YES! I did it!!
If you would like to immediately see a short video of this wonderful hang gliding experience please click here.
You will find some pictures of one of my most beautiful hang glide flights at the bottom of this article.
In my blog about my first Winter hang gliding flight in the Netherlands (30 December 2014, see here), I referred to a possible flight this winter, during a ski holiday early 2015 above Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Last December I contacted Alain from the Parapente flugschule Jungfrau in Grindelwald. I informed him that I had the plan to bring my hang glider on my way to Grindelwald to hopefully make a beautiful flight above this spectacular scenery. Grindelwald is very famous due to fact that this village lies between the Eiger and the Jungfrau. The views in the village and at the mountains around are incredibly spectacular.
Alain informed me that this would be possible, although I had to arrange to get my glider up to the “First”, a mountain with a great view on the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. So I thought “I’ll give it a go” to possibly make my first flight above a mountain winter wonderland. To fly from and in between mountains full with snow has been a dream for me since I started hang gliding 7 years ago. However my key focus for this was to have a nice week to ski with my family and friends. Maybe it would be possible to have a beautiful flight with my hang glider, but again, this was not my priority.
The evening before a full day of driving to the Swiss Alps (Friday 22 Feb. 2015) I picked up my glider in Renswoude and attached it thoroughly at the roof of my car. The next day I drove to Grindelwald together with a friend, and “the four ladies” (including my daughter and wife) went by train. Close to our destination it was already snowing a lot and when I parked my car, my glider was quickly completely covered in snow for the first time (see one of the pictures below).
At the moment of arrival, the weather was absolutely not good for a hang gliding flight (fog and some snow) but the forecast said that on Thursday (in five days) it would be a sunny day. Fingers crossed….:-)
This meant 4 great days of skiing and the forecast stayed the same… Thursday would be the day to give it a go!
Tuesday afternoon I checked the landing area to see if it was suitable to land and especially if I would dare to land here. Alain already informed me that it would possibly be OK for me to land at “his” parapent landing field (+/- 150 x 80 meters), but it would be better for hang gliders to land at the larger field across the road. This was also my opinion so I checked my possible landing directions and approach to land at this quite large field (+/- 350 x 80 meters). For hang glider pilots: the landing area is just behind the train station of Grindelwald Grund. The original parapent landing site (A) is also OK for intermediate pilots, but needs a thorough investigation as there is only one additional landing site (field B). Field B (across the road) is OK in winter and in Summer it will be in use the owner (farmer).
Wednesday afternoon I went to the gondola organisation if it would be possible for them to bring my glider up the mountain. After talking to 3 different people they agreed (it was not that common for them) to bring my glider on Thursday morning all the way up to 2200 meters. I had to deliver my glider (still fully covered with snow :-)) the evening before.
The next day we all went up and it was strange that I had no ski’s with me, but “just” my hang gilding gear. After the 25 minutes ride with the gondola we arrived at the top and I was happy to find my glider here too. Together with my friend we walked my glider to the area where I would take off (alongside a black ski piste). I was very exited and also relaxed that it was now 99% sure that I would fly from this great mountain into a blue sky with only snow around me. I checked the possible take-off direction and prepared my hang glider. As it was for the first for me to fly all by myself, I double-checked every item very carefully haha.
After 30 minutes, a few parapente pilots arrived on the scene. This was good for me as I was able to discuss the local circumstances with them. Just before I decided to take off, Alain (my email contact) arrived too. He suggested me to take off about 50 meters lower than the parapents as the black ski piste was steeper there and I had more pressed snow to run on. For hang glider pilots: the start is 150 meters north of the last gondola exit and top restaurant. Be aware take the steepest descent and especially in Winter on pressed snow by a Pistenbully for your take off. On beautiful days like I flew there is hardly wind, so run, run, run. See here for their website.
I calmly walked through my final checklist (which I specifically made prior to this flight at home) and a couple of minutes later I was ready to go. With my wife, daughter and friends watching me closely, I took off in the direction of the valley.
What an enormously impressive view! I had never seen and felt this in my whole life. The sky was crystal clear and immense blue, the snowy mountains around me looked even more impressive than seeing them from a ski slope or restaurant. I found some thermals, but as I made up my mind to fully enjoy this beautiful winter wonderland and fly to the valley for a safe landing, I did not focus to stay up there. After 10 minutes I flew over Grindelwald including our nice hotel Spinne and saw my landing field. Unfortunately I saw that several Nordic Walkers crossed “my” landing area and I saw more on their way to this field. This meant that I had to move to “plan B” meaning the original parapente landing area. An even better approach and landing set up was required. I flew very concentrated and had a great view during my downwind and base leg to the train station of Grindelwald Grund. One extra base leg was required and I was ready for my final. My final was perfect and now I knew I was able to land in the middle of this field. My flight ended with a soft landing in powder snow 🙂
I was so incredibly happy with this great flight and that I made this all happen. After minutes of wandering around, talking to some nice people, I packed my glider and 1,5 hours later I was back with my family and friends to (this time) ski down from the First back to Grindelwald……..and on my way down on my skis I was still dreaming………..“happy are those who dream their dreams and are ready to to pay the price to make them go true”
The smile on my face stayed for a long time and I am 100% sure that I will never forget this wonderful experience!
P.s.: If you (specifically for hang glide pilots who also like to fly here in Winter) would like to receive more details, please contact me via the contact page on my website.