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April

At cloudbase near Ribblehead, looking south to Ingleborough

4/4/2015 - Ingleborough ridge:

 

The Easter w/e looked OK, not mind bending exciting - but OK. With a flexible approach to coaching, each day was made available for those who could escape DIY. We settled on Ingleborough and the long ridge line to the north as it looked like the whole thing could work ..... and it did. We started with a light northerly that gradually came round to west by mid afternoon. There were about 7 or 8 of us and all flew and enjoyed some excellent soaring and nice thermals occasionally to cloudbase.

 

Later some of us went to the pub (busy) and had a well earned pint. Rosie went for an early night and others had their hair to wash.  A really good day out.

 

Photo Link to video stills

Pete Spillett takes off at the start of a perfect Wether Fell day.

5/4/2015    Wether Fell:

 

I left (pessimistically) a grey and misty Ingleton to find Ribblehead - 4 miles up the road bathed in glorious sunshine with cu's dotted everywhere (just not too high). With the wind a NW going W later it seemed best to carry on into the good sky and Wether Fell.

 

I arrived about 12:30 to find a light wind on the slope, just soarable but  -  no one else there! After a couple of short flights I landed as other were starting to arrive. The rest of the day provided excellent flying - especially after 2:30pm when the thermals kicked in more.  To the south and the west the low cloud persisted, which may have deterred some from travelling. A pity really as the few of us, about 10 that did fly had a glorious time in super weather until the wind died away about 6pm. 

 

Thanks to Kerim for letting me borrow his Triton 2 at the end of the day - a nice wing, but far too lively compared with my M6.

 

Video stills can be found at  LINK

Blacklight over Wether

6/4/2015  Wether Fell.

 

Same start to the day in Ingleton - and same bright sunshine up the road so off again to Wether. 

 

Arrived to find a lot more people there ..... and across on Dodd. I initially by passed the masses flying Wether and thought Dodd a better option .... although the blue sky didn't bode well. After a walk to take off, a chat to folk and watching Kev repeatedly slope landing I thought Wether may be the better option. So I set off back - to find it had switched off on Wether too. Oh Well.

 

It quickly came on again and soon the sky filled as everyone took again to the skies ..... and across on Dodd it was evidently working too as gliders were popping above the skyline.  Similar to yesterday - without the clouds; no great climbs but with the north in the wind pilots started trying the crossing to Dodd ..... and getting there. Try as I might, from every height, every line with and without speed I could not get even close - why??

 

Lots of hours flying - into the sunset. A great but personally frustrating day. It was nice to see Brian Doub come down from the Lakes - while the rest steadfastly refused to travel and endured a far from good Clough Head. That may shake them up!!

 

Stills from video   LINK

8/4/2015  Stags Fell

 

Sunny, blue, fairly inverted and no wind to speak of - on the plus side it faces south and was a nice day to be out. Jake and I para-chatted, and gave it a few fruitless goes. Jake eventually went off for a bike ride. I was on the point of packing and leaving after a final aborted attempt, but got tempted by a bit more life in the light breeze and walked back up.

 

At first scratchy, but once I got above the ridge the thermals started to work and I played with these until I got bored and landed.  Tomorrow looking more promising.

Gary Stenhouse (?) on Alpina 2 over Melmerby Bowl

9/4/2015   Murton Pike

 

A decent looking day, but very inverted with poor air quality, but patchy - in some parts it was clearing and breaking with some decent looking cu's hidden in there. Base was over 4000' and rising slowly.

