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Alpine Odyssey: Across the Alps by tandem paraglider

Tuesday 11 June, 2013

It’s a monster mission – to fly the length of the Alps. As the Red Bull X-Alps looms into view, Auréliane Ghigi and Francois le Hen reveal how last year they planned and flew their very own 950km Alpine vol-bivouac adventure…

Perfect conditions during the six week traverse of the Alps. Photo: Aureliane Ghigi

Perfect conditions during the six week traverse of the Alps. Photo: Aureliane Ghigi

The Plan
Ten years ago when I had my first flight in Grenoble I was euphoric. My two passions of mountains and flying had come together perfectly and I became totally addicted. Later, when I met Auréliane, we started flying tandem cross-country. But as work slowly took over our lives neither of us had the time needed for the big flights I had always dreamt of.

Then, in summer 2012, my wife and I organised a six-week vol bivouac from Nice to Ljubljana. Real life adventure began! As we flew we also blogged, and the day-by-day account of our adventure is on our website. Rather than repeat that, I thought I’d use this space to explore what was needed to fly vol-biv, and how you or any pilot, can have a go.

When to go?
Vol bivouac is the type of adventure that can be exciting even under poor weather. For the Alps, the weather in April and May is too random – it’s cold and snow is still present above 1,800m. June and July are hot with good thermals, but the valley winds can be strong. August is fine, but storms are more frequent and stable air means you have to take off higher. September is a good month for vol-biv, as the atmosphere is gentler, but still with good thermals.

We decided to go in July and August, which coincided with quiet periods at work. We negotiated four weeks unpaid leave each and combined it with three weeks holiday. Leaving work for almost two months needed to be anticipated a lot – something to consider.

Of course, for your first vol biv adventure I’d recommend a trip of one week maximum. It is easier to plan and it’s a good test for your gear, your flying choices and your head. If you can plan at short notice and take advantage of a good forecast, so much the better…

Read the full article in Cross Country 147.

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