Tag : alps

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The Flare Line Review

For me, this summer was spent in The Alps with occasional climbing but mostly a balance between running and flying. Despite having flown paragliders in various guises since 2014, 2023 has marked a high point with more flights than any year previous and a lot more variation. I’ve not flown paramotors this year, but I managed to fly a good deal of speed and paragliding with some run & fly to keep the fitness up.

I had some great flights on my Swing Mirage RS+ 7m, did a lot of ski slope proximity flying on the Flare Moustache 13, the Skyman Speed 15 was taken up a few mountains and the Phi Maestro 2 Light was a great antidote after heavy days with a lot of speed.

There was one wing that I flew however which was simply breathtaking. In the summer of 2023 I did my first flights on the Moustache 13 (so I was a relatively late adopter to the Flare way of flying) but at the same time I was also given a tiny prototype wing that Flare were working on, now called the Flare Line. After a couple of days flying around on the ‘old news’ Moustache, I found myself in Mürren on top of an 800m cliff contemplating whether to become one of the extremely early adopters of the Flare Line 9m. I was absolutely terrified.

To give this a little more context, the smallest wing I’ve regularly flown is a 7m speedwing, the Swing Mirage RS+ comp. This is one of the fastest speedwings you can fly with an incredible dive which feels like going from a gentle glide to simply falling out of the sky. So I’ve had some experience flying comparatively very small wings in the paragliding world and should have an idea how to tackle this new wing.

The thing is, I’m not a test pilot and had never flown a prototype wing before. I also knew a few of the scary details but none of the ‘oh it’s actually fine’ details, so that made the very first launch above Mürren somewhat traumatic. I walked quite high above the village for the first launch so as not to fly straight into the cable car…

The Flare Line 9m

This review is intended for those pilots who speedfly to get an idea of what the small version of the Line is about. I’ve not flown the 8m, 11m (or 13m/15m) versions, nor have I flown it in strong winds so this is primarily aimed at the proximity speedflying pilots.

The 9m version of the Line is in my view equivalent to a ~6m speedwing in dive and an ~11m speedwing in glide when flying at 65-70kgs. That’s to say it dives very steeply AND glides exceptionally well. This performance has never been seen before in speedflying. It’s also something I never thought I’d see in speedflying or enjoy since NEO’s Steep Active System (S.A.S) didn’t exactly take off. Well I was wrong!

There is a catch however which I will come back to: speed.

Ground Handling & Launch

While the Line is relatively easy to play with on the ground you never really get a feel for how it flies, particularly in the 9m size. The riser system is the same as that on the Moustache so full hands up is equivalent to trims fully open, and hands down somewhere near the L&R tabs is trims closed. When ground handling in strong winds even with the hands down, you don’t really get any lift in the same way you might if ground handling a Spitfire. You get the idea of what might happen, but it’s not very comforting until you actually start to run downhill.

Flare tell people to launch the Line with all the risers over the arms like a modern speedwing but I actually prefer to launch by holding the base of the A riser. This seemed to work better in my view when forward launching as long as you’re ready to catch the shoot and run. Beware – When reverse launching the 9m in strong winds, it will overshoot very hard and immediately frontal, i.e. nothing like the Moustache. In this instance it’s definitely better to launch with the cobra technique, or forward launch without holding any riser and immediately run as fast as possible.

This is also a good time to mention a launch habit that a lot of pilots seem to have. When launching especially in nil wind or a slight tail wind it’s important to catch the shoot of course, but on any Flare wing it’s very important to then run fast with the hands up. The higher you get your hands at the running phase, the more energy you have access to on the brakes. Even experienced pilots seem to easily stall Flare wings on launch by running with very deep brakes. That position works on a paraglider but with the Flare risers, full speed is a much higher hand position.

For my first launch on the Line 9m, the wing came up fine and using the technique described above the launch was actually very comfortable. I’m used to foot launching a 7m speedwing so that certainly helps, but the Line launches much more easily. If you keep your hands high, you have so much energy to access straight after launch. Essentially, if you give this wing the same respect you’d give when launching a 9m speedwing you should have no trouble.

Initial Observations

When you first fly the Flare Line, three things become immediately obvious. The first is the energy in the brakes. No other wing comes close to the amount of power you have when pulling down the toggles. Second is the speed. More on this later, but it’s clear almost immediately on takeoff that the landing field will need to be huge. Third is the rush. When you first take the Line high, you might pull a big 360 to see what happens. If you’re used to small speedwings you would expect to just dive down as normal but on the Line, the rush (g-force) is beyond anything you would expect. The reason for this is again the speed.

The Line Rush

When you first learn spirals on a big paraglider, you go slowly because it’s hard to take the amount of energy (g-force) that quickly builds up and feels like a rush. The reason for this isn’t the speed so much as the long lines, meaning you are spinning a long way from the wing. This pendulum effect pushes all the blood to the feet and gives you the light headed/narrow vision associated with approaching g-LOC. This doesn’t happen so much with speedwings, you can do even slow spirals easily with little-to-no g-force effects. Yet on the Line for some reason I found that any slow diving manoeuvres had quite a marked rush effect. I don’t know 100% why this is, but I guess it has something to do with slightly longer lines than an equivalent speedwing and the massive increase in speed. It’s manageable but is something to be aware of, and you should build up the swooping dives slowly if you’re not coming from such a fast wing.

