X-Pyrenees: Thomas De Dorlodot's solo hike-and-fly

Sometimes the hardest way to travel is also the most fun.
Thomas De Dorlodot waits for take off. © Harald Tauderer/Red Bull Content Pool
By Andy Pag

Not content with finishing 13th in the Red Bull X-Alps, paraglider pilot Thomas de Dolordot is currently embarked on a solo unsupported hiking and flying journey along the Pyrenees.

The 450km route from the Atlantic lighthouse at Hondarribia in Spain to the lighthouse at Cap de Creus on the Mediterranean may be less than half the distance of the X-Alps course, but it's proving to be just as challenging.

“I've had bad luck with the weather.” Says de Dolordot speaking from Le Seu d'Urgell in Spain on the eighth day. “Normally at this time of year you can fly at 4,000m, but the cloudbase hasn't reached above 2,600m so far.” The journey takes him past 3,000m peaks and without being able to reach the extra altitude he's having to make up the distance on foot.

“In the Alps the valleys line up with the course line so you can make good time, even on the ground, but in the Pyrenees they don't, so progress is much slower. Yesterday I walked 45km and in the end I was only 15km closer to the goal.”

Despite the weather the Belgian has averaged 40-50km a day, using the lightweight Gradient Aspen-4 paraglider and Sup'Air X-13 harness he used in the Alpine race. His longest Pyrenean flight has been around 70km and he estimates he's covered about half the distance in the air so far.

In order to save weight, he's forgoing the luxury of a tent, food rations and a stove, instead sleeping in a bivi bag, and relying on village shops along the route to provide meals. It's a strategy that's paid off on all but one of the days when he had to go hungry.


Thomas De Dorlodot surfing the sky above Sudan. © John Stapels/Red Bull Content Pool

The veteran of flying trips across Africa and Pakistan admits “The hardest thing in the Pyrenees is the heat. It's much lower here than the Alps. I'm hiking in 35°C. It kills you.”

De Dorlodot is no stranger to flying and walking epic distances. At the start of this year he covered the length of New Zealand's South Island, carrying his wing, food supplies, and fishing poles in packs that weighed 22kg. The journey was part of SEARCH, an ongoing worldwide aerial photography project.

Having started on the 18th of August, he expects to reach the Mediterranean before the end of the month. Followers can track his progress live on thomasdedorlodot.com.

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