Red Bull X-Alps 2011: Andreas Frötscher, the great competition and a story about friendship
Andreas Frötscher talks about the excitement of his Red Bull X-Alps 2011, the competition which took place last July and crossed the Alps from Salzburg all the way to Monaco. 864km by paraglider and on foot.
The eagles that soar high above the Schlern know him well. From them he learned how to discover the "thermals". Those warm air currents which enable him to fly through his mountains, the Dolomites, and across the entire Alps. He, the friend of the eagles, is Andreas "Andy" Frötscher. Aged 42, he lives in Klobenstein in Italy's South Tyrol, teaches in an electronics lab at the Industrial technical Institute in Meran and has one great love: flying, paragliding. "Flying equates to freedom" There, in the air, I feel free" Andy told us "You feel immersed in nature. And enjoy extraordinary panoramas." Frötscher is an athlete. One of the most representative of the Red Bull X-Alps, the particular competition, or better still, adventure, which for 5 events (every two years) departs from Salzburg and finishes at the Principality of Monaco after having crossed the entire Alps. 864 km covered either by paraglider or on foot. It goes without saying that this is a gruelling race which demands absolute physical and mental training, as well as exceptional flying and strategic abilities. just think that every day, for 14 consecutive days, the athletes compete for 14-16 hours. Which means, in practice, that they "sleep" when walking or flying... It's clear therefore that only a select few athletes, from all across the globe, can participate in this air and earth marathon. And Andy happens to be one of the very few who has taken part in all 5 editions! On 18 July he was on the starting grid at Salzburg once again, for the latest event which was won by Christian Maurer when, 10 days later, the Swissman was the first to land at the port at Monaco. Andy's competition finished precisely two days later at the Matterhorn and he ended up 14th. But, as he himself recounts, the experience proved unforgettable... Because, many days after the adventure, the "crazy race" has still left an indelible mark, and a dream. The memory of a friendship which "saved" him. And the dream of competing again in the next Red Bull X-Alps in 2013.
RED BULL X-ALPS 2011 - A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE EARTH AND THE SKY by Andy Frötscher
On 20 July I jotted down in my diary: another 733km as the crow flies! Another 10 days of flying and walking! More than 25000m to ascend up mountains, on foot! But how can I conquer it all if just 3 days after the start in Salzburg my body doesn't want to hear anything else about all this? I'm currently 25th, one of the last...
I had set off from Salzburg on 17 July together with 29 athletes, all passionate paragliders, with the aim of reaching the finishing line at the Principality of Monaco. This is the Red Bull X-Alps, one of the last true adventures to battle it out in the Alps. Two weeks only to fly or walk, without using cars, cable cars, trains or any other means of transport. For me this meant saying good-bye to my day-to-day life. Meant having an aim for which I trained my body, but also my mind. Finding my limit, both in the air and on the ground! And it also meant having a sports dream: reaching the finishing line, that platform in the sea placed in front of Monaco!
But let's return to that morning on the 20th of July. I sat in a mountain hut, the owner tried to share his problems he'd had with the TV crew which yesterday had driven past on a Quad, ignoring the fact that driving on paths here is forbidden. All I could think was "why isn't he happy that this area is receiving some publicity?" I then fell asleep in front of the hot stove. Outside it was raining, cold, at altitude it was snowing. Only after a few minutes did Robert, my team mate during the competition, wake me. "Andy, Max (Max Fanderl – Team Canada) is outside, waiting for you. Do you want to walk with him? How are you feeling? You're not obliged to go, you know..."
Neither I nor he wanted to consider withdrawing! More than 2000km training on foot during the last 10 months, loads of flight hours, and then there'd also be the delusion of sponsors and my fans! I needed to sum up all the strength left in my body, even if this proved difficult. I had a fever, a slight cough and an inflamed left ankle... Max entered and told me "Andy, come on! Lets reach the Grossglockner together, we can chat a bit and while away time!" I prepared my gear, said good-bye to Robert, set off with Max and slowly but surely left my problems behind!
Then, when crossing the border between Austria and Italy, in Val Cassies, various things changed. The temperatures rose and this did my health no end of good! Unfortunately though the weather didn't changed much, but at least I managed to fly various stages of the competition. And when I didn't fly I walked, fairly quickly, gaining one place after the next. A group formed which competed for 14th - 25th place. And finally the moment came when I wanted to play with my adversaries, make some tactical decisions and fly some different routes on my own accord. This was fun and motivated me, even if it proved tiring. I walked 50 - 70 km a day. My aim: to be the first of this group. I.e. 14th overall.
After flying past the Tre Cime di Lavaredo together with Max we decided to continue along different routes. I led to Meran, but then Max made a comeback. He flew past me before Passo dello Stelvio and managed to establish a 20+km lead. Reaching him would prove difficult, but I managed to do this in the morning of the last day of the competition. We decided not to compete against each other any more and walk to the Matterhorn turnpoint together. So this is how our competition, our adventure, came to an end in front of one of the most spectacular mountains in the world. Unfortunately not in flight, but at least this meant we managed to enjoy a cold beer together after so much effort! And it was great to share 14th place with an athlete like Max after this long battle!
Now, a month after the end of the Red Bull X-Alps 2011, there are many memories which spring to mind. But the joy of having competed right to the end, of having survived that damned 4th day, is enormous. It's nice to know that a friendship was created between myself and another competitor, Max Fanderl, which I want to foster, even though live far apart. And of course I'm already thinking about things that need changing in 2013 so as to be able to live out my dream once again: on that finishing platform in front of the port at Monaco!
Andreas Frötscher was born on 14/04/1969, is married and lives in Klobenstein, in the South Tyrol, Italy. He teaches in an electronics lab at the Industrial technical institute in Meran and in his free time is a paragliding guide. He began flying in 1993 and since then he has realised his dreams. Nowadays he cannot do without his paraglider. His preferred areas are the Dolomites and Alps in general, and he loves the views onto the mountains. He is regional paragliding champion, has taken part in all five editions of the Red Bull X-Alps, to which he states he is “addicted”.
Regional paragliding champion
1st place Trofeo Montegrappa Bassano in 2008 (FAI2)
2nd place Raimund Wieser Cup (FAI2)