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Mt. Bachelor

XC Skies



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.

Launch Options
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')
Site Rules: 1) USHPA Membership Required; 2) No Smoking; 3) No off-road motorized vehicles
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 flying.

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.

Antelope (6100')
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.

Observatory (6300')
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.


West Bowl
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 Pine.
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 back up.
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 hill:
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]



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