Starting today, (Friday, August 1) Will Gadd and Gavin McClurg are setting off on a paragliding adventure of literally epic proportions: 1,000km of the remote Canadian Rockies. And this trip will be a little more risky than rocky – uncharted territory, backcountry alpine environments, and plenty of wild critters all up the ante significantly. Did we mention there's only five paved roads over the course of the 1,000km?! We did a brief Q&A with the two pilots – who will meet for the first time three days before setting out – to find out what makes this trip a flight above the rest.
Update: Since the beginning of the trip, forest fires in Canada have forced Will and Gavin to reduce the route from the original 1,000km to 600km.
Why isn't this your normal vol-bivvy?
Will Gadd: It's the longest true paragliding trip ever attempted. We're going to places that are only possible to reach by air. A lot of these places have never been flown by paraglider at all. There's no infrastructure – we'll have to carry food for 4-5 days! By contrast, the Alps are pretty civilised. They've been mowed by cows for centuries; you can land and take off within two hours of anywhere.
Style also matters: To me vol-bivvying is not just about getting to the destination. This is about putting the emphasis on flying – we're paragliders not backpackers. Our only rule is all forward progress has to be by paraglider!
Gavin McClurg: The biggest challenge is how 'deep' this line is – I've never flown any of it, and most of the line has never been flown by anyone. At times, we'll be having to make major decisions about whether to land or keep going – and the consequences are much bigger than, say, in the Alps where there's some form of civilisation a short walk away.
What are the biggest risks?
WG: This is not a friendly place to land. One of the biggest hazards are rivers. They may be our best option for landing, but it's so dangerous. Then there are old logging sites, but they're gnarly as well. It's going to be committed.The wildlife is also an obvious danger and a curious grizzly is a dangerous situation. You don't want to be wandering alone when you meet one. We're taking lots of bear spray.
GM: When you look at it on Google Earth, it's terrifying! Heavily treed, long segments with no landings… Not to mention the challenges of getting to our launches. There will be proper alpine ascents, rivers without bridges – not to mention the mosquitoes will kill you, let alone the bears.
Tell us about your partner...
WG: I'm not sure we've ever met. He has a similar background to me in whitewater and he's a sailing captain. He's got the right set of skills for operating in this environment.
GM: We've definitely never met! But Will is the ultimate legend in our sport – he was winning national championships and going further than anyone back in the day! I've been reading his writing and following his adventures for a decade, so it's really cool to do a trip with such an icon.
WG: I'm not sure what our odds are. If the flying conditions are good, it will be difficult, but if they're bad there's no chance of success.
GM: The long-term weather forecast looks really good right now! I'm hoping to put up big flights over the first couple days. I don't know of a more radical paragliding adventure that's ever been done!
The adventure is scheduled to start on Friday, August 1 – due to the remoteness of the location, daily updates won't be possible – but you can follow the guys via their tracker here. Otherwise, stay tuned for incredible images and video once the trip is over!
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