In 2019, I found myself at the heart of one of the most intense and challenging paragliding races in the world, the Red Bull X-Alps. But this wasn't just any edition; it was the year I took on the mantle of mountain guide and chief supporter for the Croatian team, led by the spirited pilot, Marko Hrgetic. Our combined dedication, skills, and passion brought together the ideal blend to navigate the demanding terrains and skies of the Alps.
The race's essence is a blend of endurance, strategy, and adaptability, where athletes are tasked with hiking or flying a staggering 1,200 km across the sprawling, majestic Alps. Roughly 30 athletes participate, each steered by a set of turn points, with every kilometer traversed either by foot or on a paraglider's wings. As Marko's guide and supporter, my responsibility extended beyond navigating routes; it was about providing technical insights, ensuring his well-being, and constantly fueling his determination. We journeyed across Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France, each region offering its own set of challenges and marvels.
Although the end of our X-Alps journey didn't see us touch the final destination, it was poetic in its own right. We concluded over the slopes of Saint Gervais, with the majestic Mont Blanc overseeing our descent, a bittersweet stone's throw away from home. While we may not have completed the full route, our journey was a testament to our tenacity, spirit, and the indelible mark of Croatia and Marko on the grand canvas of the Alpine challenge.