Ever since I started paragliding last year, “paralpinisme” (climbing up, flying down) has been a very obvious goal, but between the relatively heavy weight of the wing and a narrow range of conditions required, it was difficult to find opportunities. I kept a close eye on both snow and wind conditions all spring, waiting for a window to fly off from the summit of Mont Blanc after skiing up via the North Ridge of Dôme du Goûter, but the terrible weather denied any opportunities.
Finally, last week, it looked like, with a generous helping of luck, it might happen. I enticed Bruno to join and off we went, despite 0 acclimatisation (don’t do it, kids) and high temperatures. Though our forecast gave a window for taking off between 5 and 11am, the last bulletin before setting off at 1am from the Grands Mulets hut suddenly talked of 40km/h winds on the summit, obviously unflyable. We went anyway, ended up breaking trail for a large part of the ascent, which along with altitude, definitely took its toll. By the time we arrived at Dôme du Goûter, at 4300m, we were somewhat surprised to find decent wind conditions and decided to stop there and ensure a flight down rather than risk Mont Blanc itself.
It turned out to be very challenging to take off in thin air, with skis on and with a slope not quite steep enough. I ended up moving to the lower Pointe Bravais and its steeper slopes and finally managed to get airborne. The flight out was equally amazing and uneventful, at least until I reached 400m above the ground and suddenly found very strong headwind that prevented me from moving forward at all! Unable to reach the intended landing spot (Bois du Bouchet), I retreated to the closer but slightly more technical Savoy and managed a smooth landing, skiing on the overgrown grass.
Quite an adventure it had been, and made even better by the following two days: with great 5-10km/h SE winds, conditions were perfect for taking off from Aiguille du Midi and flying along Vallée Blanche. I made a first flight on my own on Tuesday, then another on Wednesday with guide and friend Dylan Taylor (currently featured on the US cover of the Patagonia catalog!) to shoot some images of his performance wing.
Enjoy the galleries!