As part of the longest ski tour event in the world, the Red Bull Der Lange Weg, five athletes completed the fastest crossing of the Alps main ridge from Vienna, Austria to Nice, France. Doing so in just 36 days, the group skied and hiked on foot 1,069 miles in distance and nearly 57 miles of cumulative elevation gain. In total, they were on the move for 375 hours.
On April 22, the group of athletes Bernhard Hug (SUI), Philipp Reiter (GER), David Wallmann (AUT) and Janelle and Mark Smiley (USA) arrived in Nice only 36 days after leaving Austria. The crew averaged a grueling 30 miles per day.
“It was really tough,” Hug told Red Bull in Nice. “Every day, you had to recharge your energy to re-focus and move forward step by step. These 14-hour days cost a lot of physical energy. And we had to adapt the route very often and to reorganize again and again because the weather was very difficult. This took a lot of mental energy. But now, we are relieved that we made it!”
Aside from the blazing pace, harsh weather was a major factor – crossing the Alps in March/April is no easy task. Blizzards were a reality at times, and the threat of avalanches was palpable.
The team originally started with seven athletes, but Nuria Picas (ESP) and Tamara Lunger (ITA) had to retire on their way to Nice for different reasons.
It was a very trying adventure. And the crew who made it in the 36 days endured plenty along the way.
As Reiter summed up the experience, “We were 36 days on the road, we were stuck in a blizzard at 3,700 meters [12,139 feet], we rode in knee-deep spring snow and now we’re at the beach, this is totally crazy. I still can’t believe we really made it. It was damn far, it was pretty hard, but that doesn’t matter any more, because we’re here now!”
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