Paragliding in La Salina, Baja
A Site Overview including Some other local Sites…
The ridge north of La Salina, we called it “Escallante”!
I just got back from La Salina Ridge and had a terrific flying trip there. La Salina is a 600’ ridge that faces West. It is located less than 1 hr south of the border.
What makes this site so special is that it is an excellent combo site. What this means is that it is a ridge soaring site with good thermal activity. This means that although the ridge is not that high altitude wise, the ridge lift gives a pilot a lot of time to find thermals to climb in. What it also means it that it requires more skill to ridge soar than a standard ridge with just dynamic lift. You need to fly this kind of ridge with padding in case you hit some rough air or thermal activity. Coastal pilots have gotten in trouble on this type of ridge because they are too comfortable flying very close to the ridge.
The ridge is mainly volcanic rock with some shrubs and grasses and almost no trees growing on it. Trees are not good for thermal production, so this is a good thing. The wind can pick up very strong as the day progresses, so this is the biggest limitation and notable safety issue. With a thorough site intro and in reasonable conditions, this is an acceptable ridge for P3 and P4 pilots with thermic experience. With an Instructor, it can be a great ridge for P2 pilots to fly and expand greatly their thermaling skills.
Access to the Launches can be had by vehicle or hiking. The advantage of hiking is the lack of car retrieval. Driving from Brent’s house (Available for Rent) took about ½ hr if you have a nice SUV with good tires and know the route. The road is far from direct, it goes north and over the back of the ridge’s rear mesa. The road is very rocky in a few sections and I would not recommend taking a compact rental or low clearance vehicle up. Without a site intro, you would never find the route, is way too tricky to describe. Hiking up takes about ½ hr with a Paraglider on your back and about 15 – 20 minutes without.
Looking North from above La Salina Ridge
There is a local gringo, self proclaimed “ridge rat”, who flies at La Salina almost daily. His name is Brent and calls himself Baja Brent. He is available for site intros if you go down to visit. If you are a P3 / P4 pilot, please contact Brent aka Baha-Brent for a full site intro. His website is at http://www.flylasalina.com. As noted earlier, he also has a House for rent right accross the highway.
What was truly amazing was that the area there has a bunch more sites. We were able to fly 4 sites in the 3 days of flying we did. On the last day, we actually flew 3 sites.
Just North of La Salina ridge is a canyon. Just in from the Highway, the cliffs start out just about 75 ‘ above the riverbed. I found a spot to launch there and flew at this N – NNW facing ridge twice and soared both times. This ridge is the South side of the canyon that gradually merges with the La Salina Ridge. If it is a bit strong and Northy at La Salina, this might be a good place to go. However, they are building right next to the spot I took off from, so launch access may not be there in the near future. Brent knows a PG pilot who lives right on this ridge, so perhaps in the future this might help make this site work.
The ridge north of La Salina – “Escallante Ridge”
On our first flying day, it was light and a bit WSW and did not blow out or get excessively strong during our flights. Because it was not the normal NW as the day went along, Brent suggested we go to Sal Supuedes. We went back to his place, had lunch and then drove about 10 – 15 minutes south to the West Facing Launch at Sal Supuedes. They also have a launch that works there for SW days. This site is in a region that is inset like a slight bay. At the north end it faces SW and at the south end it faces W to WNW. The cliffs are about 200 ft high, but behind them are steep ridges that go up about 900’.
The parking area is just off the highway with a short walk up a hill to the launch. I launched and immediately got up. Most of my flight at Sal Supuedes I was at 500’ and got up as high as 800’ when the winds got stronger. If it had been lighter, I am certain that benching up to the steep ridges behind the highway would have been amazing, but it felt like about 15 – 20 above 600 ft and not the a good day to go higher. BTW, there were good thermals even though this is a coastal site. The scenery and view were absolutely amazing. After about 1 hr, it was getting real strong so we decided to land. We were not real greedy, as we had flown two sights that day. There is a nice more gradual sloped section just south of where we launched and it was a pretty easy landing spot for one with coastal cliff soaring experience. Again, sorry, no camera for that site. Also, I believe that for any pilot a site intro would be best for this site. Contact Brent if you are a P3/4 pilot and he can show you the other areas and introduce you to La Salina.
The other spot we flew was in Cantamar. Cantamar is a nice little town about 10 minutes north of La Salinas. Sorry, we ran out of film so did not get any pictures ! There are a couple of Sand Dunes there and these are often frequented by quads. Just north of the Sand Dunes are some 50 or so foot cliffs that go about ½ mile to the north. Houses are just behind these soarable cliffs. When it is soarable, you can kite up the south end dune and soar above the glorious Pacific. On our last day, I finished the day with a 1 hr flight, watching the sun set before I landed.