May 19, 2014
The View from 12,000 Feet!
There is quite a good paragliding community here in Utah, helped along by great learning conditions at both the North and South sides of the Point Of The Mountain. Alongside that, we also have great cross-country opportunities to fly along the front range of the Wasatch Mountains. When the weather looks good for flying, the word goes out, and people meet up in landing zones to share rides up to launch. Or in some cases, to send their gear up with someone else and get in a nice hike up mountain on the way to flying. Without having to lug up a heavy pack!
We still have spring paragliding conditions here in the Wasatch, with snow on the tops, but on the ground it is warming up and feeling great. So I gladly sent my gear up ahead of me and tackled the hike up to Inspo. Inspiration Point is a popular paragliding launch above the Provo valley overlooking Utah Lake. The trail up is steep, and the shortest route is a little confusing, but I followed a friend up who knew the way and was setting a blistering pace. We both finished in under 38 minutes, altho he was a good couple of minutes ahead of me by the finish. It was an unofficial record for our little group, and I took a while to catch my breath before launching my wing.
Thermal tops can be high here in the west, and when I headed higher than 12,000 feet I was feeling pretty good. Although I was also feeling pretty cold...my hand warmers in the gloves weren't helping much to keep feeling in my fingers. It was nice to see lots of snow on the tops...we've gotten some late season snowstorms which will help with moisture levels later this summer.
After climbing as high as I could stand with the cold temperatures, I headed south as the winds were coming from the northwest. A few of us were strung out along the range but since it was pretty easy to find lift I wasn't worried about needing help with thermals. In fact I was so cold I was actually happy to make a valley crossing and lose a little altitude! With the strong tailwinds I was doing 75 kph...valleys crossings aren't too tough at that speed.
Unfortunately, after reaching Spanish Fork, the wind was now westerly and in my face...I suppose I could have flown further but didn't feel like it. I guess no one else did either so six of us landed in the same field. Even better, a friend who had sunk out early even came to pick us up. WOW. Amazing to get a ride straight back to the car after an XC flight of almost 30 miles!