trouble was that the road that I was following, which turned to a path wasn’t going to the summit where I wanted to start. So after 5 hours walk I took off from this crap place and had to fly back East for few km to go to a good spot … Exciting start when the conditions are quite weak and you’re going the wrong way!!!
Luckily I found a little lift and climbed for bit. From the top of the thermal I glided without getting anything and had to cross the valley and the lake of Zell am Zee. I arrived super low and had to hide on the South face from the valley breeze blowing from the N.
100m above the valley level, scratching the trees I managed to find a turbulent but good enough tiny area where the thermal was producing some lift. I had been working hard as nothing was straight forward. I had to battle in the turbulence and in the completely unorganized lift from this ridge. After probably 15 minutes, I managed to go above the critical altitude and the mess turned into a great thermal / convergence which took me to the cloud base at 2900m.
“Here is the start of the Pinzgau valley” I said, anxious. I flew in 1999 in this valley for the Worlds. I hadn’t a great memory of this place as I never managed to fly well there during the 3 weeks I spent there. So I knew I would have to fly through it but I wasn’t looking forward to it … Funny eh!
Anyway, I stuck to the cloud base and flew along the North side of the mountains until I was caught by the classic wind coming from Kitzbuhel. I came back a few km and climbed to the maximum I could (3744m) and did a fantastic glide to the South side of Neukirschen. I thought I was clever in crossing the valley to avoid the North wind which blows every afternoon on the Bramberg site. Surprisingly, as I was climbing on my side of the valley, I saw this guy following (what I was thinking) the wrong side of the valley and get a massive thermal just above the take off where it’s usually blowing 45 km/h from the back!!!
Anyway, I crossed the valley once again and did the same. I went past the Gerlos pass and glided West in the direction of Zell am Ziller. As a massive storm gust was coming I decided to top land in the mountains to get some info about the weather for the next few days.
Nicky said that this huge storm was coming in my direction and that the weather for the next day wasn’t looking good. Then I saw this Vulcan flying 50m from me in direction of Zell am Ziller. He was gliding really well. I changed my mind and decided I had to go. I rushed my start and missed 2 launches. The third one was the good one. The gust front was already in action, and while I was quietly gliding in super smooth air Nicky told me on the radio that it was raining in Zell (a few km behind me) and that the gusts were really super strong. I could feel that she couldn’t believe that I was still flying. But where I was it looked OK… So I kept flying to the direction of the Innsbruck valley, where another front was also coming, but in my direction this time!
At this stage everything went really quickly: In 10 seconds, while I was trying to get few meters on a ridge in a 0.2m up, the gust arrived and I did get a constant and smooth 4-5 up …
I thought “Humm! That doesn’t look as good as I thought”, but the sky in front of me wasn’t too black. In fact a big part of the sky above me was grey, not black.
So I pushed the speed bar full speed and went tail wind. After a minute or two like that, without any decrease of the lift I thought I had to start to think about going DOWN. I did a very long spiral for 1500m, down to 200m ground and did big ears, pushed by the gusts of this massive alpine front. I landed safely in Fungen, and quickly packed the glider.
Nicky arrived still in shock by what she had seen. I decided to start to walk in the direction of Innsbruck for the next day. I didn’t walk for very long as this tough front decided to show us how bad it could be. The rain and the wind were so strong that I had to stop walking. After 20 minutes of entertainment watching the bits of trees and things flying everywhere, it calmed down and I kept walking until 9′pm to Buch.
Started day at 9am. Took off at 12:22pm.
Finish day at 22′06
Total flying 7h, 95km
Total walking 5h55, 1140m up, 12.5km
Max altitude 3744m