submitted by Pete Keane 2002
Pine Mountain is located in the "High Desert",
26 miles east of Bend. With an altitude 6407', ideal
climate, over 15 launches, desert thermal conditions
and ridge soaring is a formula for excellent paragliding.
Depending on the amount of snow, it can be flown all
year. Extreme caution should be taken when flying "Pine"
during the summer. It is a desert thermal site and flying
midday can be extremely hazarous to your health.
Pine Mountain can almost be flown in any prevailing
wind directions, but there are a few most commonly used
areas. There are many other options not listed here
for those who want a little adventure.
Training Hill (5200')
1) USHPA Membership Required;
1a) P2 rated & certified;
1b) Or P1 in training under USHPA certified instructor;
2) No Smoking;
3) No off-road motorized vehicles;
4) Only those willing to follow these rules and represent land owners interests (see 1-3) are welcome.
At Millican, take a right on the road, which is
marked as the way to the Pine Mountain Observatory.
Drive to the "Y", which is a couple
of miles in from Hwy 20. This is the first major
right turn that you will come to. Follow this
rocky road for less than a mile, take the first
left turn, which heads up towards the mountain.
Eventually, you'll come to the rock "L"
parking area. This is the preferred LZ*. Look to
your left and you'll see a faint trail leading
up to a well-cleared launch area. The Training
Hill is most commonly used during the evening
hours and most folks arrive sometime during the
last 2 hours before sunset. Most often, this site
is good for evening flying, when it is blown out
during the day. So most people arrive, hike up
the hill (20 min) and wait for the air to smooth
out. Less commonly, but typically in the spring
and fall on light wind days, the glass off builds
and the best flying comes near the end of the
day, when the desert releases it heat. This launch
faces NW, so look for N, W or NW winds on the
surface as good indicators that the evening session
might happen. On good nights, a couple good hours
of flight can be had and it is commonly possible
to bench up to the summit.
Notes on using the Training Hill LZ
Steve: My understanding is the dirt area inside the "L" is the primary landing area and the pea gravel is primarily intended for folding gliders. It's okay to land in the pea gravel if it's mostly open (not covered with gliders) and if you can do it safely. If pilots are still flying and landing, any gliders in the pea gravel shouldn't be left spread out for extended periods of time, they should be folded up or rosetted and moved to the side.
Wade: I agree with Steve - although I'd always prefer to see a pilot protect their body over keeping a wing clean. No exceptions. The gravel is much friendlier, especially for tandem and hot landings. Making last minute turns close to the ground in order to save a dusty footprint on a glider is dangerous - and if you know it is a fast hard landing, put it in the gravel not in the parking lot -- even if it means landing on top of a glider. Lastly, and much more important in my opinion is the matter of parking. Please park along the west rock wall, not adjacent to the pea gravel.
Nona: As I recall when we approved for the second load of pea gravel, the area closest to the road would be for landing and the new area would be for folding up wings.
The Peak (6400' - 6200')
Continue past the "Y", and drive up
into the canyon behind the front of Pine Mountain.
After a few turns in the road, look for a gate
on the right that leads to the primitive road
that leads to the top. Please close the gate.
The hangliders built this road back in the day
and it is suggested that if you have 4 wheel drive,
use it, as there is less wear and tear on the
road surface. At the top, you'll be looking at
the west hanglider launch. It is also possible
to hike around the rocks to the left and get up
to a higher west facing launch, which is often
referred to as the west paragliding launch. Continue
a bit further to the peak and you can walk down
to the north-facing launch. Weather conditions
to look for when considering flying the peak are
light winds from the west through north. Most
flights are made in the morning or mid day. In
the evening it's commonly blown out.
Southeast Bowl (6100')
Continue driving up the road past the turn off
to the peak and continue past the observatory.
At the sharp right turn which overlooks the desert
floor pull over and park. Locate a faint trail
and walk out east across the hill until you see
a cleared launch area. This launch faces SE and
it mostly used in the morning. It offers great
relief and some good features to work. The drive
into the bottom to pick up pilots is somewhat
prohibitive, but you can scope it out from the
launch. Consider hiking back up to the car after
Rip City (6450')
You can also continue further east and ascend
to the top of the next ridge. There is a cleared
launch area here and it is known as Rip City.
This is the highest launch on the mountain and
can be usable in a more south or southwesterly
flow. You can also access Rip City by driving
up the north side of this south-facing ridge on
some secondary roads and then hiking the final
distance up to the top of the ridge.
Access this launch by taking the first main left
turn after the Y, just after a cattleguard. Stay
on the road until it swings around up to the radio
towers. Park here and walk to just below the top
of the next peak to the west. Here you'll find
a small cleared area. This site works best in
south or southwest flow. Hiking back up to the
car or top landing are the best options.
Drive up to the observatory and take a right at
the campground. Drive up to the towers and park.
Go over the fence and down to a small clearing.
The site faces southwest and tends to funnel winds
and strong thermals. The hangliders frequently
fly here. The landing is a bit canyonesque, so
watch out. Hiking back up to the car is probably
the best means of getting back. This site has
a reputation for being very strong.
This huge feature is approached by taking a right
on the Road 23 just after descending Horse Ridge
into the Millican Valley on highway 20. Drive
south until you see it. Take a left on a secondary
road and wind your way into the basin below the
bowl. Hike up to the desired height and launch
it. Land at the car. This site work well for west
and southwest flow. Beware of big venturi action,
as the hill tends to really funnel the wind.
Pine Mountain Flying Guidelines
1. Respect Millican Valley landowners and avoid landing on private land.
2. Be aware of stock and wildlife. Leave space between you and wild or
domestic animals when launching, landing, and flying.
