Hike and Fly the "Kleiner Mythen"

I used to hike the smaller Mythen at least once a year with a paraglider on the back to fly down. Usually i took the Chaemi route which involves some light climbing. Many times I saw mountain goats, and once I slept near the top. Last year I didn’t make it, so I wanted to revive the tradition. Last Thursday I sent messages to some friends asking who would join. Pascal came. With good company the whole trip is even more pleasant. Just before we reached the summit, the fog came in and blocked the view in takeoff direction. We decided to descend. We almost reached Zwischenmythen when the fog lifted. So we hiked up again. The reward was a gentle glide into the sunset. I appreciated every second of the flight a lot more then if I went up with a cablecar.


The legacy banks in Switzerland

Transaction costs

I have a separate bank account for my tandem flying hobby at the local bank where I live. I didn’t want a plastic card for it, and setting up online banking turned out to be too complicated. So I pay a CHF 3.00 fee for every withdrawal at the counter. That is, if I go to the branch at my home town.
But last week I wanted to withdraw some money near where I work, less than 30km away, at a branch of the same bank. The teller told me that he would have to make a phone call to the other branch, and that the transaction would cost CHF 10.00
That was too much for me. Considering that a bitcoin transaction to Australia (16’000 km) costs CHF 0.02, the transaction cost of the retail bank per km is more than 250’000 times as expensive as that of BitCoin.


In Switzerland we usually don’t tell each other how much we earn, or how much we have on our bank account. Swiss Banks even had a reputation of secrecy up until recently. Naturally when you communicate with your bank, you expect this to be confidential. So I asked my bank representative for his public key some years ago, so that we could exchange encrypted emails. His answer was that I would have to use the messaging in the online banking platform in order to enjoy encrypted communication. I strongly dislike to have to log into different web platforms in order to communicate with different people. Some banks even communicate with their customers through centralized unencrypted social media, thus voluntarily introducing a man in the middle. I just had to accept what they offered for the time being. Hence I used this messaging system to cancel my credit card last year. He asked me if I wanted to cancel right away, or just not renew it when it ran out in a couple of months. I opted for the later. But then it was renewed nonetheless. So I asked what went wrong, and to please fix it. The answer was, that I didn’t specify when to cancel. Of course I did! Whether the message disappeared from the system because of some glitch, or was deleted intentionally to cover up incompetency doesn’t really matter. Fact is, the communication channel failed completely. Accountability is an important part of communication. This incident cost a lot of trust that I had in my bank.

Stranded funds

But the story with the cancelled credit card didn’t end there. Because it was not cancelled in time. Some company where I used a service, renewed without my consent. Thus they charged the card that should have been terminated by that time. So I had to send a printed form for the chargeback to the card operator. It took some time, but the money came back to my card account. And for another half a year, I receive a monthly letter stating the balance would be reimbursed next month. I misinterpreted this that it would be automatically sent back to my bank account. But it won’t. I have to send them another signed letter by snail mail to perform the obvious. As if it was 1995, and the electronic signature on my email was not 1’000 more secure than the ink on the paper.
Maybe I’m just spoiled with how well everything works with BitCoin. But the legacy banks really could do a better job.
Companies that deal with BitCoin usually:

  • Have competent and responsive customer care
  • Offer real two factor login with hardware tokens
  • Encrypt and sign the eMails with OpenPGP
  • Execute transactions instantly, not only once per work day
  • Have reasonable fees, even if the volume is still ramping up
  • Care about the usability of their platforms

And where they have limitations, they are usually imposed by the legacy financial institutions.

Paracuda walk & fly

In the Paracuda paragliding club, we distribute the organization of the events among the members. So I agreed to organize a “walk n fly” event in October. Usually pilots go up with a cablecar to go flying. This saves us from having to carry the equipment for too far. But for people that want to do a bit more sport and see a bit more from the nature, there is “walk n fly”. It’s the perfect undertaking for autumn, where the thermals vanished and the temperatures retreat. The interest was stealthy from the start, but I still hoped some people would join. To my dismay, I was alone on the meeting point.  That didn’t stop me from going to hike though. The Wasserberg was covered in a cloud, and the description in the Internet described the trail as difficult to find. So I save this one for later. Instead I went to the familiar Pfaff near Glattalp. About once a year, I take the cablecar to the Glattalp, and do the half hour hike to the Pfaff. It has a huge take off area with two possible directions. After I was airborne, I headed straight to the Kupferberg with a nice little cloud atop. As I approached, the birds left, and apparently the thermals as well. So I went to the next one. This was the mountain straight on top of where my father grew up. I remember looking up the wall when I was a kid, visiting my grandmother. It looked enormous from below, but at the hilltop looks very friendly. It even spared some thermals for me. In October late afternoon it’s already very nice, if you can hold your position for a couple of minutes. After cruising around in the Bisital some more, I landed right behind my uncle’s cows. That was actually the most difficult part of the flight. There is a tight grid of power lines, and only from atop I could spot a cell big enough to squeeze into. I had a coffe at my cousin’s house, and then hiked back to the car. The signs indicated more than an hour, but actually it takes only slightly more than half.


