Photo of Hugues Bonnel in Supair LEAF3 in the Mont Blanc massif

Paralpinism in the Mont Blanc massif

Combining paraglider with other disciplines such as climbing or mountaineering is the goal of many mountaineers.

Snow, glacier, rock, air mass... Playing with the elements to reach the summits is the favorite game of Pierre Fornes and Hugues Bonnel, who gave it their all this Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

Hugues gives us his account of this adventure...

"What if we went flying? "
Pierre Fornes - Family Pilot

L'Envers des Aiguilles: a magical name which, for any climber, sounds like the promise of cinema granite and climbing pleasure. But only once you've reached the refuge, because the road is long and the climb laborious. And what's worse, the way back down takes just as long, with the constant worry of missing the Montenvers train!

Well, let's take it from the top...

Photo of Hugues Bonnel in Supair LEAF3 in the Mont Blanc massif

Flying in the Mont Blanc massif may be forbidden in July and August, but it's authorized the rest of the year. That's all it takes for Pierre to say, "Let's go flying!

The idea is simple yet audacious: Take-off at the summit of theAiguille du Midi, land on the Trélaporte glacier, just a few steps from the Tour Rouge, climb it and take off again at the rimaye to reach Chamonix, landing at the Bois du Boucher.

We plan to climb " Le Marchand de Sable", a timeless local classic opened in summer 1983 by Michel Piola and Gérard Hopfgartner. However, the name of the route is misleading and we'll have to stay wide awake forLanding on the glacier, which is already quite dry at this time of year.

Pierre is used to flying in the high mountains, as well as to tricky take-offs. As for me, it's a little less obvious. I've flown before, but after a paternity break lasting almost a decade, I'm still in the recovery phase, and I'm not as serene as Pierre!

Since we're based in the Aosta Valley, we evaluate the various take-off options, but a quick glide calculation confirms what we already thought: we have no choice but to Take-off from theAiguille du Midi.

This means that the first hurdles to be overcome are the logistics of closing the Mont Blanc tunnel at night for roadworks, the crowds in the skip of what is now Europe's most popular ride and, above all, the wind direction at take-off to fly south down the Vallée Blanche.

However, this October 10 is looking good: the wind is forecast to be very light at all altitudes, despite a slight northerly trend. Indeed, once we arrive at the Aiguille take-off at 8.30am, we'll notice this marked northerly trend.

The question then arises for the return to Chamonix: do we have enough glide and, above all, sufficient speed to cope with the breeze? Our ultra-light wings don't seem to be cut out for these conditions, so we opt for higher-performance wings: the Savage for Pierre and the Leaf3 for me. Since we don't seem to need to walk, we also equip ourselves with reversible harnesses to benefit from airbag protection on theLanding glacier.

Photos of Hugues Bonnel taking off under the Marchand de Sable

Once these initial logistical hurdles had been overcome, we finally took off from theAiguille du Midi. The north is here, so we won't be taking off from the south, as originally planned. Since we have no choice but to Take-off to the north, we can no longer expect to have the necessary glide to switch to the Vallée Blanche via the Col du Plan. Fortunately, thanks to our choice of wings, we managed it without any difficulty!

The rest of the expedition went smoothly. TheLanding, which I had been dreading so much, finally took place in excellent conditions. We landed on a narrow but flat strip of snow, facing the hut in the falling breeze.

As for the climbing, it was absolutely brilliant! Both for the quality of the climbing and the beauty of the scenery. In short, this route was a real eye-opener.

To take off again, we decide to climb a hundred meters higher High than the start of the Marchand de Sable to take advantage of a flat spot halfway up the rimaye of the Grépon and République classics.

climbing photo by Pierre Fornes and Hugues

Once back in the air, all we had to do was enjoy flight all the way to Chamonix, where we landed, amazed and already full of new dreams.

flight in the Vallée Blanche to reach Chamonix by Leaf3




Escalade du marchand de sable paralpinisme Supair
Strike2 in the White Valley
Supair LEAF3 and Savage take off from the rimaye in the Mont Blanc massif
flight in the Vallée Blanche to reach Chamonix by Leaf3
Photos of Hugues Bonnel taking off under the Marchand de Sable
Pierre Fornes savaging in the Alps
climbing photo by Pierre Fornes and Hugues
Photo of Hugues Bonnel in Supair LEAF3 in the Mont Blanc massif
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