About the most important climb of the day…

About the most important climb of the day…

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How I use xcontest server for flight „analysis“

This is a flight analysis I did about a flight of my NOVA Pilots Team mate Toni Brügger on his way to the Swiss xcontest-winner 2017 in fun & safety on his PHANTOM (low B wing).

It’s not nice talking about mistakes. In this case I do. For several reasons. One is, to show how a great flight can end in fear and you do not get the flight done. The flight still was great – oh, I know that, I have more of that kind then of the ones that scored completely. So, no reason to be ashamed.

It’s the day of Toni Brüggers glorious last scoring flight of the saison – in the month of May! Do  you get that? But Toni smashed the score in winter sceneries till that day and no more flights were needed to win the Swiss cross country year of 2017. I myself love the spring flights deeply. Never I feel better then after landing in the sunset in May, in April, even in March, after travelling the whole day through the skies. That makes my years!

Ok, let’s get into the analysis: I use xcontest server to „analyse“ flights. In fact I just sit there, the stove running behind me, and I let crawl the dots over the screen for hours, let them jump back and forth. And I recognise sometimes myself taking a deep breath after not breathing at all for seconds, because the facts, that are behind that simple coloured dots and lines on the screen. Those facts are so amazing and sensational and overwhelming. In the wiunter time I often live in Canada. Duirng these cold days I check lots of flights, of NPT teammates, our girls in Tessin for example, Kurt Fischer on his brave line from Pilatus in Luzern, of dozens of friends and strangers all over the planet.

I like xcontest.org running those flights in airbuddies mode, you surely know how. It is simple, it is 2D, it is north up, it shows everything, if you look closely. Observe the climb, speed of the buddies in the list. See one of your friends taking an effort and pick up to the leading gaggle, follow the guy in trouble, making his way out or not. You find out, if early takeoff pays off. You find out, if an alternative line pays off. You find out, if a later turnpoint pays off. All that stuff, zoom in, zoom out, speed up, speed down, change map layers…

You learn a lot about valleys, about ridges, about valley winds, about flying high, flying low, what is fast, and what is not.

Perhaps my most spectacular discovery of the past year is the valley wind in Val Blenio, that turns sharpely 90 degree after entering the valley, and offers the key to the last FAI turnpoints, that resulted in so many good flights this year. I was exploring that Val Blenio onsite two or three years ago and finally found some great lines – on the xcontest server, flown by guys I do not remember. I am so happy with Christian Thio, who made it twice this saison! (Toni however did his Tessin triangle with the Valle Maggia Line). Watch Christians flights with his wonderful picture-show. I like that guy, he is a sunny person.

The day I have on screen here is when Toni Brügger flew the Niesen 235 km FAI Triangle with the known turnpoints in French swiss forealps and down in the Mattmark Valley. It’s 27th of May 2017. Three days of fantastic cross country flying in the Alps, the last ones though. But yet nobody knew. However Toni took off in his neighborhood and scored one of the best flights of over 2300 on the server – the best standard-class flight worldwide.

Lots took off on the Niesen with Toni, as usual Toni going out first. Philip Steinger the amazing artist from Luzern took off earlier and 50 km away from the Niesen trying the same triangle as Toni, with 300 FAI in mind. Philip was one of the beaten that day although he scored 250k FAI. He did not find the way out of the Wallis. If he would have tailed Toni, he would maybe got done the job or close to that. Look yourself, maybe compare to Peter Hürlimann with similar timing out of the Mattmark Valley.

One of the most difficult climbs to a fai-triangle from the niesen


That is the task – get over this bloody high ridge later in the day direction Jungfrau region (picture by Kurt Fischer in Summer 2015, Pilot Roli)

There are at least three more guys on the same task as Toni. Two of them could not return from the Wallis. What a hard stroke. I can tell. I was washed down in that side valley Lötschental myself, and not just one time.

When I interviewed Chrigel Maurer a dozen years ago for a story in a magazine, he described that Lötschental as the last problem on that Niesen-triangle. He had an elegant solution to the problem avoiding that nasty valleywind and the even worse northerly wind over the Lötschen Pass. Chrigels plan from years ago never came in the game for me. At least I could escape with that trick and was not landed up there (again and again) and more important I lost the fear of them scary winds.

Chrigels trick is to change the valleyside way back, under the Bietschhorn. Late in the day the thermals work here and the valley wind is blowing into the slope und up. Grab one of the cravasses on 1800 m and you find yourself on 4000 m soon – no shit, it works often.

I found four buddies trying the Lötschental escape that day. Two did it, Toni and much later Peter Hürlimann. Close on Toni’s tail the unlucky ones. The two guys that headed into the Lötschen Pass-downwash were Christoph Fässler and Armin Walder. Christoph conclused: „Unfortunately, the clouds did not look friendly…“. Can’t tell. Other pilots write about big clouds too. Maybe I find pictures later. Anyway, he really got the downwash of the Lötschenpass. I am not sure if I met Christoph before. Information on xcontest show him as an amibitious pilot going xc all over switzerland and travelling to hotspots elsewhere. He changed to the TRITON 2 spring 1017 and did his best flights with it. The one down to Lötschental was his personal best as I see in the lists and I hope he liked it despite its swift end.

I know Armin Walder. He is my age I would say. We did some good lines together in Fiesch I remember and I like his quiet, friendly character. We sat on the balcony of the Des Alpes on Fiesch take off a fiew times the last 10 years. He wrote about him getting trapped that day: „Wonderful conditions today, unfortunately it didn’t work out in the Lötschental anymore“. He was only 15 minutes behind Toni doing similar crossing into the Lötschental. I do not know if Tonis lift was shadowed by then but Armin was wondering around and did not find the way up.

I just recognise watching the flights again, that Toni wasted close to half an hour getting uphill after crossing Visp early in the afternoon heading north. I did that climb to pass the 3200 meter ridge to the Bernese Oberland twice and preferred doing it on a straight line, as Peter Hürlimann shows on the flight we are looking at now. Peter is a Boomerang Pilot and managed to do the passage „a little narrow“. It took him 45 minutes from Visp to the ridge, Toni needed 75 minutes.

What did help Peter was his higher line to cross the main valley over Visp. I like his line and his timing. He really used the daylights as you look at his final glide picture. That magic climb to leave the Wallis Peter did 80 minutes after Toni, a serious amount of time. Toni might have had plans too to get straigt to the Lötschental. He had a lot of time after that anyway to choose a nice last waypoint witch he did really well. I know the corner, he did great in the last thermal and soaring some 20 km to close the triangle perfectely. So he took advantage of his early way home in the Northern Alps – including the nerve stretching wondering arround before finding the way over the ridges to the Jungfrau Valleys.

I just check my pictures of that day. I am curious, what I did here on the atlantic coast in Canada that very 27th of may.

Cheers buddies! Love you, see you soon again, Roland