Archive for August, 2011

Katia and ErikThe hardest part during the race was being away from the kids. Since we arrived back in Germany, we have spent a lot of time at the local beach, found some time to relax, as well as enjoyed a couple of hike & fly trips. Next week we get a new tandem wing (Bion from Nova) and most of the flights will be with the kids again. They can’t wait as they haven’t flown for a while. To the race itself, it was an amazing experience. Yes, the weather was not good at all and we had a bad start. Right from the beginning we were behind a day, which was hard to catch up unles you managed a tricky and risky flight. Martin Muller, who was behind with us, pulled off an amazing flight, and he managed to get back in the lead group. In total we flew 414 km, hiked 714 km and hiked 55 km in altitude. Without taking a lot of risk, we managed to finish 14th. By the end, we still had healthy feet, our legs were in good shape, we were still feeling strong, and we had had lots of fun, made a lot of new friends, learned a lot of lessons and gained some incredible experiences. The most amazing part of the race is the mind over matter game. There are so many mental aspects you need to deal with, such as the bad start, competing with the last group in the race not to be eliminated, hiking for endless hours in rain and snow, hiking up high mountins and dealing with the 50/50 chance to fly and keeping a pace you can handle for at least 2 weeks. The weather was one part what made the race harder, and the route turned ot to be way harder then expected. The Dachstein turnpoint was way harder then anticipated. If it could have been flown, it still was hard due the restricted airspaces (this is where Ogi got disqualified and 5 others had 24 hour penalties). No one could fly around the turnpoint and everyone had to deal with crazy and difficult hikes. The big difference in routes was the option of taking the longer way in distance and an easier via ferrata (climbing routes) or the shorter distance with a very difficult and power drainging via ferrata (Simone Scharte). We (Matin from Argentinia and me) got up to the turnpoint late and decided to stay up on the glacier with the hope to get to fly off in the early morning. 5:00 am, the wind was only about 25-35 km/h, but the valley botton was coverd in fog and we had to wait. Once the valley fog lifted we had about 70-80 km/hr winds. So we ended up climbing down Takeoff under the Dachsteinabout 800 meters the via ferrata and ended up taking off below the gondola cables. This flight was unexpectedly incredibly smooth and it was fantastic to soar up the Dachstein rock faces and heading more west along other peaks. I had to cross a valley to the south and I got cought in the stronger Foehn (Chinook) winds and was forced to land half way up the ridge I wanted to cross. I packed up fast and hiked to the top and looked for a managable takeoff site to get airborne again. The takeoff was in very strong winds going up and down , forward and backwards between trees until I managed to get out to more open space. The flight ended up further than expeceted and I decided to hike up another 600 meters to get another 8 km covered in the air instead of walking. After this flight, we ended up walking and hiking in the rain and on the way to the top of the Gross Glockner pass I met up with Andy Froetscher (Italy). The weather got worse and we ended up in 15 cm new snow on the trails. After we crossed the “Hochtor” at our break we decided to call the race doctor as Penny’s knee started to look worse. The doctor sent her right away to the Lienz hospital to get it checked out. The doctor in Lienz diagnosed the knee as a sports injury (even though the x-rays showed nothing!) A couple days later, her whole leg was swollen, and she was forced to go to the hospital in Bruneck, where they treated her for a bad infection caused from a bug bite. Penny was put on penny at her officeantibiotics and later in the race the race doctor drained out the infected liquids from her knee. At this point, Penny was beside herself thinking that she might have to quit the race. She could not walk. We lucked out that I stayed at a hut that night, and Penny could keep her leg up down in the valley, and the next day once I had landed, the rain started and she didn’t have to walk with me on the road, so she got a little bit of a break. We had to make a decision about whether we could go on like this, as she couldn’t hike with all my additional gear and food up the mountains, which is her “main” job!! The antibiotics kicked in though, and although her knee was not “normal”, she was back to hiking and in better spirits. Today Penny is all back to normal and keeps her running a bit on the easy side.   Anyhow, after the “Hochtor” Andy and I hiked towards Kals and stayed overnight on the Glorer Hut. Staying on the hut was the right choice, we got some great food and had a bed for a good rest. The next day we mananged to fly down to Kals in the early morning. The flight was great, but the landing in the Kals valley was rather challanging due the strong north winds. After talking to some weather guys we decided to hike up over 1000 meters for a flight into the Defreggen tal and then to Toblach (valley before the Dolomites). This decision was not easy as the winds at the landing site peaked at over 60 km/hours. Sure enough, once we were up, the winds were only around 15-25 km/hr. Andy and I got some good launches and thermaled right up to 2600 meters. Crossing the Matrai valley into the Defereggen valley was not a problem. The problem was the it started to overcast fast and shutting down the thermals. I decided to ridge soar into the valley as far as I could and started to hike to Maria Hilf to cross the next mountain ridge by foot. Andy was a bit more patient and could fly half way up the pass. After I hiked up the pass, the weather cleared and I was able to fly into the next valley finding some great thermals bringing me up to 2700 meters. I tried to fly accross the next ridge but had to land into the upper slopes and hiked up higher to get airborne again to fly to Toblach. From Toblach I hiked to the bottom to the Drei Zinnen, where we met Andy Froetscher again and stayed overnight. 3 ZinnenThe next morning we hiked up to the Drei Zinnen turnpoint. Andy decided to fly off and sunk out near the Misurina lake. I decided to pack up and hike more into the wind and flew back the route we hiked up. I decided not to fly out to Toblach as I decided to walk towards Cortina and hike accross the Dolomites to Brixen. On the way to Fanes de Sennes I stayed on the “Sennes” hut for a great meal and a good nights rest. Penny had to go back down and drive around the mountain to where I hoped to land the next morning. The next morning ended up to be a race from the fog and low clouds. I managed to get airborne from a 2600m high alpine launchsite resulting into a dream like flight between clouds and fog part way up to the Würzjoch pass. Hiking past the pass was in pouring rain. Just before Brixen we managed to get a another short flight in down the valley from where we reached Feldthurns in a couple of hours. Max in the snowThe next day we opted to hike up to the “Klausen” hut and hoped to fly down the other side. I ended up in a snow storm and on the other side they even had to shut down the gondolas due the strong winds. Once down, I had not choice to hike up the other side to Meran 2000, the weather got nice but we had at least 80 km/hr Foehn winds resulting and a hike down to Meran. Andy (Italy) Steve (GBR1) Richard (Braz), Oriol (ESP) and I all met up at Mutkopf (Meran) to fly into to the Stilfzer Joch. Amazing that after 8 days, we were all there together, and Martin (Argentina) was not far behind. We had a great flight around a lot of clouds and it seamed that my Mentor2 (DHV 1-2 wing) could perfrom very well with the 2-3 rated wings. I ended flying the furthest with Richard and Oriol. We packed up and rushed up to 3100 m to get airborne again to keep on flying to Piz Palue. The flight was awesome and we could thermal out a couple more times until the overcast shut us down. From there we hiked to the Pass da Val Viola where we stayed overnight. The next day we hiked south of the PizPalue into the turn point radius and flew down to Lago di Poschiavo. From there we kept on hiking to Sondrio. The weather forcast was very wet for the next day so we decided to split from

