Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 5 To Italy

Landing at turn point 4 and a mad rush for my connecting flight to Italy

This next segment of the race was tough on my ego. As the pack closed in I had to settle for bumbling around with the group, or taking undue risks and pushing out on my own. The African proverb says to go fast, go alone, but to go far, go together. This wasn’t far from the truth. View the six minute video

Lermoos launch © Tauderer

After a great flight where I cruised past the Zugspitze in fifth place, we had to again land at a “traffic light stop” turn point. Manfred (GER2) knew where he was going, and after changing my mind about the closer shaded launch, I had a rough idea of his intended destination from checking Google Satellite view. I fell into step with Pal (HUN) who was given dodgy directions by a local, and then we broke off through the fields. Later on Pal opted for the road while I defiantly bashed on through the stinging nettle and up through untracked forest until I heard Tarquin (race media) nearby on the track. In the end we all reached the launch close together… Ferdy (NED) turned up as well.

Just over the Italy border, with final landing in shade distant left

I started off flying with Ferdy and Pal but never really felt “with it” and it seemed like we were bumbling around. I decided I’d push off on my own. Later in the Oetztal I pushed along the valley while the others got high in the mountains and overtook me. With the valley wind pushing me I could keep moving along, but I risked getting too low and landing early while there was easy miles to be made. In the end I ended up in a similar position. Half an hour after I landed Stani (CZE) turned up. He’d arrived at the Zugspitze several hours later than us after a very difficult flight. In his favour though he said he was able to simply bunch up his glider and walk a few minutes up the slope before soaring away, saving him the long bash along the valley. He said the evening flight was a gift.

My final landing for day 5, shortly before Stani landed nearby

His supporter van was stuck on the wrong side of the Timmelsjoch though, a toll road open only during the day. It was the first time I’d seen him since day 2 when his supporter helped me launch. My supporters repaid the favour by making him (and me) a burger for dinner. Mum and Ben had a look for a nearby guesthouse but I was quite happy to sleep in the tent.

Next morning was a gentleman’s start, Stani was camped up the road as his reserve supporter vehicle (a car) had managed to sneak through the toll the previous night. We headed up for the Matatzspitze, where I was soon joined by a merry crew. Pascal (AUT3) the gentleman helped me fix one of my broken brake lines.

Things were looking promising but later some mid level cloud drifted across and shaded things up on our hill. The live tracking showed Benoit, a dozen or so kilometres ahead, following thermals southward. I’d had enough of waiting by now so I took off without waiting for the others, landing on a spur some way down the valley where I had to land, empty my ballast, and climb a little to try and fly back up again.

I managed but again I’d taken more risk. A slow learner, as soon as I caught the others I went off again on a different route and again got low… and so the pattern went on. Finally my luck ran out when I made a poor route choice and got flushed by a valley wind. After trying a short miracle flight to no avail I had to face a 1000m climb on foot.

The extra bit of exercise is one thing but the real pain is losing valuable time. Luckily the others were delayed by overdevelopment, the Italian afternoon storms. They landed and waited high, but still crept ahead while I laboured. Finally reaching a high ridge I flew but had to land in a hurry in a sink cycle. Conditions kept me guessing but finally afforded me a short thermic flight where I could make some ground to the south.

The day was almost done and I had to rush to get the last breath of wind up the face after following a track on foot around a hill that I’d been unable to cross in the air. My launch was a foot too close to a sign and my wingtip line snagged. Of course there was a much better starting place only a minutes walk away!

Airborne at last the cloud I hoped might lift me over the Brenta offered nothing but a sprinkle of fat raindrops. Across the valley was a forested ridge with two clearings. I spurned the first one to gamble away another 500 metres of height, and took the second one a short time after the helicopter took some shots. By the time I’d packed up a friendly bunch of Italian emergency services personnel had found their way to my landing spot, where I’d just been talking to a crazy Italian fellow for way to long considering there was no comprehension between us to speak of.

Brenta massif slopes around sunset © Marko

I final huff and puff up through the forest and I was very glad that my supporters managed to find their way up a quiet road to meet me at the top.  They’d had a relaxing day at the local library (although being locked out of the carpark was possibly not so relaxing..!) Again I found myself in a familiar place, the next day I would fly the same Brenta cliffs as in the 2015 edition – not such a bad thing, as I missed the lost video footage dearly!

this is what xalps is,

bashing through fields of stinging nettle
and long grass

because they decided to put the turn
points in the bottom of the valley

on a good flying day. So, Benoit and his supporter most likely, up that way

looks like someone’s come through here before..
my legs are burning

well, it’s great to be in the air again

after flying well I was frustrated at having to bash across the valley while it was good

and having all the others catch up.

I was also a little tired after not the best night’s sleep

in the bumpy air here with Pal and Ferdy,

I didn’t quite feel like I was “with it”

to try and get back in my
groove I tried pushing out on my own

to get away from the pack

I just barrelled over the back,

through a bit of rotor in the lee there

because I thought this thing
would be working really well

and actually it’s starting to. It’s starting to work

it’s just gone into shade

I’ve been a bit naughty, I’ve let myself get low in the valley

it’s really quite turbulent here

I don’t think it should be that turbulent

the trouble was I wanted to hurry along

but if I got too low I’d risk getting flushed in the valley

oh, I might have screwed this up big time

At least it’s 5:50pm

back in the game, I was scudding along and got a thermal out of this gully


5 metres [per second] at times

yeah I think I lost a bit of time in that valley bashing

big country

I slipped around the side again

because I wanted some lee

and it’s working pretty well

wow – it has side effects

I got quite a few collapses here in the Oetztal

I think mainly through just not really caring

anyway 3000 metres, let’s go, let’s go

so I wasn’t that slow coming down here but, slower

it just felt like we were bumbling around after Lermoos

it just got frustrating,
just bumbling around going nowhere

and then I was never really patient enough to get up

I just saw a dusty, seriously, right next to that cross

the other guys, there’s five of them

and a chopper.. just headed off… I can’t see where they went

shit, this is good air

I’m hopeless. Not really in it this afternoon

to Italy! So the guys have gone for a long glide

it is 7:15pm

so the Dolomites are straight ahead. I did have some idea about going around that way

but it’s a bit of a long way around

maybe the best is to stay on here

well I just have no idea where I’m going

this is the heading I’m going to take
to Mt Baldo, Lake Garda

beautiful spot. Maybe I should camp

I was little indecisive here thinking of
landing to wait for sun but it was too late

I lost a bit of height, popped a
blister and set off again

in the end Benoit got ahead but the rest
of us ended up at pretty much

the same place that night, scattered around the hillside

it was cool to catch up with the guys
but I couldn’t help going out on my own

this time it didn’t work

about 1100 metres to climb up to here

big mistake trying to go through that pass

and luckily the others have
had to stop and start as well

but they’re still 40km ahead of me

my next flight was probably only a minute long, down that way

I had to climb up to the ridge

my sixth and final flight of the day

I was hoping to some magic from the
cloud above but I got a sprinkle of rain instead

You mean all that I did yesterday counted for nothing?

No, Nick, all you were doing yesterday
was sitting on the side of the hill

all these stories of you climbing all the time /
yeah / just stories

I have like 10 minutes rest yesterday and Mum at the end of the day says,

you were just sitting on the hill
most of the day, weren’t you?

live tracking says
live tracking must be right

because I was bashing through the wilds of the bush

where there’s no phone reception probably


About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s