Petzl is the official supplier of headlamps of the Red Bull X-Alps 2009
A paraglider flies near the Eiger, third turning point of the race.
Photo: (c) Olivier Laugero / Red Bull Photofiles
For a 20-day, 818 km race traversing the Alps (by wing and by foot), a headlamp and a back-up light are necessary equipment. Petzl supports this race by providing all the athletes and their assistants with a e+LITE and a TIKKA PLUS2.
An entire new line of compact and powerful headlamps...to reach the end of the night.
Check them out at: www.tikka2.com
The back-up emergency e+LITE weighs only 28 grams, shines up to 35 hours and has a shelf life of 10 years. It's now equipped with a signalization whistle (100 dB), for even more saftey options.
Toma Coconea (ROM) at last year's X-Alps
Photo credit (c) Vitek Ludvik / Red Bull Photofiles
On July 19 on the Mozartplatz, in Salzburg, Austria, 30 teams from 23 countries will begin their race across the Alps. They will pass seven checkpoints in Austria, Germany, Italy and France to finish on the beaches of Monte Carlo.
During the race, each pilot is accompanied by only one assistant who is in charge of food and logistic support. The athlete is only allowed to travel by parapente or foot - no other means of transportation is allowed. This year's race covers even more Alpine terrain and pilots must go around the Matterhorn and then on to Mont Blanc.
Heading towards the north face of the Eiger (CH)
Photo: (c) Olivier Laugero / Red Bull Photofiles
For a better understanding of the race, we were able to meet up with two local specialists, Julien Wirtz and Adrien Vicier. This is their second year competeing in this race.
Is the Red Bull Xalp a paragliding contest or a foot race?
Julien Wirtz: Both methods are equally important. The weather will really dictate how we will progress. Flying is of course the priority, but if the weather turns bad, then we have to go by foot from one valley to the next as fast as possible. We have to fly as far as possible, but we also have to anticipate the launch possibilities for the following day.
Adrien Vicier and Julien Wirtz
Photo (c) Lafouche
The intinerary goes through some high mountain terrain. How have you been preparing for that?
Julien: We've been climbing regularly and that gives us a good foundation. When flying over the massifs, there is always the risk that we may have to land on a glacier. That's why I always carry a minimum of mountaineering equipment (Hirundos harness, Attache 3D locking carabiner, Reverso 3, Irvis crampons, Snowracer ice axe, three Laser Sonic screws and a rope). There is also the possibility that we may need to climb a peak higher than 3000 meters to launch from in order to get above an inversion layer or to take advantage of the best thermals. If we decide to do this, we both climb to the summit (the rules state that only the assistant is allowed to climb with the pilot to get to a launch site). Last year, we climbed a via ferrata on the side of the Marmolada to get to the launch zone to get a good flight.
Describe an ideal day for an assistant.
Adrien Vicier: Julian and I make a good team. We climb to the launch zone together each morning. I start off first so Julian can see how the conditions are. Then he gets in the air and figures out where he's going to go. I fly a little with him and then I turn around and head to the car. Then it's a race to follow Julien from one valley to the next. I also do the shopping, and depending on the distance covered I work on the next day's route. I cook, find a place to sleep, get caught up on the news on the X-Alp site and prepare for the next day. That's the ideal but there are also days when the weather is bad. We have to organize a long stage by foot and try to anticipate the weather conditions to come. That can lead to many changes in the plan and adapting to changing conditions.
It's a 24 hour/day race. Does that mean you travel at night?
Julien: After a flight, I eat something and figure out my itinerary. Then I hike as far as I can before getting a few hours of sleep. So I plan a lot of travel at night. I chose the the Myo RXP and the Tikka XP to light my way because I need something powerful to see the trails, which are sometimes hard to follow. Day or night, I always carry an e+Lite with me so no matter how the flight was, I will not be landing on a moraine in the dark.
How much does your pack weigh?
Julien: The pilot has to carry the paragliding equipment, the instruments and food for the day. Then mountaineering equipment might be added if necessary to climb to a launch zone or get over a pass. My pack weighs about 10 kg - every gram counts.
The weather is an important factor when choosing an intinerary. Do you get special information?
Adrien: We have someone who follows the weather. He is based in Chamonix and he's a very good pilot. He provides us with extremely reliable information to fly. This year the hard part will be the passage around the Matterhorn and on to Mont Blanc. The forecasts will help us make a critical decision: whether or not to go around the Italian side or stay on the Swiss and French side. We can't make a mistake here because the rest of the route is very different depending on which option we choose.
In 2007, you made it to Queyras. What is the objective this year?
Julien: It was very hard to stop only a few flights from the finish line. This year we are determined to make it to the beaches of Monte Carlo and unpack the swim suits.
Julien Wirtz (32-years old) is an experienced long distance paraglider. In 2006 he and Phillipe Nodet (T) flew several hundred meters across the Himalayas on a self-supported trip, reaching altitudes of 7000 meters and flying over the Trango Towers...
Adrien Vicier (23-years old) is an active member of the St Hilaire du Touvet paragliding scene. This is is second time serving as assitant in the Red Bull X Alp race.
For more information:
Lyod Pennicuik in the rain
Photo (c) Vitek Ludvik / Red Bull Photofiles