Work is really screwing up this year! No decent spells, just odd days that are remarkably consistent in their ability to coincide work with a flying opportunity.
Today (Thursday) looked promising if a tad windy and with the direction not easy to call, I left work a bit earlier to grab some of the afternoon. Plenty of driving around blown out sites with more SE than forecast. Eventually walked the long way up the south end of Gragareth which proved hot, sweaty and very unconvincing. Strong thermal gusts on the way up. Eventually arrived at the very top above a short boulder slope to find ............ no wind (4:25pm). The sea breeze was now in lower down, but at this height it struggled to make it. Flew down most of the way and walked the final part ..... then went for a poor pint at the Marton Arms.
7/6/2015 - Llangolen
The sky looked great, but the take off was surpringly quiet with only about ten pilots - Was this the right place? Further south Long Mountain and The Lawley, we later discovered, were hogging the lion's share of the pilots.
But all seemed good.
I took off in a light cycle that heralded the onset of a cloudbase bound thermal. Three of us continued with it whilst several others pulled back forward - one unfortunately being Baz. Not a lot to say about flatland flying other than I didn't know many of the places after the first 50k - nice countryside though .... very green. It would have helped to have had a sizeable gaggle as the three of us kept getting split by height and position with meant being on one's own for a lot of the searching. Climbs were slow at first and the drift similar, later they got stronger and rougher and some approached 'rodeo' status. By the time we went over the Lawley at height all the crowds seem to have departed south, so again we were on our own. 20k later we had split and gone our separate ways.So ..... on my own again. I made a try for my goal at Hay on Wye, hoping the wind would pull more NE as forecast, but it stayed stubbornly N to even NW at lower levels.
Lots more flatland flying and approaching 100k I was getting a bit complacent and not working the climbs as high or intensively - thinking they would appear as and when. Mistake ...... and it brought me to earth east of Hereford with a good sky, still working and another 2hrs plus in it. I stumbled into a weak climb on approach and took that for a few hundred feet .......... looking back I wish I'd perservered with it.
Nice lift back with an interesting and very friendly American, Mexican, Chinese lady - can't say that happens very often.
11/6/2015 Barkin Fell
A most unexpected and unusual flight. (Actually read flights)
I arrived at Barkin before midday under a totally cloudless sky and hot sun to find a number of early arrivees walking to the very top and round to the south of the usual take off ..... not a good sign. A few more arrived including Dean and Mike Mason; we weren't convinced by the gusty breeze and the hint of south. Eventually, the summit pilots took off and whilst it didn't look too inviting at least they were flying and gaining decent height.
After lots of chewing over the various options (and ignoring the 'Barkin Nutters' comments on What's app) I decided to walk up and a few others, including Mike followed. Again we had to walk high ..... it was gusty at times, but the lulls offered decent launch opportunities. I took off and with barely a beat, took a decent climb to 4500' - the drift was less than expected and the blue thermals fairly well formed. It seemed rather silly to stay, so despite no cloud markers I set off without too much optimism and fingers crossed. As I headed towards the higher ground approaching the M6 I was hopeful - but very little worth taking appeared, so opted to push no further into the drop off beyond the M6 and hung around searching until eventually grounded. It was a great, ground handling place and the varying conditions allowed me 30 minutes of GH before packing and heading back. It looked a bit like day over.
I got a lift to Sedbergh and was then collected by Brian Doub driving Phil Q's van; we then got Phil and whisked back to take off. It was now about 4pm. In my rush to have some evening flying I grabbed my sack from the van (correction a sack!) and they scooted off down the valley. Then ..... an Oh shit! moment as I realised my mistake. Wrong sack!!!! With no signal it bacame a vehicle chase until part way up the main KL to Sedbergh road I caught up. Wow! That was exciting.
Back at Barkin it now looked ideal for evening flying I so set off run/walking for another blast. I took off below the wall, whilst the less convinced walked well higher. It was now approaching 4:45pm and to be honest I only expected a few hours of relaxing soaring. Like the previous flight I didn't do a single beat and was soon circling to 5,500' in lovely air and a big wide thermal - Barkin at its best. I noticed John Hamlett in there and one other glider - so perhaps some company ....... but with no radio maybe not the same plan. Following my earlier flight I now had a change of strategy in place. I spotted Dean (I think?) upwind and high and waited a while (who better to fly with) but he shot off further upwind - I think he had student duties.
At 7k over the back, and just west of Sedbergh, I headed back northeast for the eastern bowls of the Howgills, the headwind was light and the valley bouyant if not lifting. Once I got around to near Cautley, the first cu's of the day started to appear upwind - very small and quickly disipating, but they did provide an aiming point. I hung around waiting for them to come a little closer then headed out to meet them. Bingo! Once more I was climbing in a well formed thermal which provide enough height to allow me to easily clear the Howgills (I debated whether to head back to Barkin at this point as my FAI assistant was giving me a decent triangle) but opted to head for the rising ground north of Tebay. It got a little more desperate here - I had 1500' of ground clearance, but that doesn't provide a lot of time on a pg to seek out the next climb at 6pm. On the plus side the cumulus were getting better organised and had a bit more substance to them, and the ground was rising towards Orton Scar and the moors. All the signs said it was a good place to be hunting with the cloud wisps marking the best areas and narrowing the search pattern.
Soon, the climbs started ........ never more than 3 to 4 up. often less, but consistent and smooth; with the clock ticking I probably got a bit lazy in my thermalling with the superb evening views taking precedence.
