New EN-B record
301 km triangle with the MENTOR 7 Light
5.00: It could be good day. The take-off site on Niesen – turnpoint at the Red Bull X-Alps 2023 – would be ideal, but unfortunately the cablecar is already fully booked well into the morning. I have no choice but to try it from my hometown Kandersteg. Apart from minor disadvantages, this also has a big advantage: there is more usable time.
Family breakfast, shopping, a few more things to do and with an almost empty gondola I ride relaxed up to Allmenalp. Maybe I'll meet the X-Alps pilot and fellow brand member Rich Binstead. He's still cruising around in that area...
9.38: Start. Immediately we climb up to a solid altitude of 3200 metres. I probably won't see Rich today after all. Direct flight to Adelboden and onwards to the Col du Pillon. The first 2-liner gaggle from the Niesen has already passed. The pilots are hot on XC! Before the notorious Rhône valley crossing at Martigny, I invest some time to gain extra altitude. The others cross much lower and mark the thermals on the opposite side. The conditions are quite strong, but not really turbulent. There's probably a bit more wind, but it's going well.
My Mentor 7 Light flies really fast and in a confidence-inspiringly stable manner. This is what makes full-bar flying fun. At Chamonix I meet the oncoming first group with my colleague Paul Neuenschwander. He kindly took the photos for this report - once again I forget to take pictures.
13:27: First turnpoint at Les Houches, a bit west of Mont Blanc. Maybe I can still catch up with the leading gaggle. The return flight on the same route goes smoothly to the Niesen and mostly straight ahead with the speed bar fully pushed. For crossing Lake Thun, I fly away from Niesen at a comfortable altitude of 3000 m and I can already see myself gliding into the Emmental.
But the lake is everything else but lifty today and the low arrival at the ridge near Sigriswil leads into medium turbulence. They force me to turn away and soar up the prominent flank of the Niederhorn chain. The wind speed has obviously increased. The flight onwards to Pilatus is straight ahead again. Unfortunately, the cirrus clouds increase more and more and do not bode well for the evening...
18.27: Turning around at Pilatus with a wonderful view of Lake Lucerne. My flight instrument shows a possible triangle of over 330 km - crazy! Now I just have to get back somehow! It gets cloudier and cloudier, the thermals weaken – this is going to be exciting… The Mentor accepts the fine lifts well and thus enables a steady progress. However, it isn’t sufficient anymore and I can forget the plan of flying home. If I only could still cross Lake Thun to Niesen – that would be more than good.
Paul flies within sight and I don't take full advantage of the last thermal at Hogant. As a result, I don't make it over the Sichel-Pass by a few metres only, which would have made the return possible. Then the thermals die down completely. The last glide of the day leads into the wrong direction but should bring me back to civilisation – and to a bus connection. But as it sometimes happens, I end up in the pampas. The last bus is long gone and I've probably also screwed the 300 km. Fortunately, I am being picked up. When I evaluate the flight shortly before midnight, a wonderful three appears, to my relief. What a day!
Thank you Paul Neuenschwander and Joe Staub for the pics.