Flights: Switzerland, France, Italy: Summiting Mont Blanc

Mt. Blanc is something of a personal achievement. I had been planning for it since the notion of moving to Germany materialized in 2015, and it hasn’t escaped my notice in the intervening time period. Prior flights in Switzerland showed I could get pretty close to the summit, though always from below and on the north side. Summer clouds, restricted areas in France, wind conditions, and summer heat meant I couldn’t quite get it up.

I finally took a shot at the nefarious south side, in Italian airspace, hoping to catch some rotors. I got most of the way, though not enough, and went home dismayed. Then I talked to a Swiss pilot, who looked up the French restricted area, only to find out that it restricts ultralights and gliders in July and August. So there basically is no restricted area for my aircraft type. In the USA, a restricted area is pretty much black and white: its restricted or not. The French version is more nuanced.

With that problem out of the way, I made another shot at it after a flight to Gran Paradiso in Italy. Coming over a cloud from the south side, I caught favorable winds, and up we go….16,000 feet, just enough to sneer at the summit beneath, though not quite enough to beat my [at the time] altitude record of 16,300’. After three years of fantasizing, it has been accomplished!

The approach to Mont Blanc looks like this. Roughly 10,500′.

Typical view of the summit (15,774′), below and to the north. 

Better, yet a bit repetitive. 

Tried the south side in Italy. View from 13,200′. 

Another day coming from Gran Paradiso, Italy. Clouds mean rising air…

…which meant success. Looking down on the summit. France in the background.