The header image is a panoramic view of the local flying area, viewed from the south. It’s usual for cross country flights, whether free distance or triangles, to start off heading east, towards Bellwald, mainly because the Goms valley has slopes with a more easterly aspect which work better earlier than the more southerly faces to the west.
The “milk run” is a 60-70km flat triangle, out along the south-facing side of the Goms to the Sidelhorn, the final peak before the Grimsel pass, then back again, and continuing past takeoff to the Riederhorn before turning around again to head back to Fiesch. In the example below, I took my first turnpoint a few km past the Sidelhorn, a couple of km beyond the Grimsel, and turned around a little short of the Riederhorn for my second (after which I then flew back up the Goms again to get over the Furka pass and land in the Urserntal).
The Doarama and XContest links show how weak conditions at the start, just after 10am, led to painfully slow and hesitant initial progress, but the thermals really switched on half way through the flight to enable me to speed up.
The classic free distance flight is straight along the main ridge of the Alps to Chur, 120km to the east. This is a great option when the general meteo drift comes from between south and west, not only due to the assistance of a tailwind, but also because several critical sections of this route are much easier to negotiate with the high cloudbase and inhibition of disruptive northerly winds which are associated with airflows from this direction.
In the example above, base was relatively low, but there was plenty of convective cloud to mark the lift.
A video showing some highlights of the route may give you a flavour of the trip, although we didn’t reach Chur on this occasion.
Many ambitious pilots have the prestigious 200km FAI triangle in mind (Rhône Glacier, Les Diablerets, Saas Fee, Fiesch). It’s best to attempt this route when the general meteo flow is as light as possible. I have yet to achieve this feat, so the route below is not one of mine.
Partly because I am based in Andermatt, I have a bias towards flying in that direction and beyond, rather than lower into the Rhône valley – hence the much greater detail in this website concerning routes to the east than to the west. For advice concerning the latter, I would recommend Burki Marten’s book, Cross Country Flying, which contains a section on Fiesch with the opposite emphasis.
My advice on how to tackle the various elements of the routes is coloured by my flying style, which by today’s standards is rather slow and cautious, by which I mean that I love thermalling, getting as far away from terrain as possible, and enjoying the view. I tend to avoid lee sides and like to stay within easy reach of landing options, so if your style is to point your 2-liner on full bar in the direction you want to go and only 360 when absolutely necessary, you will probably find many of my suggestions here hopelessly old-fashioned and pedestrian!
For a more expert approach, check out Chrigel and Michael Maurer flying through many of the areas in this section in a stunning recording produced by Swiss TV of an entire flight which they made together from Zermatt to Klosters, in conjunction with their XContest track logs. However, be aware that this was from quite early in the season – 3rd June 2015 – so their decisions are influenced by snow cover at a much higher level than is found later in the year (as well as the high performance of their Boom 10s).