celebrating 2'000 flights

Last week, I didn’t even realize that I completed my two thousand’th flight. Only when I updated my flight log book, I found out. I knew that I’m close, but that day I did lots of short speed flights, and one of them was the one.
For the first one thousand flights I needed only four years. I celebrated the event with a couple of friends and a big bottle of Champaign. It was in March 2006 from the Zugerberg, and I top-landed after twenty minutes.
Since I don’t fly as much as back then, the second thousand flights took eight years. I held up the tradition with the Champaign, though. Not on the 2000th flight, which I missed. Instead, we celebrated the 2005th flight today, after I did three tandem flights for Peter from the Rigi.
So here is a small statistic:

Gliders 61
tandem flights 265
speed flights 145
flights with competition gliders 540
countries 20
flying areas 164

Lauchernalp Speedflying

During our family ski holiday last week, I went one day to my favourite speedflying location: the Lauchernalp in the Lötschental.

Enjoy the footage:

Chiemsee Holiday

Like for most people around here, summer holidays for us usually means going south. And that is what we usually did in the past. This year, we wanted something new. The countries north of Switzerland were unexplored territory for us in regards of holiday destinations. We had ideas to go to the netherlands, Belgium or the Provence. The Nordic countries, we wanted to save for later, for a bigger trip when the boys grow older. After some brainstorming and discussing, we settled on the north sea cost of Germany. It would be a long drive, but manageable wit the current age of our boys. Then we found out that Levin is still allergic to fish. So we figured, that going to the sea might be not such a great idea. At least a lake we needed so that we could do some kayaking. Thus, the next best thing was the Bavarian sea: the Chiemsee.
We both didn’t know the area. The closest I was before, was Berchtesgaden, where I was competing in the 2005 German paragliding championship. Lots of people told us that it is a very nice area. So we looked forward to it.
The day we drove there was full of postponings. We left only in the middle of the afternoon, and so we didn’t make it in time to check into the camping. Consequently, we had to sleep the first night parking in the driveway, with all the luggage still in the camper.

Our first canoe excursion was not so pleasant, as Noah didn’t sleep enough, and so he complained all the time. The area was nice indeed with lots of activities for the kids. Definitely the highlight was the fairy tale theme park in Ruhpolding. It is a paradise for kids, full of ingenious playgrounds and stuff to explore. Neither the flyer nor the homepage can describe how good it is. If you’re in the area with children, you have to go there!

The Chiemsee is on the flat land but very close to the mountains. As it’s on the flat, the underground is all mud. I had heard of two nearby flying sites before: Hochfelln and Hochries. One day we wanted to go to the Hochries, but the easterly wind was not suited for flying there, and the one person chairlift was a no-go for Mirella anyway. So we went to Kössen just after the Austrian border. I was very positively surprised of the flying area. It was well protected from the prevailing wind, and had enough room for many paragliders on takeoff and in the air. It reminded me a lot of Gstaad. After about an hour flying in the gentle thermals above takeoff, I decided it’s time to look after my family. Then I found out that landing next to the cablecar was the trickiest part of the flight. There were lots of small thermals close to the landing area.

One day we took the boat across the lake to have a ride with an old steam train. The boys were totally excited by the ancient technology. Next, we visited the castle on the main island. It was built for the fairy tail king Ludwig the second, who also built castle Neuschwanenstein. The castle on the Chiemsee island is a copy of the french Versailles palace, and although not finished, full of excessive splendour.

On the way home, we stopped in Munich to visit the BMW world with our two car fanatics. From every model sold in the BMW group, there was a piece in the exhibition. The kids could sit into all but the Rolls Royce. We had a hard time to get them out again.

Wallis Ski Holiday

Last week we spent a ski holiday in the Wallis. We stayed with Mirella’s mother. Most days we went to Bürchen to practice skiing with Levin, and have some sledge rides with Noah. Levin went to the ski school for half a day, but he didn’t like it at all. He preferred being taught by us.

I did two flights from the Ski area above to Bürchen. Both were in downward wind. At the later one, the wind was blowing down so strong, that I inflated in the lee of a small building, and then skied really fast to get airborne. The icy wind was a good test for my new down insulation layer jacket.

Mirella and me took one day off, and went to Zermatt for skiing. We were mildly shocked when we saw the price for a one day ski pass. That’s roughly CHF 80. But we were never before on the small Matterhorn, and the snow as well as the weather was perfect. The cablecar for the small Matterhorn runs up to 3880 meters above sea level. Well, one could say the Jungfrau Joch is not as high, has no ski slopes and costs even more. We had lunch up at the top and could feel the altitude. Then we descended into Italy before returning back to Switzerland.

And then there was one day with clouds forecasted. As all others had better weather, we made a break. But still, the sun was shining when we walked around the town.

Skiweekend in Hasliberg

Last weekend I was in Hasliberg wih the ski club “Schneefreaks” from Steinhausen. They booked two full days of tandem flights. So I did ten flights with skis and two with snow board. The weather was almost perfect and so was the snow.