Red Bull X-Alps
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The Red Bull X-Alps race is one of the most thrilling and challenging competitions yet devised by man. Most athletes around the globe regard it as THE top adventure out of all of the world’s extreme sports. The event demands superb athleticism, endurance and strength, technical skill, breathtaking courage, outstanding intellect, gut wrenching determination, and the survival instincts of a wolf.

The race is a combination of paragliding and mountaineering. The objective is to be the first to arrive in that playground of the wealthy, Monaco. Oh, and by the way you start in Austria, with a route which takes you through eight Alpine checkpoints in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. The competitors can travel only by paraglider or on foot. Checkpoints include the top of the Matterhorn and the top of Mont Blanc — this is an amazingly tough race.

Each athlete has two appointed assistants who help with transportation of equipment, advice and communication. Athletes are allowed to use expert guides for especially tricky mountaineering sections, with the prior consent of the organizers. The competitors are required to carry a certain minimum of equipment, although of course they can carry more, and they are also obliged to take rest periods at stated times.

Red Bull X-Alps
Photo Credit: Felix Woelk/Red Bull Content Pool

So part of the strategy involves being in the right place at the right time. For example, if you haven’t reached a safe place to bivvie whilst you are in the middle of a climb, and the rules say you have to stop, then you risk bivvying in a bad or dangerous place, or incurring a time penalty.  The opportunities for injury, accident, and insurmountable problems are manifested by the fact that most competitors don’t finish the race.

Once the winner arrives at the finishing line, the rest of the competitors have just forty eight hours to complete the bi-annual race. Last year, only two competitors finished, the reigning champion of the event, Christian Maurer, winning for the second time in a row. Only two other competitors from a field of thirty one had a realistic chance of making it to the finishing line, and of these, only one succeeded, Romania’s Toma Coconea. Interestingly, the percentage of flying to foot for Maurer was 73/27, whereas for Coconea it was 46/54. This event offers a field day for statisticians and analysts who endlessly speculate on the best tactics.

Honza Rejmanek (USA1)
Honza Rejmanek (USA1)
Photo Credit: Felix Woelk/Red Bull Content Pool

Chrigel, as Christian Maurer is known, is the outstanding favorite for the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps race. The two time winner is acknowledged by the thirty other competitors in the line up as being the man to beat. Entering for the first time in 2009, Chrigel is the event record holder at less than ten days, and is an immaculate planner and preparer for the race. He believes that every race is different, and calls for different tactics. Calling the right tactics is going to be a huge part of success and failure for the Red Bull X-Alps 2013 competition.

In the frame for a big upset is first time competitor, Austria’s Thomas Hofbauer, who is already in training. He was the winner of the 2012 Crossalps paragliding event, and definitely one to watch. Other names to look out for are Nepal’s Babu Sunuwar and veteran athlete Toma Coconea of Romania.

The leading US competitor for the 2013 competition is Honza Rejmanek, an atmospheric scientist by profession. He has featured in the top ten of the last three Red Bull X-Alp events, and was third in 2009, so he is a clear contender. He regards the race as the ultimate challenge, and his strategy for 2013 is amongst other things, to improve his route preparation.

Stephan Haase (USA2)
Stephan Haase (USA2)

New pilot this year from the US is Firefighter Stephan Haase. He confesses to being afraid of heights, and so continually challenges himself with mountaineering, paragliding and of course, on his job as a firefighter. A newcomer to the combined sport, he has extensive experience of the two component elements, including making the first trans High Sierra paragliding flight and twenty four years of climbing seriously in the Alps.

So the stage is set for the 2013 Red Bull X-Alp event. The competitors are in training, ready to pit their minds, bodies and souls against the mountains, the skies, the weather and each other. It’s going to be an outstanding test, and preparations can be followed on line at www.redbullxalps.com.