Paraglider soars 204.6 miles
Tetons-to-Red Desert flight sets record.
By Miller N. Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 22, 2012
As Nick Greece passed over the southern foothills of the Wind River Range and into Wyoming’s Red Desert, he glanced down at his instruments and realized that he was on pace to break the North American paragliding distance record.
With the sun setting on Aug. 7, Greece and wingman Jon Hunt landed between Wamsutter and Rawlins, 204.6 miles from where they had started earlier in the afternoon, atop Phillips Ridge near Teton Pass.
Their flight was long enough to beat Nate Scales’ 198-mile record set only a few days earlier.
Greece’s trip is also the fifth-longest paragliding flight ever documented. Nevil Hulett of South Africa holds the world record, flying 312.5 miles in December 2008.
Greece remembers realizing that the 200-mile barrier was within reach as he reached the Red Desert, but it was not until he was back on the ground and began receiving calls from friends that the magnitude of the accomplishment sank in.
“I didn’t have much perspective on it until I started receiving phone calls from my friends,” he said.
The record has been hotly pursued all summer. Scales, Matt Beechinor and Chris Galli had all been pushing to break the distance record during the past month.
Technically, Greece flew farther than Hunt, but Greece said he and Hunt worked together to set the new record.
Hunt, a previous record-holder, has been a mentor of Greece’s since the latter moved to Jackson.
The two took off from Phillips Ridge at 1:30 p.m. and proceeded to travel over Jackson and follow Cache Creek into the Gros Ventre Mountains. The route took Greece and Hunt towards Granite Hot Springs to a feature known in the paragliding community as Fantasy Ridge.
Fantasy Ridge delivered the pair to the top of the Wind River Range. Perfect flying conditions allowed them to follow the mountain range its entire length.
Throughout the trip, Greece and Hunt communicated using radios. Staying in touch allowed them to share observations about air currents and to fly more efficiently.
At the southern tip of the Wind Rivers, the duo had to make a decision. Greece called the Red Desert one of the strangest deserts he has ever seen. It’s also is extremely remote. If the air patterns needed to cross it weren’t there or they couldn’t cross it before it got dark, they would have to land in the desert and find their way out of the barren landscape.
“It gets hot down there, and we didn’t have much water,” Greece said.
In the end, the two agreed that conditions aloft were favorable and they continued on their flight.
Greece compared paragliding to big-wave surfing. Both sports depend on the conditions, he said.
“Kind of like big-wave surfing, you are waiting for the perfect swell,” he said.
On Aug. 7, Greece had that perfect swell.
“I’d been waiting for a day like that for a long time,” he said.
Although he has instruments that provide quantitative data on air currents, he said the cloud formations that day were enough to tell him the conditions were great.
“We launched at 1:30 from Phillips,” he said. “It was tough to get up at first, but once we got to the Gros Ventre, we found a great cloud street.”
Using supplemental oxygen, the pair flew at altitudes around 17,000 feet for much of the trip.
Greece is now competing in the 2012 Paragliding World Cup in Sun Valley, Idaho. Last month he was added to the U.S. National Paragliding Team. He is also editor of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Magazine.
He moved to Jackson from New York state to join the paragliding community because he considers Jackson to be one of the best paragliding locales in the world.
On top of competing on an international level and editing a national publication, Greece is also part of three organizations that use paragliding to give back. They include Wheels Up, which teaches people who have lost the use of their legs how to paraglide, and the Cloudbase Foundation, which raises money for children in communities around the world.
“We have things pretty good here in Jackson,” Greece said. “It’s nice to find ways to use this self-indulgent sport to give back.”