By Dan Walton
Pioneer readers may be familiar with Max Fanderl, the local paraglider who has competed in the Red Bull X-Alps four times, with the most recent race taking place earlier this month.
The X-Alps is an extreme competition held bi-annually between paragliders, challenging them to a race track spanning hundreds of kilometres in length through the Alps mountain range in Europe. To celebrate the X-Alps tenth anniversary, the 2013 race increased its route by 200 kilometres to 1,031 through the mountains of Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. With aid from a partner or two, competitors aimed to be the first to reach Monaco after navigating past ten predefined turnpoints travelling only by foot and paraglider.
Racers were given the green light early on Sunday, July 7th to begin the extreme challenge. Invermeres own Max Fanderl was off to a strong start, but shortly after passing the town of Seefeld in Austria, he was forced to conduct an emergency landing on a field that was out of bounds. Flying in the restricted space penalized Max with a 48-hour suspension, during which he and his wife Penny Powers, who was providing logistical support for the race, had to watch 13 other pilots pass, which put him in second-to-last place when he finally resumed the race.
The good part was that my flying friends from the 1980s lived nearby and we could enjoy visiting them and were treated with their amazing hospitality, Max wrote on his website, www.flyingmax.com. It was fun to invite all the other competitors for a snack or meal while they passed us, or landed in a field close by.
After all but one of his competitors passed him during his 48-hour penalty, it was time for Max to hit the ground running. With 28 of 29 teams ahead of him, Max launched himself into 23rd place by Friday, July 19th at noon, when the race came to an end. The first place finisher, Christian Maurer from Switzerland, completed the course just 20 minutes shy of seven days, with a 40 hour lead on the runner up.
As competitors have just 48 hours to cross the finish line after the winner, only ten of the thirty participants completed the race. Max and Penny were 411 kilometres from the finish when Maurer claimed victory.
We experienced a lot of setbacks due the lack of local area knowledge, Max wrote.
Flights were taken in thundershowers and through winds greater than 50 kilometres per hour, all through unknown territory.
It was very frustrating thinking you know where thermals should be, what ridges and terrain would work better than others, only to find myself flushed down from 3,500 metres to the ground and ending up having to hike up very high mountain passes more often than the locals, he said.
But overall, it was an amazing race with very good flying conditions, Max wrote.
We had some long flights (one over 150 kilometres) flying over glaciers and very beautiful terrain. We had hikes in areas we never would have gone to, and met such a wide variety of people along the way.
Max hiked at an average rate of six kilometres per hour, travelled a distance of 471 kilometres, and ascended 40 kilometres in elevation.
I would say that Penny did at least 90 per cent of that, Max said. Plus going down, she cooked dinners, cleaned most of the dishes, checked weather, and was up earlier than I was everyday to have breakfast ready, and everything ready and prepared for the day ahead .. she is more then living up to her last name (Powers).
To read Maxs full account, visit www.flyingmax.com.