Red Bull X-Alps 2017 – Episode 10 France

Another crucial glide: deep and pushing headwind, into France

Late on day 12 I finally crossed by air into France for the first time of the race. It was the last night of the race, but the adventures weren’t over yet.

I made good progress into France for a time but then I made one final move to keep the fans (and indeed myself) guessing.

The dark valley where I spent the night, and the mountains I flew from the following dawn

Perhaps it was a subconsciously deliberate tactic to avoid a long night of highway bashing – I was the only one with a night pass remaining. Since there was no point in reaching the top of the mountain before first light, I had an self enforced rest period. I dozed in a huddle for four hours on the grass near where I’d landed, and in the early hours I began climbing slowly, partly to keep warm.

Reaching a suitable launch shortly before the flying curfew opened it was bitingly cold in the breeze. I lay out my glider on a patch of snow next to the jagged rocks and took off for a breathtaking glide on sunrise.

I was able to cross over the wide valley around Susa and almost to the top of the next pass. This is exactly where I’d asked Ben and Mum to wait, having spoken to them when I’d reached reception on the high mountain before 6am in the morning. Luckily there was no change in plan as there was no phone reception there – I saw them driving close beneath me as I approached, and they arrived a couple of minutes after I landed on the road.

First priority was to eat breakfast. Then it was getting down to business – I needed to make the top 10!

As it happened, Nelson (FRA3) my nearest rival had suffered an airspace penalty so my haste was inconsequential. Pal (HUN) and Basti (GER1) I presumably would have overtaken if I’d not dived into the dead end valley, as I had the night pass. In this scenario with a bit of luck it was theoretically possible to have reached 4th place, but even if I’d had it in me to run through the night, it would be likely that they’d overtake me in the last hours after they’d rested all night. I was quite happy with the way things had turned out – 4th is the same prize money as 10th!

Final day tracks, NZL (blue) and those placed ahead

My final flight went very well, and at this stage I still thought I was racing. Once I went out for the final march though I found out that my placing was secure. However I still kept going until the cutoff time where I reached a small village and Ben and Mum caught me. After a quiet morning beer I jumped in the car and we headed straight for Monaco – the evening function was being held the same night.

It was great to catch up with everyone, and it really felt like we squeezed a lot into this little holiday. The very next day we were driving through Italy to Munich, where we had a final camp stove dinner in the park (Mum wanted to finish all the food!). We organised ourselves in the hotel before packing everything we could fit with us on the plane and flying back home. Thank you to everyone for supporting us and sharing the experience – we all had a brilliant time.

Video transcript:

0:00:04.040,0:00:08.500
convergence in the valley
I’ll take it because I was a bit worried

0:00:08.800,0:00:11.840
about whether I’d make the next crossing

0:00:11.840,0:00:13.440
[next crossing] to here

0:00:13.880,0:00:18.680
the day is getting better
if I’d been flying like I have the last half hour

0:00:20.960,0:00:23.600
all day, I’d probably be in Monaco by now

0:00:24.980,0:00:26.600
but I’ve been really stuck

0:00:30.720,0:00:33.620
this is incredible this view all the way
up to the Italian flats

0:00:39.960,0:00:41.720
I was going backwards here

0:00:42.060,0:00:44.620
so I put the bar on.. get in front of here

0:00:44.720,0:00:49.160
another crucial crossing and into France
for the first time of the race

0:00:51.020,0:00:55.100
a really long valley with a valley wind
that didn’t want to let me in

0:00:56.680,0:01:00.040
I’ve really buggered it up this time
I was so keen to get in this valley

0:01:00.040,0:01:06.660
pushing speed bar and like going like
this when I got in, I was like sweet and

0:01:06.960,0:01:08.640
just shot down the valley

0:01:08.860,0:01:11.080
didn’t even try and get high
I thought yeah I’ll get high at the end of it

0:01:11.090,0:01:19.149
no worries, about 3/4 of the way down I thought
what if I can’t get high at the end of it

0:01:19.149,0:01:25.560
there’s no roads here there’s no huts
nothing and I thought shit I better

0:01:25.560,0:01:29.119
get high at the end of it and then I
couldn’t get high at the end of it so I

0:01:29.119,0:01:37.340
came back a bit to try and get out and
then I came back in and now I’m stuck

0:01:37.340,0:01:43.030
here so I’ve got a night pass I’ve got a
huge bloody mountain trapping me

0:01:43.030,0:01:50.240
and I also had the opportunity to top
land, what am I now I think I’m about

0:01:50.260,0:01:54.380
2200 metres or something it’s pretty high still

0:01:55.120,0:01:57.520
but I had the opportunity to top land

0:01:57.530,0:02:03.340
600 metres higher up at the head of the
valley and in that case I would have had

0:02:03.349,0:02:09.110
time to scramble up and refly before 9pm
but now I don’t I definitely don’t

0:02:09.110,0:02:13.810
the other option is this pass it’s 800
meters but I wouldn’t get there in time

