Alps Solo Vol-Biv Expedition 2013
In the beginning of August I arrived in Chamonix, France. I had never been there, or anywhere in the Alps before. I had come because I wanted to hike and fly from the west side of the Alps, all the way to the eastern end. The rules were simple- hike and fly only, and try not to use any form of assistance. This means, no trains, gondolas, busses, or any assistance of any kind. I tried to keep to this rule, and ended up making 85% of the trip unsupported.
Actually, I had more of an adventure than I had planned. Not only was the route from Chamonix to Slovenia difficult and amazing at the same time, but I arrived ahead of schedule. Taking advantage of my final week, I turned around and flew all the way back to the Dolomites in Italy. The trip was pivotal for me, showing that large distances can be covered quickly by both foot and PG travel. Amazing adventures can be had in this manner, and I believe that many more pilots will be making trips like this in the upcoming years.
It is difficult to sum up the whole trip in a bunch of words. It was over 30 days and 900 kilometers (560 miles) of flying, hiking, and adventuring. I have come up with this slideshow/movie to provide some images, and I hope you like it. Also, below you will find a blog type reading of posts from the trip, as it happened. Finally, at the bottom of the page, are two movies. The dream flight around the Dolomites is not to be missed either. Enjoy.
This are the daily updates from the adventure-
During August and September of 2013, I flew my paraglider vol-biv style from Chamonix, all the way to Slovenia, and then back to the Dolomites. I had the time of my life, traveling fast and light, and making over 85% of the trip unsupported. I was all alone for this trip.
August 7, 2013
Off to Chamonix this morning. Psyched!
The morning is clear, sunny, and optimistic here in the Alps. Today I am hoping to start flying east, or at least get in the air locally here in Chamonix. If anyone wants to keep up on my progress, you can track me live via my Spot GPS tracker. It’s been a bit rainy and cloudy here in Chamonix the last two days, but the weather forecast is improving. I’m hoping to start this morning from Plan Praz, which is just below the Brevent. For tracking-
My spot link is- bit.ly/finddave
But the better site for tracking is XCfind-
For XCfind- click on the ‘map’ button for the California group. From that next page, click ‘Dave Turner’ for the pilot, and click the ‘week’ box to see my flights from the last seven days. This site is better by far. I have not flown in the last week (hasn’t happened in almost two years), so there are no tracks up yet. Once I turn it on this morning, I hope there will be. The route has been planned out, now it’s time to go for it!
I have left Chamonix, and am well on my way! For this trip i am trying not to take any form of transport- no trains, gondolas, chair lifts, busses, planes, or anything. Just foot travel and PG flying, and not accepting any assistance at all. Only buying food along the way. Yesterday I flew from Plan Praz above Cham, and flew almost to the boarder of Switzerland. At that point, the canyon tightened down and became very forested- plus I was not getting very high, so I decided to pass this section by foot. I hiked to the Col de la Forclaz, where I camped out for the night. Then this morning I hiked up to the big summit just above it, Mont ‘d Arpelle, and flew towards Sion. Conditions in the air were good at first, but then I could not get high enough to go around Sion’s restricted airspace, so I had to land and traverse this section on foot. Now I am in the middle of this 25+ km hike, suffering! If anyone has any suggestions on a possible launch site for tomorrow, or some input on potential strategy or helpful info, I’m all ears. Now I am in Sion, and trying to hike to another launch for the morning. Heading for Fiesch. Game on!
The boys getting ready for the Furka pass! — with Jon Seltin and 2 others.
(I met a few pilots at Fiesch, this is a pic of us getting ready to launch)
Still heading east! I am on the col du Furkapass, but im unsure about the upcoming weather. Can some of you guys crunch the numbers and tell me how the forecast Looks? Im between Fiesch and Andermatt, and I think bad weather is coming. Today I made good progress by foot and air, but used a train for a very short distance just to get out of restricted airspace (the end of the Sierre zone). I had walked over 30+k over the last 2 days and was worked, but as of this morning, its back to foot and air travel!
