North Mount Franklin

31.902917° -106.493700° 7,152' MSL
LZ 31.910659° -106.519001° and 31.876146° -106.519084°
Bail LZ's:  PG/HG 31.871923° -106.507787°   PG only 31.882664° -106.507055°
Rated P3 or P2 with an instructor present
When flown during thermic times/dates, TURB recommended
Ideal conditions 240° - 270° 8 mph, gusts 4 mph or under, winds at 7k MSL no higher than 12 mph.
All pilots must register with the Park authorities before flying Agave Hill.
Texas Parks and Wildlife requires curent USHPA membership

Revised 20220306

General info

North Franklin was first flown back in the early 80's by HG pilots when there was a road - albeit terrible - all the way to the summit. Pilots include Robin Hastings (2 flights), Paul Michaud, Bill Kershaw, Dave Church, and Sean Riley. No HG flights have happended since the land was transferred to Texas Parks and Wildlife and the road blocked. The launch is relatively free from rotor.  There is an amateur radio tower that extends about 15' above the flat (graded) summit, but it is possible to lay the wing out without interference from the tower.  The airspace over the FMSP and to the west is all Class E which is good for us up to 17,999'.  Pilots should always keep a lookout for other aircraft.  Although launching in an easterly direction is possible in the right conditions, safe and legal LZ's may be hard to reach.  Don't do it! 

The main benefit of this site is its altitude and the ease with which pilots can stay up, even at the end of the day or very early in the morning.

paragliding in Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, TX
Hiking up to the summit from the north.  The Organ Mountains are visible in the distance. Photo courtesy of Ken Steiner.


View of North Franklin from above. The road is the Patriot Freeway, the El Paso Class C airspace exists east of the Patriot Freeway.

Directions to Launch

North Franklin requires a vigorous 2 to 4 hour hike from the main section of Franklin Mountains State Park. Park in the lot at the trailhead to Mundy Gap. From the Mundy Gap trailhead follow the trail all the way to the summit. This is a long and strenuous hike.

LZ

Top landing North Frankln is possible, but to our knowledge it has only been done once, by Lee Boone and Mitch Graham in December 2020. They landed their motors and were able to re-launch.

The Park authorities have graciously permitted us to land anywhere in the Park, including on roads! There is usually very little traffic on the access road which is our general LZ for all sites within the Park.  When traffic is encountered, ALWAYS give them the right of way! However, drivers will typically wait until we clear the area – as here.

Lee's Lookout

Restrictions

All pilots MUST be registered to fly any of the sites in Franklin Mountains State Park. The requirements to launch from N. Mt. Franklin are the same as for Agave Hill.  (For detailed instructions on registering with the Park, go to the Agave Hill Information site here and read the section on Pilot Registration)

Winds and Conditions

North Franklin is flyable with winds from the SW, W, NW, N, NE and E, according to reports from hang glider pilots who flew it in the early 80's.  It is probably flyable with winds from any direction as the summit is unobstructed.  Safest and best conditions are with a SW to NW wind.  If winds are calm or light, pilots can have a 20 minute sled ride.

Winds aloft at 9K are about the same as at launch if the winds are in the same direction at both 6K' and 9K'. This means that the maximum winds aloft at 9K should be 12-16 mph for a safe launch for paragliding.  It is important to launch as far forward as possible at the launch area.  If there is a mishap you want time and distance to stop the glider from flying.  Thankfully all sides of the peak have modest slopes without sheer faces.

Ideal wind direction is 240 degrees; ideal speed is 0-10 mph. Thermal activity should ideally be little or none which means pilots should not launch past/before the 2 - hour window of dawn/sunset berween the months of April to October. Reverse or forward inflations may be done.

Launch is possible even when winds aloft are calm (6K'-9K') because of anabatic flow up the peak which creates a good updraft at launch (about 7 mph measured when winds aloft were calm). Winds at Mundy Gap (the high mountain pass one mile north of the summit) proved to be about the same as at the peak – both are very exposed and Mundy will experience some increase in wind velocity because of a venturi through the gap.

The area in front of launch is a shallow to medium slope for 50 yards with few obstacles. The area behind launch is similar but is steeper and has many large bushes. Be careful to launch as close to the front edge of launch as possible in order to have plenty of space to recover from a mishap.

After launching pilots should turn right to experience modest ridge lift and then head west when reaching the main finger that comes up from the Triangle (see the site info for Agave Hill). There is almost lift of some sort in this area, including weak thermals. Pilots should stay out of the huge bowl just west of the peak as intense sink is present there. Pilots can also turn left at launch and try their skills in the thermals coming up the spine from Dragon’s Mouth (Transmountain Pass). At any time, pilots can head northwest towards the LZ which is easy to reach even in sink. Setting up for landing in the main LZ is the same as for Agave Hill.

Additional Info and Hazards

BE AWARE THAT BEING BLOWN BACKWARDS OFF LAUNCH COULD BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AS YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF IN ROTOR GETTING DRILLED INTO UNFRIENDLY TERRAIN.  WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT PILOTS LAUNCH IN HIGH WINDS.

The Patriot Freeway to the east of the range is the west boundary of the Class C airspace of El Paso International Airport.  Always stay west of this boundary.  Launching from the steep slopes and cliffs in the desert mountains requires good kiting skills.  It is hazardous to inflate and then immediately turn before stabilizing your glider overhead for a few seconds or more.  Many pilots have damaged their equipment and been banged-up attempting to launch in the often turbulent air that characterizes the air we fly in.  Pilots must have the skills to kite a glider overhead under control before attempting a launch, especially in strong air.  In addition, all pilots should master inflating their gliders using the Mitsos Technique (A's and rear risers).  You may have to de-power your glider at any moment and this is the only way you can safely do it while attempting a launch.  Pulling deep on the brakes does NOT de-power your glider!  In addition, you will not have time to go searching for the correct risers if things start to go wrong and you do not have the correct ones in your hands.  Jamming the brakes will only make things worse. 

paragliding in Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, TX
The only obstacle at the summit is a short amateur radio station. 

Benching to the top of the Franklins from Agave Hill is often a challenge but it is an easy 15 minute hike to the Agave Hill launch.  However, if conditions are too mild or the wind direction is wrong, you will not be able to bench and will have to do the hike.

 

paragliding in Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, TX
Lee Boone, pilot extraordinaire, bringing up his glider.  View is north.  Photo courtesy of Ken Steiner.


paragliding in Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, TX
Jason Tilley "building a wall" in order to check his lines.


Here is a short video of Jason launching in strong conditions in February 2016 .