Day 5 – Parc Naturel de Vercors

We woke up surrounded by a vast view of the mountains. I set up my camera to take long exposures through the night of the van and stars but the intervals were poorly timed and the photos brought in too much light to make the star streak effect I wanted. We packed up and started driving again. We drove through the morning to Saint Hilaire, TP10, to scout it. Jason and Eduardo hiked up while Bianca and I took the scenic funicular, a 600 meter lift constructed in the 1920s by swiss engineers to climb up the incredible mountain.

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the paraglider launch but unfortunately the winds were not in favor us. Rotor everywhere and one other guy on launch feeling lucky and setting up, for no reason except to embarass himself. The site is an absolutely beautiful cliff launch when its working but unfortunately for us, this was not the case. We instead decided to go back down, do a hike, and then head to the next site.

Everything but the windsock was perfect

So off we went to hike and learn about Ravine des Trois Fontaines, which I believe meant “Race up the mountain,” because thats what I did to expel some spare energy I had hiding away in me. It was great that I wore my Salewa mountaineering boots because they totally let me run up ski slopes without my socks getting wet. For a second before putting them on I was considering putting on my running shoes but then I realized what elevation we were at. Theyre great for the training to because each boot is something on the order of 1kg instead of my running shooes which are near 400 grams.

Speed hikes never looked so good

After this we headed to Passy, France for a great glassoff flight and meeting up with Bianca’s friends, Janika and Paul. The site is unworldly with Mont Blanc in front, a towering face behind, and a beautiful grassy launch.

Eduardo launches at Passy

The low pressure cooking valley under Passy was the buildup for a beautiful flight. The sun slowly simmered it and as I launched, I hooked a great thermal and took a few circles to climb it before I realized what I found was happening to the entire valley, all I had to do was fly straight and I would have the same elevation gain.

Jason and I fly close to have a quick chat

We climbed up and could fly anywhere in the valley once we found a high elevation, gentle 2.5m/s thermals could be found almost anywhere and the views were simply stunning.

There were maybe 10 other gliders flying around the region but for the most part if you wanted to isolate yourself you could. The lower terrain was fairly catabatic so landing low once the mountain began casting a shade was a less than ideal idea. Jason and I opted to land right at launch next to the car for convience and to avoid that exact issue.

“Bumbling Around”

As we folded the wings there was a large noise and we could observe a huge rockfall on the mountain behind Passy’s launch. We had a beer and soaked in the views just a little longer from the view before meeting up with the gang. We all grabbed pizza at a hidden restaurant called Le Caveau, an old sheep barn converted to a wine cellar. To end the night, we joined Janika and Paul at their Airbnb chateau which had of all things a laundry machine! Its the simple things in travel that truly make a day exceptional, but more than anything the real treasure is the company. Everyone got a bed and the towering mountains watched over us as we slept.

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