Écrins tour, wide version : 287km FAI …


The morning of Thursday, the 17th of July, alarm at 5h30. It hurts, I haven’t slept but five hours … that’s being organized ! Towards the col du Galibier with certain French names of the cross-sountry flight (J.F., G.P., T.P. and A.G., for not citing them) : It is a great opportunity for me. I hope I am up to the challenge …


Arrived 20140717_08561220140717_091137at the parking, some 300 m are to be hiked to get to the take-off … it disturbs me already to see a certain J.F. with a peculiar hat accepting such an effort : the journey is going to be exceptional, now it’s guaranteed ! Bucolism is insured in these mid-altitude Alpine fields with the Meije and the Écrins summits as a background …


9h30 20140717_095851 : the vultures are already clustering above the take-off, it’s on ! It’s early, the thermals are well established but mild, the time for waking up and be sure must be taken, the day is precious ! Departure from the first thermal at more than 3000 m in the morning, the “mountain” ambiance is announced !




Direction20140717_10543220140717_110735 set straight towards the north, we leave the Aiguilles d’Arves, which we touch with the left hand to jump over the Maurienne valley. We then follow the hen drawn by the two valleys of the Maurienne and Tarentaise. The landscapes become smoother with the verdant altitude Alpine fields where we can guess the Tarines cow preparing the good summer Beaufort, mmmh … The Mont Blanc approaches, it is soon time to aim south … As we make an about-turn, we realize that the Écrins are already quite far away. In fact, during all the flight, the Écrins ridge will be a landmark around which we will turn, but at a rather surrealist distance …


We 20140717_12475520140717_124825are now orbited above the east faces of Belledonne ridge (it is noon, the timing is good). At 3800 m height, we can see home and greet Saint Hilaire ! On the other side, there is the Grandes Rousses ridge with … the Écrins ridge, as a background ! We will notice a constant in the pictures : an Enzo2 “fire” colored that often boasts of being the most beautiful of all ; to each one to judge …


The 20140717_13145520140717_143229east faces of Belledone ridge pass by very fast (too fast?). We rapidly leave the mountain environment that is more familiar to me, switching to the lowland mode, which alarms me a bit … We lean on one last real mountain (the Taillefer summit) before throwing ourselves right in the middle of the Triève plain. Until then, everything is fine, I start feeling a little tired, but still within reasonable limits, I drink a sip, eat a cereal bar, do a stretching session, watch a film, enchain a series of push-ups, a shower, and it restarts … The surroundings is splendid and varied, the conditions are academic. The thermals don’t shift, they are moderated when entering at the bottom, then reinforce allowing good vertical speed and once at the summit they calm down : like in the books ! I mentalize the end of the course that I know less : one point at La Mure then aiming straight south, jump over the Obiou summit and direction towards the Richard, etc …


Realy20140717_14520520140717_150037 ??? !!! I didn’t set off flying with nestlings … At first, we pull until the south of the Serpaton .. then to the Grand Verymont … when Thomas proposes us the crossing of the Vercors park !!! It is certainly enticing, seen the conditions, but the come back becomes honestly questionable in terms of timing (at least from my naïve point of view …). I’m already savoring some of the key stages of the flight that I dreamt of doing … At the end I validate them all, one by one, in a single flight !!! The crossing of the Trivève (flying, hein, because walking I had already done it … dear Airtourien friends 2013 …), the crossing of the Vercors park (flying, hein, because walking I had already done it … dear Airtourien friends 2014 …) … hooo… the Tête de la Dame, even under the cumulus at 3000 m, it looks like at the end of the world ! Who would say there were some fools that did it walking …

We20140717_155102 20140717_162045finally manage to stop Thomas, the UFO, at the passage of the Rousset (him, visibly, had perfectly calculated his shot !). This second branch of the triangle is simply monstrous, and at that moment we are but halfway through the flight … Direction set to Embrun city! The 300m-above-ground limit of the Vercors park ? … not seen, too hight, too instable, so good ! We draw a straight azimuth right over the Jocou mountain and we perceive already the Dévoluy ridge. Ah, here it goes, also that was part of my pilot phantoms : hawk about over these lunar landscapes is just magical ! But, in fact, are we really still in the same flight ?… Big transition overflying the Lus valley : small piss, stretching, second push-ups series, hydration and … little almond paste forgotten at the bottom of the cockpit, mmmh … it tastes good, this one ! The seatbelt security light is on again and the stewardess invites everyone to sit down : “ We will arrive at the Pic de Bure summit, zone of turbulence, please get back to your seats and attach your seatbelts …”