 

I arrived late, watched Ali and Brian climb away quickly and then had a trapped speed bar line to sort after my first flight - this put me behind the others which in retrospect may have helped as the conditions improved a bit. I also, having declared to the Masts, put my first turnpoint further out front/south than perhaps I should have (my thinking being that I preferred to tag it lowish so not to get caught by the heights closure rule on return). Once tagged I then returned to do a top up before setting off north. Feeling I was late and rushing, I actually left quite low with simple faith in something on the next ridge ..... fortunately at the far end (and thinking I'd over-cooked things by pushing too fast), it kicked off a thermal as the ridge turned into Death Gulch, and allowed further progress.  That area is not a nice place to be low, so I was relieved. With more west in the wind than expected progress was slow, but steady and an Alpina appeared as I approach Wild Boar and marked a climb ahead. At height visibility was very poor, only lifting my glasses removed some of the gloom and I kept dodging about looking for even darker bits - which seemed to work. Good climbs to about 4300' easily got me into Melmerby and allowed me to cross into the north bowl. Lots of Geordie radio chatter here and a number of pilots grounded in odd places - the conditions mellowed, the sky looked washed out and all the signs were that the Masts may be 2k too far. Having watched three gliders struggling on the lower slopes below the Masts and hearing their tales of doom I decided to push as far as I dared without burning my bridges back into the bowl - just one more climb to the cylinder.  It didn't come, so at 19k I peeled back for the return knowing I'd cleared the 35k (x 2) mark. Can't be too greedy.

 

It always seems easier and more motivating on the return leg - every k gets you closer to your car and the retrieve, walk-out  here can be a pig. I hung around a short while before crossing from the south bowl to a place with lots of good triggers I've used before and was rewarded with a decent climb that got me back over the usual take off onto Wild Boar with fair height. Two gliders - one low judging from his shadow were on the WB point (not good wind-wise, but a usual good thermal area) - then he started to climb so I went and sat over him. Good move as another good climb got be back over 4000' again.  As I progress south I found the wind backing more to the SW, it provided a fair headwind, but it also cleared the air making the clouds better defined and indicating a convergence area. Once through this section the clouds were working well and I started to ignore weak stuff and just take the stronger cores for a few turns. Progress, although slowed, was now fairly easy and after each climb I took the opportunity to pushing forward again given the headwind. The jump back across to Murton always seems into wind and further than it appears and if low it tends to funnel - hence the need for height and a bit of caution to avoid getting pulled up short.

 

I arrived back with a surplus of height, played around out front and landed to find - not a soul. 

 

A good day out with lots of good company, they made brave attempts, but just got unlucky. Maybe I should have pushed that extra 2k for the turnpoint - we'll never know.

Passing High Cup Nick on the return leg - better air quality now. Time about 4pm.
Thermalling over Buchaille Etive Mor with Helen (M6) and an LM5

17/4/2015  White Corries (via Ben Toig)

 

Baz, Chris, Pete and I headed north at an unearthly early hour. A lovely morning until a belt of high cloud blocked the sun through the mid belt. North of Stirling it cleared again and the Highlands looked quite superb as we pulled in under Ben Toig ..... to find no one! The right site?

 

A short while later the Scots pilots turned up and we set off on the long trek into Ben Toig .... not a pleasant walk and not encouraging given the strengthening wind and the north in it (we needed a SE). At mid point a universal decision was made to turn back and head round to the White Corries. Within the space of a single coffee the sky went from picture perfect to 8/8 cover - but at least the wind dropped to light.

 

So .... off up the chairlift just as Brendan set off and hung in to what light lift there was - in fact he hung in all the way to Arisaig near the Skye crossing - impressive given the day. Lift seemed sparse but a few of us managed to climb in the weak thermals and make the crossing to the Buchaille - some coming in very low but managing to scrape their way up and over. The hugh 1000' rock walls make impressive ridge soaring before the small summit is eventually reached. Being the first across myself, Helen (Grouse) and an LM5 thermalled away until they crossed over to the north side whilst I continued down the south side of the 'Coe' - hopping from summit to summit. Neither side was working that well and eventually I landed near Glencoe village. Not far - but certainly always spectacular.

