05-04-2022

The Artik 5 makes the first ever paraglider traverse of Mount Fitz Roy

The Fitz Roy Traverse is one of the world’s best known alpine routes. It's a tour that makes you feel truly immersed among immense formations of spectacular granite. Located on the Argentinean side of Patagonia, in El Chaltén, Mount Fitz Roy is considered one of the most beautiful mountains on the planet. It is a very demanding trek that requires a lot of mountaineering experience, both on rock and ice, and is usually done on skis or snowshoes. Until now. Now, for the first time in history, this tour, so popular with mountaineers, is also open to pilots. Manu Canale, with his Artik 5, flew over these famous Argentinean glaciers for the first time on the 19th of January 2022. 

First steps

How did it all start? "On the 15th of January I got up at 5am, looked at the weather forecast and wrote to all my fellow flyers: ‘Let's go to the El Chaltén gap!’ Although it's a long journey, it will be worth it,” explains Manu Canale. This is how the first steps of this historic trip were taken. He got his car and, a few minutes later, Mauro Dante and Niviuk pilots Sebastián Quiroga and Lucas Dahir, among others, joined the expedition. 

The next day, they arrived in El Chaltén and flew with local pilots at the Barda de los Condores. On Monday they reached the summit of the Cerro Loma del Diablo where they took off and enjoyed a wonderful day, and on Tuesday they decided to rest, flying over El Rosado in a "beautiful late afternoon flight". 

A historic flight

On Wednesday, the 19th of January, the weather conditions were favourable and they began the day with high expectations. They set off early for the Cerro Loma del Diablo, a hike up to an altitude of 1,750 metres, and took off. "The weather was perfect and my Artik 5 was ready for it," recalls Manu. On the flight, they crossed the Rio Electrico, Electrico West and the Cerro 30 Aniversario. At that point, Manu and Lucas, aboard his Ikuma 2 P, found a big thermal and climbed up the Lomo Blanco towards the Marconi Pass. There they met two climbers on the summit and shouted with joy. It gave Manu a sense of peace and tranquility to see that they had walked all the way there and he called, "Greetings, fellow travellers!” from the sky.  

His idea was to pass directly to Laguna Torre and continue to Cerro Solo, but the situation became very complicated, as cloudbase was low and they could not see the pass. It was then that both pilots returned to the foot of the Aguja Guillaumet and Manu took the path through the pass of the Hombre Sentado at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy just to try it out, and finally he decided to go for it. "I felt a thermal right on the Supercaneleta, but I didn't turn and decided to continue without hesitation, because if I turned and it didn't work I would have had to turn around. I kept going, without having a clear view of where my glide was taking me and that's when a condor came in front of me and I followed its track until I lost it on the horizon," says Manu. 

"Once past the lagoon, I relaxed again, and saw my companions turning in a huge thermal in front of the Loma de las Pizarras. We went around it and we managed to climb up and to head for the Polo, which was quite difficult because it is an area where there is a great confluence of winds. From there, I continued along the Cordon del Bosque, where a cloud street was forming right above me and I climbed, climbed,  climbed and climbed. Once I was high, I decided to return to El Chaltén, as I was alone and it was time to completely relax after what I had just experienced", is how Manu describes his historic flight. "I suddenly started to feel very elated, I got goose bumps and started crying with emotion. I also felt a lot of respect and admiration for all these accomplishments and experiences, which inspire you in life.”

Sebastián Quiroga, who flew his Hook 5 P, explains, "All the pilots took off together with the same flight plan, but Lucas and Manu were much more committed when they went over the glaciers for the first time. Manu, who was the most experienced pilot, was the only one who dared to attempt the Fitz Roy Tour by passing the glaciers, becoming the first and only one to do it and making the longest and most emblematic flight of all".

Gratitude

"Thank you Chaltén for letting us cross these magical peaks," exclaimed an emotional Manu Canale just after landing, while all his companions hugged each other with great affection. "Thanks to the climbers who wrote this history; thanks for making space for me and letting me pass through these places, looking at the thousand fissures along with their thousand legends, as exemplified in the book The Mountains of My Life (2010) by Walter Bonatti," he said. "To be able to fly there, seeing the incredible diamond walls and to be able to feel that sense of connection and yet disconnection from the world is absolutely magnificent". And almost unintentionally, Manu and his Artik 5 have paved the way for all the other pilots who will follow in his footsteps in the future. 

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