2290 flights from Grente

a 12-year analysis

Out of 100 biggest flights in the Alps, 60 were flown from Grente. Far, far behind in the second place comes Fiesch with only 7 flights. Promise of an easy 200+ FAI triangle draws more and more km-thirsty cross country pilots to the Tyrolean meadows. If you want to join Club-200 I invite you to benefit from a 12-year history of paragliding flights from Grente Alm. I analysed 2290 tracklogs published by 626 pilots in five XC online contests (XContest, Leonardo, DHV, XCC and XCPortal). These are my observations.

Popularity

(number of claimed flights each year)

number of claimed flights from Grente per year in years 2005-2016 - chart

During the same 12 years there were 6 times as many claimed flights from the legendary Fiesch, but if we look at 2016 alone, the proportion is only 3:1. Grente attracts pilots, because theoretically the chance to have a 200+ flight is 11 times greater. In reality it’s not that easy – because of the 800 m hike up to the take-off, pilots decide to go there only on the most promising days. This means that the real potential of the site could be overstated. So how many people turn up on launch on a good day anyway?

Between 2005 and 2016 there were 246 flyable days on Grente. On such a day an average of 9 pilots claim a flight. But of course days aren’t identical – pilots know how to read weather forecasts and show up en masse when they expect the best conditions. On average, on days when it wasn’t possible to fly even 100 km only 2 pilots claimed flights, on days when it was possible to fly between 100 and 200 km – 7 pilots, and on 200+ days – over 20 pilots.

Crowdedness

(number of claimed flights each flyable day)

number of claimed flights from Grente on a daily basis in years 2005-2016 - chart

The highest number of claimed flights on one day was on 21st May 2016. On that day something around 150 pilots launched from Grente. Crowd is not a problem – take-off is huge and the more wings in the air the easier it is to fly fast. Day when only one pilot published a flight from Grente and it was a 200+ route last happened in 2008. In the last 3 years there were only 3 days with a 200+ potential when less than 10 pilots hiked up to launch – so if someone likes flying solo, this is not the place for it (anymore). Well, unless someone doesn’t care much for my statistics and takes off with only 6 friends and flies a triangle of 214 km (which happened this year on 9th April).

Grente 2014-08-17
Grente takeoff on 17th August 2014 (photo: Bernhard Beaury)
And main photo of the takeoff by Fritz Dorninger

What a season looks like

(flights throughout the year – 2005-2016)

flights form Grente in year 2016 - chart
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
(all)

Season lasts roughly from the middle of April till the end of August, but there aren’t many 200+ days per year – only six on average. If we look at the last 3 years alone, the average is a bit higher – 10 good days per year. The highest number of 200+ opportunities were in 2015 – 12 days. Exceptionally good days usually come in ones. In the 12-year history there were only 13 times with two 200+ days in a row. Serie of 3 days with at least two 200+ days happen only once a year. Only once in Grente history there were 3 big XC days within a straight 5-day period.

The best months

(average number of 200 km+ flights in each month)

average number of 200 km+ flights from Grente in each month - chart

Statistically the best chance for good conditions is in May and June. More than two good days in one month means it was exceptionally good. The earliest 200+ (actually two – 217 km and 216 km) was flown on 12th April (in 2015) and the latest on 22nd August (in 2013). In September the chances are over (although it was possible to fly over a hundred at the end of November once).

What do good days look like

…in April:

In April the season gains momentum pretty fast – between the beginning and the end of the month the difference in day length is of 1.5 hours. Aprils don’t offer many chances for good XC, but if the conditions are really good, it’s already possible to fly a big triangle. The record of April is 264 km. These are the good April days from the last 12 years (more info in the image captions):

… in May:

The record of May is 286 km. It’s the third result in Grente history. That day (21st May 2016) was only 35 minutes shorter than the longest day of the year. The second half of May is the beginning of record season. Examples of 200+ days in May:

… in June:

The biggest triangle from Grente (and one of only three 300+ in the Alps in history) – 300,65 km – was obviously flown in June (8th June 2014). Statistically speaking good days in June are less common than in May, but if you want to break a record, you better pick a long day. This is what the high season looks like:

…in July:

The biggest number of good days in July (four 200+ days) happened in 2013, but this month’s record (277 km) is older – 27th July 2012. That was also the day of the best Polish flight (265 km – Dariusz Chrobak). Since then the best July day was in 2014 (273 km).

