Once around Mont Blanc
Piste maps and ski area diagrams lie on the table. Fashionable winter sport destinations such as Chamonix, Albertville, Megève and Courmayeur are mentioned. On this previous evening the trio pore over the maps in Fred’s Chamonix chalet. They give their creativity free rein as to which cableways, ski lifts and train routes they can string together like pearls on a necklace. They want make use of different ski resorts in two countries for travelling once around the Mont Blanc Massif. Fred is the local, Kari and Andy have already acquired experience in this discipline in ski resorts in Switzerland.
Click. Click. The ski boots snap into their bindings. It’s time to go. The trio had started north of Chamonix in Vallorcine. They’d taken the lift to the summit of the Tête de Balmes, where the wind is perfect this early morning. Wings are pulled up and the three enjoy a perfect soaring and snowkiting session. After more than an hour in this winter landscape it’s back down to the valley. Next stop: Chamonix. Two gondolas and one glide later the three are at the Bellevue mountain station. “The view from up here is magnificent. Mont Blanc is right in front of our noses and, high above us, the wind is blowing the fresh snow off the ridge. The streaming snow seems to trail for miles; flying up there today would be impossible. What is even more fascinating is that conditions are good here at 1,800 metres”, explains Andy.
Day two started early, the alarm set for seven. A long beautiful day awaited the trio in the Val d’Arly. Above, at the takeoff, the wind is from the back. In the lee of this mountain the takeoff that would take them to Megève is doomed. They have to climb down a bit, and can then take off in a light crosswind. A few lifts, a few hours of sunshine and moments of happiness later, Fred, Kari and Andy enjoy another snowkite session. The afternoon slowly draws to its close, and with it the last rays of sunlight quietly disappear. The slopes are virtually empty. What could be nicer than making some huge sweeping turns in the empty snow, then lifting off again and again to fully savour the feeling of weightlessness under a wing? Finally they land in Albertville, the packed snow exchanged for green meadow. It’s a leap between seasons in a few minutes; another feature of the magic of paraglider flying.
The journey continues to La Rosière. In the distance Mont Blanc shows its steep and wild side. The 2,000+metre terrifying south wall makes access to the famous summit considerably more difficult. “To look at such a well-known mountain from different sides has always fascinated me. Our ski and fly tour took us to the most diverse of places in the shortest time,”explained Fred. The next takeoff is on the Italian side and brings the three adventurers to the Aosta valley. Italian coffee, narrow streets, with the aroma of freshly baked pastries pervading the air. From here it’s by bus to Courmayeur. Mont Blanc edges ever closer, and takes up an ever more a commanding place in the landscape. It is just there, majestic and imposing.
The Heilbronner cable car whooshes us up to 3,462 metres. It literally catapults us into the world of high mountains. The view from here is simply phenomenal. Conditions are also perfect. "We pull up our wings one last time at the Col des Flambeux and enter the immense glacier world. We glide over the Vallée Blanche to Chamonix, all the gigantic high mountains next to us: Dent du Géant, Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille Verte...simply overwhelming,” enthuses Fred.
Fred is an enthusiastic paraglider pilot, Alpinist and qualified mountain guide. Professionally he is a mountain rescuer in Chamonix.
Kari is the founder of the Chillout-Paragliding flying school in Interlaken/Switzerland, and leads various continuation training activities. He is also ADVANCE Test Pilot.
Andy is recognised as one of the most respected of paragliding photographers, and is a teacher by profession. In his spare time he likes to go paragliding.