BPC -Peaks 1st - 8th August
The weather continues to be appalling! The central and northern parts of the UK remains in the grip of a lazy jet stream bringing front after front with its attendant rain and wind. However, against the odds we did get in a short but very enjoyable task or two
2/8/2015 Rushup Edge: Base was low and extensive, but it was rising and breaking during the early part of the day - up to about 1pm the winds were manageable and the sun gradually broke through and it got quite warm. During the task (morning) the wind proved fairly light actually. A multiple tp task led pilots past Mam Tor to Lose Hill and then via three more turnpoints to a goal in the Mam Tor bottom field.
About 30 pilots attempted the task, most made a reasonable job of it but the many turnpoints caused some confusion; especially when it came to inserting the route into instruments correctly. About eight pilots completed without errors but missed cylinders was the order of the day for many. Me? As I hadn't registered I didn't have the waypoints downloaded so made a stab at guessing by latching onto others ..... doesn't work! Anyhow - really enjoyed it whilst it lasted. Went up for a second flight after lunch but it was getting windy and the thermals were broken and unpleasant so landed and went back to the gliding club to wile away the afternoon in idle chatter and beer.
After a week of bad weather we reconvened with a good forecast for the Friday and a stonking one for Saturday. Everything comes to he/she who waits - and we do a lot of that in paragliding!
Mam Tor: Calling the site wasn't easy given the light and shifting wind, but it turned out to be a good decision and the hill worked on and off for much of the day. A rare task - an FAI that got changed to a flat triangle due to helicopter shenanigans someplace. A pity.
I managed to get away early and climbed out with a few gliders for company - given what at that time seemed fairly tough conditions It looked like it could get difficult in places. TP 1, on the hills beyond Edale, was easily achieved and I hung there for a short spell, gaining height before pressing on, now on my own, for the long into wind drag to TP2 at the end of Stanage. The sky en route didn't look good, a blue hole with shade and decent clouds someway off. I persevered to little avail until things got desperate - I mean really low and in amongst the trees near the reservoirs. Something weak appeared and using every bit of scratching for every foot I eventually and very desperately climbed into better and more organised lift - phew!! Back near cloudbase I carried on, bagged the turnpoint and headed back to the same lifting area. I few turns and when my glide angle said I'd just make it so I headed off back. Given a good tailwind at height the calculation was spot on - any less or a bit of sink could have blown it. Once back it was a simple matter to clip TP3 and get into goal.
Later, when the sky seemed rather overdeveloped others were finding that at height it was surprisingly bouyant and flew around with little drama. Still - just as many were finding it very difficult even to get up from the hill - so it spread the field into those who had completed (about 5 of us) and those who had gone nowhere (about 30) which made for a low scoring task. That was a disappointment as I'd found it quite a technical flight in places and gambled on a few decisions; more so than a downwind dash.
Link to some photos (not mine) LINK
I was sitting in a good position, but circumstances really stuffed me up.
Having to help with my daughter's flat move in Leeds I was away by 6:30am, trying to squeeze everything into the day by getting back before the task got underway. With the moving partially complete I made it back after a mad dash by 12.45pm to find myself last on the hill as the final gaggle climbed away to a goal at 46k under a great sky. Being a race I knew that even getting to goal would not be enough - but I was there and it was flying.
A hurried tapping in of the route and I was off, although many were now sitting it out as the wind had picked up and the thermals died somewhat. After 20 frustrating minutes I climbed out with a few gliders who were lower and struggling. They eventually went down. The climb stopped well short of base, but given the drift I was committed and heading for better clouds downwind confident of something working. However, everything seemed to have switched off - possibly the mid afternoon dead patch and even decent looking clouds were having nothing of it. Arriving over Stanage I still had some height so rather than push on I thought it offered the best place to be. Other gliders there were finding nothing and just hanging on the stiff breeze not very high above the crags. Markers they may have been - but they marked nothing!
Another frustrating 20 minutes elapsed, trying to preserve height and finding nothing working - the clouds were there, but mostly in a decaying state. Eventually I took a rough broken climb and tried to hang with it. Crossing the moors and approaching a group of small reservoirs I was getting desperate again - just one climb, one decent climb would, I was sure, get me to better air and see me high for the first time. Despite all the searching and praying I found nothing as I passed over the Rivelin valley and thrashing trees to higher ground.
Landing was interesting! The wind was howling and although plenty of decent fields to put down in it was a rough, keep the canopy open, going backwards affair. Several times I almost touched down to be hoisted 40' back up. Eventually the maelstrom released its grip and I was down with no drama.
Getting back could have been problematic and there was an urgency to it as I had to be back in Leeds asap. However, I bust records. A good lift to Bamford; a bus inside 10 minutes to Calver and a walk back up to the car inside an hour.
I had mixed feelings about the day, but it was just one of those things.
Another late show!
