Ok, here we go. This will be quite an update as I have done a lot the last couple of days.
Monday morning I met Laurant at www.SupAir.com. Laurant told me right away that the Altirondo I used is not the same as the new Altirondo. As I was sitting int he new one there was quite a difference. Laurant set me up with the pod, the reserve and made sure all is set up just right. He told me to use this brand new harness until they have the x-alps version ready (800 gramms lighter), thanks Laurant. I have to say, this harness feels great and with the pod it makes it very slick. I also like the attachment to add a pack on to top of the bag. All this is very well thought out.
The afternoon looked windy with rather big clouds, so I decided to find a "Herz" repair station to get the coolant hoses fixed as we constanly lost coolant liquid. It looks like an animal was biting into the hoses. As it turned out, they asked me to drive it until I get back to Germany and exchange it there. Anyhow, Frank did a good job taping it and it seams to hold the coolant for a couple of days.
In the evening I decided to head to Chamonix, stay overnight at a hotel with Internet connection for my Monday conference call and to catch up with work.
Tuesday morning I hiked up west of Mount Blanc to Col de Vosaz (850 meter elevation gain) from there you can launch and fly into the Les Contamines-Montjoie valley and head back up the mountians to continue south west to Moûtiers from where you can start heading up the first big pass I traveled with Frank a week ago.
After I got back, I decided to head east of Chamonix to Martigny. On the way to Martigny I found the trail head to Col de Balme late in the afternoon. I thought I go without my heavy bag and do the 1200 meter tour fast with a light bag and water. So I headed out after 4 pm and made it back after 8:00 pm. This was a great hike and cerainly worth it. On top on the Col de Balme there are great take off spots haeding to Chamonix (see picture, to the left is Mount Blanc and Chamonix below). I alos found some cool historc rock houses. All in rock including the roofs. After I got back to the Van, I had a great shower with the camping shower and haeded down to Martigny. In Martigny I was able to catch up with more work online.
The next morning (Wednesday) I headed up to Verbier as I wanted to try out the new harness and I knew that this is a rather easy flying site. Once I drove up there and looked for the landing site, I realized that the landing site was very small and when I was there last (22 years ago) that this is how far we only could fly unless it was a great day and we could fly over Verbier and landing down in the valley. Today you land in down in the valley except the vally winds are gettting to strong. So I parked the Van and hiked 50o meter elevation to a nice alpine grass launch site. The flight lasted about 30 minutes and was very smooth with some small thermals. I was very happy about the harness and the wing and got ready for a hot 800 meter elevartion gain hike back up to the van. With this hike I accumulated over 3400 meters elevation gain in 2 days.
Late afternoon this day I headed to Zermatt and had a good look at the windy Martigny and Sion Valley. Driving up to Zermatt (Taetsch) made me realize that I do not want to land anywhere from the Matterhorn down to Visp (town in the main valley). There are no landing sites at all. At Taetsch (5 km before Zermatt) I pulled in a campground. You can not drive any further as the last 5 km to Zermatt are only accesible by Train or Taxi.
The next morning I got a hold of Bruno (local Tandem pilot) and met him at the landing site at 10:00 am. This is a cool landing site as this is virtually on the train station. He was heading up to Unterrothorn which is at 3103 meters and just east of the Matterhorn. I was taking the gondola up with him and his tandem passenger and got a lot of information about the area. He made the whole area sound like a piece of cake. I flew off from the Unterrothorn (picture is with Matterhorn behind at cloudbase), crossed the valley and had a look at the turn point Schwarsee. The thermals where chopped up as it turned out the valley wind got stronger earlier then normal. Also the cloulds started to build up and later in the day we had a short thunder shower. The flight was great. I could thermal right under the cloudbase (at 3100 meters) and could get more comfortabe with my new harness. The landing was as expected in strong valley wind. While I packed up I met Ronny and his girfriend Karla from Holland. Ronny will be in the x-alkps and representing Holland. After I packed up we decided to hike up to the Turn-point Schwarzsee to get familiar with the trail. After 900 meter elevation gain (this brings me now to 4300 meters elevation hikes in 3 days) starting with sunshine and ending with some light rain and a thunder strom further south we had a special cheese sandwich ala Ronny. The sandwich is way to go but sitting heavely in the stommach. Ronny thinks this is best x-alps food (just kidding). After we had the meal, the thunderstorm and rain stopped and we unpacked out wings and flew down to the train station. The winds where very light and we had a great flight down. These flights are very good to get in tune with the new harness and wing. I do like it and hope the weather stays good to get more flying in. I will spend one more night at the campsite and then head to Fiesch. This is a very well know cross country fliging site. From there you should be able to fly to the Matterhorn and at least to Sierre (east of Sion).
Anyhow, this is it for now. I hope this is not to much writing as I do not want to bore you either.