Flying in the Himalayas is a dream that any pilot has: Thomas de Dorlodot

CHENNAI: Paragliders Thomas of Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens I visited India in October 2019 for a great adventure through the Himalayas Mountains.

European paragliders made several unaided flights through Himachal Pradesh , starting with Bir-Billing and ending with multiple flight loops over Spiti Valley. En route they stopped at Manali, flew over the Rohtang Pass , and took a break at Keylong. The route between Keylong and Spiti had to be covered by car because the weather was too harsh to paraglide.

On this journey of about 350 kilometres, they travelled across some of the least visited destinations in their sport, camped on mountain tops, became the first paragliders to fly over Rohtang Pass , and battled rough weather to do the first-ever 6,200-metre flight over Spiti Valley. Since the flying was done without oxygen cylinders, the paragliders also made sure not to fly too high and took all the necessary safety precautions.

Excerpts from an interview with the Red Bull athlete from Dorlodot.

Brief notices

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whatdoyoulikemostaboutyoursport?



simplicity.it’sincredibletothinkthatyoucancarryanaircraftinyourbackpack,openitandflyaboveamountainrangewithit.ialsolikethefactthatthereisstillalottobedone.wefeellikeexplorerswhenweflyinplaceswherenoonehasbeenflyingbefore.

whathadyouheardoftheindianparaglidingsceneandwhathaveyouseenfrompersonalexperience?



iwenttoindiaonamotorcycletripsomeyearsback.ihadagliderwithmeandcouldmakeafewniceflights.idirectlysawthepotentialofthosemightymountains.somepartsarestillunexploredandthat’swhatinterestsmemost.

howdidyoudecidetotravelthroughthehimalayas?



horacioandicreatedthesearchprojectsyearsago.ourideaistotravel,toexploreandflyinnewplacesandtopushtheboundariesofoursport.wecrossedafricafromnorthtosouth,flewintheandesandinthealps.indiaandthehimalayaswerehighonourlistforawhile.weweresearchingforbigflightsandforarichculturalexperience.wewereserved.

whatwastherouteyoutookforthisadventure?



westartedinbir-billingasit’saclassicinindia,andtheperfectplacetofinetunethegearandprepare.fromthereweflewtomanaliandwaitedforgoodweathersowecouldcrosstherohtangpasstokeylong.wetravelledbycartospitiasthewindwasextremelystrongandthatwouldhavebeentoodangerous.thenweexploredspitiinalldirectionswithourparagliders.

whatwasthetotaldistanceyoutraveledonthisadventure?



itisnotasbigasotheradventureswehad.butmuchofitwasinunexploredareas.weflyaround300-350kms.

wasthereanoriginalplanforthetripanddidyouhavetodeviatefromyourplans?



ourplanwastoexplorethehimalayaswithoutafixeditineraryinmind.wepilotsalwaysadapttotheweatherandthepossibilitiestheconditionsofferus.inthiscasewehadtoplayitsafeinthenarrowvalleysgoingtospiti.flyingtherewouldhavebeenasuicidemission.thewindwasjusttoostrong.

whatweretheunexpectedchallengesthatyouhadtofaceonthistripandhowdidyouovercomethem?



themainchallengewastheweather.weencountereddifficultflyingconditions.themonsoonendedlaterthisyear.itwasmostlyturbulentandverywindy.ongooddays,weweregoingabove6,000meterswithoutoxygen.wedidnothavetimetodoaproperacclimatizationsowehadtobeextracarefulupthere.weslept4,000metersabovesealevelformanynights.atthisaltitudeit’shardtorecover,especiallywhenhitbyastorminthemiddleofthenight.wewerequiteexhaustedattheend.

couldyoudescribethelandscapesyousawfromupintheairwhileflyingoverthehimalayas?



thefirstpartofthemountainrangelooksalotlikethealps,withoutitshabitants.it’sverygreenwithbeautifulriversanddenseforests.itwasquiteamazingtoseethechangeshappeningwhiletravellingnorth.onthefirstdayswelandedingreenpasturesbutverysoonthesnowtookoveronthehighpasses,andinspitieverythingwasdryanditlookedabitlikeadesert.

whatdidyouseewhenyouclimbed6,200metersonspiti?howdifferentwasitfromotherflightsyouhavedonearoundtheworld?



itwasmindblowing.onceabove6,000metersyouseeveryfaraway.itfeelslikeyoucouldgoanywherewithyourglider,butatthesametimeyoufeelsosmallandvulnerable.everyflightisdifferentandthistimetherewardforflyinginturbulentconditionswasworththeeffort.iwon’tforgetthatfeelinganytimesoon.wewereflyingwithmassivevultures.wereachedacloudbasewiththem.whileflyingwiththebirds,horacioandistartedscreaming“somospajaros”(spanishfor“wearebirds”).it’ssomethingwesayonlyonexceptionalflights.

whatdidyouthinkofyouroveralltimeinindiaandtheculture?whichplacesdidyouvisitapartfromthehimalayas?



indiahasoneoftherichestculturesintheworldandsomanycontrasts.localswerealwaysverywelcomingandwemadegoodfriendsontheway.everytimewelandedsomewhere,wewereinvitedfortea.iwillalwaysrememberadinnerwesharedwithashepherdandhisfamily,highupinthemountains,justnexttoabonfire.

afterspendingweeksinthenorth,wealsovisitedjodhpur.iloved.wecouldgetsomeflightstherewithhelp.thatareaalsohasgreatpotentialforparagliding.

apartfromthethrillingsportingaspectofyourtrip,wasthereanyotherreasonyoudecidedtoparaglideacrossthehimalayas?



flyinginthehimalayasisadreamanypilothas.youfindthebestconcentrationofhighmountainshereandsomeareasarestillunexplored.youexperienceflyinglikeinnootherplace.iparticularlyliketoflyinveryremoteareas.wheni’mflyinginthehimalayas,ifeelgratefultobeamongstthefewpeoplewhocanseesuchview.itisoneofthoseexperiencesmoneycannotbuy.

inyourresearch,didanythingshowifaparaglidingathlete–indianorinternational–haddoneasimilarrouteacrossthehimalayasbefore?



yes,johnsilvesterhadflowntokeylongfrombir-billing; I think on another route. I think we were the first to do it crossing Rohtang Pass . Some of the flights in Spiti had never been done before. But no wonder why, the flying conditions are a bit crazy up there. At the end it doesn’t really matter. Every flight is unique and we are not competing against anyone here. We just want to push the boundaries and live a great adventure.

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