0:02:13.810,0:02:20.120
so I’ve got a night pass and I’m stuck in
a valley I can’t do anything so I can

0:02:20.120,0:02:26.560
use a SPOT to ask Ben or Mum to come
rescue me because I’ve got no food I’m

0:02:26.560,0:02:32.440
bloody hungry tired cold
I’ll survive it’s the last night

0:02:33.760,0:02:36.320
so yeah I could get them to get me dinner

0:02:36.340,0:02:39.680
in which case I wait for a couple of hours
and they might turn up they might not

0:02:39.680,0:02:42.900
and then I could
put an early alarm on so I can climb up

0:02:42.910,0:02:46.209
the mountain and fly off at 6am
and then just do a few hops

0:02:46.209,0:02:50.460
towards Monaco before 10:38am
I think the end of the race is

0:02:52.520,0:02:53.800
but what a disaster

0:02:53.800,0:02:57.940
if I thought about getting high to start with
that would be one thing or

0:02:57.940,0:03:01.690
if I’d talked to Ben and Mum and made a plan
that they come bring me in food or something

0:03:02.580,0:03:07.400
but there’s no phone reception in here
so I’m bloody stuffed

0:03:08.700,0:03:11.580
it’s good that it happened on the last night

0:03:11.820,0:03:16.480
it’s a bit of an adventure I think
I wasn’t even looking if there was huts

0:03:16.480,0:03:20.200
or not there was a little track here oh
that’s the other thing I came in pretty

0:03:20.200,0:03:24.610
hard on the landing because it was you
know at least 20km/h of valley wind behind me

0:03:24.610,0:03:28.060
but then it has all gone katabatic here
so there was nothing and I just

0:03:28.060,0:03:32.400
like did a big turn
yeah anyway it’s all good

0:03:34.100,0:03:35.060
yeah nice spot

0:03:35.500,0:03:37.900
it would be great if there was a shepherd’s hut

0:03:37.900,0:03:41.720
and it would be even better if there was food
but I think I’m going to have to rough it

0:03:42.360,0:03:46.920
I’m sitting here freezing
I’ve got all my clothes on which isn’t much

0:03:47.500,0:03:52.220
a vest, down jacket, tshirt, shorts
I’ve got this covering my legs

0:03:52.840,0:03:57.960
so I don’t know about that, I think it was just
bad decision making, a bit of an accident

0:03:59.420,0:04:02.700
so I camped down there
walked up through the night

0:04:06.560,0:04:11.240
it would be good to get some food into me
I haven’t had any food at all

0:04:13.300,0:04:17.440
since I ate my last OSM bar during my flight

0:04:20.160,0:04:24.780
really interesting flight, you can see the
cloud on the mountain, all this wave cloud spilling over

0:04:26.580,0:04:29.720
so I zipped around to the right of that big peak

0:04:29.880,0:04:31.400
from the peak behind it

0:04:32.700,0:04:37.280
once during high school I had I
did this Duke of Edinburgh thing where

0:04:37.280,0:04:41.040
we went on a hike and there were a
couple of people who decided to have the

0:04:41.040,0:04:46.110
hike coincide with the 40 Hour Famine
fundraise and I wonder if nick has been

0:04:46.110,0:04:50.020
contemplating the same possibility the
same option but

0:04:50.020,0:04:52.800
yesterday I believe you had a salad

0:04:52.800,0:04:57.540
so I slept like like this
with the glider it was still wrapped up

0:04:57.540,0:05:01.350
but sitting on my legs for about 4 hours
then at midnight I started walking

0:05:01.350,0:05:05.100
up the hill
I guess partly to keep warm and by the

0:05:05.100,0:05:07.950
time it got windy at the top of the
hill I was starting to get bloody cold

0:05:07.950,0:05:12.660
so I was waiting for the 6 a.m. /I bet/
because I was resting quite a bit as I went up

0:05:12.660,0:05:15.320
because it was pretty dark and cloudy

0:05:16.860,0:05:21.180
there was a track going up but I could
only see it for about 10% of it

0:05:23.180,0:05:27.800
there was a little bit of moonlight right?
later with the moonlight and the clouds clearing

0:05:27.800,0:05:29.580
it was a lot easier

0:06:07.300,0:06:09.700
I’ve come all the way from over there

0:06:11.760,0:06:13.680
and I even soared the [ridge]

0:06:17.000,0:06:18.600
the last bit of the xalps

0:06:26.000,0:06:29.720
put it on the pavement?
yes

0:06:33.240,0:06:35.160
you’ve got a lot of freedom to make your own decisions

0:06:36.220,0:06:40.500
like people say that they see me
going off in different directions

0:06:40.500,0:06:44.460
and I love it that you can do that
I also love sharing the experience

0:06:44.460,0:06:49.060
with fans, the buzz that it all generates
so I really like that side of it too

0:06:49.740,0:06:50.760
thank you

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About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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