X-Pyr: Paragliding Across the Pyrenees by Kinga Masztalerz Pt. 1

X-Pyr: Paragliding Across the Pyrenees by Kinga Masztalerz Pt. 1

X-Pyr is a one weeklong adventure race zigzagging throughout the whole Pyrenees, from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean Sea. The athletes can move only by flying their paragliders or hiking and caring their flying gear on their back. It takes place every other year and attracts the best pilots and hike & fly athletes in the world. This year I was the only woman qualified. 

Day 1


Starting with the run from Hondarribia to La Rhune, 20km on the road and 800m up, what a start of a 600km, 7day long race! I arrived at the first turn point around 12th place, happy with my 2:55h, feeling strong. 

The weather was better than expected, it didn't really rain. Hike & fly at its best, 5 flights, heaps of hiking, including 3200m up...

Camping in the hills in my Haven Bundle, well positioned for the next morning glide. 

Day 2


Still, our awesome team pulled of 3 flights which saved me heaps of road walking  we started with a morning glide, the only flight of the morning, and finished with the edgy wet glide of a pass where all the three supporters were holding my wet wing and then I flew out through the rain. Most of those light racing wings fall off the sky when they even see drops of water, Scala doesn’t. 

In the evening Ross and Jesse dried my shoes and backpack in a tumble dryer. The Haven Bundle had a chance to prove its waterproofness and yes, it kept me dry! 

Haven at Sunset

Day 3

Rough day, bad timing. 

First, we hiked up the mountain which was in the clouds because we believed it would open soon. However, we ended up above a thick layer of clouds covering the whole valley. It didn't stop another athlete from taking off but it’s against the rules and simply unfair toward other athletes who decided to hike the road so Richie, Nico and myself first waited and then we hiked down to the base of the cloud and flew from there.

After slope landing, I hiked to Accous take off and it was just starting working but still low. Guys flew out and landed in the valley, I tried harder and farther but it was a very slow progress which ended up with a dodgy landing in a rotor. It's in moments like this when I truly appreciate my Scala. 

All this put me at the edge of the airspace just when the day opened, and I spent the best part of the day hiking into Spain. Very frustrating, after 2,5 days of awful weather, finally a great flyable afternoon and I'm grounded while the guys in the front who already crossed to Spain, are flying some epic distances! 

Not to mention that I had a near death experience when a truck squeezed me against a brick wall. 

When I finally made it to Col de Somport, it was 7:30pm. A quick decision to climb, we even convinced Patrick's team to climb. We all had a fantastic flight with a beautiful evening thermal and strong back wind and overtook 7 teams who gave up on flying, either too exhausted to hike up or didn't believe it was worth it. 

I landed backwards in a weird katabatic, couldn't quite get out of my harness because, oh btw, I damaged it today (then Chris sews it back up on the spot!) so I just collapsed on the field like an injured penguin. 

It was 15 minutes until the mandatory night break, and we were on a good camping spot so there was nowhere else to go, nothing else to do, so then I gave myself 5 minutes to fall apart, to cry and release the stress of the day. 

And of course that's when a race media crew came to interview me 

Rough day but it's a part of the racing. To hold it together when it ll goes to sh*t because it's never too late to climb and the day isn't over until you give it all. 

Haven in midday

Day 4

Windy day.

Hiking with Chris up Punta de la Espata, Richie, Patrick and his supporter were hiking the same mountain on a different trail, 15 minutes ahead. On the top, I saw them walking quite a bit down, then they took off, pointed headwind, and sank into the valley. They didn't seem comfortable in the conditions, and I can't blame them, it was very windy. 

However, I live in New Zealand, we know windy. I waited another half an hour for some thermal activity, took off and after some searching got a lift to 3200m, joined the main ridge for a while but it didn't feel right out there with barely any penetration so went a bit out... It took forever at single digit and often no speed, once you hit the sink you basically fall off the sky straight down, so it was slow and technical flying in search of best lifty lines. I crossed Tena Valley and kept going, finally landing close to Broto. It was a good one, I saved heaps of walking and skipped a few places in the ranking. 

I hiked out of the valley, chasing Edouard who now was only 1km in front. On the way I hiked Punta Aguilar on Sierra de la Corona, flew from the narrow spur into the valley using some nice lift on the ridge, caught Edouard and after another hour of hiking found a perfect camping spot by the river.

Not a soul around, so I went topless to wash myself in the river and of course that's when the media crew arrived. They have perfect timing every day 

The wind kept blowing and my Haven Bundle showed it can handle it, the construction proved to be sound, even if there was a lot of wind chill coming in under the fly. 

Reading next

Using PechaKucha to Document Our Adventures by Jim Sutherland
X-Pyr: Paragliding Across the Pyrenees by Kinga Masztalerz Pt. 2

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