Day four started without much the usual hustle of looking for a launch. The field was grounded due to rainy weather. Again, I’m talking us and the main field of athletes here. Not the supreme guys out in the lead that were probably already popping champagne on the raft in Monaco, playing blackjack with strippers on their laps on some expensive royal luxury yacht, or something. While we groveled along in the dirt in BAVARIA!
Days like this are spent preparing a lot of food for the athlete and keep a watchful eye on the weather. As long as its raining and there isn’t an obvious sledder without much leg work in reach, you can’t do much than dreaming of sunshine. As long as everyone is grounded, not a real stressful situation anyway.
The imaginary line that extended to the north from the summit of the Zugspitze was crossed and subsequently the board signed at the LZ of Leermoos where a couple of hardcore fans waited in the rain for a snapshot of a X-Alps athlete.
Now came a decision point as it had finally stopped raining. Over a third lunch we contemplated what to do. Just after Leermoos there is a couple of little options to cross the Inn valley when it’s not an obvious XC day. Either you just walk in a not very straight manner around some obstacles. Not cool, but a couple of athletes had already taking the option since it had still been raining when they had to make their decision. You can run up straight from Leermoos to a little pass that we had scoped out during the preparation and take a sledder or hope for some ridgelift. This was definitely a good option but I forgot to mention that there was a strongish north wind blowing and the targeted launch would have been in a nasty rotor. Third option and a considerable number of athletes seemed to choose this one, was to climb to a large north facing screefield just on the border of Germany and Austria right above the pass that dropped down to Nassereith. From our vantage point it looked like the group, consisting of Tom de Dorlodot, Nelson de Freyman and Antoine Girard, had been sitting there already for hours, waiting for clouds to part. Also the conditions were rather iffy and launching in a scree fields and turning into a constricted pass with tons of rotor and other nasty air sharks waiting to churn you up, probably put a lid on their motivation to get into the air. Honza Rejmanek also started walking uphill towards the waiting group of frenchies (sorry Tom, you’re belgian but you do speak french. I’ll just throw you in that pot). British Steve Nash and Ferdy van Schelven walked up the next obstacle that stood between Nassereith and the Ötz valley, a free standing mountain called the Simmering. Dave took once more the decision to walk. I wanted him to fly, but I could understand his reservation. It was a high risk launch with high risk flying and questionable outcome.
While Dave walked down the steep path to the valley below he got attacked by a wild swarm of bees. Finally he stepped up his speed! That extra motivation sped up things a little and even put him in front of the waiting frenchie group up high who had seemed to loose their game as some of them started walking down.
While Dave fought for his life with the Austrian Border Bee Patrol Squad (ABBPS), Honza had reached the tree line and launched into that nasty air above our heads. After getting his fair load of air spanking while getting funneled through Fernpass he reached calmer air above Nassereith and headed for the Simmering, the big obstacle between us and the Ötz valley. It was clear that now he would be able to ridge soar along the thing or even pop above it to sled down south. And so he did. Meanwhile the frenchies, after seeing the successful attempt of Honza, had climbed up the scree again and finally launched as well. One by one they made it into the Ötz valley as well, the gateway to Italy. Italy… I could smell the pizzas already. But we weren’t there yet. First we had to climb up the steep Simmering to make it in time for a last ride before nine o’clock. The rules of the race state that you had to be on the ground by nine, so we had to hustle up that thing as fast as possible. Dave had already walked a whole day, so he needed some extra motivation. Thats why I came along as Drill Sergeant, also to carry some stuff and find a launch on top quickly.
The top of the Simmering is a huge flat area with a stunning vista of the Inn valley. The other athletes had launched in the lee of the south side with mixed feelings.
Having watched Honza and the frenchies ridge soaring the north and successfully crossing over the plateau to the south, we opted to launch into the wind on the north instead of a nasty rotor action in the lee, even though I’m sure it would have made a good story. Without issues Dave was off and glided into the last light of the day.
I hadn’t brought my wing up to launch this time, so I had to run down the mountain. Also I had forgotten to bring a headlight, a mistake I consequently seem to repeat every time I go into the mountains. It makes for good stories of type 2 – 3 fun. This time I lost the path only about five times and bushwacked the final 30 minutes straight down the mountain. Actually type 1-2 fun, so all good.
I reached Dave a couple of minutes before 10.30 pm, just in time to make camp and prepare a hearty dinner.