Paragliding Mount Blanc

Chamonix-Mont Blanc or the Mont Blanc region is one of the most famous regions in Europe for outdoor activities. Described by Mark Twight, the American mountaineer as ‘The death sport capital of the world’, the Mont Blanc region is known for its adventurous outdoor activities like ice climbing, rock climbing, canyoning, skiing, paragliding and rafting.

Mont Blanc (which literally means White Mountain) is the highest mountain the Alps. The mountain lies in the Graian Alps range between France and Italy.  The Mont Blanc region is also known for records of all sorts with August being the favourite month for pilots. Last year (2012) in the month of August more than 50 paraglider pilots successfully landed on the Mont Blanc summit to create a record of sorts.

Reaching Chamonix

To reach Chamonix, the best way is to reach the Geneva Airport and then hire a car. From Geneva, it takes an hour to reach Chamonix by cab covering an overall distance of 88 km. There are also minibus transport services available almost every 45 minutes from Geneva to Chamonix. This can turn out to be cheaper than hiring a car. If required, you can hire a cab once you enter Chamonix.

Paragliding

Paragliding is termed as the ‘purest and simplest form of aviation’. It is true. One does not need to be a trained paraglider to enjoy the adventure. Most private companies offer tandem paragliding packages for tandem flight. These packages offer visitors the opportunity to fly along with a trained pilot as a passenger.

The pilot and the passenger are securely attached together through a harness which has a seat for the passenger. It will be possible to view the fantastic scenery through the mountains when a trained pilot traverses the mountains. It also gives the feel of what it would be like when you fly, like a bird. Paid accompanied tandem flight is the best option for kids and tourists. While the pilot manoeuvres the parachute, the passenger can enjoy the amazing sights.

However there are people who are interested in paragliding on their own. Lots of companies conduct courses – even long term courses till someone becomes an expert in paragliding. You can often see a lead training a group of budding paragliders and guiding them across the mountains. A beginner’s course on basic paragliding techniques and a few hours of instructor accompanied training should be enough for first timers to try this out on their own.
Most of the people fly from the Brevent sky area. Depending on the location in the area, the cost differs. A 1,000 m vertical descent can cost you around 100 Euros while a 2,500 m descent can cost you around 200 Euros. Planpraz, Le Plan de l’Aiguille, Les Houches Prarion (west), Les Grand Montets and L’Aiguille du Midi are some of the locations where the one can start the descent.

Planpraz in Brevent ski area is considered as one of the favourite and perfect areas for a takeoff. It offers an excellent view of Mont Blanc, the glaciers in the Alps and the town of Chamonix.  Similarly, the Plan de l’Aiguille offers an amazing view of the Bossons glacier and the mountain torrents. One can even spot wild deer in the forest. This provides a view of the rugged mountains and the pine forests which are again, wonderful sights.

The time of take-off and the location are mostly decided by the wind conditions during that particular season/day. Warm cloth and Crampons (and appropriate boots) are required for paragliding. The mountain guides provide the harness and crampons too mostly. Long trousers, sunglasses and sun cream are also essential.

The mountain guides/companies would offer to take a video of you flying. The best but costliest option is to have another paraglider accompany you through the entire journey to pick up a video. Nowadays HD video services are available to capture your paragliding journey to perfection.

However, while the Mont Blanc is known for its beauty, it is also known for the frequent deaths through accidents in the mountains, avalanches and misadventure. One has to be really careful while enjoying the sporting activities available and the natural beauty of the region.

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