I will be writing a series of blog articles in an attempt to educate all new or first time paragliding pilots wishing to fly from Lions Head in Cape Town

With my experience of over 2 000 tandem paragliding flights from Lions Head, I will illustrate in my opinion :

How & When to paraglide from Lions Head.

Let’s start with the basics :

Paragliding Cape Town, Lions Head

Paragliding Cape Town Lions Head

Paragliding Cape Town, Lions Head

Lion’s Head is a mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, between Table Mountain and Signal Hill.

Lion’s Head peaks at 669 meters (2,195 ft) above sea level. The peak forms part of a dramatic backdrop to the city of Cape Town and is part of the Table Mountain National Park.

This is an extract from the: The Fresh Air Site Guide by Greg Hamerton and can be purchased at http://shop.flybubble.co.uk/fresh-air-sites-guide-south-africa-book

Grading : BASIC + 4 guided flights (Hang-gliders : C) GPS : +- S33º56’18” E18º23’14”
Altitude : Top site 450m (asl), ceiling at 1200m asl

Description: Home of the Glen Paragliding Club, a consistent and beautiful site to fly, offering a panorama of Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles. In the afternoon, Lion’s Head heats up and generates a thermic, upslope breeze. Parking is on the back (Capetown side) of Lion’s Head, then a stiff hike is required up the gravel road and around to the front side. Because of the spire-shape of the peak, the wind diverges around it, causing a strong increase in wind speed at both takeoff sites when it is soarable. The wind is usually crossed from the left (S) at the top site and very strong, and crossed from the right (NW) at the lower site. Don’t pioneer a new launch site somewhere else on the mountain.

Now I will try to explain in what type of weather conditions you can paraglide from Lions Head.

1) The South Easterly wind shadow

The South Easterly wind is a low-level wind with a reverse wind gradient (stronger on the ground and weaker in altitude).

Generally speaking for a Wind Shadow to form you need the following elements :

1) Wind forecast of not stronger than 15 knots
2) Surface temperature of 25C

paragliding cape town wind shadow Lions Head

Paragliding Cape Town SE wind shadow at Lions Head

We get the formation of a Wind Shadow mostly in the warmest parts of our weather season but it is possible in the middle of Winter as well.

The red lines indicate the direction of the airflow of the Southeasterly wind. As mentioned before the South Easterly wind is a low-level wind and is prevented/blocked from flowing over Lions Head by Table Mountain.

The yellow area is where the wind shadow generally sets up. Looking out towards the ocean from Lions Head a distinct line can be seen on the ocean with a slight difference in colour indicating the presence of a wind shadow.

paragliding cape town windshadow Lions Head

Paragliding Cape Town SE wind shadow at Lions Head showing warning signs of breaking down

The white cloud that starts to form between Devils Peak and Maclears Beacon on the left and Llandudno and Judas Peak to the right now indicates that there is an increase in the strength of the southeasterly wind.

The cold South Easter flowing from False bay starts to condensate as it gets pushed up against the back of Table Mountain. The size of the flyable area in yellow now starts to decrease and whitecaps / white horses can often be seen outside of the yellow area.

First signs to look for :

1) White cloud forming
2)The Wind shadow line decreasing in size
3) Whitecaps on the ocean outside of the wind shadow.

paragliding cape town windshadow Lions Head

Paragliding Cape Town SE wind shadow at Lions Head breaking down

The increase of the white cloud indicates that the wind shadow is now almost broken down and it is no longer safe to continue flying.

The decrease of the wind shadow size can be seen in the yellow circle. The distinct wind shadow line is now moving closer to the landing area.

All flying should now be stopped and you should go land at the designated landing areas as soon as possible.

Signs to look for :

1)Increase in cloud coming over Table Mountain and the Apostles
2) Increase of whitecaps on the ocean
3) Size of wind shadow decreasing
4) Wind shadow line coming closer to landing area

paragliding lions head

Paragliding Cape town SE wind shadow at Lions Head broken down

The wind shadow is now completely broken down.

If you find yourself still in the air, then you are lucky!

The safest place for you to land is BACK ON THE MOUNTAIN IN THE YELLOW AREA.


In Part 2 we will look at flying in a Southerly wind.

Stephan Kruger