Flying Technique

In terms of physically flying the Line, I would say that it is like flying a Moustache 13m but everything is incredibly amplified. Once you are used to the speed, the same physical motions are used to control the Line as you would a Moustache which means the same micro-pumping technique is very effective for tracking the ground. With any Flare wing, once you reach a very low altitude above the ground you can maintain this even if the ground starts getting steeper by adding some small inputs symmetrically. This forces the wing to use up some energy by climbing, meaning after the climb you sink to a lower level than before to regain the lost energy. It’s not a technique I really see or use in regular speedflying, mostly you can just pop-up and add a roll to lose height quickly, but the mico-pumping technique seems to work really well on the Flare system in the absence of snappy rolls.

The Size, Glide & Dive

As I said above, the Line 9m glides like a good 11m speedwing (i.e. Mirage) at a TOW of around 70kg. If you’re heavier, i.e. around 80-85kgs, I imagine best glide would be worse, equivalent to maybe a 10m high AR speedwing. Gliding on the Line is a very strange feeling. You can pull the brakes very deeply for best glide and the glide becomes noticeably very flat. It’s an unfamiliar sensation for two reasons, firstly you just can’t glide that well on any other small wing, and secondly you’re still travelling incredibly fast even with the brakes so low.

The dive on the Line is equally odd but for different reasons. As above I think it dives like a 6m speedwing, i.e. very deeply when you’re high above the ground and put in a big turn with hands fully up. The strange part is that when you are flying straight at best glide and then put your hands immediately up, you don’t drop out of the sky like you might expect. To me hands up feels very similar to the first 2 seconds after you exit a barrel roll on a normal small speedwing. It’s very fast but doesn’t feel overly steep. For example on the Line 9m if you want to proximity fly down a red piste you regularly need to go fully hands up to track the terrain. So it’s not like you could track anything really steep like a black piste and expect to be able to follow the terrain with only full speed – you would certainly need some aggressive turns or to roll, something that I think can be quite difficult if you were flying very low, as I’ll mention later.

Hand Position

To access this glide and dive, I found that you can’t position your hands the same way as you would on a Moustache. For the Moustache 13, I hold the toggles with my middle finger. You don’t need very much strength at all so this is very easy to do and it also means you can reach full speed without over stretching.

This doesn’t work on the Line because of how deep you need to pull the brakes when landing. The travel on the Line is much more than the Moustache; best glide is where you pull low enough to start engaging the brake line which feels nearly down to the carabiners. A full wrap like when flying a speedwing also doesn’t work because it becomes hard to access full speed for a long time. To solve the issue I found holding the inside of the toggle loop right under the acro t-bar worked well giving full speed but also plenty of flare for landing. For those thinking they could just change up the hand position in flight, I would be super careful doing this. In the worst case scenario you drop one toggle as you change position but the other toggle stays down at best glide, you’re going to go into a full dive on one side which would burn a lot of altitude.

Flare for Days

The Flare! I’m not going to write too much about the flare of this wing, partly because it’s incredible and words wouldn’t do it justice, but also because the flare actually contributes a lot to the challenges of the wing. All I can say is that if you try the Line 9m, you’ll be blown away by the flare even with relatively little energy build up beforehand. The 11m and 13m Lines will surely be equally miraculous.

Weaknesses? & Challenges


To be fair the speed of the Line isn’t a weakness but it’s definitely one of the challenges, particularly in combination with the flare. I would suggest that to fly the Line you should be able to speedfly a wing at least 2m smaller to have any idea how how to control speed in the air and along the ground.

As previously stated the flare is incredible, it just glides and glides when landing even without too much technical swooping knowhow. The issue however is that this is surely one of the fastest (if not the fastest) foot launchable wings out there, so the swoop takes place over incredibly long distances. To explain this better I’ll use two other wings as examples – a 7m Mirage, and a 5.7m Rapido 3X.

When flying the 7m Mirage, you can comfortably land within 100m, maybe 80m at a push. You can also make the landing about 150m if you make some spiral dives and swoop the landing field. In Lauterbrunnen, I met up with Joey Innes who flies the 5.7m Rapido 3X, a truly tiny wing when seen in person. After doing three or four super aggressive spirals, the flare was only around 120-140m in distance.

How does this compare with the Line 9m? I struggled on my first couple of landings with the Line. The speed was far more than I was used to, so I took things as easy as possible. On my third flight, I didn’t do any turns, instead just controlling my approach with the pitch. The flare on this landing was 150m, 10-20% longer than the 5.7m Rapido 3X, without a single turn.

The following day I took the wing to Lenk: a great place to test proximity and with a big enough landing for some gentle swooping. The shortest landing I had that day was around 140m with the longest being about 160m. I’m sure after a month of flying the 9m you could get to 200m. And that is the issue because in some places like Les Deux Alpes, the landing is only around 120m long. Even Chamonix’s biggest landing field is only 160m long unless you take a last minute turn through the trees.

This flare on landing is clearly a challenge but it’s also a huge positive for pilots used to small wings. It’s a common occurance to stall a small speedwing when landing – trying to land a speedwing smaller than 9m with trims closed is a recipe for this. From my flights on the Line it’s clear that the stall speed is very slow and even in nil wind you can often land at a fast jog instead of a sprint. It’s actually surprisingly hard to stall the 9m Line on landing so I guess the 11m would be good in that regard for a lot of pilots who haven’t flown the smaller speedwings yet.