 

My lift back was (initially) going to be quick, but the young American tourist from South Carolina suggested a guided tour of Glen Etive. Now .... I'm no James Bond fan (but he was) and apparently scenes from Skyfall had been set down the valley and at a particular lodge."Hey man ... I gotta photograph it for the folks back home".  That valley is long - 16 winding, narrow miles long and the lodge obscure - it took a while! It also took someone, not that familiar with a righthand drive car, into unknown territory, I think we ended up sliding off the road and clipping the ditch several times and eventually arrived back at the ski station cafe knocking over several police cones as we slid to a halt in front of many onlookers!  Embarrassing - but a lift is a lift and I'm always eternally grateful.

Another day but the same Buchaille

18/4/2015  White Corries

 

This was the day when it didn't happen for me - and I'm not sure why. Somehow my heart just wasn't in it.

 

We awoke to a magnificent morning (plus a few hangovers). The skies were gin clear, the winds light and the sun warm and beckoning. We drove into a busy carpark to find upwards of 60 pilots gathering and many of the Cumbrians there too. I recall thinking as the lift whisked me silently to take off that it really didn't get any better than this.

 

It was a little windier than expected and maybe not quite the day we had hoped for ..... so maybe at this point a few doubts crept in. As it happened the wind soon fell light - ideal for a trip round the mountains. I took off in a wisper of wind and soon found a light climb that eventually got me again back over the Buchaille. I was flying OK, felt comfortable, but had absolutely no plan - and that nagging lack of focus never left me. Strangely, despite the numbers on the hill at take off - there seemed few other gliders for company and in my case I seriously needed some direction. So - what actually do I do? A triangle (Is there too much wind?); Downwind over the tops? Sea breeze? Is it worth the walk out, retrieve etc. Yep, I was filled with negativity.

 

Slowly I progressed SW until I met up with a couple of gliders scratching a mountain. We hunted for a while and nothing much happened. Then ..... whilst I was at one end of the hill they got a climb and were away and I dashed over and somehow missed it. Back on my own and feeling a bit frustrated I headed straight out towards the valley in a fit of pique I admit. It worked, the thermal God smiled and I got a great climb to 5000' But ... again the negativity set in and I bauked at carrying on and the pain of a long retrieve so switched to a triangle and what I knew would be a very hard crossing of Glen Etive to the mountains on the far side. But an easy retrieve. I also convinced myself that the sea breeze was coming in if I continued SW (total bollocks actually). The inevitable happened and I found myself on the beach by the loch. From 5000' and with a nice chain of mountains ahead I think Oban was in the bag - retrospective, as at the time I had little idea where Oban was, or where the main A82 ran  - or what the next valley held. No plan and no idea essentially.

 

For whatever reason I just didn't feel particularly motivated or prepared to commit myself to fairly obvious courses of action. In short I kept trying to compromise the flight to fit my own ease and comfort. 

 

So any pluses?  Well, I landed next to a Polish barbecue, got fed and beered and after only a short walk got a lift back to the White Corries.  I hope it taught me a lesson ..... especially about having clear goals and staying strong and positive.

23/4/2015   Clough Head

 

During three excellent days when the Lakes became a closed circuit playground, I was unfortunately  working. Finally, with a free day, the last before the weather was due to break I was free and desperate to make something of it.

 

It looked good, but Kitt, Ben and I struggled to find the place to be. At Murton the wind was off, at Barton the road was closed due to tarring and so later than we hoped we found ourselves on old faithful, Clough Head. It may not have had the best rasp but it looked OK barr the usual blue hole, but the wind was light and square on.

 

Just before 2pm we got off more or less together – from that point on we went our separate ways and the dodgy radios ensured no more communication. So this is a story of my own lone flight.

 

To the south, near Helvellyn, the sky looked a lot better so I aimed to get there asap. It took a little while before I felt able to commit, but from that point on the usual Milk Run went pretty much as standard. The climbs didn’t seem that strong, or to go that high, but I could progress OK. Around Dollywagon I need a decent climb to cut the corner and start heading east towards Kirkstone. It didn’t happen and before I knew it I was being forced low around the west of Seat Sandal and south to Allcock Tarn, not usually a good place to be. I had now entered the desperation stakes, sinking lower and scrabbling for anything to maintain height. The wind remained light, but the sun was on the slopes and slowly I worked the bumps, hollows and rocky bits until a weak climb allowed me to dive over Heron  towards Snarker Pike. Another bout of scratching followed, but the air felt better and the first signs of convergence confirmed I was at least in a decent place and a slow climb soon confirmed this.

