There are numerous sites to fly in Yunnan in Lijiang, Dali, and surroundings. One of the best is a 3 hour car drive south of Lijiang near a small town, Liantiexiang 炼铁乡 or LTX for short. The predominant north south valleys of this part of Yunnan produce a condition with a valley wind under a strong meteo west wind at higher elevations. This strong consistent wind in Yunnan is also marked with the numerous wind turbines lining the ridge all the way from Lijiang to LTX and beyond.
To fly in LTX, visiting pilots can connect with local teacher and tandem pilot Mike Fougere.
For more info on this site and other Yunnan sites, please see the Paraglide Yunnan website.
For trips to LTX, there are a few different small and very local hotels for accommodation directly in LTX. This is a very small small town or village by local standards, so expect an adventure. Shaxi is another larger and more touristy town about 1.5 hours north of LTX. On bad weather days, or evenings, visiting pilots can go to Shaxi to visit this historic market town formerly along China’s ancient Tea Horse Road. Trips to the LTX site require a long 3 to 4 hour flight from Shanghai or Beijing, and combined with the car ride can be exhausting. We recommend to plan for at least a 3 day weekend and take time to explore the local cultural site and cuisine of Yunnan.
LTX is flyable from September to early June, with some flying in the summer. Conditions are best in late October and then again in May. Its possible also to have good conditions in the winter and even fly cross country in December/January.
There are two take off possibilities at LTX along a ridge topped with wind turbines, and one further south called Baimachang. When skies are clear and the mountains not capped in clouds, pilots can use the highest LTX take off atop the mountain at 3100m high. The lower takeoff at 2950m is used for tandems and when wind is too strong at the upper take off. Getting to these takeoffs is relatively easy from LTX with a half hour van ride up. It is possible to launch from the LTX take offs and gain enough altitude to fly cross country north or south along the ridge. Landings are possible throughout the valley in fields, and a more organized landing area with windsocks can be found just outside the LTX village at 2200m.
The Baimachang take off requires more work to get to with a 2 hour car ride through beautiful Yunnan river valley terrain and up into the hills. A Jeep ride can get you to about 2900m to the base of the Baimachang hill. After short hike up the last 150m, you’ll arrive at a large flat barren hill top perfect for launching at 3050m. The hill overlooks a vast valley with numerous landing possibilities and several surrounding hills that are potential thermal trigger points. This hill sits at the southern tip of the LTX ridge, and just in front (to the west) of another ridge that extends south to Dali. These sites have some explored and unexplored XC potential. It is possible to make a 40-50km cross country flight from here north to Shaxi on a good day. The ridge creates dynamic lift, and when combined with a south or southwest wind can make for easier glides north. It is also possible to jump back to the eastern ridge and go south towards Dali.
Conditions at LTX, Baimachang and everywhere in between can often be windy, especially as you gain altitude. The ride can be bumpy, and some days not flyable. In spring months, flying will stop around noon, and winter months may go all day if the wind isn’t too strong.
All together, visiting LTX makes one ponder the flying possibilities through this and other parts of Yunnan with its long valleys and consistent wind. While there are some sites in Lijiang, Dali, and Kunming, Yunnan still has a lot of unexplored territory, ripe for some adventurous pilots to discover new flying possibilities. The mountains visible from Lijiang certainly beg this question. Anyone willing to try hike and fly could have a lot of options.