The Line isn’t like any other wing you’ve flown, in the smallest sizes it’s the fastest most scary thing you can reasonably foot launch. Paying careful attention to electric fences and the usual hazards that you get on mountains is so important. You’re going so fast that you can’t expect to see every fence or obstacle in the long grass ahead, so do some high passes over your chosen line first before you decided to fly at ground level and pay really close attention to anything that you might get snagged in.

Barrel Rolls & Riding

The Moustache wasn’t built as a speedwing so understandably it isn’t a wing you would want to barrel roll very close to the ground. In flying the Line 9m, I’d say that this characteristic is definitely improved. In the smallest size the Line is incredibly rolly. I’m still not sure it’s as snappy or direct as something like an Ozone R3, but from what I’ve seen it definitely barrels well. I’m interested to see what other pilots do with the 9m Line, but I get the feeling that it lies somewhere between the Moustache and a speedwing, certainly closer to the speedwing but not exactly. I feel like this is more of a wing where you can be higher up on the line and do a slow roll into it, but then use the pitch control in the toggles to maintain altitude, rather than just endlessly rolling down a slope. I’m sure consistent snappy rolls are possible but I think you really need to dial in your toggle usage so you know exactly where in the long range of travel you start and end the roll.

For that reason I don’t imagine this would be the easiest wing to fly in cracks or close gullys, but more of an open slope machine that sticks to everything but the steepest ground. I’ve only tested the prototype and this review is being written before any official details of the wing are made public so I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the launch video features a pro flying it down a super steep and narrow crack.

Equally, this isn’t going to replace a speedriding wing, not least because of the speed and flare risers. Given that this is one of the fastest wings, I’d imagine that regaining the snow with the Line 9m and even 11m would be a challenge if you didn’t have a long and gentle slope. It’s not something you would choose for riding on steep or twisting terrain. It’s not just the speed though, I’ve not ridden with the Line but I’d guess that it wouldn’t enjoy low speed unloaded riding where you also ask the wing to track you around tight turns. For pure French style speedriding with lots of slope contact time, any other dedicated speedwing would be a better bet.

One last thought on rolling – when flying the 9m I didn’t actually feel much need to roll. I was enjoying the pitch control so much with this wing that for once it was actually enjoyable not to pop up and roll to get back down to terrain. If you really enjoy rolling, you might find it strange that you had so much fun just tracking the terrain, you didn’t even think to add any barrels.

Usage & Sizing


One thing I haven’t yet mentioned is how stable the wing is, i.e. how does it actually fly in moving air, is it twitchy or nerve wracking in any way? Firstly it’s important to note that any wing can collapse and if you collapse something as small as a 9m speedwing regardless of the special profile or any reflex, the reactions will probably be quite violent. Potentially fine if you’re up high but I wouldn’t recommend flying any small wing in heavy turbulence. With that said, I flew the Line on a couple of thermic days with some conditions that wouldn’t be super fun on a normal speedwing and actually the Line felt solid. I don’t know whether the additional brake travel means you can more effectively active pilot but it really does feel like a solid wing to fly. I wouldn’t recommend going hands up through really rough air, but as soon as you go to best glide it seems fine. I was at least as confident as on my Mirage RS+.

So that brings us to what this wing would be best for. Bear in mind that this is only a personal opinion and I will also be using a speedflying & speedriding wing which might influence times where I don’t use the Line. I would also suggest to those looking at Flare wings that a Moustache 18m (depending on TOW) and a Line 9m, 10m or 11m (depending on experience) would be the best options in the Flare range. I think unless you’re doing regular high wind soaring, a Line wing takes away the need for a Moustache 13m and the Moustache 18m is far more versatile than the 15m at 70-80kg.

Summer Ski Slopes

I think the Line wings excel in the same spots as the Moustache 13m with the advantage that they can fly steeper with only a slightly steeper launch (and longer landing). If you frequent ski resorts in the summer, the Line wings are perfect because they can track all but the steepest pistes.

Lenk is a great example of a ski resort which in summer is too shallow for very small speedwings because the various launches aren’t too steep and there are long flatter sections down the mountain. Despite this, the Moustache 13 doesn’t feel dynamic enough for these pistes – the Line is much more nimble and carving turns lose more height so you stay near the terrain far more easily.

Big Mountain Flying

I would also seriously consider the Line for big mountain flights. The Line has a good tolerance for higher wind launches (if you use the cobra technique), launches well in nil wind and has a much better glide when needed than a traditional speed wing. This is often needed on big mountain flights to cross flatter terrain such as glaciers or escape a forested area before landing. A good example would be flying from Mont Blanc to the North. You could easily launch, then do a huge spiral down the north face before roughly following the Grands Mulets route which in places can be quite flat (i.e. le Grand Plateau). Just a final note on packing size, the prototype version has plastic rods running down the middle of the wing similar to some EN C/D Paragliders. While this does hinder super tight packing sizes (an R3X 5.7 is roughly 1/3 the size of a Line 9m when loosely packed) the wing still packs small as you’d expect for a 9m wing. This might be something to think about if you’re very tight on space, if you can only just squeeze an R3X 9 in your bag, the Line 9 might be a struggle.

