First 4000m and 200km for Marc and Rob

Last Friday, Marc in his Swift, and Rob in his Swiftlight-E had the opportunity to fly with Jac from Aspres sur Buëch.

The weather was fine, we took off at half past noon and met over the Aiguille de Serres in the first thermal; it was already very good, up to 3m/s, cloud base 2800m:

Then we had a nice cloud street going to the West/NorthWest.
But after Luc en Diois the wind had turned to North almost 30km/h, so I decided to turn back.
Bane mountain was working as usual at his time of the day, then we crossed to Longeagne which was not good.

The following ridge acted like a trap for the wind that was here from NW and we could climb again;
Many thanks to the gliders who showed us a better thermal on the other side of the valley: up to +4 and 3100m.
This helped us to solve the problem of how going further East, as the Pic de Bure was at that time not the place to go due to the NW wind;
So we glided across the valley, keeping a reasonable distance from it, and we found the next powerful thermal over the Tête de Clapes which was protected from the NW wind by the Pic de Bure: up to 5m/s, 3200m; and we glided in the direction of the col du Noyer toward the North.

The ridge south of it produced one of the best thermal of the day, toping at 3600m, hundreds of meters higher than the surrounding cumulus.
So the decision to cross the Drac valley was easy to make, as usually I cross it with only 2500m 🙂
We set course to the Petit Chaillol, right at the entry of the Valgaudemar valley; the sky looked so good in front that we didn’t stop in the thermals generated by the ridge.
Note: we could fly in the Ecrins restricted area, thanks to the exemption for free flying (paragliding, hanggliding, and Class 2 ultralight gliders) valid from July the 1st till the fall.
Short before the Vieux Chaillol we stopped and climbed to the 3500mm cloud base before continuing east along the ridge on course to the Sirac.

But it became blue with continuous sink, so I decided to steer 90° right to cross the upper Drac valley to get to the Pic de Cédera, a usually reliable thermal source; and it worked: up to 5m/s 3600m; then we could resume course to the Sirac.
Sorry, our server might be slow and the video not continuous: wait it reaches the end, and watch it a second time, this will be the good one…

We didn’t lost too much time in the bad thermal of the Sirac and headed directly to the SouthEast end of the Valgaudemar valley: there the WNW wind was trapped and had to go up, and we reached for the first time 4000m baro altitude (around 4150m topo regarding the warm air mass).
And then gliding to the Bans at the NW end of the Valgaudemar valley was without loss of altitude for the same reason 🙂

At the Bans we were only 8km from the Barre des Ecrins (4100m), but flying there would have been much more demanding, so I decided to go West again following the North ridge of the Valgaudemar, overflying the glacier and the Pic d’Olan.
After the Pic d’Olan, the west edge of Oisan was looking good (West wind + sun at SW), and my fellow pilots were not tired, so we decided to continue along this main ridge to the North.
At the end of each secondary valley, we found the lifts generated by the trapped west wind, easy.
This worked well, until the last mountain before Bourg d’Oisan, were I decided to turn west again toward the pass just south of the Taillefer (as usual…):

 At the pass we turned left to follow the ridge that was working very well, and at the Coiro, the mountain at the end of it, we had to take a decision:
– return to Aspres via the Grun de Saint Maurice at the entry of the Valgaudemar then cross the Drac valley to the col du Noyer,
– or cross first the Drac valley from here, where it is wider, to the North end of the Obiou mountain range, and then proceed along it to the south.
Since the pass of the Taillefer we had south wind … 🙁 not good for the Obiou…
While climbing to the top of the Coiro thermal, I observed the Obiou, the Cumulus above it seemed to be pushed by some west wind…
ok, I decid to try the Obiou; we start from high, 3200m, so if the glide is bad, or the south wind persistant, we can still change our route and set course to the Grun de Saint Maurice until, let’s say, in the middle of the valley.
Let’s go … the south wind progressively turned to west … it seems to have been the good choice…
And it was later confirmed when reaching the sunny west side of the north Obiou: continous climb in the uphill breeze 🙂
I radioed to my fellow pilots: the one who makes a turn before Aspres pay the bear to the others… 
We had to pay our bears by ourself 🙂 a 60km glide!

We landed at 5:15pm, the 3 turn points distance being 203km

Marc’s report:

Après mon lâcher planeur fin 2016, j’ai pu continuer ma formation Swift avec les premiers remorqués en avril 17, puis la terminer en novembre sur ma machine .
Compte tenu de mes disponibilités et des conditions météo exceptionnelles de cette année, je n’ai pu reprendre les vols que fin juin .
C’est de suite reparti très fort pour moi car volant avec Jac., j’ai pu survoler le Pic de Bure, circuit refait seul par la suite .
En prenant l’air à la suite de Jac et Rob, je pensais refaire un vol équivalent, mais rapidement j’ai pu constater que le plafond était plus haut .
La première heure, nous sommes partis vers l’ouest, puis retour sur Longeane et direction le Pic de Bure . Ensuite, après un thermique assez dure, nous avons continué à cheminer vers le nord . Un moment, nous avons perdu Jac. parti devant . Il est tout simplement venu nous rechercher en profitant de me recaler sur les crêtes afin de profiter au mieux des ascendants .
Après une nouvelle demande sur l’état de fatigue de chacun, nous avons fait le grand saut, (au moins pour moi) la traversée de la vallée du Drac .
Ensuite, ça a été un univers que je n’avais vu qu’en vidéo, la roche foncée parsemée de plaques de neige et même un petit glacier . De voir voler des Swifts dans ce paysage, c’est magnifique . J’ai essayé de profiter un maximum du site tout en restant à l’écoute de la machine et optimiser mon pilotage .
La sortie des Ecrins fut une longue glissade surplombant le Drac au nord du lac du Sautet avec un point de virage au début du massif de l’Obiou que nous avons remontés en vol de pente . Arrivés au bout, le retour à Aspres n’a été qu’une formalité .
Merci encore à Jac. pour le temps qu’il nous consacre . Malgré mon peu d’expérience, à aucun moment je ne me suis senti en danger, ce qui m’a permis de voler en confiance et de me concentrer sur mon vol .

Rob’s report:

Excellentes journée avec de fortes impressions de vols au dessus des très belles alpes françaises. Heureux d’avoir Jac comme guide, qui semble connaitre toutes les pierres des montagnes. En meme temps c’était un vol très éducatif pour moi, et j’ai appris énormement sur le vol en montagne. Merci, Jac, c’était un grand plaisir d’être ton ‘wing man’.