Leeuwenkop

Leeuwenkop (NOTE: This site is not suitable for beginners, either in hang-gliding or paragliding)

This is a relatively new site for paragliding – the large launch-area having been created a few years ago by the illegal clearing of much natural fynbos scrub, and the removal of part of the pine forest. Originally explored as an alternative hang-gliding launch-site, the small area on the south was enlarged westward to form a natural earth-ramp; and this was then extended by the construction of a west-facing wooden ramp. Not long after completion, this wooden structure was destroyed (in the next of our periodic mountain fires), leaving a not-too-safe area from which some paraglider pilots still tend to launch. The newly-cleared area changed this, allowing relatively easy launches for multiple pilots.

The thermal pattern here can be quite difficult to read; and a good briefing is essential. The strength of thermals immediately in front of the launch slope will often take an inexperienced pilot (and many an “experienced” one) by surprise. The reason for this is 1), the steepness of the western slope where fast-rising thermals are little affected by wind; and 2), the regular multi-thermal lift in this area where the gradient suddenly steepens from around 45 degrees to a vertical cliff. The slope below the cliff contains several gulleys, which act as thermal channels; and it is the mixing at launch-height of two or more of these thermals which creates the turbulence which has woken many a pilot from easy-launch complacency.