Windy & Smaller Hills

Somewhere else where the Line would be a fantastic choice is in windier places with smaller hills. The Line copes well with strong winds thanks to the Flare DNA, but it also would make many of the hills in the UK for example much better for speedflying because of that additional glide. Often pilots need to land in the middle of the mountains because the flat sections are just too long to overcome on a normal speedwing. Additionally, if the landing was short I would prefer a normal speedwing however if you had plenty of space but it was uneven and rocky, the Line would definitely be a better choice. Despite the initial landing speed it slows down more than a speedwing eventually and even on the 9m you can finish the flare at a fast walking pace with enough initial energy.

Wing for Travelling & Unknown Lines

The previous examples are quite specific, but I think there is one place that the Line would be better than any other speedwing. That is as a general all purpose travelling wing. This isn’t to say that you need to go travelling with it but more that I can’t think of another wing that would be better suited to a mix of known and unknown lines. For example, if you regularly fly the same very steep spot and don’t plan to change, stick with a classic speedwing. If however you like to fly lots of different lines and go to new places the Line would be perfect. It minimises the “is this section steep enough for my speedwing” question, and also removes the question “is this line too steep for my Moustache”?

In this instance where you’re looking for one wing, I’d say that the Line 11m is probably the best allround wing you could buy. That is to say it will fly relatively steep lines and I’m sure you can learn to roll it precisely given time. It will also fly lines that are not steep enough for a speedwing while retaining that speedwing feeling of high roll and speed. You could speedride with it at a pinch, it won’t love lots of snow contact but for more flying with fast lines through flat terrain it would be awesome.

Of course there isn’t a best wing for all conditions and ideally you’d take a speedwing and a Line, but this is costly when you also might be holding onto a collection of paragliders, paramotor wings and a single skin.

That said, I think the Line would also be an awesome standalone speedwing if you don’t want to add it to a collection of other wings. I do think however that despite the Flare brand sitting within the paragliding/speedflying sector of aviation, it’s best to think of Flare wings as an entirely different element of flying. They’re certainly not just paragliders, and the Line isn’t exactly a typical speedwing. So despite not wanting to encourage the western philosophy of purchasing far more toys than you need, I do think there’s ample reason to add the Line to your wing line up without selling existing wings (unless you have a Moustache 13/15).

So what size Line?

My thoughts on this change on an almost daily basis, but I think for the majority of people in the majority of situations the Line 11m would be the best size. One thing I have yet to mention is that, on the prototype at least, there were different attachment points for the A risers meaning you could trim it shallower or steeper. If this is a feature on the production model then this further extends the usage of the 11m.

The 9m Line is a fantastic wing, but it starts to get into the territory of sub 8m speedwings which I think probably makes it less versatile than the 11m version. Perhaps it’s 10% more exciting but 20% less versatile and for sure more demanding. Similarly, I’d imagine the 8m version is again 10% more exciting and another 20% less versatile, making it a very specialised wing.

However there may be a middle way – I think it’s quite likely that Flare will make a 10m version of the Line, in which case you can probably forget everything above and just get this Goldilocks size.

Of course Flare are also making bigger sizes, a 13m and a 15m, but since I’ve not flown them I can’t suggest how they will be different from the similar sized Moustache wings.


This review is meant to give someone who already speedflies a good idea of what this wing, particularly in the smaller sizes, would be like without any of the marketing spiel. That is to say, this is a very fast and dynamic wing with a unique handling compared to a speedwing. Hopefully this review serves as a good overview of the challenges and also the many benefits of the wing.

That said, if you find yourself on a steep slope with a Line you will quickly realise just what a special wing this is. The most anticipated speedwing (ever?) definitely lives up to the hype.

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To Run and Fly

Since finding my love for flight, I’ve explored as many facets of this incredible mode of transport from the perspective of paragliding as possible. Free flight, paramotoring, speed flying, speed riding, and mini-wing mountain descents. I love all forms of this sport but this year, I came back to the reason I started flying in the first place; to walk up a mountain and fly back down. No worrying about catching thermals, turbulent air, noise pollution from a motor or finding a football field-sized landing spot to swoop down on an 8m speed wing.

In short, I wanted to do a project that captured my love of flight at its simplest, but instead of walking I would be running, and instead of taking on UK hills I would tackle the Alps. Both of these decisions would turn a very simple idea into one of the most challenging projects I’ve done to date.

The Route

The idea for this project was to take in as much of the Alps as possible, moving slowly through the countries and along the main valleys in the long alpine chain. This meant that the project would start in Slovenia, a country I had previously not visited, let alone flown in, and meander its way through Austria, Italy, back into Austria, through the bulk of Switzerland, finishing above the beautiful lake of Annecy in France.

Fortunately for me, my partner decided this would be a great year to cycle the length of the Alps while recording the conditions of the major glaciers along the route. Whilst this was a noble undertaking, it provided a continual reminder of how climate change is drastically altering some of the most beautiful places on earth. This was no more apparent than when we arrived at the Marmolada glacier which hours earlier had partially collapsed killing 11 people and injuring a further 8 just meters from our intended route. Despite this somewhat sobering goal, for me at least it meant the bulk of the route was premade for me, I simply had to find 15 suitable sites from which to run and  fly.

Though the main route of travel was set, I would keep the actual day routes for the run and fly completely flexible, instead identifying around 30 potential mountains to run up. By doing this, I could decide which run I would be doing each day based on the conditions I saw. Whilst this was certainly the best way to conduct the project, it meant every day there were decisions to be made about which mountain would be climbed, what to take with me (or more realistically what could I leave behind) and what the intended flight plan would be. This certainly wasn’t a relaxing holiday, but more a project of repeated stress, exertion, success and attempted relaxation which recurred on a daily basis.

