Swiss Adventurer Crossing The Alps by Hang Glider
Aug. 15, 1992
PARIS (AP) _ He calls his odyssey crazy, but never mind. Swiss adventurer Didier Favre is nearing his goal of crossing the Alps via six countries - by hang glider.
Favre's plan is simple: he soars by day, touches down to spend the night, and takes off again the next day. He calls himself a ''vagabond of the skies'' and his tactic ''bivouac flying.''
''It's crazy, completely crazy,'' admitted Favre, 45, in a telephone interview from the Glacier du Rhone in Switzerland.
''It's fabulous, all the flora and fauna you come across,'' Favre said. ''Lots of eagles are up there flying with me, lots of falcons, ravens, buzzards.''
He's also seen foxes, stags, wild sheep, ibexes, and the local goat-like chamois antelope.
''I'm past the most difficult part now,'' said Favre, who spent the past five weeks soaring over France, Monaco, Italy and Switzerland. ''Next I head toward ex-Yugoslavia, passing over Italian and Austrian Tyrol regions, then down into Slovenia.''
He says he thinks he'll finish before Aug. 23.
Favre departed June 30 from a 1,300-foot hill in the French Riviera on what he claims is the first attempt at such a long crossing of the Alps by hang glider.
Northerly winds and low clouds got him off to a slow start, taking a month to get to Courmayeur, Italy - 144 miles as the buzzard flies.
Favre said he hasn't encountered major difficulties, spending most nights with shepherds, at mountain lodges, or under the stars.
''I've been thirsty a lot though,'' he said. ''For a couple of days I was drinking dew and getting water from snow.''
He tries to camp out near rivers so he has a ready supply.
Favre's hang glider weighs 66 pounds, and he carries 44 pounds of equipment, like cameras, sleeping bag, water and clothes.
Shepherds are frequently dumbstruck when he blows in with the wind to a mountain clearing.
''I have to explain four or five times what I'm doing,'' he said. ''They ask me where's my car.''
To Favre, there is much to learn from shepherds hermit-like existence. ''I want to show the important ecological role they play,'' he said. ''They are the gardeners of the Alps.''
He feels he has an environmental mission as well: solar power. He uses thermal layers in the air to power his glider, named ''Melody.''
''If I can cross the Alps using the sun, then certainly we can use the sun to heat homes, have hot water and make cars run,'' Favre said.
With his hang glider, Favre can land anywhere as long as there's a nearby point from where he can launch himself on his next leg. He navigates by eye and never knows where he'll spend the night.
Despite 14 years experience hang gliding, there is danger.
''I have to be careful on landings and takeoffs,'' Favre said. ''There's no one there to help you, just the woodchucks.''
He's from the Swiss county of Vallee, and lives in Perly near Geneva with his wife and two children.
He gave up his entrepreneur's business last year to pursue bivouac flying. He has no corporate sponsors, though an Italian company donated the hang glider.
Favre is working on a photo collection of the Alps taken from the air, and writing an account of his crossing. He hopes to next hang glide across Chile.
''I've discovered something extraordinary,'' he said. ''Now I'm refining it.''
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