Thomas de Dorlodot flies above Concordia, in Pakistan.
Two European paragliding pilots flying and walking the
Southern Alps from Queenstown to Nelson are battling the
elements south of Mt Cook on their epic 800km journey.
Using only their thin nylon wings and their feet, the men -
Thomas de Dorlodot (27), of Belgium, and Ferdinand Van
Schelven (28), of the Netherlands, - are in training for a
race in Europe later this year.
Via the tracking device he is carrying, the Otago Daily
Times found Mr de Dorlodot's position yesterday
It appeared he was on foot in the Dobson Valley midway
between Lakes Ohau and Pukaki, heading northeast, about 40km
from Mt Cook.
The pair left the Routeburn Track area near Queenstown about
10 days ago and arrived at Makarora, near Wanaka, last
Paragliding pilot Jeff Ripley, of Auckland, met the pair and
helped them stock up on food for the next leg to Mt Cook.
Mr Ripley said if flying conditions were good, it would take
two days to fly to Mt Cook. Now, six days after leaving
Makarora, they would be running low on food.
He expected them to stock up again at Mt Cook.
''Their aim is to fly along the Southern Alps as close as
they can to the high ground, bearing in mind they don't have
gear for walking on glaciers - ropes, that sort of thing.''
Their sleeping bags and other gear was ''lightweight'', but
they were aware they were likely to spend more time walking
than flying, because of the weather.
''They knew they were in for a fairly hard leg, with the
weather deteriorating on them.
''Their spirits were up. They knew what was ahead. They were
just settling in for a long walk.''
Department of Conservation area manager at Mt Cook Ronan Grew
said snow had fallen to ''fairly low levels'' on Monday night
and it was breezy yesterday, but the weather was improving.
Paragliders were not a common sight around Mt Cook, although
in the past some pilots had launched from mountains in the
region, including Mt Cook.
Mr Ripley said the two men were ''basically professional
Mr de Dorlodot spent half of each year taking
paragliding/trekking tours through Pakistan.
Both men are in a list of 32 competitors in the 900km Red
Bull X-Alps race due to begin in Salzberg, Austria, in July
and finish 12 to 16 days later in Monaco.
It is billed as one of the world's toughest adventure races,
in which athletes can only fly, walk or run.
One observer spoken to by the ODT yesterday remarked
the weather made the Southern Alps a far more difficult
prospect for paragliding than the Alps in Europe.