Above HUNZA Press release
225.02km above the high mountains of Pakistan by Sup’Air pilot Tom de Dorlodot. New record flight in
Glider : Gradient Avax XC3.
Harness : Sup’Air D-lite. Less than 3kg with parachute. No carbone plate.
Oxygen botle : Summit Oxygen.
Clothes : Peak Performance.
Moutain gears : Black Diamond.
8.12 hours flying.
Altitude max : 6443m
Max vario : 5.5m/s.
Max sinc rate : 6m/s.
What a flight… Today we are taking a well deserved day of rest as yesterday was pretty epic…
Our team is now in Gilgit sharing a mouton Karahi for diner in a noisy local Pakistany restaurant and trying to come down on earth. We have smiles on our face, clouds in our heads and the sound of
screaming varios in our ears… It feels just great to share this with friends.
I dreamed about this flight some time ago when our friend Brad Sander flew 224km from Booni to Hunza in 2008 and broke the altitude world record by the same occasion. This flight was for me one of the biggest achievement a paragliding pilot could dream of. As he flew in remote areas, in
between huge mountains and in total autonomy. Back in the time, when I saw is track I felt very small and uncapable of doing the same.
A week ago Brad told me with modesty on the phone :
« You will see, it is easy when you have the right conditions… » Just if it was easy like turning when it beeps and flying streight when it does not…
9 hours later you might be far away… Still, it is my third time in Pakistan and I know what it takes to make the best of those good days. We have been waiting for 2 months last year with Ramon Morillas for the rain to stop… and finaly, yesterday I flew above all those places where we got stocked last year because of floods and heavy rain… I really did not expect to fly 1km more than Brad on a different line…
Let me tell you the story of this flight in a few words. We woke up in Booni early in the morning but as we like having a real breakfast and local tea, we took some time to get to take off… The wind is there already. We have oxygen botles, Belgian chocolate, hand warmers and worm clothes.
My Sup’Air D-lite harness comes with a cocoon, wish is great for performance and the cold…
We are ready for some bivy as we also bring sleeping bags, bivy bag, my headlamp, food, water, super lite walking poles and the minimum to survive a few days in the mountains. I am happy, all my gears are so lite, all together my flying pack is around 15kg. I even have my fly fishing rod and a box full of flies because we are heading to some of the best trout fishing spots on earth and I am hoping to catch some fish for diner. This fishing rod will fly for the first time and his probably the highest rod on earth when I reach 6443m with Horacio a few hours later… But it is not the point here…
What I dont know yet is that we are going to fly high above this great rivers without having a chance to try to catch a bruin trout… I promiss I will come back someday…
The flight starts well as Hernan Pitocco opens the game followed by Horacio Llorens and I. Somehow it feels funny to fly XC with those 2 great acro pilot. Usually they start tumbling around when they arrive at cloubase. But today we play a different game and those guys also now how it works.
We fly in team but at some point we take different options. Pitocco is agressive and fast but loose some height in a difficult transition. He will make it back easy and raise the rythm. We all have different styles and I like it. We have 8 hours to get to know each other and make the best out of this day together… The spirit is good and I have to say that without them this flight would have been impossible.
I do not have much oxygen in my botle so I go easy. Anyway, cloudbase is low today. We can « only » climb to 5500m this morning. After it is like usual. From one thermal to another, one cloud to another.. east face, south face, west face… I think I reached the state of hypoxia a few time as I usually do not sing in turbulent conditions…
Time is running fast and cloudbase getting higher. We climb together with Horacio in a very turbulent thermal at 6300m. The thermal is in the lee side and that’s when acro skills really help… Just high enough to freeze our hands at -25°. We can feel the tension, no one is talking on the radio for the 3 hotest hours of the day… Concentred guys… The motivations is high. 189 km from Booni means Gilgit and hot shower… The view is breathtaking.
We can see Nanga Parbat, K2 and some huge thunderstorm. I have some Belgian chocolate with me as a secret weapon but no water. I am talking to my Gradient XC3 when it is rough, to the mountain and to the birds when the thermal comes nice and smoth… It will be funny on our film as we are actually filming a documentary with Belgian director Olivier Vanashen. I have a microphone on me znd a camera…
We make some distance and we start to believe that Gilgit is a realistic goal. The idea of a good bed and a nice restaurant gives us some
strenght. Time goes by and the sun goes down. We are getting closer. No real low points. I fly with Pitocco as Horacio got low at some point but will make a
great come back with his Nova Factor 2 and land after 189km, his last serious XC flight was 11 years ago flying 90km in Spain. Flying together gives us more
courage to scratch on rocky faces and to fly close to the ridge. The thermals are now smoth, we talk on radios again. We have been flying for 7 hours and
Gilgit appears in the horizon. Pitocco is there but leaves a thermal to early and goes down after a huge 210km with his SOL comp glider !!!
Now it is a fight to death. Pitocco and Horacio are saying on the radio : « animo tio, puedes conseguirlo… »
We know that Brad flew the longest distance ever done in Himalaya with 224km. I look at the camera, talk to the microphone and
say : « Brad here I am… Now it’s between you and me. » Without Brad’s amazing flight I would have land in Gilgit exhausted and happy to reach
the hotel and share tea with my friends… I am now determined but it is just for fun.
But, as we fly above Gilgit, I start to see the possibility to break this record flight. It is a one time opportunity. I eat some Belgian
chocolate and engage the fight… I say : « God if you exist let me know now… and the vario starts beeping… » I reconsider my point of view
about religions and start turning around…
It feels like my dear Belgium flatlands flying. 0.5m/s. I get the last 30 km like that and land with the wind in the back just to make the best out of my glide. I think I am alone
in the midle of nowhere and I scream « thank you »to the sky. A minute later, as usual, an army of kids are runing around. I land near a town called Pari… I wish I could be in
the french capital and enjoy « la cuisine française » and a fresh beer. But it is most likely not going to happen.My legs cannot hold me and I am
exhausted. I hitch hike and go back to town to meet my friends. I do not know yet if I flew more than Brad or not. It does not matter. What matters here is
to have fun and to enjoy.
Now after a tcheking on XC contest I realised that my distance is bigger by 1.3km… Nothing regarding those 225km… I am looking
forward to share a Belgian beer with Brad and talk paragliding.
Now we still have 2 weeks to go here in Pakistan and we might try to break his altitude world record. But it is another story…
Blue skies & soft landings,
Thomas de Dorlodot.
You can follow Tom on his Facebook fanpage:
Sponsors : Red Bull, Volkswagen, Gradient,
Sup’Air, Peak Performance, Black Diamond, HE paramotores, CERP,CO2logic.