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Thermals: a Val d’Anniviers paraglider ends up in the stratosphere

Caught in a thermal column, a young paraglider from Zinal will mark one year spent in space come this 13 March. This incredible adventure has its roots in the stirrings of the first lockdown. His family tell his story.


March 2020. Aurélien Epiney, 29 years old, senses the wind shift. Anxious to make the most of his freedom before the expected lockdown, the young Zinal native treats himself to one last paragliding trip. ‘Aurélien always had a good nose for things’, says his father, Vincent, holding back tears. ‘Just you wait and see – they’ll shut everything down, or so he said. So, he went off for one last trip’.

It was an outing that should have lasted a couple of hours. But a half-day quickly morphed into a journey without end. ‘It’ll soon be a year that he’s been floating around up there’, says his sister Eugénie, with a proud smile.

 

Thermal currents that are out of this world!

After leaving from the cabane de Sorebois mountain lodge in search of thermals on which to begin his ascent, Aurélien very quickly found what he was looking for. ‘Maybe he had too much of a good thing’, sobs Vincent. ‘It’s obvious that he needed a thermal current to gain some altitude, but he clearly underestimated the micro-climate in the Val d’Anniviers. Here, we’re really lucky with the weather’.

Rapidly taken up into the troposphere, the young paraglider reached the stratosphere in the space of a few hours – disappearing without trace – or almost. ‘A few hours after we were expecting him home, I took out my telescope’, Eugénie says. ‘I saw a little white spot which I quickly lost from sight. I was half-blinded by the sun at the time, too’.

 

No news of Aurélien

It’s almost a year now that the Epiney family haven’t heard from their eldest child. However, his nearest and dearest aren’t worried for him. ‘Aurélien’s very resourceful. Even if he’s in the stratosphere, he’ll have his feet firmly planted on the ground’.

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