Horacio Llorens and Thomas de Dorlodot visited India in October 2019 for a great adventure across the Himalayan mountains.
The European paragliders made several unassisted flights through Himachal Pradesh, starting with Bir-Billing and ending with several 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 achieved their target of travelling 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. Horacio Llorens talekd about his flying adventure over several weeks in the Himalayas. Excerpts:
What do you love most about your sport?
I love the freedom of flying. There is nothing compared to when you can take a few steps off the top of a mountainand fly high above the clouds,like a bird.
What had you heard of the Indian paragliding scene and what have you seen from personal experience?
I heard Bir-Billing is one of the best spots for paragliding during European autumn, with amazing conditions for thermalling (columns of air that rise upwards which a paraglider uses to gain elevation). I was quite impressed by the playground, wild valleys, local hospitality and crazy landscapes. I will come back for sure.
How did you decide to travel across the Himalayas?
Tom and I have been travelling together all around the world for the last 10 years, flying at different spots, but we had never been to the Himalayas together. It was a perfect opportunity to discover a new place.
What were the unexpected challenges that you had to face on this trip and how did you overcome them?
The first challenge was to fly together and take the right decisions by radioto make sure we have safe and long flights. Head wind was something we encountered throughout the adventure; it was sometimes very strong and created a lot of turbulence. We had some rainbut not too much. At SpitiValley we were able to climb to 6,000mand much more, but we kept it under 6,500m for safety reasons; we would need supplementary oxygen at higher elevations but we didn’t carry the tanks because they are too heavyand there wouldn’t be any refilling points in the remote places we were flying.
Could you describe the landscapes you saw while flying over the Himalayas?
I was impressed by the beauty and colourful landscapes while flying from Bir-Billing to Manali. There were green valleys, lots of trees and wild animals. But suddenly, when we crossed the icy RohtangPass, everything changed. There it was all rockfaces, narrow valleys, higher mountains, and very few villages. We were at the heart of the Himalayasand the feeling was just amazing!
What did you see when you climbed to 6,200 metres at Spiti? How different does it look compared to other flights you’ve done around the world?
The view was simply incredible. There were lots of possible lines to fly, with many valleys going into lost mountains and no roads or villages nearby. We really enjoyed the wild part of this trip.
What did you think of your overall time in India and Indian culture? Which places did you visit apart from the Himalayas?
Indian culture is very varied and colourful. Indian people are very welcoming and hospitality is everywhere. I loved visiting Jodhpur and the MehrangarhFort. The Blue City was so beautiful. I was very impressed.
Apart from the thrilling sporting aspect of your trip, was there any other reason you decided to paraglide across the Himalayas?
I love high mountains and as far as that goes, there is nothing compared to the Himalayas. I had been to the mountains in Nepal and Pakistan previously, but that was not enough. I wanted to have a clear view of the heart of the Himalayas and fly above this incredible Buddhist monastery and lost valleys in Spiti.