Paragliders Attempt Risky 1,100-Mile Odyssey

Six countries, over 1,100 miles, two paraglider pilots, and whatever they can carry on their backs.
Adriatic Circle: The longest hike and fly © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool
By Josh Sampiero

It might not be a "perfect circle," but the Adriatic Circle Hike and Fly is 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: a 1,100-mile 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.

“The idea is so cool,” Tom tells us. “I've traveled to over 60 countries and flown in 24, but the Alps is one of the best playgrounds in Europe. I'm super excited to be doing this.”

The pair will set off at 7:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 PT) on Saturday, June 28. Follow them live as they start their epic journey.

Paul Guschlbauer and Thomas de Dorlodot paragliding on top of each other.
The journey requires great teamwork © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

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. Here's their plan:

  • 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

“We know the goal, but we will have to improvise on how we get there," Tom continues. "We are going to have difficult situations, that's for sure. It's going to be intense.”

Thomas de Dorlodot paragliding over a rocky mountain.
“I like to lose myself in the mountains,” says Tom © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

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.

“The original idea was to train for the next Red Bull X-Alps," says Guschlbauer. 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 [over 90 miles] across, it's too far to rely on thermals, so the pair will use paramotors. But it's still a very risky endeavor.

“It demands respect,” adds Tom. “It will be pretty scary.”

Paul Guschlbauer and Thomas de Dorlodot using the GPS to navigate in the mountains.
It says 1,800km to go. © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

Both athletes are veterans of Red Bull X-Alps, a 1,000km (approx. 621-mile) hike and fly race from Salzburg, Austria, 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.

Paul Guschlbauer paragliding over the beautiful mountains of Berchtesgarden.
”I'm pretty excited about the trip,” says Paul. © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

No matter what happens over the next six weeks, it's sure to be an adventure as the  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.”

Get all the stats, live tracking and more on the official Adriatic Circle project page.

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