Suggested flight plan from the top of Pine is
very similar to the hang gliders search pattern:
1. Launch from the paragliding launches instead of the
hang launch, especially when there is any northern component
to the wind or cycles. This will give you a little extra
altitude to get around the corner below the peak of
2. If you can't find a thermal to sustain or climb
out over the top of Pine using the west face or the
rock spine, work your way down the training hill spine
and then onto the ridges northeast of the Y landing
area. DO NOT scratch low below the rock spine as this
area is range land. If you get low on the
west face it would be best to side hill land and hike
3. If you sink out using this search pattern you can
easily land at the "Y" landing zone or anywhere
in that area leading to the "T" landing zone
that the hang gliders use.
Some hints for flying glass-off from the training
1. Be extra careful of your penetration when benching
up. You should plan on crabbing towards the Y if conditions
strengthen to avoid blowing over the ridge.
2. Turn right after launch and work the East spine until you
are even with the top of the ridge. Then cut over the mid launch
to the pine at the top of the ridge. From there, check strength
and work back into the canyon below the tall pines. Turn N, check
again and then make a final turn up to the trees. If the conditions
have an east component (NE), work the opposite side of the canyon
below the spine.
Visions of the Future
submitted by Pete Keane 2002
We were all pretty blown away the first time someone
left Pine Mountain in a paraglider. I'll never forget
Luke Madsen's flight from the west side of Pine to Millican.
Watching him spin circles high above the desert floor
in light conditions, proved that it could be done. It
forever changed my perceptions of the boundaries of what
was possible, and even though it was a small step, it
was a giant leap into the unknown.
A year or so later, Phil Pohl's flight to Millican
and then to Brothers left my jaw hitting the ground
in amazement. Wow, I thought, this is only the tip of
the iceberg. Over the course of a few hours Phil had
redefined yet again what was possible and lit the torch
that lead down the trail that we would all try to follow.
After a few more attempts by pilots to fly to Brothers
had all come up short. Then in fine "splat"
style Bill Gordon upped the ante and pushed way out
there and flew a 68 miler to Summer Lake. This record
stayed for quite a few years until Nate Scales spent
a year in Bend, flying a 70 miler and showing us locals
what it meant to thermal with a high bank angle and
how to really use the speedbar.
These flights are all visionary, stretching way out
of bounds of the traditional framework and clearly ahead
of their time. It is with this spirit in mind that I
have a few big flights that I'm sure will go in the
next few years.
Bachelor to Sisters: This flight will go
on a day when the winds are southwest aloft and
it'll be made in the spring. The prospective successful
pilot will climb out over Bachelor and fly to Moon
Mountain, then Ball Butte, climb again and then
into the crater of Broken Top. Here she will climb
again over the massive south-facing cliff below
the summit of Broken Top and have to make a decision
on whether or not to make the final glide to Sisters,
which doesn't have many bailout options. The fields
that are outside Sisters are a solid glide from
Broken Top. Cloud support would be good as well
as being at about 14k over Broken Top. Minimum number
of big thermals required: 5.
Bachelor to Pine: This flight will be made
on a west wind day in the spring. The best, most
direct out of the Bachelor area will be to climb
out over Tumalo and glide to the Tumalo Falls area,
where there are a lot of south facing cliffs and
numerous small peaks. The Bridge Creek burn has
left a lot of hillsides bare and the potential for
getting up really exists. The glide between Tumalo
Mt and Tumalo Falls has one bail out option in the
Swampy Lakes area. The hike out from there will
be about 2 hours if snow conditions are good. It
is also possible to land on the road to Tumalo falls
below the cliffs and get a ride to town. Next, after
climbing here, the best choice would be to go up
and over Bear Wallow Butte and glide out to the
Tumalo Reservoir where there are big landing options.
From here, fly to Awbrey Butte and over town to
Pilot Butte. The remaining distance to Pine is about
25 miles, but all over the flats and many landing
options. Total flight distance: about 46 miles.
[Note: See Jeff Huey's messages Bachelor
to Bend & Beyond and Photos
about his flight on May 1, 2003, from Bachelor to
the Millican Valley]
Haystack Butte to Pine: This route seems
perfect for the typical northwest flow that we get
here a lot. This flight could happen in the fall
or the spring. My vision is to climb out over Haystack
and glide to Gray Butte, where undoubtedly, it'll
be going up. From here it's a quick jump to Smith
Rock State Park. From here, you'll have to get really
high and head for Powell Butte. It seems likely
that there will be a few thermals needed on the
way to get there, but its not that out of the question.
Once at Powell, it seems possible to get up again
and strike out for Pine, arriving there at glassoff.
Again a few thermals will be needed over the flats
to get to the features just northwest of Pine. Another
good option is to get the journey underway by hiking
up Gray Butte and starting from there.
The 100 Miler: This flight is possible
in Central Oregon, on the right day. The right day
will be in June, a day or so after a front has passed,
with cumulous in the sky and the winds westerly
aloft. The successful pilot will launch from the
top of Pine and climb out. Next, he'll fly to the
Moffit Ranch area and stay on the hills just south
of the ranch. This will bring him into Brothers
south of the highway, crossing Fredrick Butte Road.
Then he'll cross the highway angling towards Hampton
Butte and go up and over it north of the highway
across Misery Flats. At the east side of Misery
Flats, he'll work some small buttes and hill staying
north of the highway. There are many small features
in this area. After the features run out it'll flat
land flying to Riley and beyond to Burns. After
a flight like this, he'll probably want to land
near the McDonald's and order a vanilla milkshake.
[Note: See story about Jeff
Huey's 111-miler on July 2, 2004]