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:

convergence in the valley
I’ll take it because I was a bit worried

about whether I’d make the next crossing

[next crossing] to here

the day is getting better
if I’d been flying like I have the last half hour

all day, I’d probably be in Monaco by now

but I’ve been really stuck

this is incredible this view all the way
up to the Italian flats

I was going backwards here

so I put the bar on.. get in front of here

another crucial crossing and into France
for the first time of the race

a really long valley with a valley wind
that didn’t want to let me in

I’ve really buggered it up this time
I was so keen to get in this valley

pushing speed bar and like going like
this when I got in, I was like sweet and

just shot down the valley

didn’t even try and get high
I thought yeah I’ll get high at the end of it

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

there’s no roads here there’s no huts
nothing and I thought shit I better

get high at the end of it and then I
couldn’t get high at the end of it so I

came back a bit to try and get out and
then I came back in and now I’m stuck

here so I’ve got a night pass I’ve got a
huge bloody mountain trapping me

and I also had the opportunity to top
land, what am I now I think I’m about

2200 metres or something it’s pretty high still

but I had the opportunity to top land

600 metres higher up at the head of the
valley and in that case I would have had

time to scramble up and refly before 9pm
but now I don’t I definitely don’t

the other option is this pass it’s 800
meters but I wouldn’t get there in time

so I’ve got a night pass and I’m stuck in
a valley I can’t do anything so I can

use a SPOT to ask Ben or Mum to come
rescue me because I’ve got no food I’m

bloody hungry tired cold
I’ll survive it’s the last night

so yeah I could get them to get me dinner

in which case I wait for a couple of hours
and they might turn up they might not

and then I could
put an early alarm on so I can climb up

the mountain and fly off at 6am
and then just do a few hops

towards Monaco before 10:38am
I think the end of the race is

but what a disaster

if I thought about getting high to start with
that would be one thing or

if I’d talked to Ben and Mum and made a plan
that they come bring me in food or something

but there’s no phone reception in here
so I’m bloody stuffed

it’s good that it happened on the last night

it’s a bit of an adventure I think
I wasn’t even looking if there was huts

or not there was a little track here oh
that’s the other thing I came in pretty

hard on the landing because it was you
know at least 20km/h of valley wind behind me

but then it has all gone katabatic here
so there was nothing and I just

like did a big turn
yeah anyway it’s all good

yeah nice spot

it would be great if there was a shepherd’s hut

and it would be even better if there was food
but I think I’m going to have to rough it

I’m sitting here freezing
I’ve got all my clothes on which isn’t much

a vest, down jacket, tshirt, shorts
I’ve got this covering my legs

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

so I camped down there
walked up through the night

it would be good to get some food into me
I haven’t had any food at all

since I ate my last OSM bar during my flight

really interesting flight, you can see the
cloud on the mountain, all this wave cloud spilling over

so I zipped around to the right of that big peak

from the peak behind it

once during high school I had I
did this Duke of Edinburgh thing where

we went on a hike and there were a
couple of people who decided to have the

hike coincide with the 40 Hour Famine
fundraise and I wonder if nick has been

contemplating the same possibility the
same option but

yesterday I believe you had a salad

so I slept like like this
with the glider it was still wrapped up

but sitting on my legs for about 4 hours
then at midnight I started walking

up the hill
I guess partly to keep warm and by the

time it got windy at the top of the
hill I was starting to get bloody cold

so I was waiting for the 6 a.m. /I bet/
because I was resting quite a bit as I went up

because it was pretty dark and cloudy

there was a track going up but I could
only see it for about 10% of it

there was a little bit of moonlight right?
later with the moonlight and the clouds clearing

it was a lot easier

I’ve come all the way from over there

and I even soared the [ridge]

the last bit of the xalps

put it on the pavement?

you’ve got a lot of freedom to make your own decisions

like people say that they see me
going off in different directions

and I love it that you can do that
I also love sharing the experience

with fans, the buzz that it all generates
so I really like that side of it too

thank you

About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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