Crossing into the Spey Valley

2/5/2014  Carn Liath:


This year the North/South Cup plus dozens of extras went north to the Highlands.  Rasp had it looking epic for Friday and Saturday but, as usual, the reality got reined in a bit as Friday dawned.


Several assorted travellers camps set up, some aiming for Ben Toiag,  whilst others less convinced based themselves around Killin and the better pubs. Friday dawned a bit grim initially with extensive cloudcover and the base half way down Ben Lawers.  It looked like it could be reluctant to break up, but with further east providing the best chance we headed off for Carn Liath overlooking Blair Athol.


I walked up with Andy Wallis …. a long walk in followed by a longer walk up. At that point our chances didn’t look good – whether you measured that by wind (none), sun (none) or cloudbase (not that high for these parts). I remarked that many of my best days had come out of uninspiring beginnings. But looking around it seemed to be pushing that theory.


Before the day got going (about 1:30pm) there was time for well over 60 pilots to have converged on and around the summit – only later, in the air, was it possible to appreciate the numbers. Out front a large area of sunshine was very slowly making its way towards the hill. Within 20 minutes the day went from 0 star to 4 and then 5 star.  The wiseheads had set some ambitious triangles that to a man and woman were to be thwarted on the final leg when a SW wind cut off the return and put them down around Braemar.  We lesser mortals just decided to go with the flow and see what options opened up.


The next three hours  was amazing, it was just so great to be flying over the most stunning scenery that Scotland offers and know this place, for a day at least, was the epicentre of UK flying. The sky broke up, the sun got to work and cloudbase rose steadily to 6000’ as the day progressed. Gliders seemed to be everywhere whilst below lurked the ever present prospect of a long walk out if you got low and missed a climb. (There were  some epic tales of multi-hour walk outs). By the time I was approaching the Spey valley the flying was pure joy and the company had dwindled to around half a dozen scattered gliders.  The climbs past and beyond Aviemore became more spaced,  but were still surprisingly good. For the most part I followed the winding valley river with a light SW following wind low down and very little at height. Leaving the hills I (thought) I’d  seen Hugh Miller head off across the broad valley to  a small, tree covered hill to the south of Aviemore – and seem to be struggling.  Later I discovered he’d taken a far wiser line along the hills to the east. Eventually, the further north I progressed the more the sea breeze influence prevailed and I landed near Cromdale in a stiff northwesterly.


A great flight – I’d never crossed or flown this part of Scotland before so it was a real eye opener in more ways than one. Totally memorable. Unfortunately Saturday, after promising so much, was sunny and pleasant but blown out. Prize giving plus much banter and the Tug of War ended a great weekend.


Did I mention who won? I guess we all did. Ok, the damned South  .......  again!


Roll on next year.


Photo link (stills from video)                        Video link (Rope Pull)


Many thanks to the ex hangie who picked me up and went out of his way to drive me to Aviemore station. We had a good old reminisce ...... he'd crossed the Cairngorms on a hang glider (Airwave Magic) in the early 90's and we knew lots of the older hangie pilots. Small world .......... so -  a big thankyou if you get to read this, your help and company was really appreciated

13/5/2014 Murton Pike:


To think I switched work days for this! A good looking rasp on account of the mega showers going off all around. A warm, sunny walk up - slightly later than everyone else as I thought it looked pretty naff with a low base. Actually, it looked better on the hill. Just as i got my wing out every one took off in the lightest of breezes - headed out front and found a thermal.  The climbs tended to be heading for not the friendliest looking of clouds. Meanwhile on the hill the few of us left had to contend with a backwind and a rain shower that soaked the wings. Later - much later the sun came out again - dried things off and I got airborne expecting a fly down but found a few thermals and scooted around working those. Further up the ridge I met Mike on his way back from quite an impresive flat triangle - sadly he didn't quite make it.

Chris Field and Ben Keayes survey the options.

15/5/2014  Barton Fell:  


A great forecast that changed on the 4k rasp on the morning. The upshot was that instead of Dodd being (our) site choice for the day we quickly decided Barton offered the best distance - the VoY seemed likely to be sea breezed out. So Barton it was for Steve E, Mike, Ben and I.


It looked pretty good on take off - a good sky and a good wind. Ben and Steve were first off and soon high - this was going to plan ..easy. Mike and I followed but I had a turnpoint rather further out than I'd planned when I set it. No problem, fly out, tag it and back to the ridge and join the others on high. No! As the others set off downwind a few of us found the ridge had switched off ............ and remained that way for an hour and a half. At times it was hard work and worse was hearing the radio chatter. Eventually I got away .... and near Haweswater joined two sailplanes en route to base at 5000' They shot off and I shot down ................ all the way to Shap. I decided with my car at Shap I'd try and get up from there rather than carry on. Despite best mincing mode I couldn't find anything and the sun had left most of the ground in shadow.


