Day 3 – Briançon, FRA

Finally, lets fly!We used the Puy Ailaud Pelvoux launch point at 7100 feet, approximately 3000 feet above town. We drove up most of the way and hiked up for about an hour to get to a snow covered launch point. We chose to leave the car up at launch and get it after and leave the gear somewhere.Bianca and Eduardo launched and proceeded to get a great 20k and 70k XC flight in, respectively. I on the other hand sunk out within 15 minutes of launch and couldnt find a singe thermal!I managed to find something to maintain altitude but I made an incorrect decision to head south after my launch which was ultimately my failure as the NE wind was prevailing over what I thought was a large heated rock and that decision forced me into nothing but sink.I had a nice landing in the field of the oldest farm in Vallbuise, as the owner Pierre who came outside excitedly told me as I packed up.My first flight in the Alps was a lesson in studying the topography of your flight! If you are hiking one hour to get to your site, at least spend that much time learning the site so you can have a macro image in your head of where you are flying and how to predict where the thermals are. It was also a great gear test! I learned about my headphone set for my radio was functioning poorly, my clothing selection was great, and got my XC tracker up and running with waypoints for the routes. I also saw first hand at how a gopro camera can challenge your take off, i had to reset on my first launch attempt and the lines definitely got tangled.I landed in a small farm and as I was packing up the owner came over and chatted with me about his home. It was apparently the oldest farm in the town, built in the 1630s.Jason landed shortly after me and we reached out to each other via garmin and facebook messenger. He was able to land fairly close to me and we reconnected quickly to begin planning our trek to the car at launch. As we were walking we discovered a hostel where the owner, Jean, let us leave our bags so we could hike up. But then he offered to drive us! Jean was a firefighter and as we chatted I kept calling him a hero. Not only because he saved lives, but because he also saved our ass from climbing up the side of the mountain.We grabbed the car and proceeded to get Bianca, who landed at a sail plane airport 20km away. As we drove to Eduardo, he was telling us that some PGs were flying near Barcelonette and we should go there and he would walk to us. However on the drive as we passed a lake we found a huge gaggle of PGs flying a site and Bianca excitedly shouted “GET THERE!!!”Saint Vincent Les Forts was such a beautiful and fun ridge to soar with a wide cliff launch and plenty of room to top land (or you could fly all the way down to the lake and hike up!). Bianca, Jason, and I had an amazing time flying and soaking in the views.

Bianca flying a Skywalk XAlps 3
We top landed after an hour and a half, drank a beer, picked up eduardo, attemped for over an hour to find food, and then settled on setting up camp and pretending we werent hungry. Nothing is open when we want.

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