Day 9, 22/7: Sion - Courmayeur (IA)
Started at 7am and walked to Riddes where I found a path going to Verbier (1500m up). After lots of struggling, doing some extra km losing the path and going in the wrong direction, I made it to the top at 2′30 … 7 hours 30 minutes of walking! I was surprised to see Boxi at the top before me!!! I had thought he was behind.
Philippe, the guy from the restaurant just below the official take off of Croix des Coeurs at the top of Verbier, cooked us a FANTASTIC meal with a delicious steak!!! Thanks a million Philippe you’re a star. If you are traveling near Verbier you have to go and have a meal at his place. He’ll cook you something fantastic and he can give you lots of good advice about the flying in the area. To tell the truth, I had my own ideas of how to fly from Verbier to Italy, but the little tricks that Philippe gave me worked perfectly. I flew exactly like he reckoned I should do and it worked despite the very strong SW wind (blowing at 40 km at 3500m).
I took off with Boxi, not really convinced that with the wind we would be able to go anywhere. But it worked… The glide from the cloud base at 3700m to the Col Ferret (border Italy/Switzerland) at 2400m didn’t work. I landed and walked up to the pass where I took off again (and should not have done). After having flown for a minute, I hit the strong wind and the turbulences coming from the top of the ridge.
I’m there stuck in between the massif of Mt Blanc on my North side and these mountains on my South which generates the biggest turbulences ever. I worked hard, flew to the North side (what an amazing landscape - the Italian side of the massif of Mt Blanc is really more impressive than the French side a you can really touch the highest peaks, glaciers). I glided along towards the upper part of the village of Courmayeur : landing on a massive car park, just next to the river flooded by the melting glaciers.
I called Nicky to tell her the good news. She had to drive around the mountains to be able to meet me. It’s amazing how much distance she was driving every flyable day. Following a valley is easy, but when you start the proper mountain flying, than it’s another story for the retriever … I sat on the tarmac and lay down on my sleeping mattress for a couple of minutes just to let my body relax, listening to the noisy song of the river. I felt happy to have managed to fly to Courmayeur. A few hours before, even if it was something I was expecting to do, I really hadn’t thought that it would be possible.
With the walking from the last 2 days, on top of the flying in these strong winds, I felt quite tired on the night of the day 10. My body was feeling really run down, but the excitement of the good achievement of the day, refueled me.
As a welcome back to the Latino’s country, I decided to take Nicky to a good looking local restaurant. “Ciao … Gnocchi de la casa …Pizza quattro formaggio … vino rosso … dolces … buena serra !!!” Wonderful, succulent ! Viva Italia ! We found a car park in the middle of the village and slept right there
Started day at 8:00. Took off at 15:09. Finish day at 18:20
Total flying 2h35, 41km
Total walking 6′20, 1830m up, 21km
Max altitude 3824m