A question of freedom – with the HYMER Grand Canyon S once from west to east through the Pyrenees

Patrick Sieber, professional paraglider pilot in the so-called Hike&Fly races, was looking for one of the greatest challenges that aviation has to offer in this area by participating in the X-Pyr 2022.

Not many pilots are able to take part in one of the toughest adventure races in the world - Patrick and his team were all the happier to have the camper van HYMER Grand Canyon S as a "home base" for a total of four adults during the 3.5 weeks in the Pyrenees. Many of the difficulties of the race were made much easier by the vehicle - and some envious looks from the other teams were definitely there. No wonder! ?

Patrick Sieber

Author

Travel Destination
Pyrenees mountain range
Model
HYMER Grand Canyon S

An adventure that is second to none

Lets start at the beginning: The X-Pyr is a Hike&Fly competition that takes place every two years. This means that participants are only allowed to walk or fly with a paraglider during the entire race. The route started in the far west, on the Atlantic coast of the Pyrenees, and ended in 2022 via eight previously defined waypoints in El Port de la Selva, a small coastal town on the Costa Brava in the far east of the Pyrenees. On the more than 600 kilometers race, Patrick always has to carry mandatory equipment consisting of a paraglider, reserve parachute, harness, helmet and GPS tracker. Luckily, his team can support him from the car and in the space miracle HYMER Grand Canyon S that had plenty of space for four adults thanks to the pop-up roof.

Let's go!

The camper van easily swallowed the never-ending packing list of paragliding equipment for four people, clothes, food, crockery, sleeping things and technical equipment - thanks to its well thought-out storage options and spacious storage compartments, everything found its place for the next few weeks in the HYMER Grand Canyon S. Now the adventure could finally start!
In order to be as well prepared as possible for the race, it is advisable to inspect possible routes between the waypoints in advance. Patrick and his team arrived in the Pyrenees a week before the start of the race after picking up the camper van and a thorough introduction to the vehicle at the HYMER headquarters at the production site in Bad Waldsee/Baden-Württemberg.

Reisen statt lesen?

Lernen Sie jetzt den HYMER Grand Canyon S kennen und beginnen Sie noch heute Ihr eigenes Abenteuer.

Wild, windy and untouched in many places - the Pyrenees

In contrast to the Alps, where Patrick and his team live, the Pyrenees seem rougher and more inaccessible. Many regions are sparsely populated, there are often no hiking trails and the valleys are densely overgrown and are more reminiscent of a jungle. Narrow, almost impassable roads and rough terrain are simply part of the Pyrenees. The HYMER more than paid for itself during the race in particular, when Patrick had to make an emergency landing in partly impassable terrain and needed support from his team.

Thanks to optional all-wheel drive equipment and numerous assistance and safety systems, the Grand Canyon S always cut a fine figure. In particular, the powerful Mercedes rear-wheel drive ensured a sporty driving style, with which the team was able to “cheat” through even the narrowest village alleys and the most winding mountain passes with flying colors.

Well prepared for weather changes

To prepare for the fast approaching race, the team also drove to the northern part of the Pyrenees, most of which is in France. While the Spanish side is mainly dry, rocky and hot, the French side is often plagued by water-logging when the wet air masses settle on the mountain range and rain down.

The weather phenomenon is deceptive and difficult to assess and so Patrick and two of his teammates encountered an unforeseen rain shower within 45 seconds during a flight... Where did that suddenly come from?! Now it was time to land quickly, because the canvas of the paraglider does not tolerate rain or moisture. Then there is a real danger of falling! Luckily everyone escaped with a fright, but the equipment was completely soaked. 

On this occasion, the convincing advantages of the auxiliary heating, which became a valued companion of the team during the race, were demonstrated for the first time. While the paragliders and harnesses were able to dry well in the valley wind, the clothes and shoes dried wonderfully in the HYMER Grand Canyon S. A great advantage if you don't always go out in good weather and sunshine!

A home on four wheels

Arrived in Hondarribia, the starting point of the X-Pyr, not only the team but also the HYMER Grand Canyon S was prepared for the imminent state of emergency: Since the team would be out and about every day during the 7-day race from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. an extreme consumption of energy-rich food and drinking water was planned on board. The logistical challenges - not to mention the route planning and Patrick's tremendous athletic performance during the competition - were a big topic beforehand. But here, too, the camper van certainly showed its best side with its ample storage options and Patrick and his team were once again very happy to have taken a relatively spacious vehicle with them.

It's getting serious - the start of the X-Pyr 2022!

