The 2,149km hike-and-fly trip of a lifetime, done!

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer circled the Alps. It took them almost a year. Find out why.
By Josh Sampiero

The story is in the numbers: 2,149km covered, over 45 days, 10 hours, and 59 minutes, averaging 46.7 km per day. One pair of shoes, more calories than you can count, and eight broken bones – including fractured vertebrae. If the Adriatic Circle isn’t adventure, we don’t know what is.

One day, 83,062 footsteps...

Conceived of as the longest possible hike-and-fly trip in the Alps, Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer began their journey on foot in Ancona in 2014. Their goal was to get back to Ancona – by circling clockwise through Italy, France, Switzlerland, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia before crossing the sea back to Ancona.

The route across the Alps

But halfway through the trip, tragedy struck when Tom crashed into a tree while trying to land his paraglider in windy, dangerous conditions. The accident left him severely injured, and Paul decided rather than continuing on alone, he would wait for Tom to finish the trip. Tom made a full recovery, and on May 8, 2015, the two began right where they left off.

One foot after the other... one day after the next...

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer hike and fly the Alps
An uphill battle © Lukas Pilz

Back to numbers. Since the beginning of the adventure, it was more ‘hike’ than ‘fly’ – the boys covered almost 700km in the air on various flying days, but clocked 1,454km on foot – making it no surprise that they needed well over a month’s time on the road to finish – even with a hard, hard push at the end including multiple 70km days. Says Paul: “The last days we had a strong northeast wind that kept us grounded – simply no good conditions for flying.”

Rare air above Italy

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer hike and fly the Alps
A rare moment of air © Lukas Pilz

Upon arriving in Zadar, the original plan was to do a paramotor flight across the Adriatic back to Ancona – but little things like international border laws prevented it from happening. Unable to secure a boat to ensure their safety, the boys had to travel amid the unwashed masses, returning to Italy by ferry. (Actually, after weeks of hiking, we’re pretty sure the masses were cleaner than they were…)

Gearing up for another dirty day

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer hike and fly the Alps
Lots of miles on those shoes © Lukas Pilz

So what was learned? For the previously injured de Dorlodot, much: “I still was a little worried before we started,” he says. “But in the end, I was able to do it, pushing hard, pain free – it’s a great feeling to leave that behind!”

High in the snow above Italy

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer hike and fly the Alps
Plenty of snow up high © Lukas Pilz

Says Paul: “It was an exhausting, but interesting, experience. We both know how it feels to walk really long. We’ve never had to do that without a competition, but we found the right motivation, and with that, it’s amazing what you can do!”

Finished – and happy about it!

But apart from exhaustion, what remains most is the feeling of accomplishment. “We said last year we’d finish and now it’s done,” says Tom. “It’s time to focus on Red Bull X-Alps and what’s ahead!”

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