Since this years edition of the race, a weather synopsis by a specialist was given to all the teams twice a day. This was a phenomenal service especially for a single supporter like me, as it would safe a lot of time. Nonetheless would I look at my personal weather sites and do my own forecasting as well.
And the forecast didn’t look too great for the second day, not for the morning anyway. It was pretty clear that no one would go flying before the afternoon at least. So it didn’t come as a surprise when it started raining shortly after Dave went out on the road to pursue the field up front. The surprise came in form of the torrential downpour of biblical proportion with heavy gusts.
With these conditions, especially with a long day of walking ahead it was of very big importance to keep the feet dry and to keep the athlete fueled up with food. Luckily for us Dave is a good eater. Never had I an issue that he wouldn’t eat the power food that I put in front of his face. Stuffing the athlete with as many calories as you possibly can is really crucial. Dave has a phenomenal longtime endurance, more than anyone I ever met, but every engine needs fuel.
To keep the feet dry I had installed a little system in the ventilation with some tubes that ran out at the passenger seat. An idea I had copied from the good read of UK’s Jon Chamber. With the heater of the car running at full power while I was driving, the shoes would completely dry out within 30-45 minutes. And since we had four pairs of shoes with us, keeping Dave’s feet dry was never an issue.
Luckily for everyone, the rain soon stopped and drier air came flowing into the area. You could feel the tension in every team just by looking at the live tracking. Should we go up the hill and wait for thermals or walk further until conditions are definitely good again? Some of the teams behind were deciding to run up to a launch, while others were either in an unfavourable position for flying or decided to walk a little longer.
We were in a position at this time to either go up to the famous launch of Kössen from the south, which would involve steep hiking from the valley floor including some sketchy scrambling in a wet scree field at the end or just swallow the bitter pill of walking all the way to the Kampenwand while the sun already came out. The second option was taken since it wouldn’t take that long to the Kampenwand anyway and thermal activity was definitely still going to wait for a while to properly kick in. Watching other gliders taking sledrides from the very launch was proof enough that the decision had been correct.
After leaving Dave to drive around the hills to the official LZ of the Kampenwand I left the car to get all the usual additional gear, food and drinks up to the official launch, at the same time turnpoint number two. Here you had to sign a board in order to tag the turnpoint.
When I arrived at the top I was slightly surprised by the huge crowd that had gathered here to welcome and cheer on the X-Alps athletes. There was music, bratwurst, beer and a huge television that showed the live tracking. Some guy on a microphone kept the masses entertained and gave updates on the race.
Now it was time for my second faux-pas. I had brought my flying gear with me so I could windtech for Dave, but quickly realised that I had forgotten my helmet in the car down at the bottom. The rules say I can’t fly without a certified helmet. Instead of taking the gondola down again, I frantically ran around and asked the locals to borrow a helmet. I got lucky with the local paragliding school, but they still had to ask someone down in town to put one on the gondola.
The coverage of the live tracking was in general very spotty in the bavarian part of the race, so I had no idea where Dave was exactly and got a little nervous when the helmet didn’t show up as fast as I wanted it to be, while I was sitting as calmly as possible on my personal ant hill.
Eventually the helmet did show though and so did Dave shortly thereafter. He gave a quick interview to the microphone guy to keep the fans happy and didn’t wait for me to fly with him, since there were quit enough wind dummies in the air to prove thermal activity.
So I took my time on the ground, while the fella with the microphone bothered me as well. I admit though I did enjoy the attention a little and took some more time than I should have to answer his questions.
When I finally was ready to launch, Dave had already topped out and was gone. Obviously, with approximately a billion people to watch my every step, I botched my first launch. Even better, the person that had laid out my wing got sprayed with fresh cow poo that had laid hidden underneath my glider. Kind of embarrassing, but even more funny in a way. Sorry dude. Again. The biggest danger in the alps is the ever present methane producing living land mower with its smelly pads that it just loves to put exactly in your way.
It would have been smarter to fly right with Dave since the special thing about flying in the bavarian foothills is the north wind that starts blowing as soon as the alps start breathing. It means that there are many soft natured thermals waiting on north facing walls which is rather unusual but a local is obviously used to that. Dave is not a local. He took the line down the valley south and soon went down in the boonies due to this fact. But nevermind, Captain Hindsight. To cross the large valley of the Inn would have been very difficult at this time of the day anyway.
Oh, I forgot to write something before. And since I don’t like editing I’ll mention it here. At noon we had let the race committee known that we are going to pull the night pass, since we believed to be in a strategic position too attack the main field up ahead and also, if those athletes behind us would do the same, we would be critically close to the last ranks.
So this meant we weren’t anywhere close to go to sleep, even Dave already had a long day behind him with a lot of fast walking and hardly any flying. Well, and since Redbull isn’t too shy with providing the teams with a lot of the fizzy drinks, it was now time to dig in into the many crates of taurine filled cans in the trunk. But I had a different idea for the extra kick to give Dave the wings.
From the Kampenwand you basically have three different options to reach the mighty Zugspitze. Either you choose the north route, which so often offers a nice convergence line to boat along, due to the bavarian wind. But you’ll have to negotiate a couple of valley crossings and you can’t walk in a straight manner if conditions for flying wouldn’t be good. Second option was to take the route to the south along the big valley of the Inn with perfect south facing walls. But two issues with that good-on-paper route. The airspace surrounding Innsbrucks airport and you would have to fly further west than the Zugspitze and turn around north to tag the imaginary line. In the last edition Magic Maurer took this line. But that’s Chrigel. Even though many pilots wear a bracelet that says WWCD (what would chrigel do), you should be careful by following this guy. Third option, favoured by many and us as well, was to take the direct line through the Karwendel, an incredibly beautiful National Park wedged in between Austria and Germany. Quite remote and you have to take the support car all the way around to the flats in bavaria to catch back up with the pilot. Also basically no cell coverage which also meant no live tracking.
Actually there is also a fourth option that only one guy would consider. Take the night pass and run all night through the bavarian flats. You guessed it. Tenacious Coconea said ‘F*CK IT!’ and did what he does best.
When we reached the camp of four other teams, we finally went to sleep ourself for a short two hour night. Today Dave had walked nearly a hundred kilometers to catch up. Quite the feat. I was impressed.