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Richard and kept on walking until 11:00 pm. The next morning the forecast was still calling for rain and we started to walk fast and strong to Como Lake. During the morning the weather looked better then forcasted and everyone seamed to hike up for a flight. It turned out they could not pass me due the weather conditions and I managed to hike another 2000 meter up to Pass de Jorio. We were luckey enough to get to a take off site from where we could launch at 8:30 pm and fly towards Biasca. Too bad I could not take off any earlier as I had to spiral down over 800 meters to land 2 minutes before the 9:00 pm night time flying restriction. I kept on hiking until 11:00 pm and layed down beside the road in my paraglider for a nap. Penny still had to hike down the mountain and then drive around the mountain, around a lake, through a couple of valleys, only to to get me at 2:15 am to the spot I was sleeping. She got me up to sleep in the van, and then we were up again an hour later to get ready for a 4:00 am hike to Biasca and then 2000 meters up for another flight. Penny managed again to hike with me. Once I got to the top the wind was from behind (north/east) and it was not easy to take off into the wrong direction. If I would sink out, i would have to do a lot of hiking to get back on track. I was able to scratch my way north and on the end of the ridge to find a thermal from where I managed to cross the ridge and fly towards Airiolo. This all was very tiring and I could feel how I started to fall into some short naps during the flight. Gladly the flight was ending soon and I could rest a bit. While I walked towards Ariolo, I started to get hallucinations and realized that I was simply too tired to proceed. I tried to call Penny, but her phone was not working and I had to keep on going which was not a good experiance at all. Once I met up with Penny, we both had a nap for 40 minutes and things got better. That night, I was able to hike halof way up to Nufenen Pass. After 3.5 hours of solid sleep I hiked up to the top of Nufenen Pass and after a couple launching attempts (wind from behind) I managed to fly down to the Wallis. I had to land before the restricted airspace and hiked passed the controll zone and hiked up again over 1000 meters for a take off spot. We took it easy as I was pretty tired from the day before. This was just perfect in timing as the conditions turned on later that day from where I managed to fly almost down to Visp. I had to land short of Visp due very strong valley winds, but this flight saved me from a 35 km walk. Robert,Andy, Penny, MaxIn the mean time Andy Froetscher (Italy) was working hard to catch me. He seemed to always be about 10 km behind me for the last 3 days and tried several moves to catch up. At the last flight the valley winds got very strong and I managed to fly 5 km further then Andy to the next ridge where I could climb up high and was able

