Such an action has never been seen before: Three freeriders fly with a zeppelin from Friedrichshafen to the Eastern Alps to rappel down and go freeriding on untravelled terrain.
In mid-February, the three Austrian athletes Stefan Ager, Andreas Gumpenberger and Fabian Lentsch climb into the cabin of the gigantic 75-meter-long airship at the Zeppelin Hangar in Friedrichshafen and take off in the direction of Brandnertal, Vorarlberg. Arriving at "Kleiner Valkastiel" (2,233 m), they open the hatches and throw the 50-meter rope into the depths. They latch on, rappel down, hang in mid-air and take in an almost surreal, never-before-seen scene. Looking through the open hatch, Andreas Gumpenberger's pulse rises: "When I was hanging below the zeppelin, I had the feeling of abseiling from a cloud, it felt bizarre," he describes. When the athletes have solid ground under their feet again, the Zeppelin turns away, the freeriders face the steep flank of the mountain and enjoy the untracked descent.
Stefan Ager is happy that everything worked out so flawlessly: "There is more to it than "just" rappel down from the Zeppelin. A long period of preparation preceded the project. The zeppelin was specially modified for this action and the pilots were at their limits in terms of height and range of the airship."
Two years of intensive preparation lay behind this adventure. Ager and Gumpenberger, the initiators of the project convinced the shipping company in Friedrichshafen after several attempts to make any calculations at all, because zeppelin skiing is not the same as heliskiing, this means of transport is designed for lower altitudes: "For this project, we went to the maximum altitude with the zeppelin. Every gram, every temperature fluctuation, every difference in air pressure and every km/h of wind determines success or failure," explains 53-year-old chief pilot Fritz Günther.
A test flight was completed in fall, during which the planned altitude could not be achieved due to the temperatures, so the tension was high on day X. Ager pays the highest respect to the pilots and the shipping company in Friedrichshafen: "Never before an airship has faced such an adventure."
For the three freeriders, the idea and dream of zeppelin skiing has become reality. #zeppelinskiing
About the athletes:
The two extreme athletes Stefan Ager and Andreas Gumpenberger live in Innsbruck and produce mountain sports films and documentaries with their company Lensecape Productions. "Zeppelinskiing" is their latest work. www.lensecape.com. Tyrolean Fabian Lentsch is a professional big mountain skier and adventurer: www.fabianlentsch.com.
Photos by Mirja Geh, Daniel Hug & Lensecape
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