…in August:

It’s rather the last chance for a 200+ flight. At the end of month there’s 2.5 hrs less sunlight than in June. The latest flown 200+ was on 22nd August 2013. The best flight in August was 269 km.

What do not so good days look like

Nice cumulus early in the morning might mean thunderstorm in the afternoon, so clear skies in the beginning are often a good sign. Storm on the last leg – in the Dolomites – kills the chances for 200+. Northerly winds could also stop you from completing a triangle. These are some examples of bad days:

What class of wings perform best in Grente

glider classes of 250+ km flights - chart
Flights over 250 km

The record flight was flown on a Mentor 3, which is an EN-B glider, but out of all 98 flights of more than 250 km (done by 57 pilots) the majority was flown on EN-Ds or comp wings. Only one out of five of such results was achieved on an EN-C and equally many on an EN-B.

Where do the best pilots take off from

(takeoff height vs distance flown)

takeoff height vs distance flown from Grente - chart

The main take-off stretches over an altitude of 200 m. Does it make a difference if you climb to the very top? The record flight started from the Grente peak, but the second longest flight started from 100 m lower (but also half an hour later in the day). I wouldn’t draw any conclusion from this chart, except: the best pilots don’t necessarily take off from the top.

Grente 2015-08-11
Top of the Grente takeoff in August 2015 (photo: Bernd Humpl)

When to launch

(takeoff time vs distance flown)

takeoff time vs distance flown from Grente - chart

The latest take-off time to a 250+ flight was at 11:16, but the majority of big triangles were started before 10 a.m. To pass the 300-km mark, Bernhard Peßl took off on his EN-B wing at 8:59 – 19 minutes before the next pilot on that day (there were ca. 50 pilots on launch) – and he stayed in the air for 12 hours and 10 minutes, which is also a Grente record, by the way.

Grente 2014-06-08
12 minutes before sunset (photo: Bernhard Peßl)

Importance of the cloudbase height

(maximum altitude vs distance flown)

cloudbase height vs distance flown from Grente takeoff - chart

It’s difficult to fly more than 200 km if you cannot climb over 3500 m. However, the cloudbase might rise significantly during the day and the parts which require higher altitude are further down the route, so low beginnings do not necessarily mean it’s gonna be a bad day.

Grente 2016-06-23
Ceiling at 4700 m – a 269-km-day (photo: Rastislav Mutný)

What’s up for grabs?

The big-3 mark was passed just once, and flights 250+ are still a big deal. The best flight by a Polish pilot is 31st in the overall ranking. Only three Polish pilots did triangles of over 250 km, so there’s still room for improvement. Below are the top three results overall and Polish + the best result in each wing class.

Record flights from Grente (overall)
1. Bernhard Peßl 300,65 km EN‑B
2. Alex Happacher 292,56 km EN‑D
3. Alex Happacher 285,81 km EN‑D
7. Simon Wamser 277,45 km EN‑C
Record flights from Grente (Polish)
1. Dariusz Chrobak 265,88 km EN‑D
2. Kuba Sto 263,25 km EN‑C
3. Dariusz Chrobak 257,3 km EN‑D
8. Maciej Ziętara 240,22 km EN‑B

I’ll write about preparation, tactics, and traps in next post, but probably in Polish only. Preparing this analysis took me more hours than I’ve flown from Grente (and I’ve been there 18 times). If you want to encourage me to write more, you can buy me a beer or a glider. Thank you.

Kuba Sto

Enthusiastic cross country pilot and competitor. Stubborn sports class worshipper. Past and future member of the national team.

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