A team of five skiers trekked the Der Lange Weg route across the mightiest peaks of the European Alps at blazing speed.
Wake up, tour for 14 hours, sleep, repeat – for 36 days straight. That was the reality for an international team of skiers as they repeated one of the longest ski tours in history.
On April 22, Bernard Hug, Phillip Reiter, David Wallman, Janelle Smiley, and Mark Smiley arrived in Nice, France, after departing from Reichenau an der Rax, Austria, 36 days prior.
Dubbed the Red Bull Der Lange Weg, the route traverses the European Alps from Austria to southern France. The route is 1,069 miles long and includes a cumulative 294,108 feet of climbing. Altogether, they were on the move for 375 hours, averaging 30 miles per day.
While the team beat the original time of 43 days set in 1971, they did so while omitting several summits tagged by the first expedition. Until this latest expedition, nobody attempted to repeat the route.
Longest Alps Ski Tour: Austria to France
The team followed the path of the 1971 expedition that completed the tour in 43 days. The original tour included summiting some of the highest mountains in the Alps, including Piz Palü (12,795 feet) and Mont Blanc (15,774 feet). The 1971 team didn’t summit Grossglockner (12,461 feet).
Originally, the recent trip attempted to follow the 1971 expedition as closely as possible. But the group had to call off all but one of the mountain summits, Grossglockner, due to bad weather. At one point, they were stuck in a blizzard at 12,139 feet.
Austrians Robert Kittl, Klaus Hoi, Hansjoerg Farbmacher, and Hans Mariacher went on the first expedition. They sought to take “the most challenging route” across the entire Alpine divide from east to west on skis.
Keep in mind that this expedition did not have the cutting-edge, fast-and-light gear available to the athletes of today.
On Mont Blanc, the group turned back 433 feet from the summit because of avalanche risk.
“It was really tough. Every day, you have to recharge your energy to refocus and move forward step by step. These 14-hour days cost a lot of physical energy,” said Hug about the expedition.
The team finished the ski tour on the beaches of Nice, France. They took a dip in the Mediterranean, having been in the snowy mountains only days before.