Thursday 13 August 2020

A Herefordshire man has completed an unsupported paraglide across the French Alps in aid of Wales’ lifesaving helicopter charity.

Last month, experienced paraglider Chris Ashdown, 51, from Ross on Wye, bought a one-way ticket to France and took to the skies on his huge adventure, which had previously been cancelled due to Covid-19.

A delighted Chris has raised £1,320 for the Wales Air Ambulance after seeing and hearing of the medics rescuing injured paragliding pilots.

The member of the South East Wales Paragliding Club, who regularly flies in the Black Mountain and Brecon Beacons, said: "I have been there on numerous occasions when they’ve attended fellow pilots in difficulties.  I’ve even had them turn up for me, but fortunately, I was OK.

“So, I thought it would be the right thing to do to try and raise a small amount of money for the service.”

His aim was to cover the area from Saint-Andre-Alps in the south, to Chamonix in the Northern French Alps and beyond into Switzerland on a ‘volbiv adventure’, which is French for fly camp.

Chris’ trip had many highs, as well as lows, which included flying in very strong turbulent conditions, unfriendly storm clouds, failed take-off attempts, losing his passport, credit card and cash and meeting a ‘lovely Swiss lady’ who paid for his ticket back to France.

Chris thankfully found his passport, credit cards and money once he returned to France and he has since paid the lady back.

On day four of his ‘volbiv adventure’, Chris faced a frightening decent. His cousin dropped him off at Plaine Joux for the start of the Chamonix Valley, which was going to be one of the hardest transitions of the journey.

After flying down the Chamonix Valley past the famous Mer de Glacé glacier coming off Mount Blanc, which he describes as ‘breath-taking’, he finally ended up low in a valley in Switzerland with a deep ravine and high voltage power cables just below the famous Emosson Dam.

Reflecting on what happened next, Chris said: “I knew I was in trouble and had one chance of an emergency landing in a small opening in the trees. At this point I had already settled for broken legs rather than the alternative, after a short 2hour 32km flight I eventually touched down to my amazement intact! Except for my wing which ended up in a large bush and a big tear in my flying harness which I managed to sew back up that night.

“The trip was absolutely amazing, more than I could have ever expected. This trip was an adrenalin-fuelled adventure that I will never forget!

“I want to say a big thank you to all the people who donated to the Wales Air Ambulance and I would like to give a huge thank you to my beautiful wife Sally for putting up with me, I can only imagine what I’m like to live with.”

To read more about Chris’ adventure you can visit his Facebook page Paraglide adventure across the French Alps.

You still have time to show your appreciation to Chris by sponsoring him here.