 

I passed over Kirkstone and then Frostwick. At this point the full impact and scale of the convergence kicked in and I was able to climb more easily and I could get higher. To the north it looked grim – dark and sunless, whilst to the south was sunny and clear. At first I considered going north to Barton and then returning to Clough – essentially the reverse of the triangle I had earlier planned from a Barton startpoint. It didn’t looked appealing however. Continuing east across the darkening moors my only comfort was the sun to the south. The lift was not especially strong, but sustained. Drifting deeper under the convergence I saw the altimeter climb to near 5000’ and clouds suddenly appeared below – then I was into cloud. For a period, maybe 5 -8 minutes I lost visibility with the ground and followed a compass bearing SE, the climb continued for another 400’ before I emerged from the cloud wall into sunshine. I usually carry a video camera – sadly on this occasion I didn’t which was a pity as the views were fairly awesome, if a little hazy.

 

The A6, then the M6 passed underneath and my guide became the continuing convergence line and the higher ground along from Orton. I’d made mistakes here before so chose my lime more carefully this time. A short garbled radio conversation with an airborne Gary Stenhouse confirmed conditions on the north side of the convergence and I said I’d pass through and join him before heading up the Cross Fell range. For a while it was a plan, but I ran into a light headwind and slowed, so  another route reversal had me heading first E towards Brough then SE once more. Once more the convergence grabbed me so I again went on a bearing I’d taken during my climb for a point just north of Wild Boar. Emerging from cloud I struck across to Mallerstang – the northern half shaded, the southern in bright sun – I chose the sun.

 

I know the terrain here well and generally what works and where the climbs tend to be. However it was gone 5pm so didn’t expect too much. But – again things were working, nothing strong, but nice evening lift – really smooth stress-free flying.

 

I’ve followed the ridges and moors down the north side of Wensleydale a number of times so I went for the run down to Leyburn. The convergence continued over the moors into Swaledale but I was mindful of a late retrieve from there – an awkward place to get out of. Part way down Wensleydale I crossed into the middle of the valley tempted by a small number of birds soaring happily over Bainbridge. Again, it worked – maybe evening restitution, one  lovely, large smooth and very slow climb. I didn’t get much over 3200’ but it allowed a nice easy drift in a decent following wind. At this point I rather stopped working and was perhaps impatient. I should have just hung with the lift but decided to push on. That rash decision brought me down at West Witton. By my TP calculations I’d just cracked 100 ….. actually they were wrong so I missed it by 6.

 

Whatever, a great flight and unknown to me at the time Kitt had been following a similar route an hour behind me and had just touched down in Hawes. I think that one hour just moved the convergence a few k’s to the south as the Bay SB weakened judging by our lines and the odd photo I’ve seen.

 

Great stuff convergence – and a really interesting place to fly.

Setting off from near cloudbase - it should have been perfect

26/4/2015  Dodd Fell

 

The day looked good - but didn't go as planned.

 

About half a dozen of use arrived at Dodd to find it breezy and probably blown out. Lots of indecision and we almost left. As time passed the wind seemed to drop so we headed over to take off.

 

Once the gliders were laid out it was, at times, almost too light other than the thermals gust coming through. Declaring done .... I took off and within 20 minutes was in a good climb to base at around 4700'. Great sky down wind (see photo) - what could possibly go wrong?

 

Fifteen minutes later I was grovelling on a shallow slope near Semerwater and wondering how the hell 3000+' had simply evaporated. I still have no idea.  The rest of my day comprised two hours of walking including taking in a blown out Addleborough.  Others fared better, Ben arrived later and made almost the Humber Bridge; Tim did a pb and got to near Selby. Well done guys.

 

This was a day that escaped me and I can't say I'm clear why or how.

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© Ed Cleasby