IRON CROSS PASS FRENCH ALPS FIRST 2012 WINTER SNOWKITING SESSION TWO THOUSANDS TWELVE NINE TWENTIETH
Iron Cross Pass Our 2012 «winter» ﬁrst snowkiting session 2011 september 20th
Not really winter yet. Not even autumn as it’s due to be on the 21st. That means this snowfall from yesterday was dumping in summertime... Probably the reason why this report is not about a real snowkiting session though. Anyway, that was a perfect moment. Let’s check it out together.
Yes, it was snowing yesterday. Zero degree about 1.900m elevation. It was raining so hard all the day long in the valley, pretty cold as well, we were expecting a huge snowpack on this spot called the Iron Cross Pass. The real name in French is Le Col de la Croix de Fer. You’ll ﬁnd it on Google Maps. From Grenoble, it’s less to drive than the famous Lautaret Pass. We are used to come here every year for our ﬁrst snowkiting session. When the snow is falling near 1.800m in autumn. We can get up-there during a couple of weeks and after the road is closed
in winter because of the snow. Normally, we’re coming here late october and november. It’s unusual to go snowkiting in september. But, with my friend Laurent Hémard owner of the shop Kites&Boards, we decide to give a try here for our ﬁrst session. Once at the pass, actually one kilometer before the pass, we can see that unfortunately the snowpack is really small. A very lot smaller than expected. Anyway, it’s only grass here in these ﬁelds for sheeps and cows, ten centimeters of snow will be enough for snowkiting and there is for sure more at the top of the spot. As you can understand
from the picture on the page 3, we park the car near the road and we’ll have to hike about ten minutes to the spot. The car is about 1.900m and the top of the snowkiting area is about 2.200m. So, ﬁrst walking down to a small river, crossing a wood bridge, then hiking up to the white snowy ridge we can see behind Lolo on the picture page 2.
slow, sliding smoothly, no danger at all, much more easy and safe than skiing downhill, there are not so many stones around, we can mind them very easy and stay on the grass, trying to choose our way on the better snow places we meet. This is the way we used for our last session at Lautaret Pass in may, when the snowpack remained great at the top of Les Trois Evêchés but was melting very fast every day at the bottom. You’ll see it in a further video about HIKING TO THE SPOT this last session coming soon on White Kite News The north wind is blowing. This is the wind direction channel at Vimeo. needed to go up snowkiting along the dale called Vallon de Montfroid. Our plan is to launch the kites FRIENDSHIPS FIRST !!! as soon as we’ll ﬁnd the snow, even mixed with frozen grass, at the bottom of the Vallon de Montfroid. Well, now I would like to tell another thing. It’s North wind is blowing but you know what is like about the kite used by Lolo. It’s not an Ozone kite. about wind in the mountains, the strenght is never And you might know me as the Ozone photograthe same depending of the terrain. When we left the pher. But my main goal is to promote the snowkicar, it was blowing 15 knots. But once at the right ting sport. We deﬁnitely have to make it growing place for launching the kites, it’s less than 3 knots. up as at the moment, not enough people know what It’s super gusty as well. Because the wind comes snowkiting is like, skiiers or snowboarders. That is from our left, pretty much north-east though, and is my opinion. Snowkiting is a so wonderful skiing falling down from a ridge higher on our left. sport, I’m really surprised that nobody comes to it. Reaching the top of the spot won’t be so easy for Some say that it is because of all the photos we saw sure. Lolo starts ﬁrst and manages to launch his kite about snowkiting for the past ten years, with the best properly. Even with gusty wind, really light, blowing snowkiters ﬂying very high, often upside down. For to our right and not towards the summit, Lolo goes sure, such picture is the easyest to make for a photoahead snowkiting, step by step and after a few migrapher who wants to make money. It’s impressive, nutes I can make the last photo on the page 5. The so the success is sure. But at the end, after years and mix snow-grass is cool for skiing safely, because the years with only photos starring snowkiters twenty wind is light, the kite is pulling softly, we will go meters high, the people get scared about this sport. Page 4
They deﬁnitely want to go skiing and not ﬂying. I’m not sure this reason is the right one, but may be it is. So, I try to do my best to show snowkiting pictures, with cool freeriding action, showing a kiter cruising in fresh powder snow, because that is the way for 99% of us snowkiters, and by this way, all the viewers want to be at this place instead of the kiter on the photo. Same way for the videos. This is my goal. Promoting the snowkiting sport ﬁrst. So, sometimes you will see on the reports at White Kite magazine, pure snowkiting area :-) some pictures with my friends using another brand than Ozone, because showing our sport is more important for me than promoting only my family company. The other important thing is the friendships during our snowkiting days. Going for a session with friends is the most cool thing in our life. I can’t tell to my friends : «Oh, no, I don’t make picture of you because you’re using another brand than Ozone.» This attitude would be so stupid. I’m happy to go snowkiting with my friends, so I make my reports with them all in the pictures, photos or videos. I only refuse to ﬁlm the assholes. And the brand doesn’t matter for this decision :-) So, Lolo is here on this report, with his kite from a
russian brand. I let you guessing which one, ah, ah. OK, let’s go back now to our session.
