24 Jun10

Home Up 20 Jun 10 21 Jun 10 22 Jun 10 23 Jun 10 24 Jun10 25 Jun 10 26 Jun 10

Previous Next
Matterhorn (well, nearly)

With Peter Hurd into the Modane valley

The most popular French sport is going on strike, and this week the weather forecasters have joined in, along with the banks and any worker who objects to the retirement age being raised to 62 (they should give the UK a go...).

The upshot this morning was that everyone in the briefing room with portable connections to the internet was relaying forecasts from their favourite WX websites to Jean-Pierre, whose job it was to make some sense of them. 

Today's weather turned out to be rather good. A 5pm storm never materialised, and there were good conditions over a large area to the north (although cloudbase was not that high). I launched around 1pm, having an easy time of it from the Gourasse, Authon, Auribeau, Blayeul and the parcours. I was tempted by a huge cu sitting over the tete de Lucy, and at the top of the climb weaved my way past its cloud-capped summit towards the col des Terres Blanches. I needed another thermal at the head of Clotinailles to get through, and another climb near Vautisse to keep me on the west side of the St Crepin valley.   
From there I met up with Peter in 218 near the Aiguilles de Scollette and we pair-flew along the Modane valley as far as the col de Carro. I made a mistake in trying to reach the col from the west side of the valley, hitting strong sink in the westerly wind, so I flew to the east side of the valley, topped up, and made it through the col on my second attempt.

A juicy cloudstreet hung over Rhemes, and with cloudbase over 12,000ft it was easy to get to Aosta (with its newly  re-opened airfield) and on to the north side of the Aosta valley. 

Aosta airfield

Cloudbase looked low over the Mont Blanc, while towards the Matterhorn all I could see was a jumble of lowish cloud. It wasn't until I entered the lead-in valley to the Matterhorn that I saw that there was a possibility of getting there. Very thin, high cumulus lay over the eastern rim of the valley, but they worked well to 12,500ft and I edged my way closer to the most picturesque peak in the Alps.    


However, I was unable to climb sufficiently above the final ridge of the valley to cross to the peak itself, although I have no doubt that it would have been possible for those who knew how. I was nevertheless happy with the flight, it was nearly 5pm, time was getting on, and I had a couple of hundred km to go before I could get my beer.  

Near the col de Carro

I have to say that the return trip had its moments. Some scrabbling around to get a climb on Rhemes, a heart-stopping moment over the col de Carro when my carefully hoarded height margin all but disappeared just as I was reaching the col, and another finely balanced dive through the pas de Cavale where cloudbase was perhaps 200ft above the col. And just as I was feeling confident about getting back, a huge and heavy cumulus dumped a shower of rain on me, though only for a couple of minutes.

Got back, landed, job done.   

Previous Next