Doña Ana County, NM
Middle launch 32.482160° -107.135290° 5,555' MSL; 500' AGL in front; 678' AGL Main LZ
Main LZ 32.478792° -107.119341°, 4,877' MSL
Magdalena Rim is a friendly site for paragliding and hang gliding. In moderate winds, it is easy to get 600' over launch. The rim faces southwest for much of its length and then it starts to turn south and then SSE at the southerly end. The best lift is near the southeast end at its highest elevation. Here is an excellent video made by pilot Steve Crye.
It is an excellent ridge soaring and thermalling site for the following reasons:
1. Launch is easily accessible by paved road almost the entire way. 4-wheel drive is unnecessary. The main LZ is just a 12-minute trip from the top of the rim.
2. It is our safest site for newer pilots (HG/PG) because the sides and rear of launch are clear for hundreds of yards. The launch face is not a precipice so side-hill landings for PG are easy to do. Blown launches (PG) are more forgiving due to the absence of barbed wire fences, trees, buildings, huge rocks, cliffs, etc. Bailout LZ's are abundant and easy to land in. Retrieve is possible via a jeep trail out in front of the rim but it takes an hour to get there.
3. The topography behind launch allows top-landings without having to deal with hazardous rotor/turbulence that is present at all our other sites with the exception of Kilbourne Hole maar. The top landing area is enormous which means pilots can make significant errors in setup and not be exposed to hazards. It is the only site other than Kilbourne where PG pilots can inflate their glider, move slowly and with control to the launch edge, and be gently lifted up.
4. Easy access, a clear launch area, and the ability to consistently top-land makes Magdalena Rim ideal for tandem and flights by the handicapped. We are looking forward to making this available to special needs pilots.
5. It is flyable with winds from southeast to west.
6. When thermals are present, the site can be flown in light winds. The thermals drift in nicely at Middle Launch with a southwest breeze. Pilots should focus on staying in the thermals rather than fly up and down the ridge. Jumping to the higher rim 0.6 miles behind has been done by hang glider pilots but not yet by paragliding pilots. The wide-open range presents few hazards to flying away from launch. An abundance of roads in the region makes retrieves easy.
7. Camping can be done in the area.
When to fly
When is the best to fly the Rim? Winds that are 190º -230º will give the best air for soaring. When winds are less than 190º pilots cannot expect to get as high and there is a slightly greater amount of turbulence along the Rim. When winds are greater than 230º, there tends to be a lot more turbulence at the site due to the low range to the west. There is no weather station nearby that can give us real-time data on wind speed and direction so we must rely on other sources of information. The Deming and Las Cruces airports are some help in indicating what we will experience at Middle Launch.
This means that pilots must know how to check the latest balloon soundings at Santa Teresa (EPZ). (For a brief introduction on balloon soundings, go to our page on weather explanations.) Look at the DRCT and SKNOT columns which give the direction and wind speed at a particular altitude (HGHT column), respectively. If there is any wind direction greater than 240 degrees up to at least 12,000' MSL (4,800m MSL), the conditions at Mag may be poor. The less the westerly component in the wind direction as altitude increases, the less turbulence.
Here is a sample balloon sounding from Santa Teresa, NM that shows ideal winds aloft.A subscription to XC Skies is, by far, the best source of forecasts for conditions at places like Mag Rim. Only fly Mag if all forecasts agree unless you want to take a chance wasting your time. We are continually amazed that if just one forecast shows some radical departure from the others, it is usually the one that is the most accurate.
Wind speeds need to be at least 6 mph in the forecasts at the surface to make Mag soarable. The wind speed at Middle Launch will always be more than the forecast. The maximum wind speed forecast should be less than 15 mph if you are in a paraglider.
Subsidence inversions in the region can cause a venturi at Mag Rim. This means that winds at launch can be in the upper 20's despite everything below being calm or light.
Expectations for PG student pilots
A P1 or above rating is required for students of Southwest Airsports.
