Red Bull X-Alps

Hiking solo in the mountains of New Zealand

With European athletes beasting themselves on alpine hills, we catch up with Tom de Dorlodot, who’s taking a very different approach to preparation – hiking solo in the wilderness of New Zealand.


© John Stapels
 © John Stapels
 IMG 6446

With just four months to the start of the Red Bull X-Alps, athletes’ social feeds are starting to get interesting as the training and preparation steps up a gear. Paul Guschlbauer recently made an 11-peak ski tour with 4,200m of ascent, which took 10 hours.

Chrigel Maurer meanwhile clearly thinks skis are too easy and has recently been running through deep snow like Rocky Balboa to get himself ready. 

Hiking Solo

But for Tom de Dorlodot, working on flying and adventure skills is the most important focus right now. He was in New Zealand last month, mostly alone on South Island – hiking, fishing and flying out of Glenorchy, although he was joined by photographer and longtime supporter John Stapels for some of the trip.  

“It has everything there,” he says. “Mountains, lakes, rivers and a very nice small paragliding community.” “I wanted to get away from the cold and get some decent flying,” he adds. “Mostly I wanted to spend time in the mountains on my own – I’m a bit of a solitary guy.”

De Dorlodot spent the month flying, hiking, pack rafting, sleeping in the wild and catching huge trout. “New Zealand is just a paradise. It was just about exploring, going with the wind. No goals, pure freedom, just feeling. It feels good to come back to the very basics sometimes. The conditions [for flying] have been really hard but I was lucky to get some nice flying and I took the opportunity to hike a lot. You know, I can turn my brain off and walk for days. To be honest, I just enjoy it.”

His says he now has an optimum training base to build on. “I need more volume of training now. The level is just so high!”

Fortunately, everything scheduled between now and then is geared towards that.

First up is a trip to climb and fly off Pico Colomb (5,700m) in Colombia. “It will include hiking in the jungle for days, another good training camp. But most of my adventures before the race are some kind of ‘suffer fest’!” he adds. Maybe we’ll see him running up and down alpine hills as well. 

Photos above by John Stapels