A SkiFly descent of the Glacier Ronde | ARTICLE

SCARPA athlete Will Sim has been wanting to learn how to fly for a very long time but kept coming up with excuses. The time finally come when he had to cancel all his plans due to COVID-19, he booked a lesson and ticked it off his bucket list. Read how he combined his love for Skiing and flying and made the decent down Glacier Ronde.

It is no secret that the Mont Blanc Massif above Chamonix is the ultimate playground for the mountain obsessed big kids that live in the town below. For many decades people have been discovering new ways to use the playground; enchaining objectives in to one other, doing things as fast as possible, climbing and skiing things in purposefully difficult conditions, with a rope-without a rope, and combining sports…..

There are so many logical ways to combine mountain sports such as skiing, climbing and flying. No-one likes walking down hill or abseiling, so of course flying or skiing down makes complete sense – as a concept it is just beautiful. Upon reaching the summit of a mountain you find a uniformed piece of ground to lay out your paraglider, and wind permitting you float effortlessly down to town in minutes.

Ronde
The Ski part

For a few years now I’ve been desperately trying to resist the urge to start paragliding. Feeling like I spread myself so thin by trying to do all the different disciplines of climbing, skiing, working and travelling away on long expeditions each year. I doubted I had the time to dedicate to flying that is necessary to do it well and safely. This year, with cancelled work due to Covid, the urge to fly was cranked up a notch and I realised that it was a cop out to say I didn’t have room for it in my life. I bit the bullet and learned.

Over a hundred flights, a couple of courses and many hair-raising moments later a perfect opportunity to test my flying with a ski/climb element had organically presented itself in front of me. The Glacier Ronde is a classic entry level “steep” ski on the west face of the Aiguille du Midi. I have skied it dozens of times over the years in all sorts of conditions. In early October this year the upper part of it was in perfect powdery condition, when the lower part was just rock and ice leading in to 2000 metres of grassy hillside down to the valley. It is conditions like these where the logic of ski-fly missions really become apparent.

Jake Holland, an old friend and very experienced paraglider was the perfect partner, and in true Chamonix style we managed to squeeze a ski-fly glacier Rond between a doctor’s appointment at 9.45 and an afternoon of cragging.

Ronde

The upper snowfield skied as well as I’ve ever had it. Upon crossing a small bergschrund halfway down the hanging glacier we buried our wings into the snow to stop them from sliding before we were ready, sorted our lines, clipped in to our harnesses and pointed our skis straight down the slope.

A moment of commitment was required before the wing inflated and before I knew it, I was flying over the enormous serac which defines the glacier Rond’s lower part. Minutes later I landed on the grassy field of the “Bois de Bouchet” in disbelief of how the thin membrane of fabric and some basic flying skills had allowed me to ski the Rond in early October, months before I’ve normally even taken my skis out of the basement.

You can find out more about Will from his athlete profile.

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