Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

August 5, 2015

Red Bull X-Alps 2015: Day 5

Today would be a pivotal day in my race.  The weather was improving, still windy but it should be flyable.  With only one competitor behind me, I couldn't afford to have a bad day or my race would come to a premature end.  However there were six athletes nearby, so things could shake up in the air for sure.

First on the list was to tick off Turnpoint #4, on the valley floor in the town of Lermoos.  This was just across the border of Austria so Germany was completed.  If today went well, Italy could be on the horizon too.   I signed the board at the turn point just past 6 am, and it was deserted except for a nice couple from the USA who had gotten there specifically because they saw an American was coming through.  Very nice of them!  

Shortly after that I caught up with Stephan, and we decided to stick together to have a better chance of a great flight.  Everyone else ahead of us had chosen to walk up the saddle to the south, but their flights would turn out to be sled rides with another hike up needed for their midday flight.  We decided to go for broke and make our launch the midday flight, hopefully it would a good one.  With a great meal of goulash soup from a hut near launch, we braved a very steep scree slope to the steepest launch I'd ever attempted.  It was tough for me not to slide down the grassy slope much less my gear.  My wing didn't really want to lay out at all, and kept bunching around my ankles.

At 1 pm the sun came out, the wind picked up, and we both managed to get airborne, Stephan with a cravat that he was able to clear.  Together we were able to fly across the Inn valley in very windy conditions to reach the Oetztal valley.  This deep narrow valley led us straight down our course line and straight to Italy.  Unfortunately it was super windy, and flying was more of a fight to keep my wing over my head than a peaceful cruise in the park.  I had some close calls, almost landed a couple of times, one of them being a rocky mountain peak (!), but finally got high above the glaciers and could look down on Timmelsjoch pass where I would cross another border. 

The strong North winds had been pushing us in a great direction all day, but now it was time to be very careful.  With the pressure difference very high between the two sides of the Alps, the North Fohn was showing an 8 on the gradient scale (see link with explanation below).   That meant the air would be a gigantic waterfall flowing over the main Alp spine.  Lee side rotor could be very dangerous.

I played it safe and landed before Merano in what were already high winds and getting higher.  Other competitors saw 9 m/s down, and one landed in a lake after throwing his reserve.  I was happy to be walking again after such a great flight, which bumped me up a few places in the standings.   

Our stop for the night was at a campground in Merano, where I could take a hot shower for the first time in the race.  Plus eat a couple of plates of chinese food at the nearby restaurant.  Best of all, I only had to walk 11 km to get there so I had an early night and a good sleep!

I would apologize for not taking any pictures in the air, but it was so windy I was afraid to let go of the brakes!
Turnpoint #4!
Stephan enjoys soup and a warm fire at the hut
View from launch
Our steep launch with Stephan hiding in the grass

Orchards in Italy are not good places to land
Ahhhh...cold water on my sore legs!
A nice walk along the river into Merano

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