The Red Bull X-Alps is one of the world’s toughest adventure races. Athletes must either hike or fly over 1,000km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco in the fastest time possible. Every kilometer must be covered either on foot or flown in a paraglider. It’s a formidable undertaking and takes place in one of the most breathtaking and unforgiving environments. Each team consists of one athlete and up to two supporters. No technical or outside assistance is allowed. It requires expert paragliding experience and a very high level of endurance fitness — it’s not uncommon for athletes to hike up to 100 km in a day. The 2013 race will be the sixth edition of the Red Bull X-Alps and comes on the ten-year anniversary of the first race.
The race starts in Salzburg and finishes in Monaco, a distance of approximately 1,000km as the crow flies. Athletes must pass 10 predefined turnpoints. For the 2013 race, these are: Gaisberg, Dachstein, Wildkogel, Zugspitze, Ortler/Sulden, Interlaken, Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Saint Hilaire, Peille. The idea for the race was developed by the Austrian pilot Hannes Arch. “Its simplicity is what makes it most appealing. We start in Salzburg and whoever arrives in Monaco first wins. That’s it. It’s about body and soul, not about hundreds of rules and regulations,” he says. When conditions are good, athletes use paragliders to fly, and when they are not they must run or hike, carrying their paraglider and other mandatory equipment. No other form of transport is permitted. The winner is the first to reach Monaco and the race ends 48 hours later. The athletes are then ranked according to their distance from Monaco. In 2011, a new rule was introduced for safety reasons. Between 23:00 and 04:00 the athletes were forced to have a mandatory rest and stay within a radius of 250m of their resting position. In 2013, the mandatory break is being extended by 1.5 hours, from 22:30 to 05:00. Also new for 2013 is the the Night Pass. This allows athletes to hike through the night but they can do this only once during the race and must inform organizers of their intention by 12:00 local time the same day. Another rule-change for 2013 is the banning of prototypes. All paragliders, harnesses, safety equipment and helmets now have to have an EN or LTF certification.