Dancing With The Grimsel Snake

A few days getting fat in Interlaken and it was finally time to go and tackle the dreaded Grimselpass, what better day to do it than when a north wind was blowing. Just like the elephant who didn’t know he couldn’t fly, I took off and had five amazing flights to the east – I’m told the xalps course runs in the opposite direction but I’m totally off the leash this week. It was all new country for me, my flight here last year was towards the Matterhorn. Thinking I would land in the grassy paddock five minutes down the road, I came back to the bend in the road to do wingovers over the van and yell out my intentions to Louis (a rather simple communications system), and I set off on my wonderful adventure. Cloud base was low, the wind kept things interesting, and the instability kept things pumping. I recalled the words of Thomas the SUI1 supporter who was saying the local knowledge is no advantage and might even make you miss something due to habit, as I flew the highway of Switzerland – my own way. Things got spicy in the afternoon as I pushed into a strong valley headwind – tumbling over myself after landing on a col as I realised I couldn’t run 50km/h. I took off a little further on and came up with a cunning plan to sneak into and over the high mountains and avoid a long ridge guarding the valley. Landing late I enjoyed a scenic walk as the valley narrowed into impressive gorges and Louis caught me and decided to make this a simulation for the real thing – I kept walking until late and we planned to continue the following day.
Day two: we expected rain by lunch time but at the last minute made an ambitious goal to aim for St Moritz. A few light showers threatened as I scratched around in circles but on my third flight everything came together, I enjoyed some thermalling in the shade and then crossed the valley to scratch my way up as I drifted up valley and finally I was flying close to cloud base along impressive walls resembling the Dolomites. I landed by the lake a lot closer to the Julien pass than I’d expected to end up, and Louis arrived a few minutes later. We drove down the valley inspecting the fearsome powerline filled forested gorges that I’d managed to bypass and soon enough heavy downpours soaked the roads all the way into Germany. If xalps turns out to be anything like this then I’ll be having a damn fine time… looking forward to it.

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