Friday, July 6, 2007

Hailey pilot selected for Alps competition

Scales to compete with paragliding elite in Red Bull challenge

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo by Nate Scales- Hailey glider pilot Nate Scales took this self-portrait last August while soaring above the skies of southern Idaho to set a new state paragliding distance record of 126 miles. At altitudes of about 18,000 feet, Scales' drinking and ballast water froze solid and ice crystals formed in his nose. Scales' next adventure will be competing later this month in the Red Bull X-Alps challenge, an international competition that involves climbing and soaring above the Alps in southern Europe.

Hailey paragliding pilot Nate Scales is one of two U.S. athletes selected to compete in an international competition that involves climbing and soaring above the Alps in southern Europe.

Scales, the Idaho paragliding distance record holder, will join an elite field of 30 pilots to compete in the Red Bull X-Alps challenge that starts July 23 in Krippenstein, Austria.

The only other U.S. competitor selected to compete in the event is Honza Rejmanek. A press release from Red Bull says Rejmanek is from California, but he is also well connected to the Wood River Valley.

Rejmanek, a Czech native, is a part-time area resident who has been a flight instructor for Fly Sun Valley, a Ketchum paragliding business.

Scales and Rejmanek have had a friendly competition going on for the past few years. Both have set Idaho paragliding distance records. Rejmanek held the record at 117 miles until last August when Scales recaptured the title with an epic flight that took him from Bald Mountain to the far side of Dubois in eastern Idaho. His official distance was 126 miles.

In the Red Bull Alps competition, Scales and Rejmanek will have to do more than just pilot their gliders. They also have to climb the mountains.

The Red Bull press release says the competition "challenges participants to attempt to traverse the massive Alpine range as fast as possible, hiking high into 10,000-foot mountains carrying only their paragliding equipment. Athletes will choose their own routes hiking and flying through the most hostile mountains in Europe."

Starting a Krippenstein, pilots will hike up the Dachstein range of the Alps, "cross the glacier by foot and launch their paragliders from a windswept, icy cornice perched perilously over thousands of feet of vertical wall," the press release says.

But the race doesn't end there. Turning points for pilots are in Marmolada in Italy, Eiger in Switzerland and Mont Blanc and Mont Gros in France. The final destination is Monaco.

A GPS tracking system will let event organizers and spectators know where each athlete is located. Real time positioning information can be accessed online at Competitors will carry mini cameras and mobile phones "allowing them to blog their latest thoughts in online diaries as they battle on," the press release says.

Scales, a 35-year-old carpenter, is no stranger to paragliding. Although he describes himself as a "complete rank amateur", Scales has been a strong competitor previously in U.S. national competitions.

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