Tuesday, February 14, 2017

El Paso Paragliding part 2

Not being able to paraglide at home means it's hard to get a lot of hours. But traveling to fly has its advantages - we've flown a lot of different sites. Pilots with a "home" site often fly the majority of their time at that one site. It means they get to know it well, something we miss. Our roughly 110 flights have been spread over about 30 sites, ranging from meticulously groomed European launches complete with chairlift and restaurant, to brand new, barely cleared hike-and-flies.

When we try to explain to people what paragliding is, they often say "you jump off mountains?!" Our standard response is "no, we run off" :-) This video (thanks to Shelley) is a good illustration. It was a tricky launch because the wind was light, the ground sloped up towards the edge, and the slope was a series of rocky ledges. I actually didn't think it was going to work and was a bit surprised when the wing came up ok. But habit took over and I ran it off.

Unfortunately I didn't quite make the cleared landing zone at La Luz, frustratingly I was about 20 feet short. Luckily I managed to miss most of the prickly stuff.

landing in the desert

Here's the preferred landing zone at Agave Hill - a wide spot in the road. Not a very soft landing, but preferable to the cactus and thorn bushes! You're definitely motivated to work on your landing accuracy out here!

landing zone

Launches and landings are the tricky parts of paragliding. Landings are easier in a way - you're coming down whether you like it or not, all you can do is make the best of it. Launches always make me the most nervous. You have to actively choose to launch. Having screwed up numerous times as a beginner, I don't have a lot of confidence. But it's gradually improving. Any more and I'll be in dreaded "intermediate syndrome" - when you start to think you know what you're doing but you really don't. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

One day we did a high tow with Had Robinson of Southwest Airsports. This was a great experience - an easy way to get high over the desert and have a fantastic smooth flight down. The scariest part was when a border patrol helicopter flew down the road a few hundred feet off the ground while Shelley was being towed. I was sure it was going to cut the tow line but it veered off to the side in time. We had notified them about the towing but they didn't have a good grasp of what was involved. The glider is all but invisible on the end of a mile of line.

Shelley on tow

Shelley coming in to land back at the car.

Shelley landing

Had and I were hoping to set a height record for my tow since I don't weigh much. The wind didn't cooperate but I still got pretty high and decided to fly back to the sod farm on the edge of town. (The big circles in the center of the photo below,)

from the air

Fantastic views from up high (those mountains are probably in Mexico).

from the air

That afternoon we went back to Mag Rim and again got over an hour of soaring.

Mag Rim

Our last flight was at Dry Canyon (Thanks to the generous 4wd transport by local hang glider pilot Robin Hastings). Conditions were too light to stay up (for me) but I still managed a fun 40 minute flight,

We were quite tempted to head for Costa Rica to paraglide on this holiday. But I was feeling guilty about taking too many airline flights this last year so we decided to do a road trip instead. (Still burning fossil fuels but somewhat less in our Prius.) Costa Rica would have been great but we've also really enjoyed New Mexico. And we've had a lot more variety here. We've had our first stationary tows, first reverse launches on tow, first high tows, first top landing for Shelley, thermal flights, ridge soaring flights, landing out in the desert, launching from new sites, and more. Not to mention the great desert scenery.

sunset at Mag Rim

Shelley's videos: La LuzHigh Tow, Mag Rim

See all 12 photos as a slideshow or overview

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