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July 4 2004

Tony Fuell and John Hunter
(Updated after Naiomi Gray's presentation)

Hang Gliders!

The rules for surviving in trees are few, and simple:

  1. Don't go near trees at all, if you can possibly avoid it. They eat the lift, they cause rotors and general turbulence.
  2. Take time to identify your exact location and communicate that to other pilots.
  3. Given time over a forest, pick a patch of young growth trees - 2 -3m high near a road and on a flat area. Choose the best area - one without:
    1. large rocks;
    2. stumps; or
    3. swampy areas. (Hypothermia may occur waiting for a long rescue and what if you get knocked unconscious or stuck in the mud?)
  4. Big Trees: If you CAN'T avoid a tree, make sure you pick a soft one and hit it good and HARD. Fly right at it, and get some speed up.
    Most tree injuries happen when you fall out, or lightly catch a wing-tip.
  5. If you're going over a line of trees and you see you won't make it, try and land in the top, rather than over the other side.
    (There ís NO excuse for hitting a solitary tree!)
  6. As you enter the foliage, keep you legs together (for OBVIOUS reasons!) and your knees drawn up.
    Protect your face as soon as you touch substantial stuff, grab a big handful and HOLD ON TIGHT!
    Donít let go until you're sure that the glider won't fall out.
  7. YELL FOR HELP! Unless you're very securly wedged, it's probably better not to try to climb out without assistance.
    Helpers should get ropes and if possible, a ladder.
  8. Carry an emergency kit including: a signal mirror, space blanket, wire saw or cutters , 9 meters of rope (to get the glider down) food and water, first aid supplies, a whistle, spare batteries for your radio and cell, a flash light or glow stick and matches to light a fire.

Once you're on the ground, have a rest before trying to retrieve the glider.
For sure, you've got a difficult, frustrating, and probably expensive time ahead, and you'll need your strength!

Reprinted in part from Wings! August 1977


Don't aim for that narrow road in the forest with tall trees because your wing tips will catch the branches, Collapse (Asymmetric, Recovery) your wing and make you fall to the road. Also beware of power lines next to mountain roads. Instead, pick the biggest, softest looking tree, face the wind, cross your legs (to avoid cutting a vein) and close your arms, then flare to land right in the center of it, reducing your forward speed to zero. Keep braking until you can hold on to something. If this goes well you will end up suspended in the tree by your wing resting on the forest canopy, but you will not have a big fall to the ground. It will take time to untangle and maybe some repairs (at least an inspection), but you will have saved your bones from a fall. You can use your reserve as a "rope" to help you down. Look into creating  your own Emergency Kit.

Tree Rescue Procedures

See: Tree Rescue for Paraglider Pilots
(Rappelling using the the Munter hitch) Written by Ancil Nance
It is posted on the Cascade Paragliding Club Web Site

Tree Self-Rescue for Paraglider Pilots

Check out Tree Self-Rescue for Paraglider Pilots
by Lowell Skoog Seattle, Washington

Additional comments:
Tree rescue is actually very simple with a flat bottomed U shaped piece of pipe, a rope running through it tied around the tree trunk well above them.
That means you have to arrive at the scene ready to climb.
This means pack gallons of water and a saw, good shoes and tough jeans.
You will drink every drop, the rescue may take hours, and you will probably be cutting lots of branches.

The rope you use to lower the pilot uses a Munter hitch or is wrapped several times around the pipe (called a friction knot.)
The trick is in practicing with a person of similar weight ahead of time to ensure you have the right number of wraps for a slow descent.
Don't for a minute try this without practicing with the exact rope, pipe and weight combination you are going to use, or there is a very good chance of an accident which will test your first aid training and kit contents.

Put the rope in the carabiner - placing it behind the bridle strap.
Use the friction knot + help to raise the pilot up slightly then release the canopy from the harness.
Then, using one or two ground assistants, lower
a) the pilot first if they are in distress.
b) if they are enjoying the experience, get their help in lowering the glider - or you are going to have to repeat the whole climb.

It is not necessary to use climbing rope, although it is highly recommended. Any decent diameter rope will work fine - there is no shock loading. The most weight / load the rope will experience is the total pilot / harness + HG glider weight. Buy a  LONG rope that is rated circa ten times this and you should be fine. Got lots of dough? Buy better rope. By long, you will need at least three times the height you expect to be rescuing from.

If the pilot is in serious risk of falling, it is possible to open the carabiner and quickly apply a friction knot (serveral wraps) around the carabiner.
Tie one end of the rope to the tree above the pilot and securely tie the other end with a self releasing knot. You can then make a second friction knot around your pipe and have a very good, controlled slow descent.
It is possible to lower the pilot with only the carabiner friction knot, or a climbing knot - but this takes practice, good knowledge and proper training from a guiding / rock climbing school.

Alternatively - you can use your reserve parachute as a "rope" to help lower you down or to climb down.
Your reserve also makes an excellent combination tent / sleeping bag.

If you can't get yourself down, deploy your parachute into the biggest clear area around the tree. Secondly, carry a small plastic whistle in your harness along with a small amount of food and a juice box or two. These tips will help rescuers find you in good time and in good shape.

Jul 5 2004   Top Top