The Whaleback Site Improvement Project: Launch Improvements

Update 8/1/11: RVHPA is continuing to raise funds for this project to make further improvements on the new launch. In short, we are raising money to re-contour the NW-facing portion of the launch to provide an option that does not require a flat slope launch. This will make the launch less demanding and more user-friendly. Please donate today if you want to support this work.

Phase 2 Whaleback Site Improvement Plan: Launch. A photo-realistic rendering of improved launch.The Whaleback is a spectacular flying site adjacent to Mount Shasta in far Northern California. With the stunning backdrop of a snow-clad volcano, it offers a diversity of flying experiences from wonderful evening flights in smooth air to epic XC flights over challenging terrain. The site received more use in 2010 than ever before yet remains uncrowded and still has undiscovered potential.

However, the The Whaleback site is in need of improvements to enhance usability, safety and accessibility. With a major LZ reclamation project recently completed, RVHPA is focusing on making substantial improvements to the launch with Phase 2 of the Whaleback Site Improvement Project. This is especially important given its increasing popularity with pilots of all skill levels. The Whaleback site needs your support — please donate today. And come fly.

Phase 2 of the project will make flying The Whaleback a better, safer experience for all pilots. Once completed, pilots will be able to use a new W/SW-facing launch instead of awkwardly launching cross-wise on a shallow slope. The existing NW launch will be widened and steepened. Wing-friendly gravel will replace the sharp, loose cinders on launch. The hazardous boulders at the base of the NW launch will be removed. Pilots will be able to lay out and pre-flight without blocking launch. Wait times to launch should be much shorter. Even parking and turning around vehicles will be much easier.

Your donation will help create a better, safer flying experience! This is a project for pilots, by pilots. All site improvements rely on the financial support of the flying community. RVHPA will do the heavy lifting and, as the local club, we are contributing significantly to the costs of this work. In addition to RVHPA club funds directed to this project, an RVHPA member has donated $1,000 to kickoff this effort. We need your support too!

Launch Improvements Planned for 2011: We Need Your Support Now!

RVHPA obtained initial approval for the launch improvements from the Klamath National Forest in October 2010. We are now in the critical fundraising stage of the project. The project total is approximately $13,000. Please help make this a reality by donating today.

This project will:

  • create a new W/SW-facing launch to face common prevailing winds
  • steepen the existing NW launch
  • cover the launch with wing-friendly gravel
  • expand the set-up area so it doesn’t interfere with launching
  • add vehicle parking and a turnaround
  • update info signs at the launch and LZ.

We are planning to complete the work as soon as this winter’s snowpack melts so we can enjoy these improvements for the complete 2011 flying season.

Help Improve The Whaleback Today

Please help improve The Whaleback. All contributions are greatly appreciated and will go directly to the project. We welcome donations in any amount (and especially in large amounts 🙂 ).

You can also mail a donation to:

PO Box 1292
Medford, OR 97501

Please make check payable to RVHPA and note the Whaleback Site Improvement Project.

Thank you! Come fly!

A Brief History of The Whaleback’s Site Development

Josh Cohn launching The Whaleback in 1991 from the original carpeted clearing in the brush.

Legend has it that sometime in the late 1980’s, paraglider pilot Jim Yates flew from Herd Peak to The Whaleback and identified a potential launch site while thermalling higher and higher. The rest is history: pilots have been enjoying amazing flights from The Whaleback for over 20 years.

In the early days, pilots launched from a small, carpeted strip surrounded by brush. In the mid-90′s, a local club, the Northern California Foot Launched Pilots, built the current launch and kept a small LZ cleared below. Over time, the club went defunct and The Whaleback flying site was no longer maintained. Sagebrush overtook the LZ to the point that it became a deterrent to flying The Whaleback for many pilots, especially for novices and for hang glider pilots needing extra landing space. Use of the site slowly declined but never stopped.

In late 2009, the Rogue Valley Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, the current stewards of The Whaleback flying site, initiated The Whaleback Site Improvement Project with the goal of making The Whaleback a safer, more user-friendly site. With assistance from the Klamath National Forest in October 2009, RVHPA cleared the LZ of brush and enlarged it twenty-fold, making it safer and more accessible for all pilots of all skill levels. We planted native grass to create a grassy oasis amongst sagebrush flats.

Not surprisingly, once word got out about the improved LZ and epic flying, pilots flocked to The Whaleback in unprecedented numbers. The 2010 flying season was remarkable: hang glider pilots flew the site for the first time in many years, paraglider pilots broke the 100 mile mark on XC flights, and dozens of pilots from the US and abroad experienced outstanding flying.

The history of site development at The Whaleback is not fully written…please help RVHPA make improvements that will carry us through the next 20 years of amazing flying at The Whaleback.