On June 26, 2022 at 10 a.m. the time had finally come: Patrick started at this year’s X-Pyr 2022 with a total of 44 other international, highly professional teams. The absolute elite of the sport had gathered to test the limits of what is possible with a paraglider! From the start, the first 22 kilometers are mostly jogged, before a climb of 900 meters in altitude awaits you to the first waypoint.

Despite the backpack weighing around 8 kilograms, Patrick was able to complete the half marathon in less than three hours and so Patrick and his team reached the end of the climb as the 15th team.

Here, too, the HYMER Grand Canyon S proved to be THE perfect support vehicle: On the one hand, the camper van was big enough to be able to store the necessary luggage and, on the other hand, it was narrow and manoeuvrable, so that it could stop briefly on the narrow country lanes and collect the athlete, they were able to provide changing shoes, food and drink. Due to the rainy weather, only short gliding flights were ever possible, so that the team covered a lot of distance on foot on the first day until bedtime at 9 p.m. What a start!

Der Grand Canyon S machte stets eine souveräne Figur. Was für ein Abenteuer. Danke HYMER für die großartige Unterstützung bei diesem Lebenstraum!
Professioneller Gleitschirmpilot Patrick Sieber

An up and down of feelings

The first days on the north side of the Pyrenees were a test of patience for everyone due to bad weather conditions. Wet, cold, rainy - and that in midsummer! Although paragliding would go a lot faster, Patrick could rarely fly. But a multi-day race like the X-Pyr isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. But that time would come! With the HYMER Grand Canyon S, the team always drove a little ahead and prepared everything for when Patrick would run past - or even better - fly past. In the comfortable kitchenette, meals have often been pre-cooked for a day and then stored in the large refrigerator.

 

The sporty design of the HYMER Grand Canyon S caused a stir, so Patrick's teammates gave the other teams a "room tour" more than once. It was hard to believe that the four of the team really found space here comfortably and even had all the paragliding equipment and normal luggage stored away. The well thought-out room concept even allows for a bathroom, which quickly turned out to be the highlight of the evening in view of the top sporting performances.

The extreme weather in the Pyrenees also leads to strong winds, which can make paragliding life-threatening. But in a competitive race like this, you quickly go beyond your limits and your comfort zone. Physical and psychological signs of fatigue quickly become irrelevant.

Even if the increasing effort was noticeable, one of the toughest tests was on the sixth day: crossing the main Pyrenees ridge, which separates the wet north from the dry and hot south side of the mountains. Here Patrick was (finally!) rewarded with a "once in a lifetime" flight. Thanks to live tracking via GPS transmitter, the team was able to support Patrick in his decisions during the flight and watched from the camper van in real time whether the project would succeed.

And indeed: Patrick did the unbelievable and was able to fly from the south to the north side of the Pyrenees. From a cloud base at over 10,000 feet, Patrick flew at nearly 60 mph over the rough terrain and low clouds of the north side. Wow, what a view!

It's only over when it's over!

So the race to catch up began in the middle of the week! After the flight over the main ridge, ambition was aroused, so much that the team had trouble catching up with Patrick for a break with provisions on the winding and almost endless pass roads. As the crow flies is the best way to get to your destination... ?

The weather was quite stable and after a few hours it was time to start running again – in the truest sense of the word! The teams from Poland, Switzerland, Japan and England were just ahead of Patrick. For 20th place, three of the teams would have to be overtaken. One last effort with 2000 meters of altitude and 20 kilometers - and that at 30 degrees in the shade... Patrick mobilized his last reserves of strength while the team had to take a long detour into the next valley. Where was Patrick? Poor mobile phone and GPS reception made the last hour really exciting!

And he made it: With a little more altitude than the Polish pilot, Patrick was able to land two meadows down in the next valley and thus had a small but nice lead. 8:35 p.m. and now there was only a small pass road with a decent incline ahead of him. Pack up one last time, run one last time! And then it was finally over!

Patrick and his team actually made it and left the other teams from Poland, Japan and England behind! 20th place after seven extremely hard and exhausting days was done until the last minute!

The HYMER Grand Canyon S effortlessly mastered the last rough road, so Patrick was welcomed by his team shortly before 10 p.m. Since the Polish team could not have crossed the road with their vehicle, the Polish athlete was even picked up on the way back. Here, too, the Mercedes Sprinter once again proved its advantages and the generous feeling of space

The HYMER Grand Canyon S – 

the perfect companion in every situation

On the one hand big enough to accommodate the necessary luggage and on the other hand narrow and manoeuvrable to stop briefly and maneuver confidently even in narrow places and on country lanes. The HYMER Grand Canyon S is THE perfect support vehicle for sporting events. And on which adventure is he your faithful companion?

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