Wind direction must be from 180 to 240 degrees at a speed from 0-10 for P2 students and 0-6 for P1 students. Thermal activity should be little or none which means students should not launch past/before the 1.5-hour window of dawn/sunset.
There is no rotor nor obstacles behind launch so blown launches are harmless other than the nuisance of getting lines in the bushes.
In order to ridge soar Mag Rim, students should turn to the left after launching. In light winds (less than 7), pilots will not be able to soar. When there is sufficient lift, the pilot will find the lift band within 50 yards of the Rim and further out as wind speed increases. Lift always increases when heading south along the Rim.
Once above the Rim students, can easily top land anywhere behind launch. The instructor will guide the student in this technique. Because of the size of the Rim and the mesa behind, top landing is no different than landing any LZ.
If P1 pilots miss the lift and get 100' below launch or so, immediately head out. It is an easy glide to the huge flat mesa that is beyond the arroyo that runs in front of Mag Rim. P2 and above pilots can attempt to land directly in front of the Rim (on this side of the arroyo). The instructor will guide all students to the best areas of the huge LZ's that we have at this site.
The greatest hazard at Mag Rim for newer pilots is the deep arroyo out front. It is landable but there are large bushes and boulders which must be avoided. It is easy to avoid the arroyo. Pilots must never fly northwest/north of Middle Launch as lift quickly weakens as the wind speeds up going through the pass. However, even if pilots are unable to penetrate the higher winds, nearly all of the terrain below is safe to land in but, like the huge mesa out front, will require a long hike to get to a road or back up to launch.
Directions to Launch
The two launch areas are easily accessible from County Highway C009 (Corralitos Road) at I-10 (32.265645° -106.982003°). If coming from the east take I-10 Exit 132, if from the west, take Exit 127 and get on the north access road. Follow the pavement for about 20 miles until you see the jeep trail just before some power poles on the southwest side of the road (32.490376° -107.138142°). Park at the fence. It is an 8-minute walk to Middle Launch.
Middle launch is best in most conditions. The gentler slope in front disturbs the air less coming in at launch. Paragliders should use this launch.
South launch is about 100' higher than middle launch. It may be used when conditions are light or winds are from the south. When winds are more than 10, it is too turbulent, especially for paragliders.
On the way up to the Rim, pilots will pass the LZ at the east base of the Rim on the left side of the road. Be sure to put a wind sock in the LZ as you pass by, in case you need it. Take the jeep trail to the fence near the edge of the rim. Please stay on the roads at all times. Close any gates you go through – the ranchers will greatly appreciate it. Never disturb livestock, clean up trash that you find, leave the area better than when you came. Please help preserve our valuable and fragile desert.
Pilots can do easy top landings the entire length of the Rim. The main LZ is not visible from launch but is reachable on glide. Bailout LZ's are abundant in front of launch. Stay out of the 30' deep arroyo that runs NW to SE along the front of the rim.
Pilots must take care not to land in the arroyo that is about 200 yd. out from the base of the Rim. The arroyo is about 200' wide. Beyond the arroyo is a flat plain that is accessible by jeep trail. Just east of the main LZ is a power line that runs along the east side of the road. Cell service is sketchy in the area. ATT has full coverage at launch because of new towers on I-10 to the south. Amateur radio operators will find the NM Mega-Link Las Cruces (147.18 MHz 100Hz tone) and the Caballo (147.26 MHz 100 Hz. tone) repeaters accessible.
Middle launch looking northeast. The launch slope is just enough for a good hang launch and perfect for PG. Note the broad clear area behind launch which makes top landing a dream. Robin Hastings is preparing to launch – the first HG to fly here.
View just below Middle Launch. In the far distance to the right are the Little Florida Mountains. There is a shallow arroyo out in front which pilots should stay out of – an easy thing to do.
Flying high above the SSW facing part of the rim (marked by Mountain Junipers). In the distance to the right are the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, NM. The green arrow points to the Main LZ.