The rest is a retrieve story. Mike sneaked over Mallerstang into Muker, Steve fared better reaching Leyburn and Ben stormed the day with 90k to Masham. So ....... Barton was the site, but Lady Luck deserted us (except for Ben that is).

Cloud wall in front of Parlick

16/5/2014  Parlick:


An uninspiring morning and a poor rasp - even Mike was going to stay home and work.


It was pleasant enough on the hill at launch but the base was low, little more than 3000' and it didn't give much hint that the day had xc written on it.  For about an hour we boated around and the most fun was climbing up the cloud walls as the SB approached and triggered thermals. Eventually, although I was far from convinced, Wallbank and Colbert with Chris Williams and myself in tow committed over the back. The A team just pushed on, often with no great height whilst Chris and I took it more slowly and conserved height.  Back at launch Mike had his own problems I believe and re-landed a few times  -  unusual for him to get left at take off.


By dint of careful flying Chris and I progressed and crossed the wetlands SE of Settle to the A65 and the rising ground into the Dales. Now things should have got easier - and for a while they did. Cloudbase had not risen a great deal but at least it now went to 3,700' and the climbs were stronger.  Perhaps lulled by the thought that we were on our way and with a good climb over Malham we pushed towards Wharfedale - I knew from past experience it could be a sink hole, but still pushed on. I think we should have slowed again over the edge of the moors and waited for a climb to get us across. Wonderful thing hindsight. We dove in and paid the price - I think another 500' would have allowed us to properly gain the rising limestone scarpements on the far side - they were into wind and usually work well. We landed just outside Grassington for about 50k with tp's.


That didn't seem bad for the day until we discovered that the two Phil's had done much better with Colbert actually making the coast at Whitby - pretty awesome for the day. I think Mike got to the VoY but may have breached airspace.


A good day out when I didn't expect a lot.


Photo Link (from video stills)

Niviuk Zion - windy conditions on Parlick

17/5/2014  Parlick:


8:20am: text from Mike - 'leaving in 20 mins for Eyam if you want a lift'. My reply (loosely) - can't really be arsed!



Another day on Parlick. Mostly blue - at first it was good with strong climbs under the odd passing cloud. I almost went, but three turns was about your lot before the strengthening wind had you committed. Eventually it got too much on the strong side so I landed, chatted and then packed and walked down.


Went for an ice cream and called it a day.


At least eight got to the coast at Filey - Chris Williams amongst them. Good on em :)


21/5/2014    Murton Pike: 


A good rasp, but more wind than forecast meant some indecision. The day started a bit grey and breezy  - but this was as expected following a weakening front and some overnight rain. I didn't think the day would get going before 1pm and this proved pretty spot on. After numerous calls and texts - and almost the flick of a coin I opted for Murton for it's potential. Geoff Crossley and John Hamlett were happy with this so we drove north to Murton, whilst the Kendal crew went south to Parlick.


We met Dave Buxton at the foot of the hill - it had been a bit windy but was now moderating and the sky was starting to turn epic. A short walk, about a third of the way up, and we each launched in a quite light wind and soared our way up; Geoff had odd harness issues that delayed him about 20 mins - that would prove a bit crucial later as it split us up.


I'd declared an out and return of 52k and having got the first turn point (I'd set it almost a bit too far out and it was a bugger to tag) .... we each set off independently. Dave hadn't joined the declaration and was high and ahead by a few k's; John had followed but found himself scratching the first ridge en route - I gained a decent height and set off aiming to avoid John's dodgy section of ridge.  Ahead Dave was heading out and never found anything - John also gave up the ridge at this point and headed down. Tough luck as it was certainly working higher up.


Flying up the loose ridge line was fairly straightforward, the thermals were getting better and cloudbase was rising towards 5000' although I never quite reached it on the outward leg. There was an element of west in the wind (slight headwind) and it was fresher at height so I only took the strong climbs to avoid drifting back too far. About 3k south of High Cap I was thinking I may be forced to drop and ridge soar, but a good climb saw me high and crossing High Cap into Melmerby Bowl. My turnpoint was still about 6k away, but on reaching the mast's (4k to go) I found the first blue hole and an attempt to cross met sink. Geoff was now about 4k behind and I should have probably held here until he arrived - two of us would have had a better chance. (Apparently Gary and Ali were rigging by the mast's but I never saw them). At the mast's I turned back and the return flight was quite easy - all the clouds worked, the wind was now fairly light and reaching base at 5200' was straightforward.  Flying back down the ridge was pure joy - lovely thermals - nice bouyant glides and bags of height. The clouds were thinning to blue and the sun was blasting down on the Eden valley - a lovely late afternoon.


I arrived back and played around out front for a while before landing. Geoff arrived about 30 minutes later having completed the same flight. Commiserations to Dave and John.


I wish in retrospect I'd been a bit greedier and braver and stuck with the original turnpoint - I'm sure it was very doable. It had been a bit of a slow battle getting up the ridge and maybe this put me off - I should have recognised that conditions had eased and improved.


Next time ........ :)


Arriving back over Murton Pike.