DIFFICULT WIND CONDITIONS The way to get to the summit is really hard today actually. Not because of the grass/snow. All is right to go uphill by this way. The main difﬁcult thing is the wind direction, blowing super gusty, and very light. Often, we only can make the kite ﬂying, and it’s near to fall on the ground, which would be a super crazy thing. We can ﬁnd some wind only when making the kite ﬂying on the edge of the crest on our right, and the kite is often ﬂying beyond the crest. If it falls down the ground behind there, with so many stones and rocks, small trees and rough, for sure that would be the end of the session. Every cross-country snowkiter knows that we sometimes have to pass such areas where it’s deﬁnitely forbiden to let the kite falling down. We have large size kites, 13m Frenzy for me and 10m for Lolo who is not so fat than me, so all is right with our kite size. But this light gusty wind is probably the most terrible thing we meet when
snowkiting such difﬁcult areas. We are used to laugh about the touring skiers when the wind is blowing exactly to the right direction, and we are going up so fast with our kites, the touring skiers hiking hours and hours to reach the top of the slope and we can get up-there in a few minutes, then freeriding down just in front of the touringskiers, and going to the top one more time, again and again. But sometimes, I can assure to you that it would be easier to hike up with the quiet speed for touring skiing than having to make so great and tiring efforts with the skis to keep the kite ﬂying in the air and avoiding it falling down the ground. We spent one hour to get to the better place at the mid part of the route. One hour of very very hard time, mainly walking with the skis on the snow, step by step, with a real fear to see the kite falling when the wind sometimes was dying for few minutes.
Here, we can go easier, like you can see on the picture on your right. There is more snow as well, but deﬁnitely not so much as expected. We can see the top of the spot and still lot of grass everywhere. This is crazy. It was raining so hard yesterday, just down the valley, during all the day and all the night as well, that must be at least ﬁfty centimeters here. The weather is often so strange in the high-mountains. So, with the wind getting stronger, and now blowing to the right direction, we reach the top really easy. I spend some time for ﬁlming and you’ll see a video about this session coming soon at Vimeo. Filming during a snowkiting session is never easy in the mountains. Landing the kite safely, using the tripod for the video camcorder, communicating in the wind with friends for the runs, nothing is really easy.
AT THE PERFECT PLACE NOW
Because of the poor snowpack today, we can’t go really far. Cruising around on the spot is cool anyway. I often try to explane this pleasure to my friends. When I was a kid, I went skiing in the ﬁelds behind my place, hiking up with the skis, then skiing downhill for few seconds. I spent so so many days skiing this way. And nowadays, I can go cruising with my skis, pulled by a kite in the wind, and I go slow everywhere on the snow, without any effort, only real skiing pleasure, going uphill, then crossing slopes, going downhill, again and again. It’s a real
Well, after a while, a lot longer than we would do with perfect wind, we manage to reach the half-part of the route, where we meet a small wood-house for the shepherds during summertime. Once at this part of the spot, a lot higher than the place we started, the wind is no longer so gusty here, the place is near to be at the same elevation than the ridge situated up-wind on the east, which was killing the wind and making all these bloody gusts.
THE GREAT PLEASURE OF SIMPLE THINGS
simple thing, no extreme actions, nothing special, but maximum happyness. I don’t know if somebody understand. I give up to try explaining that now. I only go snowkiting and let the world going his way. Well, now I can see a lake behind the summit, this is the lake we were driving along when coming to the spot. It’s called Lac de Grand-Maison, very nice blue lake. Look at it on the page 11. From the top of the spot, we can as well check out the place we parked the car on the road. And we are looking at this place sometimes to see if some friends are coming to join us. But nobody comes. Of course, it’s tuesday and so many friends really motivated by snowkiting are working and they know that we are here after the post we let yesterday evening on our internet forum.
FLYING SAFELY WITH A KITE After cruising everywhere on the spot, Lolo decides to have some ﬂying runs. Since the begining of the snowkiting sport, the best kiters are ﬂying with the kites. Some of them are really good, and we can admit that we never see so many crashes for the ten past years. The photos of the kiters ﬂying are mainly the ones you will ﬁnd in the magazines around the world. So, I always tried to show the freeride snowkiting or freestyle moves. As looking at kiters ﬂying scares the people, and the
fact that this is mainly the kind of pictures we can ﬁnd on the medias, I didn’t make photos about it. I didn’t want to promote this way of snowkiting. But nowadays, a new-shool way of ﬂying is coming out. For the ﬁrst times we can see the top snowkiters ﬂying really long time in the air, about one minute, which is very long ﬂight, but without going high at all. They stay ﬂying close to the snow, cruising in the air along the slopes, inpired by nature, driven by the elements ;-) and having great fun without danger obviously. This is the way Lolo is ﬂying for the two past years. And so he is doing now, here at the top of our snowkiting spot of the day. The wind is perfect, about 10-15 knots, not so gusty, and the best part of the spot for ﬂying is as well the one with the more snow. Lolo will make some runs ﬂying never more than three meters high, mainly two meters for the most part of the time, and going more than hundred meters long. Flying in front of the wind, which is strongly recommended, reduces the speed and it is really nice to look at Lolo going down the slopes, two or three meters high, following the shape of the terrain for hundred meters long and landing softly at the bottom in the smooth snowﬁeld. You will see that in the further video about this session. Lot of runs ﬂying easy and landing, without giving any sensation of danger.
