Return from an unusual race : Vercofly 2013, (4 – 7 septembre), Swiss Valais
At our arrival to Vercorin in the evening, Guillaume shows me a parking at the departure point of a cable car. It overhangs a small field not really that welcoming, cashed in and surrounded by trees and chalets: “That is the landing of the Vercorin, parking or field… for choice!” A few minutes later, a light Peak3 is oncoming, in wings over. The pilot flies with a Radicale harness (without compromise, like its name suggests and also called “string”, in the slang, due to the reduced amount of fabric used in it). Guillaume resumes the presentation of the site: “And him, it’s Alex Barman: twice winner of the Vercofly. Also him is without compromise: he will pass four days flying in rough weather conditions, landing and taking off in the middle of the mountain in the screes … with his string. Welcome to the Switzerland ! …”
The ambiance is promising! That arrival is but a foretaste of what the Vercofly organization had reserved us. We will spend four memorable days flying and hiking in an exceptional natural
environment: the Swiss Valais.
The Vercofly is a hike and fly race, where the aim is to accumulate the maximum amount of points. These points are gained visiting, by the ground, different spots, and in particular eight huts (a very modest name for these 3 stars Swiss refuges with panoramic view over the glaciers), which justify the name “the race to the huts”. Other points are to be gained through some more or less interesting bonus possibilities : tasting a part of blueberry pie in a specific hut lost at the far end of an eccentric valley, bargaining a kiss of a certain refuge guardian, getting close to or getting wet at four selected lakes, hiking at the bottom of some valley … Well, long story short, there are bonuses for every taste ! Finally, the flights can have an added value in consequence of extra points that are attributed to the best competitors of the day ; this is thus what contributes later for distinguishing the first places of the competition ! The Verco hence mixed the strategy worthy of a tasteful society game and the adventure of a hike and fly race in a fantastic natural environment.
When I decided to participate in the Verco, I knew what I was looking for : my favorite goodness, such as the cross-country flight in hight mountains, the taste of the effort in a grand environment, the friendly encounters and warm welcomes at the refuges, the exchange with the other participants, each of them the most passionate (or maybe crazy …) of all. I knew thus why I was going, but I didn’t imagine to which point it would fulfill me!
From the start, it is not a classical competition : after a beautiful departure line (mandatory photo !), some perform a distinct about-turn to leave the most discretely possible in the direction opposite to everyone else. Each one its strategy ! Afterwards, two solutions : the hiking or the flight. The more reckless will hike and try some ballistic flights until the weather conditions allow the cross-country flights and the more serene (and maybe the smarter) will settle for attending that a breeze picks them at the closest take off. By dusk, it is obligatory to be at one of the eight huts, otherwise : points are to be lost ! This one is another intense moment of the day, where the encounters are improvised with the refuge guardians, the alpinists and also the participants whose strategy has led to a crossing of paths for a night ! A good ambience is guaranteed when a certain Gerald Delorme arrives at the hut …
In the air, the announced stability … the 4000 m high thermal-top above the Valaisans glaciers are routine. We feel very tiny ! It’s awesome, we are at the heart of the mountains in an environment that is both hostile and devilishly tempting. There are glaciers as far as the eye can see, with the Matterhorn as a background. At the end of the first day crossing the terrain from one place to another (flying!), we can grasp a little better the complexity of these valleys. We become also conscient of the elevation we would have to hike to reach all the checkpoints by foot ! It is often that we pass by several participants, all drove by the same passion but following different trajectories ; we shout out then : “See you tonight, maybe!!!”.
To each one its Verco ! Although it is essential to have a minimum level of technique and analysis capacity for being able of progressing safely in this very-Alpine massif, the pleasure is still great even with modest objectives such has the visiting of certain huts. At the end of the day, what does it matter the performance of each one, if we have all enjoyed such a memorable journey ! We can ask, grinning, to this or that one, what is there still to validate as a hut, but nothing will disturb the warm ambiance.
With Guillaume, we flew and hiked together without every really leaving each other, we did the race together, the pleasure isn’t but multiplied by ten ! We have had the chance of sharing a unique experience in our life : flying in this wild, scary and exhilarating environment. Magical !
Like uncle Delorme would say: “Come taste the Swiss stability!” .