Santa Teresa, New Mexico -- El Paso, Texas
Explanations of the tools below and more weather info
El Paso National Weather Service - start here!
Meso West Region (Current conditions at stations in the SW - view profile without logging in)
Santa Teresa NWS (current conditions)
SPC Balloon Soundings (every 12 hours)
UoW Balloon Soundings - usually available before the SPC soundings 72364
NWS hourly graphical forecast - temp, winds, & gusting at the surface
Vorticity @ 500mb click the needed forecast
NOAA Satellite image of clouds over west Texas - NM
National forecast of fronts, pressure & weather - easy to read
Soaring Forecasts - (go here for the thermal index)
Windy - animated map of winds and other data over the surface of the world.
Wind History Map - actual vs. forecasts
Week of September 18 -- training, as needed. We will be around
All training is dependent on weather conditions. Before coming out, check your email, this web site, or text us to be sure training is not canceled. If something comes up, we will attempt to contact scheduled pilots. Training times can vary because of weather or equipment issues. Pilots can always arrive earlier than the scheduled times to study the weather, setup, and practice kiting.
Nearly every country in the world promotes and loves adventure sports, like hang gliding and paragliding. Switzerland even put an image of a guy paragliding on their 50 Franc note. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has opened the doors of Texas parks to USHPA pilots. Other public land administrators in the U.S. should do the same.
Our number One site for pilots of all skill levels and where we can witness the stunning beauty of the vast high altitude desert of our region. Pilots Bill Cobb, Tom Bird, Buzz Nelson, Mitch Graham, Bill Cummings (who came to help out at the LZ), and yours truly (Had) waited the weekend for this!
There was a major storm in the area and our professional meteorologist and pilot, Tom Bird, was watching things to be sure we did not launch into a gust front created by the storm. These boundaries of fast moving air can be deadly and must be carefully watched.
Below, waiting for the "all clear". The storm can be seen passing north of us. L-R: Bill Cobb, Buzz, Tom, and Mitch. Bill Cummings was about a mile south at the main LZ in case Mitch (also an HG pilot) needed help. We were last here in March and it was amazing to see how the grass had grown.
Buzz was the first to launch after the storm had passed. What a great wind-dummy he is! Thank you.
Mitch bringing the Wasp up. Bill Cobb had just given some help -- whoever is on the ground and close by needs to be handy to assist pilots launch, as needed.
Climbing out at Mag. Buzz can just be seen in the upper right.
If Mag was within 30 minutes of Salt Lake City or San Diego, it would be the busiest ridge soaring site in the world.... As it is, a "gaggle" might be four pilots in the air at the same time, like today.
"Moonwalking" at launch. Mitch was hogging the launch area so I grabbed him by the leg and pulled him to edge where he and the Wasp had to fly away. I did let go of his leg so there would not be a tandem....
The view looking south from Middle Launch. Pick your spot to top land.
Tom working his way up in the weakening lift at dusk near the south end of the Rim. There is a huge incentive to stay up -- the vertical from the base of Mag (where a pilot can side-hill land) is over 500'. In the early days, I got to know that hike along with the joy of carrying all of my gear. If you start to get lower than the south end of the Rim -- LAND ASAP! We all got safely home but not without some diversions (flat tire, lost (then found) equipment, getting the hang glider back to the parking area, and general fumbling around in the pitch dark.
Bill Cobb practicing his kiting skills at Middle Launch -- one of the few soaring sites where pilots can choose to kite or launch. There is nothing better than being at launch with your glider ready to go. It helps build confidence in our skills.
Pilots present: Mitch Graham, Richard Matthews, Steve Crye, Tom Bird. Quite a crew!
We went to farm #1 first but the wind direction and the irrigation equipment would not permit easy setup for towing. New student Mitch Graham followed us through the mud and dirt as I sized up whether we could use it. I’m glad he did not get stuck….
We then went to farm #2 which, with southwest winds, is barely useable because of the pronounced change in altitude from one side to the other. In order to tow, we have to use the southerly quadrant which shortens our tow distance considerably = we can’t get pilots up as high as we normally do. We could have scouted out farm #4 but it was getting on and we needed to setup then and there and get people into the air.
