Dinosaur 2015 brings global competition

Patrick Kelly
Christian Ciech, world champion hang glider, secures a glider as winds pick up and rain sets in on Sunday morning at Dinosaur 2015.
Patrick Kelly

Hang glider pilots from around the world eager to compete in the vast skies of Colorado and Utah were grounded on Sunday morning due to thunderstorms.

The sport’s top competitors have gathered at Cliff Ridge Launch near the Colorado-Utah border to take flight in Dinosaur 2015, but the prospect of being caught in a storm kept them from flying for points on Sunday.

“Today, unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be flying any tasks,” said Glen McFarlane, a pilot from Sydney, Australia.

Hang gliding competitions are split into tasks, which consist of a series of checkpoints and a finish line, McFarlane explained. They fly one task a day but may easily cover 100 miles.

Pilots use Global Positioning Systems to navigate the course. After completing the task, the pilots’ navigations instruments are hooked up to a scoring computer and a winner is determined.

McFarlane, one-time Australian hang gliding champion, and the 51 other pilots are up against some lofty competition with the presence of world champion Christian Ciech.

Ciech, of Italy, is visiting Colorado for the first time. After going for a test flight, he said he felt like he could get lost in the vast landscape – and almost did when he lost sight of all roads.

“It’s a huge place, it’s amazing,” he said.

Dinosaur 2015 is a United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association-sanctioned competition that will continue through the week until Saturday, said organizer Chris Reynolds.

Reynolds and her husband, Terry, helped bring the USHPA national championship to Cliff Ridge for the first time in 1990 and are hoping to keep promoting the site 15 years later.

“We want to share this hang gliding site with everyone,” Reynolds said.

According to Patrick Cameron, he and his friend Mike Warden discovered the launch site in 1984.

After using binoculars to observe the potential runway from U.S. Highway 40, Warden and Reynolds headed up to what would become Cliff Ridge Launch via a somewhat accessible four-wheeler trial.

The spot was a hit and before long, hang gliders from Denver were stopping in Dinosaur rather than driving all the way to Salt Lake City, Cameron said.

“They’d drive by and say, ‘Gosh, that’d be a good place to fly,’” he said.

Now, thanks to Bureau of Land Management, Reynolds said, the launch site has grown into an accessible and accommodating facility that she hopes to share with more pilots.

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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