Run and Fly Equipment

To take on a project such as this meant finding the right equipment for the task. This is no easy feat and like all good gear decisions it required a healthy dose of agonising over technical specifications.

Starting at the feet, I used the Inov-8 Parkclaw 260 Knit shoe. As much as I loathe Inov-8’s desire to keep whitewashing ultrarunning, I do have particularly wide feet so needs must. As a medium term review for these shoes, I wouldn’t recommend them based upon the sole disintegrating after only 8 moderate trail runs.

There isn’t much to say about the clothing system as it proved to be so hot that I only ever flew in shorts and a t-shirt, so my handmade flight wind trousers sadly never made an appearance…

For the backpack I used the Ultimate Direction SCRAM bag. Whilst it’s another bag to add to an ever-growing collection it’s by far the most versatile bag I own. I’ve run with it fully loaded, climbed with it, flown thousands of vertical meters with it, and throughout it has been like a silent partner going everywhere with me and carrying everything I needed for the entire trip. I can’t recommend this bag highly enough if you combine the fast and light approach with multiple sports.

The last piece of running gear were the Sungod Ultras. I’m an ambassador for Sungod so these arrived free for my project, but I think after using and abusing them over thousands of km’s and across an entire continental mountain chain I can give a little feedback. The benefits of the Ultras are how light they are. They feel weightless on the face and the coverage while running in the sun is superb. The customisable nose pieces were incredibly useful, as is the ability to change lenses on the fly. The compromise comes with durability vs. weight – for pure running these are absolutely fine, but when being stuffed in rucksacks and enduring the harsh treatment that comes with hike and fly, I worry that they are very light. The upside is that the glasses come with a lifetime guarantee, so I guess my concerns are taken care of.

The flying equipment was where I felt I made real compromises. I knew I needed a wing that was light enough to run with, performant enough to cope with true alpine conditions, and rugged enough to cope with that same harsh hike and fly treatment I put the Ultras through. Until this year though that wing simply didn’t exist. I knew I needed a single skin paraglider as it just wouldn’t be possible to run with the bulk of a traditional double skin even in the smallest sizes. But the only options were the Dudek Run and Fly at one end of the spectrum, and a host of other gliders such as the AD UFO and Niviuk Skin 3P at the other.

The Dudek wing is light, absolutely perfect for running with, but it lacks almost all the other characteristics I needed. It lacks the long term durability for sure, but crucially it’s slow and in a headwind it lacks the penetration needed to make safe landing options. At the other end of the spectrum, those wings are higher performing but they achieve that with much higher bulk and weight which would make running a mostly miserable experience.

I was edging toward the Skyman Running Edmund because it almost hit all the targets, but then Skyman told me about a new wing they were working on; the Skyman Speed. This is the most innovative single skin I’ve seen to date. It’s a 2-liner so it’s good through the air, it’s stable, it’s very fast for a single skin (hence the name), and whilst being very light it’s made of cloth just heavy enough to stand up to rough treatment at unknown launches.

Having used this wing intensively for a couple of months I’d rank it as one of the most fun wings I’ve flown, almost the easiest to launch (let down by longer lines that are tricky to manage on a small rocky take-off), and by far the best wing I could have hoped to have for this trip. I wouldn’t run and fly with anything else currently available.

The harness I chose was the AirDesign Le Slip – by far the lightest harness I’ve flown (even lighter than my previous Skyman String), and easily the most packable – it folds completely flat so is perfect for fitting in a small bag. It great too, even for longer flights.

The last mention is for the Skywalk Tapa X-Alps reserve. Despite the slight weight increase and added bulk, I never considered running this project without a reserve. Perhaps if I was racing where every gram and second counted then I might consider not taking one, but for this trip as soon as I heard that the Tapa was being released as one of the lightest reserves the decision to carry one became a no brainer.

What is Run and Fly

Before talking about how to train for this project, I first need to describe what it actually is. I’ve given the basic premise above; to run up hill with a wing and then fly back down. But what about when you can’t run up a hill? Many of the hills on this project are very steep, they’re the sort of hills that are often quicker to walk than run. The vertical KM in Chamonix was one of my targets for this project, and as runs go, it’s very steep (there are sections of 45% and steeper), but for this project it was nowhere near the steepest slope I intended to ‘run’ up. So my question in designing this project was to define what counts.
Without going into any more depth than necessary, I determined that run and fly is running on downhill, flat and slightly uphill sections, and then ‘power walking’ any hills that were too steep to run, i.e. if you can’t run them, then walk as fast as you can. The differentiating point with run and fly and hike and fly is that with hiking there is an emphasis on walking for the full distance. With run and fly the emphasis is on moving as fast as possible which is usually running, but clearly it’s not possible to run up every gradient. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going around 1.5x faster than the hiking signs are estimating, you can count your effort firmly in the run and fly category!


In order to train for the Alps run and fly, I was limited to the UK thanks to the good folk who thought voting to restrict their own freedom of movement was an anti-immigration brainwave.

This didn’t prove too troublesome, particularly for the running training. The UK has plenty of steep hills which would give ample practice for what I intended to do in the Alps. These hills also provided some truly horrific weather which I thought would set me up well for any adverse conditions I might face on the continent.

