One Nighter

This is how it all began

Life Days. These a mate explained are the days you remember for the rest of your life. It’s a custom for him to recollect such days each new year with friends over a bottle of Talisker. Tales of the year past are remembered and shared.

So what of this year? Well I live in Annecy a long way from my childhood home on the Swansea Road estate in Merthyr. A glance at my website will show that I lead an eventful life. This though was one (or 2) of the best days.

The Hairy Man (Gareth James) fancied the idea of encouraging pilots to fly Vol Biv. He shared his idea with me. I’m an ex teacher so I got boring. Define your terms I said. There’s Vol Campavan (X Alps), Vol Jogging (Running up and flying down in your lunch break) Vol Montagne (lobbing off the Blanc etc.) Vol Rando (Strolling the hills and flying whenever…). Nope what he wanted was to give pilots an introductory experience from which they could explore and adventure.
And your client? – The passenger on the Clapham omnibus. Hard pressed, not as fit as they’d like to be, not as current as they would wish but keen as mustard.
Then the curriculum? – Well there’s no point us teaching people to walk and climb. They can pick that up anywhere. They’ve already got kit (probably too much) So what do they pick and how do they use and share it? The bivi part will be about keeping things simple whilst enjoying comfort and security. The vol bit is XC planning and flying complemented with outlanding in the mountains and choice of launch sites. Self reliant Met assessments is also a vital area.
“Go on then show me”, I said. So he did.
We trawled the net for weather info. which comforted us with a good XC lapse rate, light North Westerly winds and a high cloud base. There are over 80 sites within an hours’ drive of my house so where to start and where to go. Reminding me that this was to be an ‘introductory experience’ he suggested a casual preparation for an afternoon start from Forclaz. Jolly about then head off into the Bauges mountains to land above one of the lesser ski resorts. Pass a pleasant evening and fly home the following day.
Looked good on the map and we knew the aerology of those mountains well.

We went for it. He was right. Kit selection was a big issue. Like I’ve got 3 sleeping bags. Which one to take? Do I even need one? Every item was discussed, evaluated and a reasoned decision taken. Food? Here we wanted a touch of luxury so the wine box was in. So was the hip flask and blue cheese.
Packing – we would be sleeping on the snow line so my bumpair was replaced by a sleeping bag and thermarest. The remainder stowed easily enough.

Then the dream became reality. Up to base, round the lake and onto the roc des boeuffs. Here we joined Bren in a thermal he was en route for 111 K out and return. We flew together onto Mageriaz. There we parted and Gareth and I flew over Mt. Collombier to our goal. Here we thermalled the sun down. Enjoyed a superb meal, Brilliant star light and a homeward flight the following day.

No we didn’t need to walk or carry. A truly civilised Vol Biv. The man’s a genius. Come the New Year we’ll be recounting all the finer details.

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