Description of Site: Abert Rim is a prominent 22-mile, 2500' agl west-facing fault block escarpment located on Highway 395 near Valley Falls. This is an incredibly scenic spot -- the Rim is said to be the largest exposed fault scarp in North America. Most of Abert Rim is BLM property, but there are some privately owned areas so obey no-trespassing signs.
Most of the recent paragliding activity at Abert Rim has been in evening glass-off conditions during July and August, but it's also possible to fly the length of the Rim in thermal conditions. The best wind directions are west and west-northwest, and the best wind speed is around 10-15 mph aloft. Less wind than that and it won't be soarable, more wind than that and the higher sections of the Rim become riskier because of compression and the massive amounts of lift that are generated. The Rim is highest at its southern end and gradually tapers off until it's only a few hundred feet high at the northern end.
Hang glider pilots launch at Tague's Butte and fly over to the Rim in soarable conditions, but paraglider pilots typically hike part way up from the road on the eastern shore of Abert Lake and bench up over the Rim.
There are many areas that have been used for launching paragliders on Abert Rim. Perhaps the most frequently used launch area (L1) is the slope above the Geological Marker (GM) sign. The slope starts out shallow and becomes steeper the higher you climb. Pilots have launched as high as the base of the rimrock, but the slope is so steep there you'll need wind or another pilot to keep your glider from sliding down the hill as you set up. The major disadvantage of this launch area is there are no landing zones within glide if it isn't soarable. The road isn't a landing zone and should only be used in emergencies. [ORS 837.090: "Landings on public highways and grounds prohibited. Except in an emergency, no person shall land aircraft on highways or public parks or other public grounds without permission from the authorities in charge thereof."]
Another launch area (L2) is approximately 1.5 miles south of the Geological Marker, above the landing zone (LZ). There are west and northwest facing launch sites here, and although the hike up is a little longer than at the Geological Marker the major advantage is having a landing zone within easy glide of the launch area.
The LZ is 1.5 miles south of the Geological Marker, between the highway and the lake; it's large, mostly flat, mostly grassy, and has no fences or powerlines. This LZ can be reached from any launch area on the Rim on any soarable evening. There's a parking pullout just south of the LZ where shuttle cars can be left by pilots who want to launch above the Geological Marker and land in the LZ. The LZ is shown on the map below and here's a Google Maps link pointing to the LZ.
Note that some of the private fields around Valley Falls are off-limits. From the Tague's Butte site guide: "WARNING; Do not land on either side of 395 S of the W dirt road 1.3 mi. S of Valley Falls or E of the Simms Ranch access road in the E-W striped fields at the N end of the access road where it turns S to Simms Ranch. Hostile, armed landowners own them and do not want hang gliding there. They will try to prosecute." Also there are obstacles in many of the private fields between Valley Falls and the south end of Abert Lake -- fences, powerlines along the road, and in some places powerlines crossing the road and going through the fields.
Left: Geological Marker (GM), launch areas (L1 & L2), and LZ; Right: Detail view of landing zone (click image to magnify)
Tim Reynolds: One of the things I have noticed about the site is how much lift there can be in light wind conditions and how you often have to start from high on the hill to get into the lift band. Also I have been there a few times when the ground winds have been almost zero but it still works. Oh, and the seagulls and the wind on the water, and the amazing altitude gain, and how little altitude you lose as you fly over the water and how much lift there is when you fly over the valley and how laminar the air always is and how much I like to fly there.
Douglas Mullin: The wind gradient - it can be soarable with almost no wind on the road and it could be dangerous with a "good" wind on the road. And it's quite a hike.
Rick Conger: One add pertaining to "no LZ's" at the Geological Marker Site. The one and only time I flew at Abert (sled ride)....I launched from the normal area high above the Geological marker and landed about 50-100' west of the road near the lake...pretty much straight out from the marker...maybe a tad south of it.. Not sure if this spot is always there or if lake was lower than normal....but was a good landing spot (I'm not fond of no wind landings on asphalt). Just a 5 min hike back up to the car. [Editor's note: other pilots have had less success landing along the shore of the lake and have ended up ankle-deep in mud.]
Tina Pavelic: Learning how to forecast the weather for Abert is the key especially since it is a 2.5hr drive and 50 minute hike for us from Bend. We look for lighter wind forecasts in the 5-10-15 mph range. 15-20 mph will probably mean it will blow out. Also you want winds aloft to be stacked mostly westerly. Usually we park somewhere near the prominent Geological Sign and hike up as far as we think we can start benching up. There is no official launch, just rocky and grassy steep slopes ... a few places have been improved some ... but you need to be comfortable pulling up the glider in a tight space with rocks all around. Some super light evenings you might have to hike almost up to the vertical rimrock, but most days you only hike 1/2-2/3 of the way up to the rim. Do not land on the shore of the lake. The grassy areas next to the water contain foul smelling knee sucking mud and hundreds of years of decaying brine shrimp. Highway landing have been done but not recommended for safety. It would reflect badly on the sport if there was an accident with a motorist.
Submitted by: Steve Roti
Last Revision Date: 7/10/2012