Yes and No. Camping is not permitted on the North side flight park, but it is on the South side flight park. The North side is a Country park and the police will roust you out. But the South side is a State Park and people are often bivouacking there in tents, campers cars or just sleeping bags in the dirt. As of now, there is no fee for camping but there are also no real facilities besides a pit toilet.
That means we are just going down, no rising air to keep us up, so just a nice flight down. When the air is blowing up then we can stay up, but if there is no or light wind then you just get a "sled ride".
Gliders come in different sizes. I am 160 lbs. I add the weight of all my gear (wing, harness, reserve parachute and helmet, etc) to my weight to get my "all-up" weight. Gear usually weighs about 37 lbs. So, 160+37=197lbs. I round it to 200lbs, and convert it to kilograms by dividing by 2.2 to get 90.9kg. I convert to kilograms because paraglider weight ranges are always in kilograms. So, my all up weight range is ~90kg. That is the number that I put into a weight range in order to choose the appropriate size. On a Skywalk Tequila 2 I would fit best on a "Small" which has a weight range of 75-95 kg. If I did not include my gear, then I would incorrectly pick a size XS, and it would be too small for me.
Generally speaking, I recommend being in the middle to heavy of the weight range. There are advantages and disadvantages to being heavy or light on your wing. The advantages of being heavier outweigh the disadvantages of being lighter. The heavier you are, the less likely you are to take collapses, but when you do they can be more exciting. The lighter you are in the weight range, the more likely you are to take collapses, but they will behave less drastically. The lighter you are the slower you fly and the better you stay up in light lift. The heavier you are the faster you fly and the quicker you "sink out" in light lift. In stronger winds, the kind we like for ridge soaring here at the Point, the faster you fly, the better. Flying faster gives you more maneuverability and makes you safer. Being too heavy can be a bummer though because you will always be in the landing zone watching your buddies who are still flying after you sunk out. If you plan on ridge soaring mostly, go heavier. If you plan on not ridge soaring mostly (hiking and flying) then going lighter is beneficial.
You cant fly at the Point without being a member ofg the local club. It is actually a Misdemeanor to fly on the South Side without joiuning the club first. You can go to www.uhgpga.org to join. Or ask any instructor for the application form and they will take your payment and give it to the club. You will receive a sticker to put on your helmet. Then everyone will know that you have paid your dues and are legit. Dues are $50/year $25/week or $5/day. Then you can come to the monthly meetings and eat Pizza with us and get all the emails and support preserving out flying sites from Wal Mart, condos and 400 ft tall skyscrapers in front of the Southside.
I am biased, but I think that paragliding is easier to learn, and definitely more convenient. That is why most of the people you see flying at the Point are paragliding. I see this often: Two pilots pull up to the South side in the early morning to fly. One has a Hang Glider and the other has a Paraglider. The Paraglider pilot hops out of his car and is almost instantly flying. After about 30 minutes he packs up and goes to work while the Hang Glider is just finishing assembling his wing. For that same reason, At the end of a typical morning, a paragliding student will have in more flights than a Hang Gliding student for the same given amount of time spent on the hill. You can hike with a Paraglider up a mountain and fly back down, you can take it on an airplane to Hawaii and fly there, and you can put it in the back seat of your car or in your bedroom closet. It is challenging to do those things with a Hang Glider. Don't get me wrong, Hang Gliding is really cool too, but less convenient. Oh, and you don't need to have a rack permanently attached to your car to haul it around. Hang Gliders are harder to steal though. Half the Hang Gliding Instructors I know turned into Paragliding Instructors.
North Side Specific Why cant we fly the north side in the morning?
A north wind in the morning is an anomaly. The wind is supposed to be from the South in the morning. The north wind blows from the north in the morning usually right after a storm has passed. Winds close to a storm frontal passage are generally more bumpy and unpredictable. If you go out on a north morning, 8 out of 10 times you will usually find a wind that is so cross from the east that it renders the ridge unflyable. However, I have discovered that the North side can be flyable in the mornings IF the conditions are just right. You must be there early and be willing to end flying early. The conditions MUST be light. I determine this by calling Airport 2 first thing. You want to hear wind under 7 knots for sure. The less the better. You need to hike up to the top and only fly for about an hour, then come down, because almost 2 hours after the sun comes up, the north wind will dramatically increase, and you don't want to be flying when this happens. Usually, on north mornings, I am just happy to get a sled ride in off the top and then I go home. I have been caught up high before when the wind picked up and it took a lot of effort to come down. North side mornings are usually not beginner flying conditions, but rarely can be flyable for a student. It all depends on how far away that front has pushed. A close front equals stronger north wind, a further away front equals lighter winds, usually
South Side Specific Why is it not good to fly the South Side in the afternoons?
