After an unsatisfying two hours of sleep we woke up to a beautiful day. The forecast seemed very good for flying, maybe the westerlies would be a little strong to do proper fast flying, but most of the field was in the same boat, only the spearhead of the race was on it’s way south towards Italy. The night had been tropical, meaning sweaty, greasy and the little sleep we got was light. This day would be hard, I knew it. The only solution, dig further into sugary caffeinated drinks. Driving under this conditions wasn’t a joke anymore. Furthermore it would be very hot today. A little self-pity right there.
I couldn’t help Dave today carrying his gear or windtech for him, as I had to drive a couple of hours around this area until I would meet up with his suspected line of flight again.
Dave took off walking towards the Zugspitze to already get a couple of k’s ahead of the other teams that were with us at this point. They planned to just walk up on the hill we had camped underneath to spare legs and feet. They were a little bewildered by Dave’s decision to push ahead and I was way to tired to reason with them. So I took off into the beauty of the mountains surrounding us.
The live tracking talked books. When Dave reached his launch for his attack on the main field that he planned to carry out with full force, he realized that sadly the thermals had a different plan and set their alarm for much later. So Dave sat on top, enjoyed the view and waited patiently for the thermals to awaken from their stable slumber.
I got texts from Dave’s girlfriend back home in the states while I was driving pedal to the metal, trying not to kill myself and others while fighting my body’s desire to fall asleep. She asked why Dave wouldn’t move, there’s others so close behind. Is there something wrong, what plan is on our mind and so on. My tired mind would grow angry and I told her off to not bother me with these questions anymore, while I had other things on my mind. Poor Tawny, sitting back home in Mammoth Lakes, freaking out sitting at her laptop watching the live tracking, that hardly worked anyway in these areas. I knew how she felt. The live tracking is a blessing and a curse. Watching it keeps your blood pressure at a comfortable five-digit level.
The four other pilots toplanded next to Dave, after struggling for an eternity on the peak before. So in hindsight all the pressing on hadn’t gotten our team further at all. But who is this Captain Hindsight anyway? I tell you what, he is a very strong presence in this race.
I drove way into the Karwendel to be in the line that Dave would fly along, but soon realized that there was no reception whatsoever. So I had to backtrack quite a while to reach an area where I actually could access the internet again. I parked next to an ice cold river, which I would lie in for minutes at a time just to not fall asleep. I had tried to sleep actually, but in vain. My blood pressure level wouldn’t allow it. Also drinking gallons of Redbull doesn’t help either.
Back to the athletes. All that trampling on top where they all sat depressed finally released some proper updraught and our five heroes propelled skywards. Up there though loomed that forecasted strong westerly that made flying towards the Zugspitze somewhat similar to swimming in honey. Sweet, but oh so slow. You know what I mean. Nice metaphor though, right?
After battling for inches instead of miles the pack landed in the incredibly serene valley of the Isar, where they were greeted by a hundred degrees of insane heat (not talking fahrenheit here). But a much worse enemy than the tarmac melting temperatures waited down there. Blood sucking demons, the damned vampires also known as horseflies had made this valley their love nest and produced so many more of those creatures. The smell of sweaty X-Alpers meant only one thing. Dinner. Seriously. This was an issue. Not fun. At all. Terrible. Some of the other pilots tried to avoid this unintended blood donation and escaped to sketchy launches to try and milk some thermals and fight the howling westerlies. Antoine Girard was actually quite successful and escaped the clutches of this pretty hell hole while most of the other pilots hated their life down below.
Dave joined up with Ferdy van Schelven to share the pain. The swollen heat-struck feet had to be treated with some cold water though, so he got left behind by the Dutchman eventually.
But all things come to an end and so did this valley. It eventually opened up into civilization where there is no room for biting nature. The rest of the day went by uneventful until I did set up camp for the night. A growling thunderstorm loomed somewhere not to far off. Still Dave rather wanted to sleep in the tent. As soon as dinner was served and we got ready for bed, a furious force unleashed upon us. One of the strongest gustfronts I have ever witnessed hit us and Dave was sitting in his little tent screaming like a little kid. No, I’m lying. He was laughing the storm away actually. Meanwhile I tried bare-chested to secure the tent with some of the large branches that had fallen off the nearby trees and nearly killed us. I felt heroic. The story of the south african team was quite more extreme though. But you would have to ask them yourself.