If something wrong happened, Lolo would fall from two meters on snow, even unlucky he couldn’t get injured seriously. After two seasons spent to look at him ﬂying, nothing wrong never happened. And so many nice ﬂights I saw give to me the motivation to learn how to do. Before ﬂying, we have to ﬁnd ﬁrst a super safe place, with lot of soft snow, cool wind without any gusts, and start by going straight donwnhill with the kite in the sky and trying to feel it pulling us up. All that without ﬂying yet. Only runs, and runs, going faster and faster, with the kite up in the sky, trying to ﬁnd its strenght for
ﬂying. The kite will go right and left, front and back, with the wind, and we have to keep it under control all the time and get more and more easy with such runs. We’ll speak later about how to ﬂy with further reports coming soon. This is the step I am with my ﬂying lessons, but today, the wind is not so easy, the terrain is a little bit difﬁcult, not so much snow, I don’t want to go over my level and have a crash in such conditions. So I can keep ﬁlming Lolo who is a master snowkiting ﬂyer, and gives a wonderful show for my next video movie.
Laurent Hémard showing here the new-school way of ﬂying with a kite. Doesn’t matter how you’ll put the bar. This way is inverted bar style, inspired by the snowkiting pioneer GG Josserand. But you can keep the bar as usual for snowkiting. Choose what is the best for you. The most important thing is to stay close to the snow all the time, following the shape of the terrain, ﬂying the more you can, the far as possible.
THE SESSION IS ENDING NOW OK, this is now the end of the session. It is near to 1pm and the snow is melting fast, the wind is dying as the forecast announced it. Zero degree will be at 4.000m tomorrow. It’s time to pack our kites and think to go down with the skis. We are not in a hurry so let’s have a rest here in the middle of the incredible landscape. We can see the Mont Blanc right to the north. An eagle is ﬂying above our spot. What a cool autumn day in the valley where we parked the car and lot of bikers on the road to the pass. That was a real cool day. Going for the ﬁrst snowkiting session gives every year a strange feeling. A new season is coming to us. How lucky we are to be here. Shall I remember everything I missed for this session, the sunbloker, my three oranges I’ m used to have on every session, the memory card of the GoPro camera, a thin beany to wear while going up hardly and sweating hell, my gloves, the GPS, and so many other handy things like a bottle of water for example. Lolo says that he would be happy to have his speedriding wing and now just having to go ﬂying down and landing near the car. Anyway, the run to the bottom of the spot, will be cool. We shall go on the parts of snow which are remaining here and there. We’ll have a stop at the wood-house down there for the breakfast, snakes and pies. Near the river, no more snow now, all was melting. Crossing the wood-bridge is a lot safer than it was this morning when completely frozen.
Once at the car, we decide to go to the Pass, one kilometer further on, and have a coffee at the bar which is open untill mid-october. The owners and the tourists saw us kiting at the top. The bar is just situated in front of the Montfroid ridge. We have to explane how snowkiting is working. Nobody could imagine before that we can go straight from the bottom to the top with only a kite and the wind. They ask the difference between a kite and a paraglide. We explain that it’s a kite like for the kids at the beach. We’re using it on snow to cruise in the mountains, without any skipass, as far as we want, we just need wind. It’s time to go back now.
BUT, WAS IT A SNOWKITING SESSION ? Our ﬁrst 2012 snowkiting session is over. But our mind is still full of these runs we had today. Well, it was not a full powder session. You saw it on the pictures. And for sure our friends on the internet will laugh to us about it. For sure lot of them will say that they don’t wanted to come for such a poor session. «Mind your skis», some will write. «The kitesurﬁng session was better on the lake» others will add. But no worries, we know that they all would be happy to come with us. And the main thing is that the snowkiting 2012 season is open now. How long shall we have to wait untill the next session ? To the next snow shower ? On good years we start snowkiting late october. Sometimes a lot later. Normaly the ski-resorts open on december.
We can understand that we’ve been really lucky today. So, I hope you had fun with this unexpected report. I apologize for the strange pictures with more grass than snow... And as well about my so bad english, but I’m sure you understand what I mean in the chapters, so all is right my friends. Stay tuned for further reports on White Kite Magazine coming soon.
If no snow comes during the further weeks the next report will be about our USA journey we had with Chasta last 2011 february. So amazing days we spent in Utah and Colorado. Let’s check it out soon. Cheers. Pascal
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