Cross country skills: thermal search

Leaving the hill is the foundation of cross country flying, and the hardest part to learn. Join Flybubble Paragliding for a narrated tutorial guiding you through the slow process of leaving the hill. Search. Circle. Fly away.

The site is Milk Hill in Wiltshire (south of England) and it’s early in summer around midday. You might notice the occasional pilot coming over higher up. They are drifting from a site upwind of us (Rybury) which works slightly better in WNW conditions, but not so well when the wind swings to the predicted SW direction.

With the building cumulus clouds (a good sign) the site is suffering from periodic shading, which slows the thermal development. Here it is important to be patient and stay in the air as long as possible to improve your chances of hooking something strong enough to leave the bowl.

Working every thermal to the top is a good habit in this phase, because every metre you gain gives you more time to search upwind on weak lift lines, which can lead you to the best thermals that release ahead of the hill (the ones that are too excited to wait until they are forced upwards by the slope).

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