In June 2014, 26 year old Berni Peßl from Styria (Austria) was the first pilot to complete a 300+ km FAI triangle on an EN B paraglider (Nova Mentor 3). In July he completed another XC hat-trick, flying 687 km in three days. Read his report about his 30 hours of happiness and satisfaction.
17th July 2014 195 km FAI / 225 km free distance/ 9 h airtime
It is 6 am when we arrive at the Grente parking in the woods above Antholz (Anterselva) Valley. We are still a little sleepy from a very short night. The fatigue wears off quickly, however, as we hike up to Grentealm (Malga Grente) with many familiar faces around. It is always nice when the day begins with cordial greetings and smiles. Shortly before 10 am it is already possible to launch. As predicted there are some clouds blown in by the north wind, obscuring the sun occasionally. So I decide not to do the traverse at Kals due to the shadowing. At the traverse in Sterzing (Vipiteno) one could feel the pressure difference between the northern and southern Alps clearly. A pretty powerful northerly wind was flushing down from Brenner Pass. I cross into the
Ridnaun Valley (south side of the ridge), arriving pretty low. I can barely thermal up again in very turbulent conditions. Not really recommendable… Berni Koller shows a much more elegant solution for the Sterzing (Vipiteno) traverse: he flies to the north side of the ridge and then soars up in a relaxed manner. Very clever, have a look at his track! Further towards the second turnpoint I can finally thermal to over 3700 m, enjoying a stunning view. The last leg into the Dolomites goes quite quickly.
East of Kreuzkofel (Cima di Croce), but at a safe distance, I am carefully observing an impressive anvil of a cumulonimbus cloud. But no danger. Unfortunately, I make a little mistake and don’t thermal up high enough to gain the required altitude to get the third turnpoint in the FAI sector. But in any case the north wind makes flying rather uncomfortable. When I notice that Berni Koller is gliding out into the Badia Valley, I happily decide to follow him.
Together we hitchhike to an inn, where shortly afterwards Andreas Kusstatscher and Harald Mair join us. Cheers! Thanks to Joerg Mueller and Michael Zenker for finally finding and retrieving us. We arrive back in Anterselva Valley at night.
18. July 2014 273 km FAI / 288 km free distance / airtime 11h15
“Another hammer day” (as we say in German) is my first thought in the morning. The parking lot and the launch site see a highly international gathering of XC pilots. Iamina Ilea from Romania accompanies us to Grente again. David Rybar from the Czech Republic has come with a minibus full of pilots. Simon Wamser, Timon Weber, Till Gottbrath, Stefan Lauth, Andi Egger, Bernie Koller and some others represent the German XC pilots. Kurt Eder, Harald Mair came from a neighbouring valley in Southern Tyrol. Finally, Joerg Mueller, Michael Zenker and Simon Oberrauner represent the Austrian junior hike and fly XC pilots. With such a mixed bunch of nice people the XC flying mood is hard to beat. It’s a very distinct spirit. That’s why the personal bests are often improved on such days (which actually happened to some of the folks).
Andreas Egger launches first at 9.15 am, the other pilots and I immediately after him. Together, we help each other when searching for the best thermals, waving, cheering and enjoying the fantastic view. Being a bit inattentive, I don’t set the first turnpoint near Grossglockner properly. As a result I have to adjust the triangle on the second turnpoint in Ridnaun Valley. On the way to the third turnpoint in the Dolomites we can feel the north wind again, blowing down from the Brenner Pass. The traverse of Sterzing (Vipiteno) requires our full concentration (and some pilots bomb out). The rest is a gift. Lüsen, Kreuzkofel (Cima di Croce), the turnpoint in the south, and then the final glide into Antholz Valley. I land at about 8:30 pm together with Kurt, Simon and Timon. What a day! This is exactly the way my last excursion to Southern Tyrol in this season should end!
The Styrian XC newcomers Simon, Michael and Joerg pick me up at the landing. So the drive home has a car full of euphoric pilots.
19. July 2014 167 km flat triangle / 174 km free distance / 9:30 h airtime
Around 3 am we arrive back home. After hiking up twice to Malga Grente a shower is more than necessary. And sleeping in a proper bed is also fantastic. I sleep twice as deeply so I can be relatively alter when I get up four hours later – somewhat cheerfully. I call Hannes Fuchshofer immediately. In fact, I had already cancelled the day before, but if there is a chance for a good flight with my friend, we have to take make the most of this. So my "mental coach Mr Fuchshofer" picks me up – for the third XC day in a row.
Arriving at the launch site on Schöckl (near the Austrian city of Graz), Joe Edlinger and a bunch of highly motivated pilots welcome us. For the third time in a row, the launch time is before 10 am. The day doesn’t become the “hammer-day” we were hoping for, because the south wind is churning things up too much. But it is such a pleasure to fly XC with many friends in Styria.
At 2 pm it happens: battery empty! Luckily only the camera battery, but vario, mobile phone and tablet also indicate battery low… what to do? I do not want to land too far away from home. For a long journey home I would be not have enough battery power. So mobile phone off, vario in quiet mode, tablet in economy mode. Soon I find myself somewhere very low in the Gesäuse mountains – less than 200 meters above valley floor. There is no need to explain the next two hours in detail, but in brief: with full concentration I manage to progress five kilometres – with an average speed of less than 3 km/h. Yet, I am still in the air! What follows afterwards is a real reward and paragliding at its best: nice conditions, stunning views of the Hochschwab chain or, as Tommy says, "the Styrian Dolomites". He is right. At 7:20 pm I land finally. With the help of a nice driver and a beloved brother I arrive at home at 8:30 pm.
I have spent more 29 hours and 45 minutes in the air and covered a distance of 687 kilometres within in three days. Now I am unbelievably exhausted and tired. But also unbelievably satisfied and happy.