Waiting out bad weather, high in the Swiss Alps. Maybe I should have taken the big sled ride down to the valley last night, or maybe should have re-launched into the high wind and clouds yesterday, or maybe I should… I’m getting just what I wanted out of this- adventure! So now I’m camped out up at Furkapass, sipping lattes and hanging with Euro folk. Not a bad life….
A very mellow day up here on the peak, just waiting for better weather. I probably couldn’t have picked a better spot to mid mountain land, as I’m at a hotel/restaurant high in the alps, in a very popular climbing area (Furkapass).Getting to meet people from all over and having a great forced rest day. Tomorrow’s weather is improving, and after that looks great! Lets see where the wind takes me…Yesterday’s LZ-
I have officially booked my trip to Europe!!! Meeting Dave in Venice, Italy on Sept 10 and we return home from Barcelona, Spain on Oct 15….so psyched!!!
I have made it to Andermatt! I launched from up above the Furkapass, close to the little alpine hut at the glacier. Got a nice pluck-ing at launch and thermaled on outta there. The flight was going very well, and was extremely scenic. I passed a few small towns on my way east, but as I got to Andermatt, the valley winds converged, and I got my ass kicked!! Had to land my wing in extreme turbulence, with it bucking back and forth and wanting to sabotage the trip. A bit too scary, I’ll chose my rotor/venturi locations with a bit more caution from now on. I was hoping to make it over the next pass, but Andermatt is a beautiful place to make a quick pit stop. Looking down from this morning’s launch spot-
It’s been nice spending a few hours in Andermatt, but it is now about time to continue on. I’ve gathered more food and supplies, and have made an awesome new friend- Bans. He owns a Internet cafe here, and is super nice and helpful. Anyone traveling through should stop by and meet him. Tomorrows launch is now staring me in the face, just a quick 1,000m hike! It’s above the fore summit here in the pic-
Almost finished with Switzerland! Yesterday’s flight from Andermatt started first with a big hike up to the wind turbines above town, where I found a nice grassy launch. From there I got boosted up, and got to fly over some of those nice peaks on the way east. Everything was going well, but at Briel I ran out of clouds and found myself sinking out. So I landed at the resort, took a swim, ate ice cream,washed my clothes in the lake, and was hiking back up the peak at sunset.
About half way up, I stopped and made a quick camp. This morning when I woke up, I was invited into the dairy farm family’s breakfast, which was amazing! Such nice people, this is part of the reason I’m doing this.
After food and coffee, I hiked up another 200m and launched right under a cloud. Within minutes I was up in it, then pointed east. It was going well again, but a gap in the clouds and some unexpected sink, and I was having to turn back and land in a field in Sagogn. About 8 kms walking now, and I’m at Flims.
Besides the very short train ride through restricted airspace(Sierre), the entire trip has been done via only foot or PG travel!
I now see a perfect field of grass about 900m above town, situated right above a gigantic overhanging rock wall. That’s where I’m headed now. Tomorrow morning’s adrenaline fix-
Great flight today! I’ve made it to the border of Switzerland and Lichtenstein, and I’m crossing into this tiny country on foot now. There might be a launch on this next peak, but its on the wrong side of the valley. About 20 miles to the good peaks now, this is my ‘gap’ I was worried about. I’ll probably just hike it, but will have to see.This is turning out to be quite the adventure, both in the air and on the ground! I’ve been hiking my ass off, and flying every single day (except one storm day). I’ve seen some pretty amazing sights so far, many more to come!Lichtenstein on the right of the peak, Switzerland to the left!-
It took only four hours to cross the entire country of Lichtenstein today- on foot! Now I’m in Austria, trying to rest after this almost 40km walk from yesterday’s LZ to tomorrow’s take off.The weather might give me a forced rest day though- tomorrow looks to be a bit crappy. No big deal, I need a rest day at this point! Just grabbed a meal, and now back to the hills!
