“Flight of the Century” is the phrase used to describe this record breaking paragliding attempt in the remotest area of the world. On 23rd July 2016, French paraglider Antoine Girard made history, soaring to an altitude of 8157m above the high summit of broad peak.
The French athlete who happens to be an experienced mountain climber was determined to fly in the critical conditions of Karakorum Range and had already spent three weeks in there with other paragliders including the likes of Tom de Dorlodot.
A U.S adventure pilot settled in Pakistan, Brad Sander was awe struck by the journey of Antoine. He supplied him with oxygen kits throughout his stay in Pakistan. He described this event as something that had never occurred before. According to him, the Frenchman was well prepared and extremely focused. Brad who himself was a paraglider a few years back, recalled how he never was brave enough to soar this high. He appreciated the efforts and resolution of the current lot of athletes who are very much in for risky yet life changing adventures.
Antoine Girard flew in complete vol-biv paragliding style. In the language of this sport, flying vol-biv means flying long distances during the day and camping at the night. So basically you are always travelling. His trip started with his flight around the ninth highest mountain in the world and crossing the Deosal plateau. He flew to the Baltoro glacier from Hunza valley and camped there for a couple of nights. Then came the day something magical happened, 23rd July. All set with his Adidas sports equipment and his oxygen tank, Girard was up for the challenge.
He flew up to Concordia from the Baltoro glacier, a place known as the heart of Karakorum Range. From this vantage point he could see some of the world’s gigantic mountain peaks. The height of these mountains was enough to intimidate any athlete that had any intention of soaring to the broad peak. But cruising through the snow storm with his paraglide, Antoine was more determined than ever. He climbed his way above the cloud base of 6500m and went up to the broad peak. It was a flight of 248 km which is a record of cross country fly in Pakistan. This was a seven-hour flight that made France’s Antoine a paragliding legend.
A handful of spectators were there along with the local audience to witness this record breaking flight, including some of the pros of paragliding. They all praised Girard for his valour and hoped to see him replicate this kind of adventures in the future. Tom and his other fellow paragliders were extremely proud of what Antoine achieved that day. They said that it takes a lot of passion and discipline for one to come this far.
Antoine Girard called it a “great experience in the wilderness of land”. His historical flight will be remembered as a symbol of sheer grit and determination and encourage many other athletes to take up the course of paragliding and Antoine Girard as a source of inspiration.