Mitch and Steve towed while Richard did PPG. Tom assisted. Marilyn did her usual outstanding job of getting the drogue back to launch quickly to service the queue. (photo by Buzz Nelson)
Mitch is new in town (with the Army) and his day job is flying an Apache. He is self-taught in paragliding and one of the few we USHPA instructors have encountered who actually flies well. Good job, Mitch, in surviving the early stages of flying which are always the most hazardous. When he took the P1 exam at the shop, he came within 1 question of acing it and the question was one of a couple of “gimmies” that USHPA instructors debate about which is the correct answer. He also did well launching and landing within a few yards of the LZ every time. Richard flies the Chinook and having two helicopter pilots in training has been a privilege. Ultralights and helicopters have some common issues, such as the ever present (and risk) of task saturation. (photo by Buzz Nelson)
The winds were light but not switchy which made them somewhat difficult for Richard to practice forward launches (slightly uphill, no less) with his paramotor. The
lighter the air speed, the more critical it is to launch perfectly into the wind – and he did very well.
Steve practiced his forward inflations, tow technique, and nailing the LZ. (photo by Buzz Nelson)
I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off….
It was a great afternoon and evening, guys. So glad you all came out to work on being more skillful pilots. It is an investment in your safety and wellbeing. No one can ever be good enough.
Buzz Nelson, Tom Bird, and yours truly (Had) made the trek out to this small range 30 miles west of El Paso in hopes we might be able to take advantage of the easterly winds. We have been discussing the need for a new site that faces more east and that has easier access. So today, Tom and I explored the area around the Federal H Number One Mine (4,378' MSL 31.86257 -106.99967) which is about 0.3 miles SE of Torrey Paso and 250' lower. TP, however, is around a finger in the range and not visible from Federal. Our hope was to have Buzz at the TP launch and Tom and I above the mine somewhere and compare conditions.
It was great having Tom, a professional meteorologist, along to analyze the winds coming in. The forecast for the afternoon was 110-120@10. As is characteristic of the high desert, you might find anything when you go out. Both TP and Federal had similar obs: east@7-8 from when we got there.
I was at Federal early, my first time driving up the old access road. The first 75' is washed out badly and could be fixed with a concrete culvert and some gravel. The rest of the road is in good condition right up to the old mine shaft, which was filled in and posted. The mine area was graded flat and is about 165' N-S x 260' E-W. It has some bushes which could be removed to make it a useable LZ for PG. Approach would be from the sides. The east edge of the area has a sharp drop off so there is some rotor at the west end.
The rusted steel post marking the mine shaft is just to the right of my vehicle.
I hiked up the slope directly up and west of the mine and was impressed with the rocky slop which had minimal loose material and little vegetation, especially compared to Torrey Paso. Every 40 yards up or so, there is a natural bench. Having done so much site work over the years, it was easy to pick the best one that had the best slope in front, the clearest area, and was maybe 10-12 minutes from the mine.
Tom and I cleared some of the creosote and weeds and moved some big rocks to get a reasonable launch area. I set up my glider, preparing to launch. The winds were steady 90@8 at launch. I received Buzz' SPOT message that he had launched and we watched him fly out front of the range and go south, right over us. He was today's "wind dummy" and reported to us that the air was really horsey (gusty) so I was in no hurry to launch. By the time we really made the launch safe, the winds became really cross (per the forecast) and we called it a day. Photo by Tom Bird
We are anxious to try this new launch ("Federal") and see how it compares to Torrey. It is much more accessible and open out front. Will it be as easy to get up and out? We'll find out. While hiking down from launch, I almost stepped on this little guy, a Black Trail rattlesnake. I am very glad that these reptiles make noise when you get too close. Photo by Tom Bird
This was one of the busiest we've had at the farms in recent memory. The following pilots came out: Lee Boone, Richard Matthews, Matt Hayes, new PG/PPG student pilot Mitch Graham, and yours truly (Had). Lee tried out the Paramania GTX (being sold by a former student pilot) and the rest of us helped or worked on launch/land. PPG pilots, like PG, must become experts at landing without power. It is not easy to do. The air was twitchy today so we all quit pretty early. Some days, we can fly, tow, train, etc. the entire morning. Sometimes, we have to stop because of high pressure which makes the air very turbulent near the ground 2+ hours after dawn. After flying, we had a great discussion about active piloting with Lee making the important point that we must always be on the glider, sampling the air through the toggles. It is so safe to train at the farms - thank you again, Evergreen Turf.
