For 20 years now, Red Bull X-Alps has been considered the toughest race in the world. From June 11, the best and most agile athletes will cover 1,223 kilometers across the Alps on foot or by paraglider. 32 athletes are completely vulnerable to the forces of nature and can only rely on their skills and knowledge. One of the 15 turning points to pass is the 900m Wagrainkleinarl. Destination awaits about 12 days after the start in Kitzbühel in Zell am See-Kaprun.
The sun is not yet high, but it is already more than 20 degrees here at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level. Two athletes diligently climb a narrow slope. A few meters away from them, others are already hanging on their gliders, in search of the first heat of the day. The weather was uncooperative yesterday afternoon. Flying was out of the question in storms and thunderstorms. Red Bull X-Alps is not for the recreational athlete and requires everything from the toughest under the sun.
1223 kilometers across the Alps
The rules are very simple. After starting in Kitzbühel, a specific route of 1,223 kilometers must be covered on foot or by parachute through Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. As the crow flies, of course! Because the actual path is chosen by the 32 participants themselves. A 7-hour break must be observed between 9 pm and 6 am, the position must be maintained between 11 pm and 4 am. Simple right? At least on paper!
20 years of madness
Born from the unforgettable vision of Hans Arch and Ulrich Brill, Red Bull X-Alps celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. The race can look back on an eventful history. While the first edition in 2003 moved from Dachstein to Monaco, in 2009 it started for the first time in Salzburg at the Residenzplatz. After an exhausting flight to the Gaisbergspitze, wings could finally be spread and the journey towards Monaco began. weather permitting. In 2021, for the first time, the destination is not on the Côte d’Azur coast by the sea. But in the middle of the mountains in Zell am See-Kaprun.
A new way to remember
To celebrate its anniversary, the World’s Hardest Adventure Race 2023 is reinventing itself once again. For the first time since 2007, the start is no longer in Salzburg, but in Kitzbühel – with a fast ride on the Streif. The second shift point then takes the 32 athletes to SalzburgerLand, more specifically to Wagrain-Kleinarl, where the prologue was held in 2019 and 2021. Here, at the easternmost point of the entire route, you have to descend briefly before heading towards Chiemgau and finally to Mont Blanc.
What follows is, without exaggeration, the most difficult and demanding route that X-Alps has ever traveled. In about 12 days there are 15 turning points to be traversed around the world, a crossing of the Aletsch glacier in Switzerland and even a Via Ferrata pass to be mastered in South Tyrol. The compass needle points west to Mont Blanc, then back to Austria in an easterly direction. After the penultimate turning point on 3 Zinnen, all you have to do is reach the finish in Zell am See-Kaprun.
A destination in the middle of the lake
“The aspect of going west first and then east again also means you’re more dependent on the weather, as I found out in the 2021 edition. Eventually, it gets really exciting as the distances between turning points get bigger and bigger.” Paul Guskelbauer, 6-time Red Bull X-Alps player
But if you think that all skins in Zell am See-Kaprun will be dry and you only need to land, you are wrong. As with the last edition in 2021, the first thing to do this year again is to cruise around Schmittenhöhe. The few participants who make it this far can briefly enjoy the paraglider down to the lake. When you land on the small floating landing island on the water, your already stressed pulse will rise again.
“The course will require a lot of strategic thinking on the part of the athletes – as well as incredible stamina.” Ulrich Grill
All those who want to follow the race live can find it www.redbullxalps.com Tracking athletes at every turn.
© Cover photo: Sebastien Marco / Red Bull Content Pool
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