This paragraph doesn’t voluntarily contain any image not to damage the sensitive souls : while continuing from Lus towards the Mont Guillaume … I start feeling more and more stomach-ill, tired … I have even a cold sweat that starts making me seriously doubt of my capacity to complete this flight. Can it be the fatigue coupled with a lack of sleep, in a flight this long ?… Can it be the consistent +7m/s of the Pic de Bure ?… It has now been an hour that I fight against my sickness that only gets worse. Resigned and knowing what is there still to be attended by the end of the flight (strong breeze in the valley of Guillestre and crossing of a pass in high mountain towards the Agneaux), I decide that the most sensible thing to do is landing. I announce, with a teardrop at the corner of the eye, to Jacques, that I will not hold and start a descent to land at Ancelle … Even before having the time to land, I regurgitate that damned almond paste that must have been completely rotten. All that wasn’t but an indigestion … instantaneously spruced and happy as a child, about-turn with the knife between the teeth and towards the thermal that I had just left. I catch up my buddies, completely excited ! Even though tired from that episode, I truncate the last point of the triangle to try buckling of the flight. A slightly bitter suspicion is inevitable when I realized that a simple small curve above the Guillestre city with the others would have allowed me to go beyond the symbolic 300km-FAI bar … but well, I have already the chance of being resurrected and again capable of flying !

The 20140717_18502920140717_194634south branch of the triangle is now finished. The direction is set straight towards the North to join the Écrin ridge that are already much closer. It is necessary to play in the Guillestre-valley breeze, but there are dynamic supports everywhere, which makes this ascend rather ludic ! Arrived at the Argentière, an impressing intersection of flight lines : to the right, Briançon direction pushed towards a civilized place at first by the breeze … to the left, the Vallouise valley rising straight towards the Pelvoux and the Écrin summits. This last is the key for buckling till the Lautaret or the Galibier pass, because at the Briançon side we would rapidly be countered by the strong breeze re-descending from the Lautaret pass. One must thus immerse in the landscape, at once magnificent and austere, that is offered by the Vallouise valley at dusk to cross the pass of the Pyramide under the mountain the Agneaux summit.

The 20140717_19435020140717_193949sumptuous surroundings at dusk in high-mountain inside the smoothed thermals is a fabulous reward. We exult speaking at the radio but without much energy, we are exhausted … The bottom of the valleys disappear in the shadow bit by bit, while the Enzo2 “fire” colored still hurts the eyes … It is soon 8 p.m., we roll-up one of the last thermals to the limit of the Monêtier Glacier, in front of the Glacier Blanc and the Barre des Écrins, one of my favorite spots in mountain. Nothing but emotions …


Once 20140717_203908the Lautaret pass is reached by the small valley of the refuge of the Alpe de Villar-d’Arêne, we enjoy the last sun rays keeping us airborne. We relax, we grant ourselves a little photo session to 20140717_203813immortalize this moment that will certainly stay engraved in our memories for a long time.






We P1290441P1290463 land at 9 p.m. after an 11h30 flight of a matchless variety ! We reach each one our own personal distance record in a sumptuous frame … More than 300 km in FAI triangle for Jacques, Guy and Thomas. They certainly beat a record ! For me, I settle for a “modest” 287km FAI … Cause of technical problems Antoine ensure to complete a shorter flight but splendid yet. We took eyeful, we are fulfilled pilots!


  1. beau vol, beau récit, bravo.
    A bientôt

    • Yess, trop bon de lire ça ! Bravo. Ici, en Slovénie, j’ai fait mon record de truites, on se gave mais vivement le retour dans nos montagnes ;-))

  2. On vous a vu depuis la terrasse du refuge des 7 laux! J’avais ma voile pour un modeste mais sympathique vol
    En vous voyant débarquer en escadrille, on s’est d’abord dis, “Wouah, la journée va être fumante!” puis “Mais d’où ils sortent au fait!?”
    Superbe récit et bravo pour le vol!

  3. Joli récit, joli vol. Bravo pour l’opportunisme et la ténacité.

  4. J’ai parcouru ton blog avec beaucoup de plaisir et un soupçon de jalousie ;)
    Félicitation et merci pour ces jolis récits.
    Bonne chance pour la suite de tes projets!!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>