Lee Boone and I (Had) almost went to Mag Rim this afternoon but, with Tom Bird's assistance, we decided it might be too weak so we went out to the turf farms -- a place of safety, open space, and away from congestion. We enjoyed over an hour of flying in buoyant air. In the photo below, we discovered some very good thermals at the end of the day and Lee decided to cut the power and thermal in them. The sunset is more like those near smoggy cities rather than in our high desert thanks to huge fires thousands of miles away. We both landed at the legal limit on glide.
Tom Bird and I (Had) made the trip out in hopes of a repeat of yesterday's air, which was epic. Today was a complete bust. The difference in the balloon soundings and forecasts was slight -- a tad lower winds, much lower humidity, and a little more southeast. For the last half of the afternoon we sat at the Torrey Paso launch and endured gusts in the low 20's and powerful thermals rolling in the entire time. Just at sunset, we went down to the lower launch and I was lucky to get off just in time for a short flight. Even so late, the air was still twitchy. We are going to work hard to figure out what was going on.
Just landed at the main LZ after sunset. Note that the windsock is pointing near south. Near the end of the day in this part of the desert, the winds generally move south. The desert is blooming like crazy, bugs and critters are everywhere.
Sometimes we're fortunate, sometimes not. Well, today was one of the former. Nick & June Reiter and I (Had) set out for Torrey Paso launch in the East Potrillo Mountains from El Paso at around 4PM. It's a 40 minute drive to the base of the range and another 20-35 minute hike to launch near the crest of these mountains. On my way up, I did some tagging with flagging tape of the trail to launch from the upper parking area (I was there earlier than Nick & June so I had some extra time). We arrived at launch around 6PM. Generally, at Torrey Paso, the cutoff for launching is about 6:30PM (in solar time, about an hour before sunset). Nick and I both thought it would be a sledder tonight -- were we wrong. As soon as we got near the crest, the winds picked right up to what was forecast: East at 12-17 mph.
More exciting news is that a FIRST was done today: A tandem flight from Torrey Paso. Of course, when your wife loves to fly and you are a tandem pilot (Nick and I are the only two in the region), it could not be better for flying tandem from all sorts of places that have never seen two people in the air under the same glider. CONGRATS, NICK & JUNI! On top of this they brought along their two pets. Would they ride along? Nick told me they basically follow them on the ground which they sort of did.
Nick & June getting ready to launch. The sun has already set on the east face of the mountains -- only the peaks get a few rays now. Right after they flew away, I hustled like mad and launched myself. The only blip in our adventure was one of the lines of my speed system got twisted around a strap at launch. This compromised the full function of the system (in case I experienced high winds aloft), so I had to be very conservative the rest of the evening. When we fly, everything has to be perfect: This is aviation extreme sports.
Off they go! The sun is going down so we had to get up -- and now! The orange streak is a piece of flagging tape marking the trail to launch. We paragliding pilots are the greatest users of the range -- not any of the members of the "wilderness groups" who are working to close off our access to our launch areas. Long ago, mining companies and prospecting outfits built the roads we now use to get close to our launch sites. My truck is just visible in the lower center of this photo. The main LZ is the open area just this side of the county (dirt) road.
Nick & June high above the range. The air was perfect -- smooth and steady. In the far background are the three sisters, L-R, Mt. Cox, Mt. No-name, and Mt. Riley. Riley is one of our "hike and fly" sites. Its top is a perfect cone, covered mostly with grass.
Nick & June are just south of launch in this photo.
It's getting dark and time to head for the LZ. It is somewhat of a moonscape in this part of the world with a unique beauty not found anywhere else. As the sun sets, the air near the earth's surface cools and an inversion forms, isolating it from the winds aloft, and it slows down and things become calm. However, about 1,000' up, things are the same as ever = we could have flown the range all night long. It is often tempting to fly late into the night here as there are no other aircraft or people around for dozens of miles. This is "dark sky" country. The moon would have provided plenty of light. If we ever do it, we will not tell anyone. Oh well.... We all landed safely and had a great time discussing the magic of free-flight.
