It was a long flight — six-and-a-half hours and 98 miles in freezing, high-elevation skies — but Hayden Glatte of Medford on Wednesday broke the paragliding distance record for flights from Woodrat Mountain.
Glatte hadn't planned on going for the record, but it was an unexpectedly great day for thermals, and by the time he'd crested the Cascades, he decided he could grab enough lift in warmer Klamath County to do the trick.
He hadn't dressed for the high-elevation cold, which froze his drinking water. Still he decided to gut it out, landing at 7:50 p.m. near Bly, in front of a bunch of ranchers who were relaxing on their front porch.
"They're always amazed, where I land," says Glatte, 52. "They said, 'Where's your motor and where's your oxygen?' I told them I came from near Jacksonville just on thermals and was above 16,000 feet but no oxygen. I could have used some."
His record run is detailed at paraglidingforum.com and can be accessed at www.mailtribune.com/glatte-flight. It shows a map of the route, with graphs of altitude, speed and vertical speed.
Glatte launched from Woodrat at 1:12 p.m., flew south of Ashland at 9,000 feet, soared atop Siskiyou Ridge at 12,000 feet, then had to make a decision at Soda Mountain — to soar down into Shasta Valley, where thermals are more dependable, or shoot for his first crossing of the Cascades, where thermals are kept weak by cooler, darker forests.
"I didn't think that was going to be the day (for a record) because of an upper level south wind that was fairly strong," says Glatte. "There are a lot of trees up there and not a lot of good landing zones. You have to be careful and watch for clearcuts if you need to land."
Glatte had a flying companion who dropped out and landed at Emigrant Lake. Glatte followed the Greensprings Highway over the Cascades, looking for precious thermals by reading clouds and the topography. His goal now was Keno, but with the strong thermals, he decided to push for the record, following Highway 140 out into the desert.
"It was really cold. I wasn't dressed for it. I was shaking and shivering and ice was forming in my water," Glatte recalls.
In Klamath County, with its exposed earth and rocks, thermals improved and things got warmer.
"It was a cool flight and an incredibly beautiful glide path down Highway 140. I stayed away from thunderheads, which can be violent," says Glatte. "I had thermals going to 10,000 feet."
Glatte broke the old Woodrat distance record, set by himself five years ago. It was a flight of 61 miles to Mount Shasta, landing beside Highway 97. In this year's landing, he drew the attention of a state trooper, who gave him a lift into Klamath Falls.
Glatte's online track log notes he got as high as 15,675 feet, attained a top speed of 48 mph, had a west tailwind of 15 to 20 mph and climbed as fast as 1,200 feet per minute. With many zigs and zags, Glatte flew much farther than 98.4 miles, but a flight is measured in straight lines between several points.
Glatte, a river guide, started paragliding 17 years ago. He loves cross-country flying but warns it takes experience and preparation. He tries to follow highways and to avoid landing in the sticks, but he carries knife, lighter, food and other survival gear, just in case.
Modern GPS and satellite beacons can transmit your location and condition if you don't have cell phone coverage, he adds.
"All the years of air time give you an incredible amount of information about how to move around in the sky and get lift," he says.
"The first five years can be risky, because you don't understand what's happening in the air. People can get in over their heads. With time, you have a much better perspective of where you should and shouldn't be."
Glatte would love to break the Oregon distance record of 136 miles, held by an Australian glider who launched from Pine Mountain, near Bend. To do that, Glatte likely will have to fly from Pine Mountain or a site near Lakeview, he says, where thermals are strong and consistent.
"We've got to get that record back in the hands of an Oregonian," he jokes.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.