Paragliding in Arcones, Sierra de Guadarrama, Spain
July 2016
My recent trip to the Sierra de Gredos made me want to come back for more. Barely three weeks later and I find myself in Arcones in the Sierra de Guadarrama with superb conditions three days in a row.
Heading straight for the take-off upon arrival. It's 7pm, but not too late for a long evening flight.
The huge grassy take-off area sits 600m above Arcones, and the dirt-road to the top is easy to negotiate. It's also rather fun to hike up after leaving the car at the landing area. It's about 6 kilometers, most of it through the shade of a dense pine forest, except for the first and last kilometers. But with Arcones being at 1200m above sea level, it's much cooler here anyway than, say, in Madrid where the weekend would produce upward of 35 degrees Celsius. The hike takes a bit more than an hour of brisk walking, and if you do tire, there is a good chance that other pilots will offer you a lift on their way up.
The first part of the hike leads through fragrant genista shrubs.
Madrid airport is just an hour away. That convenience comes at a small cost: you are not allowed to go above 3000m here (even less, in fact, at take-off), but that doesn't stop pilots from undertaking impressive cross-country flights across the plains to the North, and along the Sistema Central. Based on my very small sample, it seems that pilots here are mostly of Spanish extraction albeit from different parts of the country, unlike at better known places such as Piedrahita or Pedro Bernardo with a more European crowd.
View North-East. Take-off is the green patch in the centre right.
With wind from the North-West, it is easy enough to stay up soaring along the rocks to the West from the take-off. In the early afternoon, thermals begin to produce reliable lift, both along the ridge (broken, but strong) and further out (much broader and smoother). If in doubt, the area is home to dozens of Spanish imperial eagles that do not seem to mind our company and happily show us the way up.
Flying close to 1000m above take-off. View towards the South-East with the Sierra de Gredos in the (very) far distance.
What a site! It has it all. Great flying potential, a good crowd of pilots, beautiful vistas, trees (!), and it's within easy reach from Barajas Airport. I expect to give it another go before the end of summer.
Flying till after sunset.