26/5/2014   Stags Fell: 


An odd sort of day that delivered more than it promised. The rasp looked quite good but the general forecast suggested heavy showers and over development for the afternoon - the morning seemed to be bearing this out with extensive cloud and more wind than forecast.


I arrived at Stags to find little wind, quite a good sky and a gathering of both hg and pg pilots - the light wind was off to the SSE and no one was flying. That soon changed and the ridge round to the east end soon filled with paragliders - this rather left the hg's in a pickle. A long walk to the end or risk going down as the approach end wasn't working.


For various reasons I was about the last off and missed the Steve E, Chris Little gaggle - in fact I didn't even see them leave. It proved fairly bouyant, the clouds were starting to work well out front and within 30 minutes Ali Guthrie and I climbed out to near base with one other who chose to turn back.  We took slightly different lines - me playing it conservatively bearing in mind my last dash over the back a month previously. Eventually over the moors west of Tan Hill (over the Tailbridge road/ tarn) we met up again and from that point worked the sky together finding good climbs as we crossed over the A66. Base was nearing 4800' - not bad and occasionally we drifted into it before heading off. Things were going pretty well until the crossing of Teesdale. The clouds had thinned out and the choice was the sunnier east or the rather darker sky and shade to the west. We chose the sun but probably should have been more west in retrospect (looking at Chris' quarry save). This proved one very long and protracted sled ride. We made the far side with limited height, but a chance - however there was nothing doing.


For a day when I didn't expect much it wasn't bad, but looking back we could have done more with it - again, those wide valley crossings need to be tackled more thoughtfully. Despite the forecast for showers - perhaps even thundery we never saw a shower and the afternoon eventually turned pretty classic - rasp beat the met office.

A Comp survivors grouped on top of Robinson.



30/5/2014 - Robinson:  A very pleasant day, but 7/8 cloud and with  little convection and less wind - so we all walked to the top of Robinson ..... and all made it - even those with really heavy sacks. Jocky set a task comprising Grasmoor, then over to Great Gable and back. One wit ... John Wallis, whispered in my ear, "Is he on drugs?". Given the conditions it was going to be difficult - but if the SB convegence set up it could be excitingly do able. It had to be tried.


After much waiting and hoping we gave up and went off the SE face to find light lift over the LCC field and not much else - so we all wafted for a while and then landed. All that is but Ant Moore who somehow found a devious route via Melbreck then back across the valley to tag the Grasmoor cylinder. This was impressive for the day and especially to stay airborne for a few hours as opposed to our minutes. Sadly (for him) he couldn't make it much further as the lift was fairly localised.


Thermalling back over Newland Hause with Gary Stenhouse and others

31/5/2014  Buttermere Moss:


Saturday dawned with more wind, but the clouds were covering the highest fells and the rasp wasn't brilliant - however, it was forecast to get better. Buttermere Moss was a 'short' walk compared to the previous day and the chances of flying a lot better. We arrived on top to find a decent and soarable wind, a bit choppy at times and the thermals had yet to get organised. The task was an 18k elapsed time to goal at Grasmere - in retrospect it could have been a bit longer -  at least to meet the xcleague flight to goal minimum at 25k. 


It took a while after the window opened to get going and I landed a few times. Then it kicked off as the sun increasingly broke through and cloudbase lifted to nearer 4000'. Suddenly, it was turning into a lovely looking day and the clouds started to work well. I was fortunate to climb away in the first gaggle and it was a real pleasure to be thermalling over Dale Head towards Borrowdale with Gary, Ant, Brian, Will and Simon. Hitting base we soon headed off to Eagle Crag and Glaramara with Simon setting a storming pace on his Delta 2 and getting the drop on the rest of us. Whilst he got an instant beam up off Eagle Crag the rest of us has a slower climb to get us over Greenup Edge followed by a simple glide into Grasmere. We actually took the climb far too high as the final glide was very lifty and put us into goal way higher than we needed. But it was fun. It was at this point  we realised the goal would have been more better pushed at least towards Windermere - or even Staveley. All too soon it was over and we were packing up in goal


Stills from video LINK (still to order and caption)


Flight Extra: Mike gave several of us a quick lift back to the cars at the Newland Hause pass. I slipped on the mimimum of gear (no cameras/no Garmin - just the Competino) and took off near the car for a quick flight before the 5pm close down period.

It was a bumpy, crosswind scratch up before connecting and heading upwind towards Grasmoor. There were few clouds, but it was working well and I soon pushed around into the Lorton valley. Again it was working well but time was pressing, so on nearing the village out front of Swinside at 4:35 I turned back. I'd seen the helicopter still on its pad but obviously he's soon be heading into the valley.  The run back was fast and easy and I passed through some good climbs taking only the odd 360. At 4.50pm I was landing back at the cars on the pass.  That was the second (quite different) flight of the day and really enjoyable so I thought I'd made the most of things.


The Bash and all manner of aerial extravaganza followed that evening but that's a separate write-up.

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© Ed Cleasby