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Team Keller/Saegesser – One week with emotions

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German below...

On January 31, 2016 my efforts and sporting endeavors finally paid off! I was in! The written confirmation of my participation came by email early on a Sunday morning. After nearly seven months of organizational preparation and physically disciplined training, I was ready to go.

Day I
On July 17, 2016 at 11:00am the starting shot was fired on the beach of Hondarribia… with high humidity, a temperature of 35° C and a good weather outlook for the coming days, all 31 athletes from 17 nations headed out in the direction of the turnpoint La Rhune. 27 km, 1100 vertical meters and four hours later, I launched on my first flight, which earned me a good position in the field.

Day II
The day began at 5:30am with a 50 km foot march to turnpoint Orhi. I quickly noticed how the weather was deteriorating – the opposite of what was forecasted. Unexpectedly high winds of up to 60 km/h put an end to my flying plans. For all who arrived at the Orhi ridge after 2:00pm, flying was all but impossible. This gave the first group of three athletes a solid lead while the rest of the pack was left to walk in bad weather. Despite very difficult conditions, I managed a flight in the evening over Orhi to El Mina. After landing there, I had no mobile phone reception and bad GPS data, so I waited, wrapped in my glider, for my supporter to find me.

Day III
A very long day on foot through high Alpine terrain without a chance of flying weather due to high winds aloft. Despite all adversities, I managed to reach the turnpoint Anayet after 4000 vertical meters and nearly 70 km of hiking.

Day IV
At breakfast, we are greeted by the first drops of rain. As the pounding of the rain grows in intensity, I decide to bury my hopes of flying. But I still had five pairs of dry shoes! Late in the afternoon the rain let up somewhat, so I started to hope for a glide-down into the valley. When I finally arrived at the ridge, the next line of thunderstorms was visible. After short consideration, I voted against my sore feet and packed my glider in its sack again. Less than five minutes later we found ourselves in the middle of a hailstorm with thunder and lightning!

Day V
Because I was unable to stop right on time at 10:30pm due to the unexpected sudden change in weather the day before, I received a six-hour penalty for the following day! So my day started at 11:30am with the advantage that I had time to dry my equipment and repair a torn jacket and rain poncho with paraglider repair patches. Feeling more fresh and rested than normal, I rejoined the race. After a three-hour climb, I was finally able to fly again. Against expectations the weather was relatively good but sporty with a 30km/h southwest wind, but it was flyable! After two low saves and with the wind picking up even more (7 hPa south pressure difference), I decided to land after 3.5 hours in the air. Here I was standing at 1800m MSL in the middle of nowhere, directly below the main ridge of the Pyrenees – the border between Spain and France, and right in front of me I discover a 5-star hotel!

Day VI
Feeling good from a hot shower and well rested, I left the next morning at 5:30am to the
sound of thunder and raindrops with the goal of reaching turnpoint Céciré. Unfortunately, it began to rain hard after 30 minutes and it didn’t stop the whole day. After a 15-hour hike in thick fog and rain with thunder, lightning and hail, we managed to scale the Céciré where it was finally dry. As a reward or maybe because they were worried about us, two members of the race committee were waiting for us at the pass. We enjoyed a beer together in the rain, then finally put on dry clothes! Because the tracker had reception and network problems in the border region, my GPS transmitter hadn’t worked the whole day. Fortunately, I was able to save a backup of the route on my Garmin watch.

Day VII
The final day started, as usual, with rain… in the meantime we were close on the heels of two competitors, and the race for seventh place had begun. After a two-hour descent followed by a four-hour climb up the other side of the valley, I managed a long glide between rain clouds to the next valley. That put me 15 km in front of my two pursuers, which gave me time for a short break to rest and eat. After that I continued at a fast pace to Vielha and along the road to the pass Port de la Bonaigua at 2072m MSL. Via livetracking, I kept a close eye on the two behind me. My fear that a window of opportunity might open up behind me, proved false. The last few kilometers on the pass put all my strength and motivation to the test. When I arrived at the top, my two friends from the race committee were waiting for me – naturally with a beer! To secure my seventh place, I ran a few hundred meters down the pass. After a short team briefing, we all congratulated each other and gave the race committee our final coordinates. With that, the race was over for us.