Raj Bhakta, an engineering graduate student, came out today to work on his PPG2 training. For all paragliding pilots, landing is the same and must be practiced diligently. This morning Raj had a workout. Below, he is coming in full speed just before touching down and flaring the glider. Timing is critical.
Raj Bhakta, Tom Bird, and I (Had) worked on our launch skills late in the day. The sky was overcast all day due to the storm in Baja. Raj (left) has been gone since May and is resuming his training for PPG. Tom has the week off -- probably the last break he'll have for a year.
Tom inflating the glider just before launching. Tom was laid up for a few months and couldn't fly because of an injury. We are so glad to see him back in the air! We missed him....
It is not as dark as it looks -- a fun photo just before I landed. Raj and Tom are standing just behind the windsock pole.
Tom Bird and I launched from the Evergreen Turf farms for a late evening flight to the border and back. Tom is recovering from an ankle injury and the air was perfect (140@6) for an easy launch and landing. We landed together. However, I could not resist the evening air and went up again. On our way back from the border I took this one of Tom in the sunset -- so beautiful, so relaxing.
Yousef Ben Yehuda of Marfa, TX came all the way to Santa Teresa to get some introductory lessons in paragliding. Below, he is hooked up to the tow line ready to go. With towing, we can help the new student overcome a number of mistakes made at launch which could not be done elsewhere.
It's a workout! Friend Jennine hands Yousef some water.
Pilot Tom Bird and Flightbabe1 (Marilyn) discuss the training today. Marilyn makes it possible for to us tow by retrieving the drogue parachute wherever it lands. She is an expert.
Richard Matthews kites his new Ozone glider nicely before turning and launching while visitor Pablo Truchuelo (from Spain) looks on.
L-R Richard, Pablo, and friend Juan Miguel after a successful day of training. Richard later had to fly his Chinook helicopter to San Antonio to standby for emergency help which may be needed in the flooding disaster in Houston.
Later today, Buzz Nelson, Pablo Truchuelo, and I (Had) took off to the Torrey Paso launch in the East Potrillo Mountains in Nowhere, NM. The air was delightful but we got there just a little bit too late to get up high and stay there -- the day was over.
Buzz getting ready to launch.
Up and away
Higher yet, near the clouds.
Located near Monahans, Texas, the Park is located in a dunes area of west Texas. It's flat, there's a lot loose sand, and the winds can really go after it moving the terrain around. The Superintendent of the Park graciously permits responsible, licensed, and insured pilots to fly within its boundaries. Below is the main recreational area with RV campsites and cabanas for tent campers. The bathhouse is the larger building -- meticulously kept clean by the volunteer hosts who stay in the Park. The Park rents slides so visitors can enjoy playing in the dunes, as in White Sands National Monument northwest of here a few hundred miles.
This is a Scarab beetle that was working away next to our RV pushing a huge piece of horse manure to its nest. Note the gnats who have taken up residence on the back of the beetle. No doubt it is some sort of symbiotic arrangement.
A lower view of the dunes.
Powered paragliding is one of the few forms of aviation that allows a leisurely trip through the countryside. This bucolic scene is about 15 miles south of Lawton (Ft. Sill).
The next day, Jason Tilley and I visited the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. Aircraft are not allowed to launch from the Wildlife Refuge but we could fly over it in a rarely visited area of the Refuge. A friendly rancher south of the Refuge and west of Ft. Sill opened one of his fields to us as a launch. We so appreciate it. Jason is getting ready to launch and is just visible to the right of the trucks.
Soaring the Wichita's. The winds were strong and SSE which meant that the air at the southern border of the Refuge was going up. Jason is just visible in the center of this photo enjoying a free trip.
Paragliding in south central New Mexico. The towering clouds in the distance are strong thermals coming off the Potrillo Mountains. It rains a lot out there, probably double of what we get in the Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Buzz Nelson
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