We crossed back into Austria via the Brenner, then vaulted a series of mountain ridges (E) coming across from the Stubai Alps, to end up in the Inn Valley. Looking east it was murky, with cloud almost on the valley bottom. To the West it was slightly better so we pushed up the valley, getting as far as Landeck before the lift died under a thick patch of strato-cu. We couldn't climb higher than 7,500', leaving little hope of crossing the Arlberg Pass, 30Km distant and 6,000' ASL.

Slowly, we worked our way up the Drau Valley towards Lienz (A). By this time most of the higher peaks were producing showers and spreadout but as there was a light SW drift at altitude, the northern side of the valley still had some occasional sun. We were able to tuck up into the narrow gap between the ridge top and the cloud and creep past the airfield.

Much double-checking of maps and GPS before committing to cross each ridge
Low cloudbase, weak thermals and much cloudiness did not bode well after our launch
We were now getting towards the 'end game' and starting to think about the way back to the UK. The general weather pattern over the Alps was tending towards instability, leading to widespread showers and storms. The forecast charts for the next week showed pressure falling slowly and fronts moving in from all directions. We decided to leave Nötsch and head west towards Italy or Switzerland.

We launched at 1115 onto a ridge near the field. Conditions were weak with a relatively low base. We could already see extensive development in most directions but there was a possible exit to the WNW. It was hard to tell what lay ahead as the visibility in the valley was around 20Km and large amounts of cloud were shrouding the higher peaks and stopping us seeing round corners.

Once over the border, there was less rain but still large amounts of build-up and spreadout. We considered routing west via Merano to get to the Engadin but there was too much overcast. To the North there was shower activity blocking the valley up to the Brenner Pass. We spent half an hour rockpolishing in weak thermals near Bressanone (D), by which time a gap in the rain had appeared and we were able to move further up towards Vipiteno.

It had been another fascinating day with every step taken requiring a great deal of thought. Throughout the flight the weather had been closing in behind us as we progressed and going back would have been difficult, at best. We had set out with hopes of reaching Switzerland but the storms over the Arlberg made this a non-starter. We would probably have ended up landing in a field near Lichtenstein, if we had tried. In the end we covered over 400Km and had positioned ourselves nearer home.

Beyond Lienz we were forced to carry on into the Hohe Tauern due to showers blocking the Pustertal (B). There was a small patch of quieter weather on the edge of the Grossglockner Massif, which we used to get to 9300'. The height enabled us to cross the valley and get a good run just over the top of a 20Km E-W ridge, gaining 800' without stopping. Looking back, the area we had flown through was exploding into cu-nims, though we could still just see a route out to fields 45Km away.

Reaching the end of the valley (C), there were three passes heading in different directions. After independently scrutinising our maps and GPS we committed to the central pass and pushed through rain and cloud to pop out in a side valley leading down to Brunico in Italy.
Looking SW to Bolzano in the murk, and the route westwards is blocked by showers
Route to Switzerland blocked beyond Landeck
Landing in the rain at Innsbruck

We ran back towards Innsbruck and soared near Seefeld for a while, then tried again to cross into Switzerland. By now the area around Imst had developed huge cu-nims which had cut off all the sun and the sides of the valley were fast disappearing into blackness, shot through with frequent lightning. We beat a hasty retreat and landed just before six. Shortly afterwards a spectacular storm closed Innsbruck for 20 minutes with many strikes to the field itself.

An enormous thunderstorm developed over the Arlberg to thwart our second attempt to reach Switzerland
A rare sunny mountainside above Lienz. An early shower just beyond
With about 500' to spare we crossed into Italy. There were landable fields 30km down the valley beyond, according to our research. These unseen fields now became our temporary "base"