Rainy day here in Austria! Here’s a pic from yesterday’s sunnier skies-
Getting it done! Here is a track of my last few days, from XCfind. Right now I am on the last ‘t’ in Lichtenstein, after hiking a VERY long way. But now I’m back in position for some XC flying! If tomorrow’s weather is not good enough, than the next day will be. Optimism.
OK, here is the short section where I will hop a quick train. I have arrived at at the edge of Innsbruck’s airspace, and will jump south a few km’s to Brenner, and re-start the foot/PG travel. I’m not sure about all the regulations in this area, so no worries, I’ll get a few well appreciated minutes to rest on the all too quick train!!! So, tomorrow I will probably head into Italy. Lets see where i go next! Today’s LZ-
The northern Alps has been great, but I would like something new now! Having flown from France through Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Austria has been amazing- but now it’s time to move south a bit.
Bad weather in the Alps!! At least yesterday I got a decent flight in, from close to the Austria/Italy border down to the base of the Dolomites. Quite unplanned, didn’t get to launch until 3pm!But now a major problem- it’s bad weather here for at least a few days, maybe a week! I’m gonna lose my mind! I now know how closely my life is connected to the weather. Without being able to fly, climb, or hike- I don’t know what to do with myself!! I’ve checked the forecast for Bassano, Dolomites, Slovenia, Austria- and all are saying go ‘F’ yourself pilot, you ain’t flying anywhere!I know there are probably a million things to do here that don’t rely on good weather, problem is I don’t know what they are and more importantly- I just want to FLY! shit!Suggestions?Yesterday’s LZ in yet again, some random village in the Alps!-
Well, I tried going to one of the bigger cities (Bolzano) to check things out during the bad weather- big mistake! Why the mountain monkey went to the big city- not sure. But I do know that I belong in the high peaks, bad weather or not. So I’ve returned to the peaks and trails, and I’m in Brunico right now, planning the next excursion. I’m thinking of trying to hike and fly back to Austria today, heading to Mayrhofen. It’s a big pass to hike over, and with the bad weather I’m almost guaranteed a big walk down the other side instead of an awesome flight! On another note- Yeaterday I got picked up from my LZ and taken to the nearby town, by who else?? Team ITALIA2 Red Bull X-Alps crew, in the chase van! Sick! They hooked me up with a short ride, great info, and more motivation!!
Such a good decision to leave Bolzano and head back north-east. I hated the big city, so I made my way towards Bruneck. The funny thing, is that walking in the rainy mountains is funner to me, than hanging out in the city! So, keep heading to the hills, thats my routine.
Somewhere between Sterzing and Speikboden, I got back in the air. An amazing flight in the clouds took me back into Austria, and close to Lienz. Here is a pic of my kit, fresh from Italy. If you look closely, you will see the fresh Italian pasta, and jars of sauce and artichokes!!
My gear was VERY heavy- an IcePeak wing, X-Apls GTO harness, big reserve, and not really any special light-weight gear. I just took what I had, and made it work. But my back hurts now! Next year will be different!
Two days ago, I crossed over the Italy/Austria border flying a nice line towards the National Park. Since then, I’ve been hiking a bit as the weather is crap. I’m still heading east, slowly though, as its only foot travel right now because of the weather. I’m on the ‘no assistance’ mode of travel, as taking the short train ride through innsbruck retrospectively has pissed me off, and I want to make it through this second section (Italy-Austria-Slovenia-Italy) on my own.
When I arrived in Lienz, I grabbed supplies and hiked just north of town to find a quiet campsite for the night. What I found was so much better! As I made my way out of town, I stumbled upon not just one, but TWO paraglider clubs that share a big grassy LZ. The bigger club/school had a few pilots and friends hanging out after hours, listening to music and chilling out. I was instantly invited in to stay with them, and I’ve made some new friends as well! Because my legs are tired, and the weather is bad today and tomorrow, I’m hanging here for a bit. There are a few peaks just outside of town that are just waiting to be hiked up and flown off of, and I don’t want to disappoint!