South side afternoons are wacky, except for during the winter months, then it is normal. But during the warmer months, the wind is supposed to be from the North in the afternoons. A south wind in the afternoon is an anomaly and usually preceeds a cold front. The closer the front gets the stronger and bumpier the wind becomes. I have seen anything happen when the wind is from the south in the afternoon. I have seen fabulous south side evenings that make for great photos, and I have see it get very strong very abruptly or die off to nothing. I'd say about half the time the south side is flyable in the afternoons, and when its good you need to wait a bit longer than normal to fly, usually. Can be good for training with patience.
Tandem Flights How long are tandem flights?
Tandem Flights are about 30 mins. Long. If the conditions permit and we are having fun then they can be about 45 minutes sometimes. Passengers can usually get the opportunity to steer the paraglider.
We usually mail them, but can deliver them or arrange to have them picked up if you need one quick.
On the South side it is common to get about 300-400 feet over the valley floor. On the North side it is common to get 300-2000 feet over the valley floor. If we go to the Squaw Peak overlook then you start at 6600 feet and fly down to 4800 feet, and can sometimes go up quite high inbetween. Going there requires a bit more time.
Considerations I weigh 325 lbs, can I fly?
Yes and No. You could fly by yourself with an extra big paraglider, but not on a tandem with a pilot. Gliders come in different sizes, from extra small to extra large, depending on your weight. The lightest person I know flying is about 110 lbs. The heaviest person I know is right around 300lbs. A tandem paraglider can usually carry about almost 500lbs. total weight. That means that the pilot and passenger and harnesses and wing cannot exceed that weight. The heaviest passenger I have taken tandem was about 280 lbs I think. My limit is about 250 lbs. A lighter tandem pilot can take a heavier passenger. Me (160lbs) plus my harness and passenger harness, reserve parachute and wing (about 50lbs) equals ~210lbs. So theoretically, I can take someone up to about 290 lbs. The heavier the person the more wind I need in order to stay up.
Legally, according to the FAA, there is no age limit in order to fly an Ultralight Aircraft. I have taught 14 year olds and 60+ olds. If you came to our club meeting and took the median age, it would probably be about 40 to 45.
Yes! Please! It is currently a male dominated sport but is becoming less and less so. There are many talented female pilots who fly at the Point of the Mountain. Women make great pilots because this is a finesse sport more than a muscle sport. We guys must overcome our tendency to rely on muscles and tap into our feminine side and learn to finesse the glider, not force it. Flying is a subtle art.
Yes! My nieces and nephews love it! I have taken many children and even my parents Boarder Collie flying. Have you ever sen a dog smile? Weight is usually the issue more than age. Legally, there is no age limit. The lightest passenger I have taken was about 70 lbs. Parents need to approve of course!
Lessons Why do we cancel lessons when the wind is from the north in the mornings?
The training hill faces south and needs a south wind to work. We need the air to be moving up slope. When the wind blows from the North in the mornings then it blows down our training hill and it is impossible to fly. If you are a local then we just cancel and pick a better day. If you are from out of town, or a die-hard local student, then we go out anyways and just keep our feet on the ground and practice kiting and ground handling the glider. Educational and hard work without the reward of flying. Sometimes we just drive to west Mountain and fly off of it instead.
Lessons are generally about 2 to 3 hours long, conditions permitting. Sometimes they can be 4+ hours if we are having fun and the wind is cooperating. Longer lessons are usually a winter phenomenon because we don't have to stop flying because of thermally air like we do in the warmer months. Lessons start at sunrise for the first 3 hours of the day and can also take place in the late afternoon for the last 3 hours of the day. This is when the air is the smoothest.