Former Witsie goes to the extreme

Rainy weather, snowy conditions and dangerous terrain weren’t problems for a former Witsie in the Alps – it was heat stroke that brought an end to his extreme challenge.

Pierre Carter represented South Africa in the Red Bull X- Alps 2011 challenge, which kicked off last month.

The 44 year old, a former building science student at Wits, joined the race in the Alps along with 30 other international athletes. The challenge includes hiking and paragliding non-stop through the Alps towards the Mediterranean Sea.

Although Carter was eliminated from the race last week after falling ill, he believes he performed better than he did in the 2009 challenge. “I think our performance was very good. The race was well organised and we thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says.

Carter’s assistant for the race, Wits engineering lecturer James Braid, felt the same.

“We made good route choices and despite moving significantly slower than the other teams, managed to stay in a relatively comfortable position, before being eliminated towards the end of the race.”

Braid has known Carter for many years.

 “My job in the race is to give the athlete support: preparing gear, planning routes, cooking, cleaning, etc.” The athletes are tracked automatically throughout the race.

Carter says he made it to Switzerland, which is halfway along the route. “We made it there on day 9.  We were hoping for a top 15 finish, but falling ill cost us this goal, unfortunately.”

Braid believes Carter could have gotten a top 15 position if he had not suffered from heat stroke. “And possibly with a hard push, perhaps a top 10 position. Nonetheless a good performance from a non-European team,” he added.

 Carter says there was not much to do in terms of mental and physical preparation every morning.

“You just need to know that you’ll be facing a tough day (every day).  Once the equipment is packed, it’s time to go, there’s no time really for anything else.”

The race began in the second week of July in Austria and ends in Monaco.