My training therefore featured a variety of distance runs at home on flatter terrain which I complemented in the hills with as much elevation gain as I could. Typically this meant running up to 2 hours on moderate ground, and up to 3 or 4 hours in the mountains. Other than adding lots of stretching and some climbing strength work, I did very little else to prepare for the running.

I did experiment with nutrition on the runs, but invariably my runs in the Alps would be short enough to mostly forgo eating any food on the way up, instead saving as much pack space as I could for water.

As for flight training there’s far too much to cover here, but specifically for this project, I did plenty of flights on the new wing, a crucial step before taking it somewhere big like the Alps. I also trialled a few different tactics, mostly focussed on packing the wing for the running bag and being efficient on launch. I considered leaving the wing attached to the harness after each flight, but eventually realised it was faster to detach the harness and focus on folding the wing and risers consistently.

So by the time I left the UK, I was about as prepared as it was possible to be for a relatively large step into the unknown. I’d be flying in a country I’d previously not visited and taking on so many variables that it was impossible to train for every scenario that might occur. Therefore, with everything considered, I was ready.

Run and Fly the Alps

Instead of talking too much about each individual day, I will instead give a brief overview of what the project achieved, and then take a more analytical approach about the successes and challenges of the trip as I feel this is the most benefit I can provide anyone wanting to do a similar voyage; a reward for reading so far!

Mountains Flown


Goli VHR South ridge launch, 1787m (RandF)
Goli VHR West face launch, 1787m (RandF)

kanzelhöhe, Annenheim, 1524m (R)
Wallackhaus, Grossglockner, 2300m (RandF)
Hochstein, Lienz, 2057m (R)
Gschwandtkopf, Seefeld, 1495m (R)

Monte Faloria, Cortina, 2123m (RandF)
Flatschspitz – Cima Vallaccia, 2566m (RandF)

La Palette, Les Diablerets, 2170m (RandF)
Les Ruinettes, verbier, 2300m (R)

l’Index (via ferrata), Chamonix, 2400m (RandF)
Planpraz (vertical kilometre), Chamonix, 2000m (RandF)
Aiguille de Varan, Passy, 2544m (RandF)
Mont Chéry, Les Gets, 1826m (RandF)
Montmin, Annecy, 1280m (RandF)

Total Stats:

Vertical meters run up: 14,705m
Miles run: 67.2
Vertical meters paraglided down: 10,105m
Vertical meters run down: 3,746m


What went well

Whilst training for this project, I was less apprehensive than usual and instead quite excited about the prospect to fly in some amazing places. My excitement turned out to be more than justified by the incredible positions I found myself either running or flying in. Having never flown in or even been to Slovenia before, I had no gauge on what the country, terrain or people would be like, other than the various Google searches I made before I arrived. The flights I made from Goli VHR were some of my favourites. It was relatively isolated, quiet and in some ways the perfect run and fly. The run up was 700m vertical, and it happened to be at the perfect angle where running and power walking was possible, but not too steep that progress was hard fought. As the run concluded, the path brought you out onto the summit ridge which immediately gave superb views across Slovenia and southern Austria. I initially thought it wouldn’t be possible to fly from the summit given how narrow the ridge was, but with some creativity, I laid the wing over a clump of nettles and then launched along the summit ridge until the ground dropped away underneath me. Beyond Slovenia, there were Austrian and Swiss meadows, gigantic rock formations of the Dolomites, and breath-taking glaciers hanging below 4,000m peaks as we travelled into France. Despite having spent long periods of time living in the Alps I was certainly taken aback by the sheer scale and contrast of the mountainous areas which doesn’t really come across from maps alone.

I have some pride in completing this project because it turned out to be far harder than I anticipated. The weather played a huge role in the difficulty of the challenge and despite starting the runs between 6 and 7am each morning, it was difficult not to succumb to heat stroke. Combining this heat and the sheer remoteness of many of the initial mountains, the difficulty becomes a huge collection of challenges that need to be rationalised and solved in order to successfully complete each day.

The route we took through the Alps was a mostly obvious one. It could be far better given more time, but with the objective of crossing the Alps in a reasonable number of days, our route gave us the best of both worlds – speed across the mountains whilst still providing magnificent vistas that were good reminders of why we love this place.

Perhaps the biggest surprises of the project was that it was successful! On the surface the task sounds easy, but back-to-back days of big climbing over multiple new locations that have only been scouted on Google Maps and Komoot made the challenge seem harder each successive day. There doesn’t seem to be too many people doing actual run and flys, i.e. running vs hiking. So by completing this project, I hope this helps run and fly to become a little more popular, not just using single skins in the big mountains, but for the everyday run up and save the legs on the way down; the reason so many people started paragliding.