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again to be ahead of him. It might have been the timing that I flew further, but I think part of it is the Mentor2. The glide is amazing, but more so I stayed in full speed bar even if it got rough and when the wing collapsed I just got off the bar for a short moment. Now most 2-3 wings would fly faster but in rough conditions most can not use the extra speed they have. During the whole race I was very pleased with my wing, which allowed me to take off and land in very challenging terrain. After the flight I headed up to the Matterhorn turn-point with Andy following behind me. Just before 11:00 pm I called Andy and told him that I would like to finish the race with him and share the 14th position unless the conditions were flyable, then we would fly for the 14th position. Andy was all for it, the next day was completely overcast, we called Christoph (race director) and told him our plans and met up at the Matterhorn turn-point. Penny was prepared like always and hiked up with some cold beer for the finish. What a way to finish – way better than running a couple km ahead just to claim one better spot. Sharing an accomplishment is more rewarding especially when you raced so many days together. Penny, Max, Andy, RobertAfter the finish we had a long shower at the campground and headed to Monaco for the party. It was great to meet with the others and to share the stories. Stories and experiences seem to be the most important part, more so than the ranking. This also got confirmed at the awards by Hannes Arch. This is also what we could hear from so many other people who followed the race for these 2 weeks. They got addicted to the online “Live Tracking”, photos and videos. Overall a great experience and entertainment for everyone. I would like to mention a couple thank you’s to the people and companies who made this all possible: Nova Wings and team for the tips and the Mentor2 Andreas Boehl and Flight design for the use of the CT to check out the route and the for giving me weather updates. Oma & Opa to watch the kids for the 2 weeks. Hannes Arch and Ulrich Grill for putting on the event, and to their whole team The Columbia Valley businesses and friends who donated services and products for the fundraiser (see details at http://www.flyingmax.com/xalps/sponsors-and-supporters/) And to all our friends and family who have given us so much support

Once we got the van set up, we drove to Innsbruck to get the Mentor2 light and from there to Fuschel am See to get ready for the race. Every team has to be there from July 13th on for meetings, orientations, press conference and some photo and tv shooting.

Enjoy the slideshow below