Day VIII
After a good night’s sleep we set off at 8:00am and drove to Port de la Selva for the awards
ceremony. After four hours and just over 300km of driving through the mountains, valleys
and nation parks, we arrived just before noon. It was very interesting to compare my own
experiences with those of the other athletes. After the awards ceremony and an aperitif, we
set out on the 850km journey home!
The week was an unbelievable adventure with lots of new impressions and new friendships.
Thrilled with making seventh place, I’m now looking forward to new adventures!

My special thanks also to my sponsors who have believed in me and supported me:

  • Skywalk Paragliders
  • Gyso AG
  • Spies Hecker GmbH
  • Carrosserie Keller & Co
  • Roger P. Frey
  • Michael Maldini

 

German version...

Am 31. Januar 2016 wurden meine Bemühungen und sportlichen Anstrengungen bestätigt! Ich war dabei! Die schriftliche Teilnahmebestätigung kam per E-Mail an einem Sonntagmorgen früh. Nach fast sieben Monaten organisatorischen Vorbereitungen und körperlich disziplinierten Training ging’s dann los.

Tag I
17. Juli 2016 um 11:00 Uhr fiel der Startschuss am Strand von Hondarribia… Bei schwülen 35 Grad und guten Wetterprognosen für die nächsten Tage, liefen alle 31 Teilnehmer aus 17 verschiedenen Ländern los Richtung Turnpoint La Rhune. 27 km, 1100 Höhenmeter und knapp vier Stunden später startete ich zum ersten Flug, mit welchem ich mich in eine gute Position brachte.

Tag II
Beginnt um 05:30 Uhr mit einem 50 km Fussmarsch Richtung Turnpoint Orhi. Schnell bemerkte ich die sich verschlechternde Wetterlage entgegen der guten Prognose. Unerwartet starker Wind mit bis zu 60 km/h liess meine Flugpläne scheitern. Für all jene, welche erst nach 14:00 Uhr am Grat zum Orhi ankamen war Fliegen unmöglich. Dadurch gelang es dem vorderen Dreierfeld sich abzusetzen und die restlichen Teilnehmer waren von da an zu Fuss im Schlechtwetter unterwegs. Mir gelang an diesem Abend, trotz den sehr schwierigen Verhältnissen, noch ein Flug über den Orhi nach El Mina. Dort gelandet, ohne Handyempfang und keine korrekten GPS Daten, wartete ich im Gleitschirm eingedeckt, bis mich spätabends mein Supporter fand.

Tag III
Ein sehr langer Tag zu Fuss durch Hochalpines Gelände ohne Aussicht auf Flugwetter da es in der Höhe zu viel Wind hatte. Trotz allen Widrigkeiten gelang es mir am Abend und nach knapp 4000 Höhenmeter und fast 70km Fussmarsch den Turnpoint Anayet zu erreichen.

Tag IV
Schon am Morgen beim Frühstück wurden wir durch Regentropfen begrüsst. Der immer stärker werdende Regen liess mich meine Flughoffnungen begraben. Aber noch hatte ich fünf Paar trockene Schuhe! Spätnachmittags, als der Regen etwas nachliess, packte mich wieder die Hoffnung auf einen Gleitflug ins Tal. Endlich auf der Bergkante angekommen war die nächste Gewitterfront bereits in Sichtweite. Nach kurzem Inne halten, entschied ich mich gegen meine schmerzenden Füsse und packte den Gleitschirm wieder in den Pack Sack. Keine fünf Minuten später tobte ein Hagelsturm mit Blitz und Donner und wir waren mitten drin!

Tag V
Da es mir, durch den unvorhersehbaren Wetterumschwung vom Vortag, nicht möglich war pünktlich um 22:30 Uhr zu pausieren, bekam ich eine 6 Stunden Strafe für den folgenden Tag! So startete mein Tag erst um 11:30 Uhr mit dem Vorteil noch meine Ausrüstung trocknen zu können und die verrissene Jacke und Regenponcho mit Gleitschirmreparatur- Klebepatch zusammenzukleben. Frischer und erholter als üblich, startete ich wieder ins Rennen. Nach einem 3stündigen Aufstieg konnte ich endlich wieder fliegen. Entgegen der Erwartungen relativ gut und mit 30km/h Südwestwind sehr sportlich aber es flog! Nach zweimaligem Low Save und immer stärker werdendem Wind (7 hPa Süd Überdruck) entschied ich mich nach 3.5 Stunden zur Landung. Nun stand ich also auf 1800m ü M. irgendwo im Nirgendwo, direkt unter dem Pyrenäenhauptkamm welcher die Grenze Spanien – Frankreich abgrenzt, und vor mir steht mitten im Nichts ein ***** Hotel!

