In the last of our rookie series, we chat to Michal Gierlach to hear how his 2017 performance went, and why landing in the lee of the Großglockner is an experience he’d rather forget.
You stayed until the end, finishing 378km from goal in 16th place. Happy with that?
It was my first time in the Red Bull X-Alps, so I shouldn’t complain, but I feel I could do better and omit many mistakes.
What were they?
On the third day close to the Slovenian border I bombed out in the middle of the day. That cost me almost 70km to the group and later I was stuck in bad weather in the northern part and it was impossible to catch the group up.
What would you do differently?
For sure we had too many things with us! I’d make some small improvements in equipment and tactics, but in general it wasn't that bad.
What went right?
The equipment and team was good. I think I prepared as well as possible before the race without any injuries and I felt fresh at the start, that was very important.
Did it take you long to recover?
Three days before the end, I twisted my ankle pretty seriously, so it took few weeks to cure, otherwise my muscles recovered fast. I gained some weight also!
Any standout highlight moments?
The flight from Großer Hafner with Krischa Berlinger and Stephan Gruber – we took off at 9am from a snowfield.
Any moments you’d prefer to forget?
Landing in the lee near the Großglockner at 3,000m and later trying to take off from there was scary. Later I had to escape from a huge thunderstorm – I was flying through snow and rain.
What are the lessons you took home?
For me it was quite a new thing was to work as a team, which is my biggest lesson.
What have you been up to since?
I came back to my job [as a guide and tandem pilot]. I'm organizing paragliding tours and doing cross country seminars. One month after the Red Bull X-Alps I managed to defend my paragliding Polish champion title.
Any new projects in the pipeline?
Many really. This year I want to do more paragliding comps including European Championships, but also IronFly in the Italian Alps which is similar to the Red Bull X-Alps (just shorter!) In Autumn, together with my friends from the national team we are planning to visit Brazil for some distance record flights.
Will you enter again in 2019?
I'm not saying no! There is still some time to think about it before registration opens...
Photos © zooom / Honza Zak, zooom / Harald Tauderer, zooom / Vitek Ludvik