A word on the emerging conditions.To the north and east the sky was totally blue and rather dead looking, whilst just to the west of the M6 a line of weak clouds were forming. It had suggestions of a convergence line and for the next hour I worked north along it. There was something rather surreal about the flying. It's so unusual and special to be flying lovely bouyant evening air, often at heights up to 5500' with the setting sun reflecting back off the lakes, tarns and revervoirs in the heavily shadowed western hills. North of Shap I debated heading more west towards Pooley Bridge and then Blease, I think Keswick was easily achievable, but the retrieve problem kicked in (early work on Friday) and I got Penrith train station stuck in my mind (silly really, especially as later I discovered the trains were cancelled!). I landed north of Penrith at 7.30pm and soon got a lift with a nice old couple who were surprisingly well disposed towards hitch-hikers despite a previous encounter with one who wield a knife on their backseats! I think age is making me look an innocent and harmless bet.
A great and very memorable flight for lots of reasons, only some company would have added an even more special dimension to it. Unfortunately, not expecting too much, I left my trusty video camera stowed in the back of my harness.
14/6/2015 Aonach Mor
Barney, Mike and I left J36 in rain and low cloud - could rasp have got it completely wrong?
By the time we passed through a rainy Glen Ogle it looked that way; as we headed down Glencoe it still didn't looked good ............ but as we passed out of the valley it was OMG!!! The sky looked amazing ...... the air crystal clear and the cumulus were dotted everywhere. The sky painter had been at work and he must have been a free flier, he even got base above 6000' and that was due to rise to 7000 plus before the day was over. Whoever doubted rasp?
A gathering of ourselves and mostly Scottish pilots headed up the gondola and took the 10 minute easy stroll to take off. The sun was warm, a light breeze occasional wafted up the face and the early pilots were already making their way to base over the snowy Ben. I've seen Scotland look amazing many times and this was right up there.
All fingers and thumbs and suddenly all of a rush I took a quick pic of Krystof's route co-ords and then said f**k it ..... didn't put them in or declare and took off. If I'd known I should have taken the extra 15 minutes.
A quick climb got me high ..... Mike in a rush to catch up with the leading pack just dived off east and that was the last I saw of him untl he landed about 7pm. I eventually headed east. All a mixture of stunning views, rodeo rides with some beefy thermals and what seemed slow progress - I put it down to the scale of the place. Mostly I was high, on two occasions scratching rocky outcrops at what felt ridiculously low and with a long walk out in prospect. It concentrates the mind! Then ..... it got easier and base kept rising until arriving back nothing seemed to want to go down! I regret that at this stage I didn't just tour the Ben for a photo shoot. It was handy and the north face gullies were still plastered with the late Spring snowfall. Why, why, why ........... I sure wish I had, such a rare opportunity beckoning.
Eventually, the main men arrived back from multi point bagging and wowed each other with tales. Finally, we headed to the fish and chip restaurant In Glencoe for food and beers and all under a fantastic Scottish evening. The light on the hills and mountains was amazing.
That's Scotland .............. hardly ever failed me - best flying in the world.
It promised a lot but the reality was a little different. To complicate matters the military were playing wargames and had notamed huge areas of the Dales and Pennines. Only Stags seemed clear and a route out to the northeast ........ to compensate, the wind was on Stags even if the sun wasn't.
I few of us Dean, Pete, Martin, Hamish and I gathered at take off and thought it looked a bit naff .......... in fact not even soarable. A shortish wait and the wind felt a little better and the sky looked a little brighter. It became just soarable - but nothing more, at least for a while.
Then the first weak thermals kicked in ........... soon got better and whilst I landed for maintenance Dean, Pete and Martin sneaked quietly up to near cloudbase. Dean - intent on a triangle then headed towards Mallerstang. Maybe I'd missed the one thermal of the day.
A short wait during a weak scratchy period, then Hamish and I climbed out together. Hamish climbed a little more and a little better before heading out whilst I head more to the north and towards Humesett. It looked like a one thermal wonder as I sank to the point of almost turning back .... a few more seconds and the air felt more interesting then ...... it gave. I got a great, steady climb to base and just into cloud at 4700' - good for the day. With a dull uninspring sky out front - and Dean Scratching near Cotterdale in the distance, it looked better over the back - in fact odd patches of sunlight. So a quick radio of my intentions and I headed that way.
It was fairly slow, but quite bouyant and crossing Swaledale I managed to conserve height and kept edging close to higher ground and Fremington edge. It looked a sure fire banker if I could get there ...... long, into wind and worth another climb - or long soar down towards Richmond. All looked good, in fact on the run in after persistent height management I hit a strong core - lucky me! I wasn't going to even need to put Fremington to the test. But, as soon as it came if left and I was left with Fremington, still ... no problem.
Fremington didn't work - at all. This is one weird place. The wind was actually blowing down the face if anything - probably funneling down the valley. One very sinky place that I ran from to re-cross the valley and land. This could have ended as a decent, technical flight, but it wasn't to be. A short walk down towards Reeth (lovely place with three great pubs) and I met up with Hamish for the bus ride back ..... God! I love my free bus pass :)
Later met up with the boys and we enjoyed some rather excellent beer in the Green Dragon by a roaring fire (even though the height of summer) and tall tales of best and worst retrieve experiences. Another enjoyable day out.