Tag VI
Warm geduscht und gut erholt ging es morgens um 05:30 Uhr bei Donner und Regentropfen wieder weiter, mit dem Ziel den Turnpoint Céciré zu erreichen. Leider fing es bereits nach 30 Minuten stark zu regnen an und es sollte den ganzen Tag nicht mehr aufhören. Nach knapp 15 Stunden wandern im dichten Nebel mit Dauerregen, Donner, Blitz und Hagel war der Cecire erklommen und wir wieder im Trockenen. Als Belohnung oder vielleicht auch aus Sorge um uns, warteten bereits zwei Mitglieder der Rennleitung auf dem Pass auf uns. Nach einem gemeinsamen Bier im Regen, kamen wir nun auch wieder zu trockenen Kleidern! Da der Tracker im Grenzgebiet Empfangs- und Netzprobleme hatte funktionierte der GPS Sender ganztags nicht. Glücklicherweise konnte ich dank meiner Garmin Uhr ein Backup der Route sichern.

Tag VII
Der letzte Tag begann, wie gewohnt, mit Regen… Da mir mittlerweile zwei Mitkonkurrenten dicht auf den Fersen waren, begann nun auch das Rennen um den 7. Platz. Nach zwei Stunden Abstieg und weiteren vier Stunden Aufstieg auf der anderen Talseite, gelang mir durch die Regenwolken ein längerer Gleitflug in das nächste Tal. Dadurch lag ich 15 km vor meinen beiden Verfolgern, was mir eine kurze Verschnauf- und Essenspause verschaffte. Danach ging es weiter im schnellen Schritt nach Vielha und immer der Strasse entlang Richtung Passhöhe Port de la Bonaigua 2072m ü M. Meine beiden Verfolger hatte ich, dank Livetracking, immer im Auge. Meine Befürchtungen, dass sich plötzlich doch noch ein Flugfenster hinter mir öffnen könnte, bewahrheite sich nicht. Jedoch verlangten die letzten Kilometer auf die Passhöhe alles meiner Motivation und Kräfte ab. Oben angekommen erwarteten mich meine beiden Kollegen von der Rennleitung – natürlich mit einem Bier! Um meiner Sache und dem 7. Platz ganz sicher zu sein, lief ich noch einige hundert Meter den Pass hinunter. Nach einer kurzen Teambesprechung konnten wir uns in die Arme schliessen, gaben der Rennleitung unsere letzten Koordinaten durch und dann war das Rennen für uns beendet.

Tag VIII
Fast wie ausgeschlafen starteten wir um 08:00 Uhr in den Tag und fuhren nach Port de la Selva zur Rangverkündigung. Nach vier Stunden Fahrt und etwas über 300km durch Berge, Täler und Nationalparks, kamen wir kurz nach dem Mittag dort an. Es war sehr interessant, die eigenen Erfahrungen mit jenen der anderen Teilnehmern auszutauschen. Nach der Rangverkündigung und dem anschliessendem Apéro nahmen wir die letzten 850km Heimfahrt in Angriff!
Diese Woche war ein unglaubliches Abenteuer mit vielen neuen Eindrücken und frisch entstandenen Freundschaften. Überglücklich mit dem 7. Rang sehe ich nun neuen Abenteuern entgegen!
Mein spezieller Dank gilt auch meinen Sponsoren, welche an mich geglaubt und mich unterstützt haben:

  • Skywalk Paragliders
  • Gyso AG
  • Spies Hecker GmbH
  • Carrosserie Keller & Co
  • Roger P. Frey
  • Michael Maldini

Afterthought to X-Pyr 2016

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It’s been two weeks since the official end of X-Pyr 2016. My personal experience as participant in this amazing race was too short. On day two I caught a thermal just a few meters off the ground while I was already committed to land and ended up crashing into a barbed wire fence. I was incredibly lucky to have hit a post with my shoes and avoided hitting the spikes with my body. But my paraglider wasn’t as lucky. It was still traveling at a high speed and the barbs caused severe damage to about 25% of my wing.

