Words by Norrøna Athlete: Armin Beeli
It was midweek and the weather forecast for the weekend was looking promising to do some mountaineering. The first snow had already fallen and the temperatures dropped below zero, although it was only mid November.
It seemed like the perfect conditions for a last hike and fly before winter arrived.
My good friend JP Furrer and I discussed several suitable peaks in the region of my hometown Flims.
The first thing to consider when choosing a peak to hike & fly is the wind speed and direction.
Ideally there is almost none or very little wind (10-15 km/h). In the take off zone the wind should approach directly from the front of the wing to catch the wind. The second thing to consider is the surface of the take off zone. I prefer steep grassy hills or hard-packed snow, so that none of my equipment gets caught up in rocks or stones.
Further a safe landing zone is crucial. It should be free of power lines, trees or larger buildings. For me personally, the size of a tennis court is sufficient to land with my parachute, anything below freaks me out. I’m sure I spend more time planning a hike & fly than any regular tour. Especially checking weather related forecasts is time-consuming. But I actually enjoy the ritual of preparing myself ideally for the upcoming hike & fly.
Resulting from all these considerations mentioned above and our personal conception we chose to ascent a peak called Tödi. It is the highest summit in the canton of Glarus. We chose to ascent through the south west wall which expands over 1200 height meters and its slope is consistently between 45-50 degree steep.
For me personally, the thrilling part about the hike & fly is the fact that I can cover large descent within no time. We covered the ascent to the Tödi within 3 hours and were back at the starting point of our tour after a 30 minute flight. Besides that, the bird eye view offers a totally new perspective of the mountains. Additionally, I can spot further thrilling ascent routes or lines to ski in winter. We also see wildlife sometimes, but I try to keep a good distance to avoid getting them unnecessarily stressed.
Paragliding gives me the feeling of total freedom.I can carry a light wing up the mountain, take off in the air, meet the birds and travel in an eco-friendly way down. Covering a long distance and many depth meters also opens new possibilities for multiple peak ascents in a day, so the reach of your day or multiple day trip is mindblowing. It can also be a quite safe way down especially when the decent leads over a glacier. Instead of crossing a labyrinth of crevasses in the afternoon, when the snow bridges break more easily.
I don’t think I can ever climb all the peaks predestined for hike & flies in Switzerland.
But hey, never try never know.
I’m excited to see how this sport will develop in the future and I hope everyone out there respects the wildlife. Have fun, enjoy the flight, stay safe and happy landings to everyone.