Paragliding may look a bit dare devil and the sort of sporting activity that is reserved for experts but the truth is that pretty much anyone can give it a go. Tandem flights are available in many tourist hotspots and as long as you can run a few paces you will be fine to jump. You will be strapped to a qualified pilot and take to the air where you can enjoy the serenity and snaffle the best views of the region.
Paragliding is spectacular wherever you jump from but the best place I have experienced is First, which is high above the town of Grindelwald in Switzerland. I have been visiting the area since I was a child and there are few views to rival the dramatic vista you enjoy here. In front of you are the great peaks of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau and sine I first tried paragliding I had wanted to make the jump from that spot.
Finding myself in the region once more I contacted a local sports agency to arrange my flight and was asked to wait at the appointed time outside of the cable car station. My pilot duly arrived by bicycle with the huge pack containing the tandem glider strapped to his back. He asked if I had jumped before and was relieved when I said yes because he was concerned about the conditions at the top of the mountain. The site from which we would jump sits at over 7,000 feet and the late thaw meant that there was plenty of snow on the ground up there. We would have to run on slippery ground and this would not be a good situation for the tentative.
I assured my pilot that I would not be intimidated by the jump or the conditions and we climbed aboard the cable car. When we arrived at the top station there was indeed a lot of snow around and the take-off area resembled an ice rink! Fortune favours the brace, however, and I was happy to go. The only issue was the temperature which was somewhat lower than in the valley and I feared I had underdressed as I was wearing only a light jacket, hiking trousers and a scarf. My pilot set up the equipment, strapped us together and there I was poised for action and ready to go. I had now forgotten about the cold and had to concentrate on the run ahead.
My pilot emphasized the need to keep running down the slope no matter what and said that if we slipped on the show we may be dragged along the ground but he would take appropriate action to ensure our safety. I was earnestly hoping that we would not slip as I didn’t like the idea of having to take evasive action which I presume meant trying to stop us getting dragged off the edge of the mountain!
On the count of three we started running full tilt down the hill and within seconds I could feel us lifting off the ground and taking to the air. After a brief sigh of relief that we had not slipped I surveyed the glorious landscape and revelled in the flight. We swooped and soared above the valley with glorious vistas in every direction and eagles flying all around. I didn’t want the flight to end but eventually we had to descend towards the valley and after a fabulous 40 minutes in the air we touched down safely in Grindelwald.
Jumping from First was everything I had hoped it would be and I would urge anyone visiting the area to take a flight. You will never experience anything so peaceful and beautiful once you have managed that run down the hill.
Article by Sally Stacey