It might not be a 'perfect circle', but it's definitely the perfect paragliding trip. Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer – among the world's top cross-country paragliding pilots – are about to begin an epic odyssey; an 1,800km journey across six countries and three mountain ranges, finishing with a paramotor trip across the Adriatic Sea.
It's the longest hike-and-fly possible in Europe. It's going to be intense.
“The idea is so cool,” Tom tells us. “I've travelled to over 60 countries and flown in 24 but the Alps is one of the best playgrounds in Europe and I'm super excited to be doing this.”
This is very much a personal project for the pair, whose goal is to keep it a very simple and authentic adventure. They'll be self-sufficicient and take only what they can carry on their backs. It's not a race or attempt to break a record, but they've set themselves some rules, if only to set down a benchmark for others to follow. “We'd like to see it become an established route,” says Tom.
– Start and finish in Ancona, Italy
– Travel by foot or paraglider only
– Pass five checkpoints
– The same glider must be used for the paramotor trip as for thermal flying
Says Tom: “We know the goal, but we will have to improvise on how we get there. We are going to have difficult situations that's for sure. It's going to be intense.”
Both athletes are accomplished pilots. Tom de Dorlodot has flown in more than 60 countries, and is known for his long bivvy flights across New Zealand, the Karakoram range, and the Pyrenees.
Guschlbauer began work as a paragliding test pilot just three years after learning to fly, and has flown all over the world, from the Himalayas to East Africa's Great Rift Valley.
The weather will be our biggest obstacle
He says: “The original idea was to train for the next Red Bull X-Alps. I wanted to explore the Alps and I thought, instead of going by car, why not connect all the possibilities of the mountains in one big trip?”
Neither Tom nor Paul know exactly how long the trip will take. Estimates range from four to six weeks.
“The weather will be our biggest obstacle,” adds Paul.
That, and the crossing of the Adriatic from Croatia to Italy. At 150km across, it's too far to rely on thermals, so the pair will use paramotors. But it's still a very risky endeavour.
“It demands respect,” adds Tom. “It will be pretty scary.”
Both athletes are veterans of the Red Bull X-Alps, a 1,000km hike and fly race from Salzburg to Monaco, but this will be very different. To start with, they're going the other way, west to east. More importantly, it's not a race. It's about discovery and friendship.
“There's a lot of pressure in a race. Here we're going to be enjoying ourselves,” says Tom.
No matter what happens over the next six weeks, it's sure to be an advenure as the intrepid duo attempts what's never been done before.
Adds Tom: “We're also really looking forward to sharing our story with as many people as possible.”
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