Euro 2011 - Day 1 - Pontarlier to Bolzano

Route Day 1


Follow our flight with the photo journal below, however, to find out how Dan got on with his epic drive, click on his diary
What a nice airfield! 2,700'ASL with 1,000m of tarmac, plenty of grass and easy access. Even better, they only charge landing fees, so wouldn't accept any money for our solitary takeoff... We rigged the previous evening, then retired to our hotel just across the road. It dawned clear and sunny but with a thundery breakdown forecast for late afternoon and the following day. We made a plan to end up in Bolzano, NE Italy, where we were more likely to be able to fly from the day after as it would be sheltered from the weather approaching the north side of the alps. We towed out to the end of RW02 then departed with a left turn out. It was already thermic over the Jura with the odd haze cap but we continued the launch up to 8,500' to give us a reasonable chance of staying up after crossing the plains of central Switzerland, about a 60Km glide.
We glid out towards the Bernese Oberland, with the first few puffs starting to come off the lower peaks in the distance. ATC at Payerne were surprised to hear from us but very accomodating.
The air was fairly neutral and we managed to keep a 4,000'+ margin over Gruyeres, a gliding site on the edge of the foothills. We could see quite a few gliders on the ground, getting ready to launch.
We arrived just above the top of the first ridge at 6,000' and took a weak climb off the SE face up to around 6,700'. The next 30 minutes was spent in reluctant thermals coming off green pasture, not really gaining or losing much.
Eventually we scraped up to 7,000' and transferred to the Saanen valley, where there were a couple of gliders that had launched from the airfield there.
It was more energetic here, giving a couple of knots to 9,000'.

We decided to move towards the higher mountains to the south, where clouds were just beginning to form.
The previous climb allowed us to cross over into the Sion valley, where the southern flanks were generating tight thermals up to 11,000' or so.
We flew to the end of the valley, above Martigny, in company with an ASH-25 being flown solo, which was (unsurprisingly) climbing very well.
It was still blue further to the west, so we turned back here.
We retraced our route along the northern side of the valley.
There was more cloud forming towards the east and we picked off 4kts to 12,000'.
We were treated to a spectacular view of the Aletsch glacier, the longest in Europe, coming down out of the high snowfields of the Jungfrau massif.
Further down the valley we met several parascenders, who looked pretty cold at 11,000'
Looking out to the left we could see the Finsteraarhorn and behind, the backs of the Jungfrau and Eiger. As usual, it was too high and cold for much convection to show
Progressing east, we slid past the Furka pass and the Rhone Glacier coming down from the Dammastock
It looked a bit soft going towards Andermatt, so we detoured south eastwards over the Gotthard pass, which leads into southern Switzerland and Italy
The northerly wind was producing some strange effects in the Mesolcina valley after crossing the San Bernadino pass and we eventually climbed back up in the middle of the valley. We could see the rear faces of the peaks in the Engadin but it took a little bit of fiddling to actually get in there
Coming round the corner over the Maloja pass we were presented with the classic view of St. Moritz and Samaden airfield
Looking SE we saw the N face of Bernina, then caught a nice 4kt climb to 12,500' and set off towards Austria
Our route took us into the Oetztal then the Stubai alps
As it was now late afternoon, the thermals were mostly coming off the west-facing slopes and peaks, like the Solden valley above but were quite hard to centre in due to the northerly shear
Ahead, the clouds were starting to disintegrate so we turned back near the Zuckerhutl
We passed over a ski resort in the Stubai, looking towards Italy where damper air was coming up from the Po valley
We flew past some dramatic high level glaciers and icefields, then returned for another look at St Moritz, then glid towards Bolzano
There were thermals still coming off the peaks on the side of the Merano valley but we glid down to land at Bolzano with an impressive view of the Dolomites, to try and make arrangements for the trailer, due shortly (we thought...) Dan's Diary reveals all