I considered the situation with Alex, my teammate, and we agreed that it was a complex repair, not something we could just tape up and it was a significant safety risk. We didn’t have a backup glider and it was impossible for us to buy, rent or in any other way get another glider within the next few days. I even told Alex I would pack my damaged glider and walk as far as I could, without the possibility of flying, until the race was over. He smartly talked me out of this idea. We decided to call the Race Director and let him know that we were retiring. Our race was over.

For us X-Pyr involved months of planning, training and dreaming. It wasn’t easy to take a step back and see three amazing athletes and pilots make it all the way to the Mediterranean. But because of my background as a mountaineer I understand that there are variables that are outside of my control, that I can’t change and therefore I should accept and move on. That uncertainty is the nature of adventure races like X-Pyr and that’s part of what draws us. My definition of adventure: a journey in which the outcome is uncertain. X-Pyr is definitely an adventure.

Preparing for the race, and the race itself can be a logistical nightmare for participants and assistants. But it doesn’t compare to the extraordinary effort made by the race organizers. While we have mandatory rest periods from 22:30 to 5:30, they kept going all night looking after us. I’m extremely grateful to Íñigo Redín and his amazing team for putting together such a complex race, and still make it challenging but fun for us. I would also like to thank my teammate Alex for planning and dreaming being a part of this adventure with me. You can always expect him to keep a cool head and a smile, and he won’t disappoint.
So what’s next for me? Paragliding competitions, summiting an unclimbed peak in the Himalayas, marathons, ultra-marathons and multi-stage adventure races in the desert. And that’s just until the first half of next year! But I’m sure that wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, on the back of my mind I will be thinking of X-Pyr 2018 and reaching El Port de la Selva.

Sunset on the race / Team Flybubble UK

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The sun is setting and I'm grinding off what remains of my legs ... mainly to hold off the guys I passed today by flying catchup.

The wind doesnt stop. There were rumours it might drop late in the day but there are all kinds of windblown cloud bars aloft, driven by the N that is spilling down from France.

I found a perfect launch this morning and we both hiked up. This gave James his first opportunity to try out real XPYR conditions. I'm not sure he enjoyed the wild ride but the landing was easy and the views were the best.

My flight was great fun until rounding the Perdido airspace and fighting the wind to TP4. I got drilled and couldnt reach te he cylinder. I tried to land high but the turbulence was nasty so I bailed out and chose a safer landing beside the river.

Overall, a very tough course in hot windy conditions. I can only marvel at the guys who made goal. After a week of giving it 100%, I'm about half way.

Right, on with the walk. Tomorrow, we party!

A long day / Team Flybubble UK

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From the dawn start and early flight, to the ascent to col de Ispeguy, to the windy flight to some slope, to hiking to the peak and around to a better launch peak, to flying and thermaling with griffon vultures, to landing, hot hiking then relaunching, to landing beside a stream for a glorious swim, to an ascent of col de irati? Of 1000m and it seems I'll do about half of it before striking camp and resting my weary legs.

It's been tough, but today has been special. Being out in this great natural environment was energizing. Even so, I have nothing left over for a jog to Ohri.

Maybe tomorrow? And then the real flying begins...

X-Pyr 2016- TVE TELEDEPORTE

Enjoy the documentary edited for the international spanish TV chanel Teledeporte   For over people in Chrome https://dotvpn.com/en/free and http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/otros-deportes/parapente-xpyr-2016/3684229/ "Sorry, only in Spanish" [gallery link="file" ids="16905,16906,16907"]
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Xpyr final report or when the dream comes true

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X-pyr was a goal for this year, a big dream of small guy from small country, a task to compete with other similar pain-and-exhaustion loving guys in wild and beatiful landscape, the battle with heat, rain, thunderstorms and with my body and mind.
What i should say? It was the most beatiful Xpyrience of my life, and you know, I am not a homebody.

