P-2 and beyond!

So, you’re ready to fly Woodrat on your own. Here are some things to consider. The USHPA requirements for P-2 are minimal, so here are some other requirements that are advisable for flying at Woodrat. Woodrat can be like a gentle class 1 or 2 river one moment, or a raging class 4 or potentially dangerous class 5 the next.

Woodrat history
Woodrat Mountain has been a hang gliding and paragliding site for 30+ years. Woodrat is considered one of the best places to fly paragliders in Oregon, the west coast and the US. Woodrat has a rich history and many hanglider and paraglider pilots from around the world have enjoyed our local mountain. It may seem like the more experienced local pilots are watching you, and are hypersensitive to be sure you are flying safely. They are! The key to KEEPING Woodrat flyable is safe flying that does nothing to jeopardize the site. The site is only flyable due to the incredible generosity of the Hunter family. Local pilots often say we are one accident, or even one incident away from losing our treasured flying site. Avoid that tragedy! (And avoid hurting yourself as well.)

Woodrat LZ rules
Know them and share them with visiting pilots. You are now a Woodrat ambassador whether you like it or not, and it is up to us/you to share the rules and enforce them, in the LZ and the parking area which are private property.
The rules are very easy. No smoking. No alcohol. No dogs. Close the gates. No kiting. Gather gear and fold up inside the walk-in gated area, away from nervous cows and hang-gliders. All pilots must sign a release form at the kiosk in the LZ.

Always do your safety check. LOOK at the reserve pins. FEEL all straps to be sure they are closed. Do a thorough check each and every time you fly!
One safety check example is: R,1,2,3,4, STaR
R=reserve pins, 1= helmet, 2= biners, 3= harness buckles, 4= A lines and brake lines clear, STaR= speedbar/stirrup, Turn and Radio check.
Do at least these things, and add what you like.

What can happen to your wing?
You should be familiar with what can happen to your wing. What can occur due to conditions, and what can occur due to pilot input? Collapses, spins, stalls, cravats, etc. You should know how they happen, how to recognize them, and what the appropriate response should be. This should be at the tip of you tongue (and your fingertips) not buried in your notes before you start flying Woodrat on your own. If you are not confident that you know and understand, talk to experienced pilots and your instructor.

When, Whether and How to fly Woodrat
Woodrat mid launch is rated P-2. But the conditions need to be P-2 appropriate too!
Woodrat top launch is a P-3 rated launch. Until they are signed off, P-2’s may fly the top with an instructor or experienced mentor only. Check with your instructor as to who is an appropriate mentor for you, and check with the mentor before you fly. Just because a mentor is at the top doesn’t mean it is appropriate for you to fly. Your mentor should discuss with you if the conditions seem appropriate to both of you. Remember the mentor has the ultimate decision.

The P-2 test has a question about whether it is appropriate to fly a launch midway up the mountain if you don’t know the conditions at the top. Woodrat mid-launch and even Woodrat top launch are NOT the top of the mountain. Unless you have looked at the weather report or sent a balloon off to check the winds, you could be flying into rotor.
Check at the hairpin turn on the way up to mid launch to see if winds are indicating south there. Listen to the winds at upper launch; look back at the ridgeline for signs of south wind. Every year even experienced pilots get fooled by flags looking west or north at launch that turn out to be south wind rotor.
Winds can be west at launch, north at mid, west at LZ or any combination of the above. Pilots who don’t pay attention to wind direction changes can end up on the wrong side of the ridge and in rotor, experiencing at best nasty conditions, at worst reserve tosses or landing in bailout LZ’s. If in doubt, stay over the ridge from top to mid. Be aware of drifting thermals and switching winds at different layers of altitude.

How strong are the conditions at launch or in the LZ?
Conditions change fast. 15 minutes can make the difference between P-2 and P-4 or beyond conditions. Thermal conditions, wind conditions and convergence can all change rapidly at Woodrat.
Ask experienced pilots for advice, but remember your bump tolerance will vary! Some pilots make nasty air look smooth, don’t be deceived.
Wind strength can ramp up rapidly also. Just because it is launchable at mid or the top does not mean it is flyable.
The Bishop Creek valley is a classic venturi producer when winds are out of Ruch. (i.e. winds can be stronger in the valley due to compression/funneling.) Stay well towards the Ruch side of midlauch as you progress down the ridge from the top, and stay towards Ruch when you pass mid. If the wind is from Ruch in the LZ and fairly strong, stay towards the Ruch side of the LZ to burn off altitude before landing, don’t venture back towards Bishop Creek. A good approach is to burn altitude on the Ruch side of the LZ to avoid strong winds and to “taste” the air you are going to land in, before turning on your downwind leg just before turning to base and final.
LZ conditions can change rapidly also, and very experienced pilots have said that midday summer landings at the Woodrat LZ have been some of the scariest of their lives. That is not an exaggeration, and pilots have also been seriously injured during midday landings. Every experienced Woodrat pilot has stories to tell and respects the potential dangers of the Woodrat LZ after noon time. A general rule is to land before noon, or land out at Longsword if you can. Don’t make your Woodrat landings Ruchian roulette!
Launch safe, fly safe, land safe. Remember the wisdom in the saying,
Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.