My final point in this section is a combination of success and challenge that is certainly a point of learning. As I previously mentioned, I was attempting this project in conjunction with my partner who was challenging herself with an attempt to cycle between 6 of the main glaciers of the Alps and record the conditions when she got there. The combination of both our separate projects at the same time is certainly unique, but it did offer difficulties and also wonderful motivation when the going was quite tough. A short summary of the difficulties would include the fact that two very tired people will struggle to find water, do the shopping, find suitable parking areas and generally recover compared with one very tired person and one well rested one. It’s very difficult to know how you will react when you’re a week into an exhausting project and the conditions are much more challenging than you could have prepared for. If you add into the mix that our accommodation was a very small van (small for one person, laughably so for two), you can begin to appreciate that we did well to survive the experience.
In contrast to this aspect, whilst I wouldn’t recommend that couples rush headlong into separate challenges whilst living in extremely close quarters, there are definite advantages to this approach. On a practical level, we could both attempt our objectives in a short time scale, and it’s more carbon intensive to make the same journey twice. But on a more emotional level, there is a definite motivational advantage to be gained when you are following your partners extremely difficult journey whilst attempting one of your own. It gives you a purpose to reach the end goal for the day (not least because there’s only one van between you, and it’s probably a long way away from the cyclist!), and it also lifts you when you have set backs. It’s proved so worthwhile to be able to ask how the other person was coping in the heat under different circumstances, and to be able to rationalise what the best strategies were for coping with the heat.
In short, certainly a relationship testing situation, but one that can really forge you together when the going gets tough.

What was difficult/challenges

I think this section will be the most informative for those interested in starting out or considering run and fly objectives.

The Running
It sounds obvious to point out, but one of the largest challenges was the continual running! Almost every run featured around 1,000m of elevation gain. This is relatively significant for a single run but doing this on consecutive days is tough. Add in the weight of the kit (which despite being ultralight for paragliding still weighs around 5kgs) and the project becomes a war of attrition.

The Weather
Part of the reason the runs were so difficult is that I generally chose the steepest most direct lines. I chose July and August for this project and although I expected heat, I didn’t anticipate the 40oC temperatures that came over multiple heatwaves. This heat was almost unbearable to run in by 9am even in the higher mountains. So this meant starting early and going as quickly as possible to beat the heat. It’s difficult to describe how debilitating the heat has been but even when finishing by 10am, heatstroke was hard to avoid.

The Treeline
Climbing above the treeline was something I didn’t particularly consider given that trees don’t feature much on UK mountains. In many areas of the Alps however, trees dominate the hills to the point where it’s just not possible to launch in many places. Even if there is a clearing on Google Maps, the trees below the clearing may still be too tall making launch impractical. What this translated to is always running above the treeline. I did this on every mountain and it just added to the effort because even if I felt like the sun was too strong or I didn’t have the energy to continue running uphill, there was rarely any opportunity to just fly back to the valley until that line had been crossed.

New Sites
On almost every day, the site was new. This added so many challenges to mentally process while scoping out possible flying areas and during the runs. It didn’t help that I was doing the project solo, where every decision was made and ultimately owned by me.

A typical run would include observations of the windspeed and wind direction, scoping out the landing field before running and then finding emergency landing sites mid run in case the valley winds picked up too much while I was flying and I was forced to land mid slope (this happened once, it was very scary, I’m glad I scoped out 3 alternative landing sites!). Even before running I needed to know how much food and water to take, whether there was likely to be any water enroute and often how far the run back to the van would be once I’d flown. Once at the launch spot, making a personal assessment (you’ve just spent the past 2 hours running 1,500m vertical so you might be tired!) and then a complete weather assessment. How thermic does it look and feel, what are the clouds doing, is the wind in the valley and on the summit blowing the same way, can I comfortably clear the launch area, and most importantly, can I make the intended landing? This last one was a headache on multiple flights, it involves calculating the direct glide slope from the launch to landing and ensuring the wing can fly at least that glide ratio; then factoring in the conditions – a headwind will cause penetration issues and my glide ratio will drop. The launch itself needs to be considered; does it go? It’s very different looking at Google Street View at valley level vs. standing on the edge of a cliff with the wing fluttering behind you in the morning breeze. Finally, it’s the morning so are clouds going to be an issue; what happens if the landing site clouds over beneath you while you’re in the air? And have you seen the power lines? Power lines are easy to see on the ground, but somewhere between difficult and impossible once flying; flight instructors often say it’s worth taking almost any course of action to avoid hitting power lines even crashing into difficult terrain, so it’s worth making sure you know exactly where they are before launching out into the abyss!
This list is not exhaustive but gives a good idea what the thought processes are. In short, once you’ve spent 2 hours running up hill and you stand on the narrow summit edge, you need to be clear about what happens next and make the right choices.

Wind speed
Wind is one of the biggest enemies of single skin wings. They can easily soak up strong thermals but with an increasing valley wind (a common occurrence in narrow alpine valleys) single skins can get stuck (pinned) or in the worst case pushed back. Even the Skyman Speed with its trim speed of around 45km/h is no match for big alpine winds and getting caught out is a scary prospect. This made weather forecasting a big headache as there are very few reliable options that forecast wind speed across the whole Alps and at all elevations. Mountain Forecast gave a general overview, but certainly wasn’t reliable as a standalone report.
This was most notable while flying from Flatschspitz – Cima Vallaccia in Italy. After one of the biggest runs of the project, I felt relatively light but certainly strengthening winds on the summit. I launched quickly into messy air and gradually worked down to the treeline. Once over the narrow valley that funnels wind between Austria and Italy, the wind speed dramatically increased and I became effectively pinned. The forecasted windspeed was 5kph, but this certainly wasn’t the case in reality. After a rapid identification of hazards, I realised that going further into the valley between high tension power lines wasn’t a wise move, so instead I lined up a tiny patch of grass surrounded by trees on the hillside below me. I was almost stationary in the air, the slightest touch of brakes sent me backwards at a considerable ground speed. Trying not to panic, I hovered over the landing field and used a combination of brakes and hands up to do a vertical landing. I lined up the field perfectly however once under tree height the dreaded rotor than was now piling over the trees in front of me gave me an instantaneous tail wind and I rushed toward the ground. The wing handled this beautifully and I skidded to a halt just before the bordering trees. I was unscathed but came away with a big lesson – winds in narrow valleys are unpredictable and despite the forecast, the largest margin of error is needed, particularly with a single skin.