My initial thought was Whernside as I knew Jake (who better) was going for the Three Peaks. Met up and chatted with Dennis and Simon at the bottom and wasn't convinced by the wind direction (well south) and the clouds seemed to confirm this. Decided Cautley was a better bet and set off via Hawes to confirm this en route ...... later Dennis, Simon and Pete Balmforth followed - not sure that was a good move on their part but I think Whernside would have proved just as fickle.
I walked up Cautley after a brief chat with Brian Doub (with Northern, the school) .... a busy day for them with about a dozen wannabe pilots in tow. Made it to almost the top and it felt OK The wind felt good - a bit up and down, but generally light. One horrible rough flight saw me down and landing back on the lower shoulder - BUGGER!!
Still - the wind felt OK so after a short wait took off again and got a nice ride back to the top - or level with it mostly. Still not very pleasant so top landed and waited with the others who had sweated their way up. Simon did not appear to enjoy his walk!
Dennis tried, but after a few testy beats went down and landed on the shoulder - he may have got up again later from there too.. After another wait - I tried again, followed by Peter and Simon. We managed to hang in using small, broken and unpleasant cores, but northing seemed organised. I had said to Peter I didn't think the hill was working (wind off towards the Spout) and was going to go out for the three hayfields in the valley, one of which was being worked and had a decent cloud sat above it. I lost height, got below take off but kept pushing and hoping, to eventually be rewarded with a proper climb .... Yes!
Climbed to 4,200' .... below base, but not far off (Jake radioed it as 4600'). Set off, really just following clouds towards just east of Tebay. A good convergence line set up to the SW and headed into the Lakes (tempting .... but not enough). To the east the clouds looked better and were streeting .... given the total lack of wind it looked like another mid Eden valley restitution might be on the cards. So after a wander (where I almost decided on a triangle) I worked from cloud to cloud trying to edge east to the street which I eventually contacted.
The street worked well, never too strong, but regular lift and with always another darker bit of cloud to head for - but Jeez it was slow progress. OccasionalIy I went up into the cloud but it was a non stress affair. I reached Appleby and was circling for ever with little apparent progress. Gradually Appleby receded into the background and I was moving on but never more than 35 - 38kph .... often less. Should I turn back? Had I hit the Solway SB? Looking east along the length of Cross Fell (instead of the usual grovel along it) was fantastic ..... the wind, or at least the cloud shadows appeared to still have a lot of south in them. I was after more SW as I had half an idea that on getting level with the north end of Melmerby bowl, and with the final clouds now dying (it was gone 6.10pm) I would soar back south along the ridge if possible. Not only would it help increase the distance a bit, but help the retrieve. To just get back to Murton and back out to Appleby would double the flight score to over 100.
Darn points chasing!
I couldn't get the wind to cooperate so headed for the slopes leading up to Hartside cafe ..... going further along would put me in the boonies and it was too late for a walk out. The air was bouyant, but not enough to allow me to get over Hartside and have a final glide down into Alston. So I landed by the main Hartside road hoping for a lift. Within minutes of landing a car pulled up with a guy booked onto a Northern Paragliding taster day. A million questions were thrown at me ...... but at least I got a lift to the Shepherds Inn at Melmerby (amazing pint of beer 5.8%!).
Another late and excellent flight. I wonder how I would have done on Whernside - never satisfied!
NEVER underestimate the day!
16/8/2015 Windbank (coaching day).
Another forecast that didn't turn out to be much.
A good group assembled on Windbank but the wind proved very light and occasionally off to the west. Some people flew down, some walked down with gliders never out of the bag and a few of us managed a few scratchy flights and sneak in top landings. When most had gone I did a sort of vol/hike to the north end of the ridge but it was the same scratchy affair. Top landed - waited to no avail then flew back the length of the ridge to land back at the car.
A disappointing day.
17/8/2015 Wolf Crags
Pete Darwood arrived about 10:30am and we set off for the north Lakes. The latest 4k rasp data showed far more cloud incursion from the east, far sooner than the 6am full run had, so the Dales, although looking good now, was going to go rapidly downhill. The Lakes it was then. The only question was the actual wind direction; most forecasts had NNW – a tricky direction, but as soon as we were heading up the M6 it was clearly more NE and every turbine and chimney confirmed this – Barton and Clough were therefore non starters, barring late afternoon sea breeze - and we wanted more. A final check on the A66 and Wolf was the obvious choice.
A pleasant walk up with the wind light, but always on the hill and comfortingly east of north confirmed this was the best place – however, Wolf was deserted (surprisingly) other than Jocky and a group of students on the lower slopes. Above the crags it looked good, wind on but no clouds; although only a light wind, occasional thermals augmented the blow. We waited a while as it didn’t appear strong enough or thermic enough. By 1:30 it still wasn’t quite enough and forced me to slope land. By 2pm it had kicked in – not much wind, but enough thermic action for some flying. Pete and I enjoyed several bouts of thermalling, followed by top landings – still it wasn't strong enough or going very high ….. but at least we were flying. Then it really kicked in with one base bound thermal.
