Introduction

Fiesch is a village in the eastern part of the Rhône valley in Switzerland. This region is called the Oberwallis, meaning the upper part of the canton Wallis (or Valais), and the highest section of the valley, leading east to the Rhône Glacier, is the Goms. It’s one of the most outstanding locations in the world for free flying.

I created this site as there seems to be very little information available about Fiesch for pilots who can’t understand German, although the local club website contains a wealth of useful details in visual form which doesn’t require linguistic skills.  I hope that setting out some of what I have picked up over the years will help others to avoid some of the mistakes which I made through trial and error, and to get more out of their flying here. Bear in mind that I love thermalling, getting as far away from terrain as possible, and enjoying the view, 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 my approach hopelessly old-fashioned and pedestrian.

Another feature which you may find annoyingly old-school (but for which I make no apology!) is that the pages are set up for viewing on a large screen, because there is simply more detail to convey than can be displayed on a smartphone.

You can dip into the site as you please, but I have set it up so that the most logical path is to work your way through the headers from left to right, as some of the content as you progress in this direction refers to information which appears in “earlier” sections. For example, much of the detail about routes will make more sense if you have already read the section about winds.

Unless stated otherwise, all the example flights are mine.  Links to ayvri visualisations and XContest records are included to demonstrate how the routes have actually worked in practice.  All the flights have been selected to illustrate specific points, so as well as straightforward ones, I have selected plenty with problems in order to show recovery from mistakes.  Unfortunately, Doarama’s 2018 migration to ayvri has undone all the edits I had made to the visualisations, so I have had to add directions to fast forward to a certain point to view only the relevant section of these flights.

The majority of the pictures here were taken by me on a small compact camera during flights from Fiesch, and many of the headers have been constructed from multiple images using the panorama facility in Photoshop Elements. Other pictures were taken by my wife, who has her own website.

This site is aimed at experienced, independent pilots who are competent to take full responsibility for their own safety in big mountains.  Please don’t think for one moment that it will enable you to fly here safely if you don’t already have a sound general appreciation of all the factors which can produce hazards in these conditions, and can recognise combinations of terrain and airflow which spell danger – it won’t.  However, the CFIs of the two excellent local schools (Flug-Taxi and Flying Center Oberwallis), who speak good English, have told me that they are happy for less experienced visiting pilots who would like professional guidance to get in touch before arrival to discuss their needs, which could range from a simple briefing at takeoff to tagging along with the school all day.