Lions Head

Launch

‘Lower launch’ is reached after a 10 minute walk, where the path narrows from a jeep-track width into a hiking track. It is a challenging launch through a silver-leaf tree grove from a short net-covered runoff. Be meticulous in your layout and pre-flight checks. This is where to launch if it is soarable and SW. 

The ‘Top site’ is reached after another 10 minutes of brisk walking. It is NOT on the top of Lion’s Head! It’s below the cliffs on the NW side. The path is slightly hard to spot on the first pass if you’re not following a local, as it’s a couple of steps up rocks. 

Lion’s Head is a rocky launch site that is both steep and loose underfoot, though the loose rocks are contained under a tight green net that has been stretched over the launch area (weak ankles, beware). The launch is steep enough that your wing is, between cycles, likely to slide down the netted hill towards you. 

The wind is usually cross from the left here and there’s a significant drop-off a couple of feet from the bottom of the netted area, making good ground-handling and committed launch techniques essential for a safe get-away.

Landing

Landing is on a grassy, shoreline cricket field next to The Bungalow at the Glen Country Club. The field is rented by the Camps Bay High School, so try to have a minimum impact on any sports being played on the field (it is a bit short for hang gliders). There is a sock at the far southwestern corner of the field, but at time of revision the sock in place was on the small side and bleached white by the sun. Aside from the sock, there are plenty of palm trees to watch for wind direction around the field, but no flags, banners or other indicators. 

The Camps Bay High School field (above the main road, to the left of the big swimming pool) can be used as an alternative if it is empty. 

During the summer season the Municipality has asked us to please avoid landing on the beaches (Camps Bay, Clifton, Glen). There is also a median strip between the upper main road and the lower main road, just above The Bungalow 

The lower slopes of Lion’s Head can be used to slope-land in an emergency. Keep in mind that these slopes look deceptively shallow from the air; in truth, they’re steeper than they look from above.

The hang-gliding alternative landing is Mouille Point lighthouse.

Notes

  • Lion’s Head has complex weather systems, so ask the locals for advice. When it is soarable, the strong venturi effect at both takeoff sites can be hazardous. Ensure that your launch is directly into the wind, and that the conditions are within your capabilities. Begin your soaring flight with very short tacks back and forwards until you have established the limits of the venturi-effect at each side of the peak, as penetration into the wind becomes difficult beyond either takeoff site.
  • If you are blown over the back, try to fly around the side as much as possible (not directly behind the peak). Turn and run for the end of Signal Hill if possible.
  • When the wind turns southerly, the spine which runs down to Camps Bay High School from lower launch generates lift on its windward side, and sink on the leeward side, so fly to the left of the spine to reach the landing field, otherwise you’ll be forced to land short.
  • In berg-wind conditions (prevailing NE wind), it is possible to sneak off Lion’s Head in a thermal cycle. THIS IS A BAD IDEA, because the hot, dry and descending air will try to mix with the cool, moist sea air, making conditions very unstable on the way in to the landing field. There may be a shear layer between the two air masses with violent lift and sink.

Rules

  • Ceiling at 1200m ASL

Access

Drive up through Cape Town and take Kloof Nek road up to the pass between Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. At the circle, turn right to Signal Hill and continue until the road levels out. You will find a gravel car park to the right of the road. The path to the launch is on the left as you reach the car park.

Comments

Spectacular coastal flying. Sometimes when it’s just right you can fly across to Table Mountain, get up and fly all the way down the Twelve Apostles.

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 thermal, upslope breeze. Best flying is from 3pm onwards during wind-shadow conditions. Parking is on the back (Cape Town side) of Lion’s Head, and 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 topside and very strong, and crossed from the right (NW) at the lower site. Please don’t pioneer a new launch site somewhere else on the mountain as it is a Nature Reserve. 
HG: get permission to drive a 4×4 up to the launch site. Contact the Nature Conservation office (RHS of Signal Hill road on way up).

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