The Journey Across Europe
During this project, the run and fly accounted for less than half the time each day. Starting by 7am, I’d finish by 10am with a further 12 hours to use before sleeping. We tried to spend this time wisely, by finding water, restocking food, making our way to the next site and generally recovering. In some respects this was the hardest part of the project, not least because of the heat. Despite the great weather for (very) early morning flying, I would struggle to recommend anyone does a lengthy run and fly project in July when late August/early September can offer the same settled conditions at a fraction of the temperature. When getting back to the van at 10am, the temperature inside (even with window covers) was over 30oC. By 12pm, the temperature would be closer to 40oC and would stay that way until late into the evening. Sleeping at over 28oC for weeks at a time after high output exercise during the day is no way to recover. This heat induced fatigue meant that even after finishing what should have been the hardest part of the day, in reality there was no rest. This was compounded by the difficulty of finding water in some places. In France it is particularly easy to refill the van water supply, but in some parts of Austria and Italy, we found it very difficult to either find or trust water sources. Occasionally we resorted to buying bottled water which whilst annoying and doing nothing to minimise our impact, provided a great distraction between still and sparkling water. In eastern Austria particularly, it was often impossible to buy still water with the choice instead being the various ‘grades’ of sparking water available – another terrible recovery technique.
Sticking with the van for the final point, parking was an inevitable cause of stress. In some areas parking was easy and it was possible to park directly at the start of our intended routes. But as we travelled west, especially once we reached Switzerland, parking became more and more scarce and less and less tolerated. It seems in Switzerland there is a very strong anti vanlife sentiment to the point where drivers will actively inconvenience themselves and other drivers just to ‘beep’ at vans stopped in parking areas. This made finding suitable flying sites in Switzerland very difficult and was certainly a factor in choosing more Austrian and French mountains from which to fly.
The reason for mentioning these van related issues is that this project is primarily a ‘transiting through’ project. It’s not based in one place and relies upon easy travel between sites. After a hard run and fly, the last thing you want is to be struggling with water or parking, jeopardising your recovery and starting the next day with more exhaustion than necessary. Due to this, the planning of the project (which was relatively meticulous) can only go so far, and a recce of the entire route would probably make the entire project 10x easier than an ‘on sight’ attempt.

Whilst one of the more fun challenges I’ve set myself, this one really pushed me in so many ways, right from the drive to get to Slovenia and the very first launch along a narrow alpine ridge.

During this project, I changed to some small degree what I thought run and fly was. I started with the assumption that any uphill movement would be through running, however the run and fly ethos is also about moving quickly with superlight equipment. What this means is that you no longer need to choose manageable paths, you can combine many elements such as running, scrambling, via ferrata etc, and move uphill on routes that aren’t quite runnable, but are certainly much faster than walking. I also changed my views on whether I felt I had achieved a run and fly if I wasn’t able to fly back down. I flew from the majority of mountains, but there were a number where the weather conditions just weren’t safe and I was left with the only viable option – to run back down. I realised that this is where run and fly excels. On one hand, you have a paraglider that isn’t quite as good at handling strong winds or thermals, but instead you have such light equipment, running back down with it is almost as enjoyable as the flight. So instead of worrying about the flight back down when you’re spending lots of effort running up hill in very marginal conditions, I think run and fly is about the intention to go as fast as possible and to get back down via the best way possible; it doesn’t quite matter how you move, just make it quick and fun.

I’m excited to see where else I can take the run and fly principle. In the future, I’ll be aiming for similar projects, but maybe also incorporating a little less running and more climbing; with the single skin wing technology improving every year, I think we’re certainly at a point where paragliding and alpinism mesh together really well. The obvious issue for that is the same challenge that was ever-present on this journey, the heat. The summer of 2022 has been steady stream of stark warnings, from the collapse of the Marmolada glacier to the continual rockfall that is occurring at ever higher elevations across the Alps. Travelling across the Alps has been a stark reminder about what is happening, and to some extent, highlighting the hopelessness of the situation. Without trying to end on a bleak note, it’s hard not to be upset and angered by the change in the alpine environment. It is upsetting to know what most major glaciers in the Alps will be effectively gone by 2050; by 2100 the Alps will be entirely changed and traditional Alpinism won’t really exist. It’s angering to know that nothing can really be done to slow down this extreme change in climate, and what little can be done is being overwhelmingly ignored by governments.

So for future projects, everything needs to be on the table. Flexibility will continue to be more and more important in the mountains and while run and fly/climb and fly/hike and fly and vol biv are perfect combinations for changeable situations, it is important to remember that this is because of the demands of climate change just as much as it is about an enjoyable choice.

If nothing else, thank you for following me on this small journey. I hope you have enjoyed the updates which have perhaps piqued your interest in run and fly, and ultimately I hope this helps to bring this niche a little closer to those with a desire to travel fast and fly high.