Porterville: Dasklip Pass

Original content sourced from Greg Hamerton’s ‘Fresh Air Site Guide’, 5th edition, 2006.

BASIC + 2 / S

DESCRIPTION: Porterville is Cape Town’s premier xc site. Hardy scrub covers the dry and rocky mountain range. In summer, the fields below are barren browns and blacks, having yielded their grains to the yearly harvest. Ground temperatures can soar well into the thirties (oC) causing good thermal activity and height gains. The front ridge offers an easy start to big Cross-country flying, with the Cedarberg Range towering behind it to the east. It is dry and dusty on the ground, but once airborne you’ll appreciate the beauty of the land. Wild, untamed mountains. Plains with unlimited landing areas stretching out from the foothills to the western horizon. Hidden, inaccessible valleys; blue skies above. And thermals that go UP. Porterville averages 4 good flying days a week between November and March. If you know how to thermal, 20km xc is an easy goal. In winter (June – Sept), just after a cold front, you’ll find gentle thermic conditions over a much greener.

WIND: NW – SW, thermic SE days GPS: +- S32o54.307’ E19o02.301’

LAUNCH: At the top of the Pass is a hangglider ramp and a cut-away for turning your vehicle. The launch is covered with shade-netting, and is just above the road.

ALTITUDE: 450m high (700m ASL), airspace ceiling at 2900m (ASL).
LANDING: Turkey patch is directly below takeoff, around the Y junction at the base of the pass. The fields on the W and SE of the junction belong to Mr Du Bois, a friendly farmer who lives in the first farmhouse to the S. The triangular field to the NE is only to be used if there is no livestock in it. Close all gates that you open, don’t damage the fences, and please avoid livestock. The two farms to the north of the pass, against the ridge, can be unwelcoming to pilots, so avoid landing near the homesteads. Don’t bring your recovery vehicles onto their private land.
CAUTIONS: In summer, experienced guidance is highly recommended. Make sure that you check the wind-direction around the back of the mountain. Sometimes the takeoff site is in the lee of a strong south-easter, and flying is not recommended until the heat of the valley has raised the inversion high above the ridge. By afternoon the wind is usually southerly, causing a strong rotor (directly in front of takeoff) off the spine to the left. The gully to the right of takeoff causes a strong venturi – don’t venture deeply into it with a slow glider in a strong SW. The glide back to the turkey patch will become difficult, with the ridge causing sinking air, and your glider battling to penetrate.
DIRECTIONS: Take the N1, then turn left onto the N7 and drive for 100km to Piketberg. At Piketberg, turn right towards Porterville. Turn right at the T-junction and drive into town. Manzoni’s B&B is the third house on the right. When you’re ready to fly, head out of Porterville again, passing the T-junction and continuing north. The first turning right is signposted ‘Cardouw / Dasklip Pass’. After following this gravel road for 10km, you’ll reach the base of the tarred pass. If you are going to park here to catch a ride up with friends, please ensure that your vehicle is well off the road (up against the fence), as the locals complain if we constrict the dangerous intersection. When you reach the top, you will see a hangglider ramp on your left. The paragliding launch site is above the road. Please do not park your vehicle here, or on the left (valley side) of the road, as this causes erosion and traffic congestion, or in the cut-away area where the hanggliders rig and vehicles turn. Park your vehicle on the mountain side of the road on the far side of the cutaway, facing downhill. Leave your keys hidden on it so it can be driven down later.

PERMISSION: Site fee payable to land owner Rob Manzoni (082 788 4398).

ACCOMMODATION: Bed and Breakfast: ‘Mountain View’ (082 320 8510) has upmarket accommodation for 20 people, with a pool and more. ‘The Flyers’ Lodge’ (082 788 4398) has a pool, bunkbeds, and lots of space in a backpacker style.

Self-catering: Pampoenfontein has 3 charming cottages on top of the ridge near takeoff. Contact Gemma Carlsson (082 564 5500). Also try Rockhaven (083 630 8217). If you prefer a cool retreat in the valley, try Laatson (022 931 2468), 4 or 6 beds chalets.

Camping: over the back to Beaver Lac (022 931 2945). Rock pools. Pine trees. Also consider the cheap Clanwilliam Dam Campsite (027 482 8012) when you fly there.

Porterville: Pampoenfontein

Original content sourced from Greg Hamerton’s ‘Fresh Air Site Guide’, 5th edition, 2006.

BASIC + 2 / A

DESCRIPTION: My favourite launch, this alternative to Dasklip Pass is higher and faces more directly into the prevailing thermic cross-wind, so it’s safer for xc pilots. The thermals are usually strong so you can get away quickly. There’s a big ridge close to launch.

WIND: W – SSW, thermic SE days GPS: S32o55.616’ E19o02.235’

LAUNCH: If the wind is straight, it’s best to launch from the carpark. Alternatively, there’s a wide ledge with netting below, easy for experienced pilots but a bit challenging for first-timers (cliff launch). There’s a good run-off here for hanggliders. There is a large amount of space in the surrounding fynbos as well. Toplanding is possible.

ALTITUDE: 800m (ASL), airspace ceiling at 2900m.
LANDING: Directly below launch is a field to the right of a square forest (Grootelsbos). Land either side of the gravel road coming in from Porterville, use the ladder or gate.

CAUTIONS: in summer, experienced guidance is highly recommended. Midday thermals can become very strong, especially the house thermal to the left and right of takeoff. The rocks below the launch-site are gnarly – avoid fiddling in your harness and maintain good glider control until well clear of the ridge. In strong thermic conditions it is difficult to judge your launch timing due to the ledge which obscures your view – use an assistant if possible. Expect your glider to lift you as it bites into the wind.

DIRECTIONS: Continue on the road past Dasklip takeoff around the back. After +- 3km, turn right (uphill). The road climbs out to the front of the ridge.
CARETAKERS: the Carlssons (owners), Japie (manager), Cape Albatross Club, Glen.

PERMISSION: Site fee of R20 payable in site fee box. Sign the indemnity.

ACCOMODATION: Self-catering chalets available through Gemma Carlsson (082 564 5500, gemmac@mweb.co.za). Pilots who stay on the farm are not charged site fees.

INFO: Porterville information 022 931 3732