Taking a rest day at the LZ here in Lienz. Great spot to spend a day, or two and a half, and wait for the bad weather to pass. Great crew here, but psyched to get out and keep moving. The weather is improving, and some flying should be happening in the next 2 to 24 hours from now.
I have made it to Slovenia!!!!! Yes!! The last three days of flying has been great, and progress had been made by foot and even more by air! Three days ago I left Lienz by air, and after flying most of the way, plus a bit of hiking, I arrived in Griefenberg. From there I flew towards the southern border of Austria, and landed by a small town in yet another beautiful valley by Hermagor. From there I hiked my butt off, and arrived halfway up a peak by sunset. Yesterday morning I finished the 1,500 meter hike (yet again) to the top of an awesome set of peaks and ridges (photo below), and scored an awesome long flight into Slovenia! The flight was awesome and improbable, as I had to cross TWO giant valleys to reach where I went. After crossing into Slovenia, I tried to keep going around the national park on my way to Tolmin/Soca, but I landed in some other amazing valley instead!I am very happy to have completed the west-to-east crossing of the Alps, as it was a big goal. My legs are smoked. From here, I will now continue the vol biv trip, but head back west now! I am set up for some travel westward now, as I’m positioned on a 200km ridge line system that heads back to Bassano and the Dolomites.It has been 21 days since leaving Chamonix, and its been quite the adventure. I’m actually surprised that there are not more XC pilots out here doing this, as its a great way to travel and see the land.Now I am in a giant pilots camp outside of Tolmin, preparing my stuff to head back west! Vol biv (sky camping) is awesome! France-Switzerland-Lichtenstein-Austria-Italy-Austria-Slovenia; and now it’s time to fly back to Italy!
Already heading west now! Yesterday I left Tolmin, sneaking a two hour flight in between storm cells. I would have top landed Stol, about 30km down the ridge, but the gust front was quickly approaching. Now I’m in Kobarid, and heading up to launch soon.With any luck, I’ll hit Italy within an hour of flying, and will keep heading back west from there! Meeting Tawny in Venice in just over a week! Morgan has joined in as well, and will try to fly with me for the next few days! Psyched. Always psyched.
I’ve met up with Morgan Hollingsworth in Soca/Tolmin two days ago, and we flew together yesterday. He too is packing bivy gear in the harness, and now we are in the Kobarid area. Gonna head west together from here, and see where we can get to!
First leg of our Slovenia-Dolomites flying adventure complete. Only 29 KMs, but the lack of landing areas made it seem twice as far. Now hiking up 3000 ft. to join dave on tomorrow’s launch. ! — with Dave Turner atGemona del friuli (UD).
I made it into the north east dolomite region by Air!
After making it to Slovenia a few days ago, after 3 weeks of continuous vol biv adventure, I turned around and am headed back west. I’ve had some decent flights since then, and some amazing adventures, and now I’m poised to make another good flight today- I hope!
Next year it’s gonna have to be from Nice to Vienna and back!!!!
Two days ago I top landed once I re-entered Italy, at a beautiful mountain top close to Gemona di Friuli. An AWESOME crew of acro pilots and friends were there to greet me with hoots and high fives, and even Caroline Lewis and Lisa Dickinson were there! Heck yeah!
American pilots uniting in Italy — with Lisa Dickinson and Dave Turner at Acro Peak.
Yesterday was a great day of flying! I left Bruneck (Kronplatz launch) and flew towards Cortina di Ampezzo. Did not quite make it (so close!!), so I hopped on a quick bus up to Paso Gardena, where I re launched and flew to Col Rodela. I top landed here in the evening, at about 5:30 and camped out. Now weather is kind of shitty, so I’m hanging in the big hotel, rewarding myself for a job well done, with espressos and cappuccinos! Not bad. The clouds are starting to pull back a bit, but XC progress tomorrow is questionable. If I can’t go XC, I’ll probably glide through the clouds down to town and restock supplies and hang down there. I still have a few days before Tawny shows up, so of course I’m going to keep flying! Not sure where though!
Morgan Hollingsworthposted toDave Turner
With Dave Turner at Campitello di Fassa.