Went for a training ride with Tracy preparing for a bit of a cycle race next weekend
Did it in good time. The return half is far harder than the outward half. The col de Pre is a killer.
Got home to find that my video with Squash of the Gran Paradiso flight has made it to GoPro HD video of the day. All very exciting
Grand Paradiso: by the Laveciau Glacier
As far as the British are concerned Gran Paradiso at 4061 meters is most often climbed by commercial groups of the ClimbMtBlancwithus.com style. Either for acclimatisation or as a consillation if the weather in Cham is bad.
It’s a sad way to treat such a glorious summit. We chose it for what it is. A summit with one of the best finales of any. We avoided the crowds and their congested hut and took this route with its interesting crevasses. In good weather it is accessible by any fit team of alpinists.
Aosta Valley had kindly sponsored us with a guide and his companion for the descent. This was the first time I’ve ever climbed with a guide. It’s definitely a swings and roundabouts thing. Squash had just returned from checking Kilimanjaro in Africa so her fitness was a match for these young bucks. There was no respect for my age or that my conservativeness (Being a wrinkly old codger with an inbuilt mistrust of guides and Italians) led to me carrying the heaviest sac. Happily they bounded up the mountain cutting 45 mins. off the hut grind and 2 hrs. off the summit day.
The summit day (1300meters) is a solid basic glacier trudge with interesting navigation around crevasses and an incredible dawn with the sun rising over Mt Blanc in the distance. The final finish up and along the rock crest to the top is an absolute delight of steep but easy rock and ice.
The valley of Valsavarenche runs in from the North. It is deep V shaped and narrow. The car parking area at the end of the road is the only acceptable landing place. There is a risk of dangerously strong valley winds. From a week in advance we had to spot particularly light stable conditions. This meant an absolute nil wind launch in deep crusted snow. We attempted two launch places. The first proved impossible Slope too shallow Snow too deep. The second worked ! ! Skis would have been good. As well as having an excellent forward take off technique weather wisdom is essential. No communication is possible from the top and the landing area cannot be seen. In fact there is very little sign of any human presence. You are in a true mountain wilderness. Paragliding from Gran Paradiso is far riskier than from Mt Blanc with its many launch directions, clear views and multiple landing options.
Squash and I had sort of planned on doing something in Italy this autumn but had no ideas about quite what. Mountains – yes. Paragliding – yes. BUT we didn’t know the region well.
We favoured the Aosta Valley as it has routes up the two highest summits in Europe (Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa) and much else besides.
Most northern Europeans stop at the French side of the Alps. It’s far better known and closer. My earlier sortie climbing the Petit Mont Blanc had shown me how completely different the South side of the Mt Blanc watershed is. Para mountaineering here is a serious undertaking. Both the terrain and the aerology can be far more challenging than the comfortable over populated slopes of the Chamonix valley. The mountains of Aosta have a wilderness quality attractive to mountaineer and skier alike. With research, expert advice and a close study of the weather the Para-mountaineer can also have enormous fun in this area.
Close and careful study of the weather led us to choose 3 days for our exploit. There was a patch of bad weather due after which we expected the mountains to shed the anticipated snowfall. We would then get one day of totally calm stable air at over 4500 meters. We needed this to ensure that the narrow valleys would not turn into howling death traps for paragliders. We could allow two days for the approach if needed then a final summit/fly day.
Our first objective was Monte Rosa but a meter of fresh snow on the top ruled out this so we turned to Gran Paradiso in the national park of the same name.
It proved to be an excellent choice. Great fun, a huge achievement and wonderful new friendships resulted………………
I’ll fill in the route / kit / flying details later
Well it wasn’t to be. The Mountain she say NO !
There was too much fresh snow on Monte Rosa so we headed instead for Gran Paradiso. I’ll fill in the details later but for now here are a few video shots joined together.
I will be climbing Monte Rosa with my mate Squash this week. We’ve had plans for an Italian something since last year and this is one of the reasons for my earlier sortie up the Petit Mont Blanc.
Presently we have had some unseasonally cold storms but I’ve been keeping an eye on the piece of sea weed I have hanging on my shed. For some time it has suggested good flying conditions at altitude for Thursday/Friday so we are packing our paragliders.
We hope to spend Wenesday night at this hut and on Thursday to fly down from the summit of Monte Rosa !
I’ll add more latter
The trouble with being active is you wear out all your kit. So I had some new stuff with me and this is how it faired. Bear in mind The Petit Mont Blanc is only 3424 meters. We did have long walk in and out to add to the 1720 meters of climbing. So more a physical challenge than a technical one. Nevertheless an excellent opportunity for forming first impressions of Man and Material.
- Socks Took the wrong ones and got blisters.
- Compede Plasters Worked great.
- Freezer boxes Make great plates and you can put the first cooked item in one then into your puffer jacket whilst you cook the rest.
- Titanium Spork Doesn’t snap and is long enough to reach to the bottom of the Jet Boil.
- Neutrino Endurance Jacket (RAB) Light weight, Packs small and essential if the Rainetto Bivouac is full and you have to sleep out. Loved it. Toasty warm all night.
- Exodus Pant (RAB) Secure double fixing at the waist. Belt and Bracers ! Side vents better and more flexible than Zip offs. Great ankle/boot closure. RAB recommend frequent washing which for a mucky bugger like me is essential.
- Power Monkey Solar charger Kept the camera and phone charged. The twiddley interchangeable plugs are easily lost so tie them together with fine paraglider line. Might make a nice charm bracelet.
- Go Pro Camera Nice piece of kit but once it’s on your head a dimwit like me can never remember which button he pressed last. I think they are now producing a blue tooth remote. Yet another toy to buy.