Heliskiing may be illegal in France but what about taking off with a paraglider from the Chartreuse (from the world famous St Hilaire paragliding site) and soaring to 2800 meters, traversing the 20km wide valley, for a landing on the summit of Grand Replomb? That’s exactly what a couple of Grenoble based para-speed-flyers did on Monday.
With Tonio we had this madcap idea in our heads for soem time, we just needed to wait for the ideal day. At 13h40 we took off from St Hils with skis and speed-riding wing in the rucksack, ski boots on our feet. We got some pretty weird looks from the people at the south takeoff strip. Well you’ve got to admit that we really looked like a pair of idiots!
Wagons roll Bob!, first aim, not to crash at St Nazaire, that would be bad. It didn’t look good at the head of the Manival valley but no worries, off we went. 2400m above the Aulp du Seuil at the north end of the Chartreuse… all was set to cross to the Belledonne where we finally found the snow after 2 hours and 45km of flying. We were now at 2800 meters and above the Grand Replomb. Summit landing, the updrafts were coming from all sides, it was hard to touch down! We admired the surroundings then got the speed-flying wing out and we were off again. We decided to descend the North-West instead of the North-East which was our initial objective. The NW still has good snow and was better for a take off from the bottom of the face. First run of the day, and of the year for me, better late than never. Good old corn snow at the summit, heavier lower down, but we expected worse. We stop at the end of the snow 400m lower down then re-takeoff with skis on our backs and 25km/h of wind. We headed off for the Grandes lances de Domène towards Chamrousse but despite the lift at 2900m above the Grand Colon we can’t get enough height, so return to the Grand Replomb, at least we had a little tour. So we make a 2nd and a 3rd run, 5 minutes to climb the 400 meters, it is better than a ski lift!
In front of us a highway of paragliders, hanggliders etc, we were the only people to land at the St Hils take-off site!
Full story and Photos here (in French): http://bluesteam.canalblog.com/archives/2011/05/02/21037508.html