Mannlichen Slide & Annecy

June 6 - 17, 2008: Soaring the French Alps

Previous Day (Interlaken) | Next Day (Train to Paris)

Most Recent Entry (Annecy, France)

Morning dawned sunny. Ahhh, could it be? So we formed our plan to make one more flight, a sled ride from Mannlichen. Phil and Natasha agreed to take the car to the LZ while Thad and I took a train, then a tram up to launch. They call it take-off here.

This was our Swiss finale and, from a soaring perspective was nothing. But there's always something, it seems, to make for an adventure.

As we approached the top, snow began to appear. By the time we exited, it was snowing moderately hard and we couldn't even see the valley below. Uh oh. But there was a lip and the valley would be below so we needed to clear that lip, about a half mile away and 400 feet below.

The launch itself was gorgeous, the easiest yet. Wide, just the right steepness with an almost reversible little wind on smooth grass. We put on our cold weather gear on in the tram station's warm waiting and never did get cold. Walking over snow was humorous. This was, after all, June and we weren't that high up in the mountains for it to be so cold. The snow was amusing, I have to say and at least it wasn't rain. Snow doesn't really bother the paraglider much.

Thad launched first so I could get pictures and launched right after. The sledder down to Grinwald was smooth uneventful. Poking about for little morsels of lift was fruitless—the only time my vario beeped (indicating climb) was when I pulled on the brakes to zoom up briefly.

The valley was spectacular as before. Yesterday we flew in from the other side but worried about some mean-looking clouds. This morning there was none of that, just a boring overcast.

I actually worried a bit about making the LZ but arrived with a couple hundred feet to spare. Plus there were LZ's everywhere, even minding that it's a big no-no to land on this Swiss grass. They harvest it and don't like to have it trampled. That apparently makes their little miniature combines struggle. So you land in the cut stuff and you'll get less grief. I had options galore and don't think I would have even bothered the grass keepers.

Thad headed for the Eigor, an enormous mountain (to this Illinois boy) who's top was obscured in cloud. From my perspective he would struggle to make the LZ but he had no problem. He briefly soared the sink before heading back and did some turns for Phil's camera. Phil and Natasha were kind enough to drive the car here. That was sweet, landing 100 feet from our waiting friends.

Now we're on our way to Annecy, France, having crossed the boarder a few minutes ago. My first time in France and it's beautiful. Unfortunately the wipers are having to be on periodically but I can deal with a bit of spit after all that snow.

Onward to Annecy!

Gas or Diesel?

The plot thickens. Shortly after refueling, the car bogged down—that can't be good. Thad pulled in to a parking lot as unwelcome smoke came around the back. In Europe, the gasoline and diesel nozzles are the same. The color green doesn't mean anything, either, because this nozzle was green. And it wasn't diesel.

Phil managed to get a service station out. One tow, an hour's worth of siphoning the most expensive diesel you'd ever want to buy, and we're hopefully to be on our way.

The bummer is, sunshine is warming up the hills nicely, even through the thin clouds. Soaring in Annecy is so close yet so inaccessible.

1) Friendly German Bikers help bail us out. 2) Phil gets on the back to fetch help. He was creative. 3-4) We had time to explore this restored old bridge. It was cool. 5) Natasha and the beautiful valley spanned by the old bridge. 6 & 7) Help arrived quickly and this fellow worked quickly. 8) Thad watches over the fuel transfer.


We made it!

It turns out to be quite difficult to get rid of the gas in a car. I don't know why since they were sucking it out from the engine, but we were almost stranded. Even after pumping out our 84 Euros worth of gas and putting in 30 Euros worth of diesel, it wouldn't start. So these clever Frenchmen towed the van, popped it into gear and turned the key. That worked and soon our little rental was purring as before.

Note to the wise traveler: gazole is diesel. Gasoil is the generic term for fuel. The green pumps don't mean diddly. That green=diesel thing is a US concept that doesn't apply. With the whole ordeal behind us, we made haste for Annecy's most popular launch.

Thank God Thad and Phil have been here before. We arrived late at the top to find out it was far from the top. You need a special pass to drive all the way up and we didn't have it. Hiking up with our 30 pound rucksacks worked off lunch, at least. But then of course we made it up later on fine French dining.

Annecy has the most prepared launch I've ever set wing to. Special plastic protects a wide swath of the well-used slope from heavy flight traffic. Cut out of trees, it's definitely launch only, no top landing. There's room for about four gliders to be laid out if they're staggered. Don't dawdle around, there's probably somebody waiting to take your spot. We arrived late enough on this cloudy day that the locals apparently weren't interested since we nobody else was there. Phil tells that, when its busy, the preferred method is to prepare beside the takeoff area, hook in, rosette your wing, then go out when your turn comes around.

Natasha stayed at the top with our car but doesn't drive a stick. The windy narrow road up wouldn't be the place to learn, either, so one of us still needed to come back for the car. That's done by hitchhiking—a still-tolerated practice, at least in this locale.

My 2000 Mistral has served me well, granting access to soaring at many soaring sites throughout the U.S. My buddies, however, are flying much newer and higher performance Advance Sigma Sixes. It leaves me in the dust. There was nary a nibble of lift and the glide from Annecy's La Flora launch (or something to that affect) to the LZ requires a somewhat decent glide ratio to make it. I clearly didn't have enough.

Thad and Phil and I launched within a few minutes of each other and headed for the LZ. It was  hands-off smoothness and a beautiful area. I can only imagine what soaring this would be like in good conditions. After a few minutes it became obvious I wasn't going to clear a mesa and I radio'd the guys. They both made it albeit barely.

Landing somewhere new like this is a real treat to me, especially since landing options were plentiful. I picked out several in case one had wires but the first choice worked out fine and I landed in the up-sloping back yard of a new construction house. How cool is that! Now to hitchhike back.

The first car that passed me had four occupants—there's no way I could have fit. The next car was a young woman who took me the 2 kilometers to her turnoff. Then came this guy on a tiny dirt high-pitched bike. I didn't even have my thumb out but was walking backwards as he slowed down. I gave a shrug of "well, I'd love a ride if you think it's possible." He motioned me to hop on. What a riot.

He was good, working that clutch just to get us going in first gear then keeping us there for a 2000 foot climb. We reached Natasha and the car about 10 minutes later with the smell of overheated motor. Turns out, that bike is 50cc. I couldn't believe it. Super nice guy, though and I sure did appreciate the lift.

That would be our last flight, mine anyway. The next morning came up raining and I decided to head for Paris to improve my options. My interline arrangements require me to fly on a U.S. airline and there was only one qualifying flight a day out of Geneva and about 6 out of Paris.

Go to "The Train to Paris"


1. Me and Thad just before getting on the Tram up to Mannlichen.

2. Thad pulls up an easy forward.


Annecy Flying

1. Walking up. There's almost always a bit of hiking.

2. At the takeoff.

3. The takeoff spot just after launching on a sinker flight.

4. Pierre is married to Seiko. He's the xc guru, she's the acro guru. Quite the couple and incredibly nice humans to boot. He owns this store at the LZ. Handy indeed.

5. This is where I landed. Nice.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!