Hike and fly destinations to dream over
Yes, it’s January – that depressing time of going back to work. But don’t despair, here are 7 epic hike and fly destinations to inspire and add to your bucket list. Get planning, get booking…
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A no brainer, especially with the Olympics this year, Rio promises to be the city of fun for 2016. There’s epic flying over iconic peaks, favelas and the beach of the legendary city. Rio is famed for its parties but the nightlife isn’t the only thing that’s wild – the countryside is. Expect beautiful forest treks and long and steep, mountain trails. “If you are lucky you will be able to soar around the iconic statue of Christ – although the perfect conditions you need for that only line up a dozen times a year,” says Ed Ewing, Red Bull X-Alps reporter and Cross Country editor. More from Cross Country on Rio here.
Sooner or later, every pilgrim needs to pay homage to Chamonix, the birthplace of extreme adventure sports. As the base of Mt Blanc, one of the race’s regular Turnpoints, Chamonix often features in the drama of the Red Bull X-Alps. For those who like to earn their descents, there’s a steep 1,500m hike up to the top of Le Brevent (there’s also a lift), which offers spectacular views of the Mt Blanc massif. On the other side, you can take the Aiguille du Midi cable car for an unforgettable flight from the half-way station. “Just watch out for wingsuiters and speed riders on mini-wings!,” says Ewing. Click here for a guide to Chamonix.
The world is not short of incredible places to hike and fly, and many are well documented. But every athlete has their home-town secret. The Achensee is Pascal Purin’s. “It’s such a big playground,” he says. “You can do everything, from hike and fly, to cross country to acro and then go swimming or windsurfing afterwards.”
South Island, New Zealand
Wild landscapes, breathtaking scenery and a chance to fish for your supper, New Zealand offers vol biv fans a real adventure. Last month Red Bull X-Alps athlete Antoine Girard successfully completed an expedition there. “After 10 days of effort we crossed the South Island of New Zealand! The incredible weather allowed us to go much faster than expected. A real adventure ends,” he wrote on his blog. Three years ago Tom de Dorlodot and Ferdinand van Schelven made a successful crossing of the island. “It was probably one of my best trips ever,” Tom said at the time.
Home to some of the world’s highest mountains, paragliding in Pakistan is unlike anywhere else on earth. “It’s not for everyone,” warns Tom de Dorlodot, who has been there four summers in a row. “Pakistan is for paragliding what Hawaii is for surfing. It’s home to huge mountains, you get to fly to 7,000m. Imagine the Alps and multiply by three. The people are amazing, the flying is amazing and spectacular – it’s a little gem. But it’s quite a technical place to fly,” he adds. “There are some crazy take-offs.” And landings: in 2011 photographer Krystle Wright (who grabbed the shot above) suffered multiple injuries after landing in a bad crosswind while documenting one of Tom’s trips.
Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Three hours from the maelstrom that is Mexico City is Valle de Bravo, a peaceful lakeside hideaway for Mexicans escaping the city on the weekend. “The flying here is awesome – take off in the middle of pine forest and heat and you’ll soon be soaring at 4,000m in amazing convergence lines,” says Ewing. “You can fly almost every day,” says Nelson de Freyman who’s a big fan of the place. “The tequilas are nice too,” he adds.
The big outdoor playground that is Colorado is not short of adventures to offer, from descending the Colorado river to big mountain hikes, but paragliding as an activity is less well known there. One person who believes it should be on the map is Nelson de Freyman, who made an epic 3,000km vol biv traverse of the Rockies in 2014. Of Colorado he says: “It’s just amazing. You can have a cruise base of 6,500m, there’s a lot of landscape to take in. It’s really cool.”