Antoine Girard Sets Karakorum Paragliding Altitude Record

Antoine Girard at 8,407m in the Karakorum. Photo: Antoine Girard

If paraglider Antoine Girard thought he was going to set a new altitude record when he took off toward Broad Peak on July 18, he kept it to himself.

“When I was in takeoff, my feeling was not very good,” he said, explaining that a questionable forecast suggested a difficult day for flying. But it was the last day of his team’s two-month expedition, and on the last day, you go a muerte regardless of conditions.

Good thing he did. When he landed, he’d broken his own five-year-old paragliding altitude record for the Karakorum, achieving an 8,407m ceiling. 

Photo: Antoine Girard

“When I do the record, I think of nothing,” the Frenchman said in an interview with the BBC. “Just flying. I am in the best place, with a beautiful mountain…it’s a perfect moment.”

Attempted both distance and altitude records

Girard and his six-man cohort of French paragliders arrived in the Karakorum with an extensive agenda. Not only would Girard try to set the altitude record, but the team would also ski down some of the Hunza Valley’s highest peaks, summit various 7,000’ers, and attempt to set the long-distance record for paragliding.

They arrived in Skardu on May 25 and started acclimatizing in the Hunza, with paragliding rehearsals engineered toward the altitude record. From there, the team proceeded to the Baltoro region under sanction from the Pakistani government.

The team successfully flew from four different peaks, at altitudes between 5,000 and 6,000m. Girard made his 8,407m flight in the K2 area, clearing the 8,051m Broad Peak.

He piloted Skywalk’s high-performance two-liner, the X-Alps 5, for the 200km flight. The feat shattered the existing Karakorum record of 8,100m, also set by Girard in 2016.

Others have tried to fly from the summit of K2, so far without success. However, in the Himalaya, paragliders have launched from the top of Everest. And in 2007, German paraglider Ewa Wisnierska accidentally reached an altitude of 9,946m when she was whisked aloft in a cumulonimbus cloud.

antoine girard paraglider

Antoine Girard paragliding.

What’s next for Girard?

“I like piloting because I can be like a bird,” the 41-year-old Girard said. “I can go everywhere, and when I can do that, I am free. It’s a perfect moment for me.”

The world record holder plans, loosely, to return to Pakistan in three years.


About the Author

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.

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Damian Benegas
Damian Benegas
3 months ago
Joe Bouffard
3 months ago

I believe a lady competition pilot went up to 30,000 ft in Spain although she was unconscious