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Continuing with our weekend in Chamonix …

Planpraz is a plateau that is half way up the Aiguiles Rouge at about 2000 m. If you are going to Le Brevent, one of the summits on this side of the valley, this is where one change cable car. Click here to see earlier post with more photos around Planpraz.

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Planpraz is also the official launch site for hangliders and paragliders on this side of mountain above valley. On that day, the clouds were oppressively low and there was no visibility above Planpraz (which was the reason for us to hang around Planpraz).

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Apparently, Mieusey, 50km west of Chamonix, lays claim to the birth of paragliding in 1974. There are numerous flying schools in Chamonix for the brave souls.

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Big thermals, eagles, glaciers and high peaks make the Chamonix valley one of the best flying areas in the world.

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Cool nights and hot days create large temperature gradients resulting in powerful thermals and strong valley winds. The season starts in March and ends in October, but it is possible to fly all year long.

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Most of the flights we saw there were tandem flights – a lay person flying with a pilot. There were lots of ads in town for this activity – obviously very popular with tourists. Below are a sequence of photos which follow the setup and take off of one such flights – it only took 15 minutes.

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I(Chris) did tandem hangliding and Sue did tandem paragliding in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where we flew off a cliff out towards the sea and landed on a beach. It was mindblowing.

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In my experience, the only scary part is when you start running off the side of the mountain and jump … you initially fall … and fall … then the sails pick up the wind and lift you. That short moment of falling was terrifying.

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We did not try flying here. But I am sure it will be quite an experience as the descent will be at least 1000 m. They landed somewhere in the village on the valley floor.

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It is also possible to take off on the Mount Blanc side (opposite from us) and from Aiguille du Midi which is even higher at more than 4000 meters, that is double the altitude of Planpraz ! One can stay up for at least twice as long.

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It must be freezing cold up there especially when you are riding the wind and it will take some time before you land. Just imagine your hands and fingers becoming numb or frozen and preventing the proper operation of the parachute  … oops.

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On that day, even with the clouds, there were always five or six flights up in the sky at the same time for much of the day.

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