After Alderney I took 3 more of my 21 days to visit my brother in Switzerland. Here’s is a bloke that has known what he loves, known that he is good enough to do this as a living, and has invested years of training and determination to become qualified. You have to know yourself to choose that path. Inspirational really – mixed with envy – the boy’s a ski instructor. And in the summer months to fill the gap, he works as a paragliding instructor. Sure.
My trip to the Alps in the summer taught me 3 things. One; that I will never be a paragliding instructor. Two; I learnt to trust my brother. This is no easy feat. he phones at 4.30pm – “Do you want to do a tandem flight with me? Then meet me in half an hour. Don’t wear your flip flops.” (The next day I tried a spot of hiking in flip flops, and no, I was not too successful actually.) So I jump in the van with his boss and his students and my very cool Nike high tops. His boss giggled at every bend in the road as we ascended asking “Tommy how many tandem jumps have you done?” and I count the number of times Tom asks “Are you nervous Em?”; 12 times. Its not that I don’t trust him, its just that I grew up with a BB gun aimed at the back of my head whilst I made him and his mates tea. If I forgot sugar, the nostrils flared and the eyes went dark. Dad’s house was filled with my shrieking, and Tom’s: “dad I never kicked her!” and doors slamming as chases ensued with wet tea towels. All great fun of course. When the step siblings arrived on scene and my new step sister used fork force under the Sunday table, right in the thigh, I knew I was saved…
So as he explains that we would be starting to run down the mountain and just do not stop running until we’re in mid air, I laugh nervously. So does his boss: Hysterical. “You have just got to trust me that I know what I’m doing Em” he says with conviction. Okaaay… so we run, and as I continue to run cartoon-like in mid air we become very high up very quickly. My hands are white with holding on. I am panicking. “Are you scared of heights Em?” – Yes. Yes I am. Its not natural to be up here with a wing and a sibling who is addicted to adrenaline and also has vertigo… He seems to be in control. “Do you want to know how high we are?” “Do you want to know how many times I have been in charge of a tandem flight?” “Can I do a corkscrew?” – The answer is “no” to all of these questions. And bless him, he didn’t corkscrew. Though I then had to hear it when discussing with all his mates “She didn’t even let me corkscrew…” What a bitch. And turns out despite over a thousand solo flights, that was his third tandem. Jeepers. Our sibling relationship has been strengthened by the experience though. Because we didn’t die. Top lad.
And so to number three; to experience the Alps in the summer was awesome, in the original sense of the word. We roadtripped from Verbier over to Chamonix seeing the panoramas of the Rhone Valley on the way. Decided as we were there to go up the Aiguille du Midi. In shorts and t-shirts we went from 35 degree heat to 5 degrees, from 1000metres to 3800metres. And this is where my brother’s vertigo kicked in. When he did not have control. The exposure of the viewing platforms is breath-taking – in the literal sense that you cannot breath. The air is thinner, and you have ascended so quickly that the adrenaline is overpowering. Really made us both a bit mad. Him so more than me; Ha!! But my god, to be so close to the summit of Europe, so aware how small you are, and to experience those views – it is something I will never forget. And bloody good sandwiches in the cafeteria too.
To run, or ski, off a mountain with Tommy or his delightful colleagues, visit http://www.verbier-summits.com/