I climbed out with a wing identical to mine in every way – an orange and black M6 – Jocky’s wing? I assumed this was Jocky so was on for a master class in thermalling – who better? Actually it turned out later that he’d lent it to a colleague. Either way he was good and knew his stuff. My aim was to get slightly west to the clouds running down the Helvellyn range. I aborted my first attempt over the first of the Dodds and went back to regain my initial thermal which I then took to cloudbase. The other M6 headed back to Clough whilst I followed the convergence line down its east side. I noted there were gliders now flying on Clough, which indicated the SB was kicking in at lower levels. With this in mind I stayed on the eastern edge where the wind still showed NE with the drift pulling me into the best convergence. I’d then pull back east after each climb and head off for the next.
At Grasmere a large blue hole barred the way, but after a top up I headed across with a helping mini cloud as a halfway stepping stone. Interestingly, given the wind direction (NE), the convergence ran almost due north/ south with no incursion from Morecambe Bay. To the east, about 20k distance was a solid, dark and continuous cloud layer – the eastern cloud front rasp had indicated. Approaching Ambleside I took a climb to 5,800’, base was about 400’ lower, but the lift was working well up the side of the cloud so I took it. This was spectacular to say the least, cloudscapes and glimpses of the mountains and tarns below. The views were amazing and my video camera was tucked away in my harness – what a time to not have it to hand.
I wanted to head east, around the Bay, but the NE wind and the lack of prospects in that direction meant that whilst I edged east, I always found the thermals taking me SW – but really the drift was very slow. I measured 7 - 10kph at height, although at lower altitudes smoke indicated a very light westerly SB. The convergence was now fairly light and limited to a rough line of decent looking clouds leading south. I got held up a little over the Lake - right in front of my school of all places, the lift was weak, and not easy to track down. Below two pairs of fast jets screamed low, northward over the water – not long before I’d seen a glider spiral down into Ambleside.
Eventually, leaving Windermere, I got a decent climb and headed off down the Winster valley. I’ve done a fair bit of late xc’ing this year and really enjoy it. The lift is never very strong but generally smooth and consistent, but the best bit is the air is so buoyant and the glides are so good. I spent quite an age over Mike’s place, Foxfield farm. His car was there, but he was either answering emails or head down bashing bracken!
My plan was now Ulverston, as I didn’t think the sky was going to offer any more and I know the X6 bus times from there to Kendal. I probably got as far as Haverthwaite and was under 3500’ when I noted my groundspeed (never high) had dropped to sub 20kph which suggested I was dropping into the SB air. A quick 90 degree turn and my goal became Grange over Sands ….. a fitting place for older people to land. Again I had a good glide and a decent ground speed – in fact it alarmed me to see over 50kph as I got lower …… this could be a strong SB landing. Ahead lay the Cark D zone which blocked my route further south, to the west I was virtually pinned so forcing me east and down onto the beach which, after a rough layer provided a sweet landing.
Getting back was fairly painless, but interesting as ever. I declined a taxi invite on cost grounds (£8 to Lindale!) and got out my hitching sign. I saw the taxi man eyeing me (smugly?) maybe hoping I’d come crawling back. But … third car and bingo! However, this car was FAST (“Let me show you on the bypass – look! …. 110 in third") and he was avoiding jail (GBH) ……….. so although going to Skipton, he had to avoid Ingleton (banned by court order) and take the motorway. Still he gave me a lift to the M6 and I agreed he was a good guy really and that life wasn’t always fair.
Just another day at the office in the sky - never underestimate it.
A busy day on Tailbridge.
I met Pete Balmforth on arriving and although it was very flyable with a few gliders in the air I mentioned that perhaps Mallerstang would offer better opportunities with a bigger ridge to explore - Tailbridge tends to be a bit small and restrictive. But ..... the wind does need to be west, not southwest or it doesn't really work that well. The forecast did have it veering more west later (it didn't); anyway we chose to take the short walk up ...... and eventually along to get the ridge more into wind.
After an abortive attempt, we eventually got up and started along the ridge. It was OK, but with no great height gain or much hint of thermal. We explored it to the far end for about an hour, Peter getting very low at times but always somehow scraping back up - I think he was on a bit of a points mission. Later, the odd other glider appeared (Glenn Brookes and Chris Greenwood). Chris didn't fare so well, but Glen must have had a few hours - a lot of it spent on the lower Fellfoot training ridge!
Eventually we headed back - or tried to. The wind being across the slope made it difficult so one slope landing, a short walk higher and I got back to the Tailbridge bowl which was busy with gliders. Peter did something different involving the Fellfoot ridge that didn't unfortunately come off - good try though.
A few more flights, landings and chats and I called it a day. Plenty got airtime on Tailbridge and all in all not a bad day.