Red Bull X-Alps

This 1000-mile hike and fly will blow your mind

Red Bull X-Alps supporter Krischa Berlinger* and Slovakian pilot Jakub Beno are taking on an unsupported volbiv trip of more than 1000 miles across the remote and wild mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, following the ancient Silk Road.

© zooom.at/Vitek Ludvik
 Flying in the Himalaya
 Acclimatisation is crucial

Krischa Berlinger and Jakub Beno are heading into nomad and snow leopard country this July to attempt to hike and fly across "the roof of the world".

In 2015, Berlinger supported American Dave Turner during Red Bull X-Alps and won first place at XC and hike and fly races in Australia and the Balkans.

Coming from Switzerland, he’s no stranger to big mountains. He began mountaineering as a child, and spent the following three decades bouldering, sport and ice climbing, mountaineering and skiing.  Four years ago he got into paragliding because he got tired of walking down mountains. Since, he’s flown close to 1000 hours.

Slovakian pilot Jakub Beno is the current holder of the Asia XC distance record, and until recently held a hike and fly world record, before it was beaten by Red Bull X-Alps athlete Pascal Purin in June. 

The “1001” adventure this July and August will test everything the two have learned in the mountains over the decades. The adventure begins in Zeravashan Valley, Tajikistan; one of those remote, middle-of-nowhere places that you wonder who could possibly live there when you see them on Google Earth. They will hike and fly 250km to the east, and over a mountain pass to enter the Rasht Valley. From there, they will venture into one of the world’s highest plateaus – the Pamir, long known as “the roof of the world”.

“With 7000m peaks and the largest glacier outside the polar region the Pamir sports grand views and exhilarating flying,” Berlinger says. “This is snow leopard country with very few settlements due to the fact the plateau has an average altitude of 4000m. Here, we also will have to face the next challenge of the route, getting over a 5000m pass.”

Berlinger and Beno have spent the last three months in the foothills of the Himalaya to train and acclimatise for the coming adventure. With no possibility of taking supplementary oxygen with them into the Pamir, they need to be thoroughly acclimatised.

After leaving the Pamir, they will cross into Kyrgyzstan where they will traverse the Tian Shan mountain range, one of the places the ancient Silk Road once passed through. The intensity of the adventure then lessens slightly, but remains challenging.

“Grassy mountaintops are much better to land and set up camp on than the sheer granite cliffs of the Pamir,” Berlinger says. “Nonetheless the flying will be across wild wolf country and nomads land. Large settlements are still rare.”

From there they will reach Issyk Kul – a lake in the northeast of Kyrgyzstan that they will semi-circumnavigate before arriving at the country’s capitol city, Bishkek, the end point of his adventure.

Berlinger admits the “1001” adventure is a little daunting.

“There’s a lot to consider and there’s no certainty,” he says. “The good thing is we can take it easy because we have time. And we will always have food provisions for 10 days and the possibility of going fishing. We know that in the worse case scenario it will take us a week to walk back to civilisation.” 

Follow Krischa on his blog, on Instagram, or his hike and fly progress on DeLorme