We, as a team Koreň/Strmeň had hard times, our livetrack didn´t work well, so finding ourselves was pretty hard. But its part of it. Our expyrience of race is very good, we made some mistakes in beggining and then, its quite hard to attack the frontiers, when you are grounded, but who don´t know how to fly, must hike...or fly in rough conditions. So xpyrience with strong winds and big thunderstorms was included.

Thank you, all of competitors and organisators for #anotherawesomeadventure!!! Hope to see you in next edition to struggle with Pyrenees again!

X-Pyr on Teledeporte

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Tomorrow, friday, at 13:25 the report about the X-Pyr will be broadcasted on canal TeleDeporte.

We are very proud that the most important sport channel in Spain dedicates sometime to the X-Pyr, despite being a minority sport.

So, be aware, and prepare your video recorder.

Iñigo Gabiria. Final assessment

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It's time to make a personal assessment of this race, and I can't say I feel satisfied with the final result, but I am pleased with the experiences I've lived.

Taking into account the three editions in which I've participated, this is by far the one where I've flown less. Tactically speaking, I've made fewer mistakes than in other editions, but this time the weather has not been kind to the pilots who missed the boat on the first day. I've fought strong winds, heat, storms... and in this kind of race, if you don't fly... you don't move forward.
When I became aware of the fact that the weather wouldn't let us fly, and finishing the race would be impossible, I changed my way of thinking and started to enjoy the race in a different way, calmly, enjoying every mountain, every valley, every stream, every flower, every detail... the wonderful landscapes that so many times we don't appreciate because of the altitude and the stress of the competition.
The good thing about crossing the Pyrenees is that it doesn't mather how many times you do it, it will never be the same. It will always be a different experience, different landscapes, different sensations. This is how the Pyrenees are.
The only things that saddens me is not having been able to enjoy the full route. Everything else has been very positive.
I've laughed a lot with Josito and Marga. Being with them in the last part of the race has been a gift for me, and has shifted fatigue, bad weather and kilometres of road into the background.
Especially I must thank my assistant Ivan Castro (50% of this team) for his efforts and constant dedication letting me perform at a hundred percent. The work of the assistant is essential, and although it seems they remain in the background, if it were not for him, none of this would be possible.
I also want to thank all who have constantly supported and encouraged me (I'll forget someone for sure).
To Beñat Zubillaga for joining me from the star to Larun base. To all my friends and family who were waiting for me at the top, making me feel really supported. To Gorka Tornos and Izaskun Azpitarte for joining us during the first days. To Leire (and Izadi) for being there, making it easier to Ivan, and Parapente Factory and Marga and Josito for being as they are.
Also to the X-Pyr, of which I feel a part of, for believing in me yet one more year.

The Pyrenees will stay there…

Team Mexico Garza / Martin: Farewell, we hope to see you again!

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I’m hiking towards the top of a mountain, sun is setting, and I need to find a place to launch. Flying curfew is upon me, but I need the extra kilometers to keep up with this tenacious and uber-competitive group of experienced pilots. “Push, push, push” I say to myself while I ingest yet another energy gel. Go, go go...faster! Then I wake up…

It’s been more than a week since the race has finished and I still dream about finding places to launch from to fly as far as possible. My body might be in America, but my mind is still somewhere deep in the majestic Pyrenees.

It has been an amazing experience, so I now feel a bit empty without it:

I miss feeling I gave everything I had during the day, even though at night I could barely move.

I miss watching the live-tracking and smiling nervously while watching how the other teams were still pushing hard to either get ahead of us, or to try to catch up with us.

I miss the sight of my supporter (Hector Martin) with a stone cold Coke in his hand after a long walk under the scorching sun.

I miss the camaraderie between competitors which comes from mutual respect. I know how much the others are hurting, but no one quits. Warriors from all around the world with one goal in mind.

In the end, the personal bonds made while we were at our most vulnerable, fighting against fatigue and pain, will never be broken as far as I’m concerned. To all who participated, you have my utmost respect and admiration. It has been an honor to race among you.

Lastly, huge thanks to the organization for the yet another successful X-Pyr event. Without your passion and dedication many of us wouldn’t even know how impressive and beautiful the Pyrenees really are.

Farewell. I hope our paths cross again soon!