5/5/2015 Far Whitestones
The wind abated by mid-afternoon to leave a very pleasant late afternoon on Far Whitestones. There was no one there when I arrived but as I got laid out and took off midway up, Chris F and Steve T arrived and began the 20 minute walk up.
A very pleasant hour and a half of generally smooth soaring and sorting out my new instrument set up.
Some indecision (on my part) between the Lakes (Yoke) or the Dales (Semer Water). Based purely on the likely wind in the Dales I opted for Yoke - a long walk up but lots of company and maybe a triangle. I drove over with Marek and true to form I was about last to start up the hill.
As we were almost there the first to take off (Kitt) showed it may be hard work. Take off was light to gusty and a bit off putting for some but during the light lulls it was easy enough. Mike and Kitt went over the back - shortly followed by Chris, Ian and then Geoff on his own. I was finding it hard work - the thermals seemed very broken and short lived and during a switch off most slope landed below the top. More in desperation I took a less than convincing thermal to a non too convincing height and gambled over into walk out territory below Stoney Cove. Things got a little desperate here - low and with little happening. A bit of soaring a small bump and I managed to get about 600' - enough to get me over to the better Red Screes above Kirkstone. A least a pub for consolation if it didn't work out - and a road.
Another bout of fruitless soaring with again, broken and bitty thermals that went nowhere until .............. I finally got something better to set off with. Initially, my goal was Fairfield - but as I progressed the lift improved and soon I was at 4,500' and heading for the first real clouds of the day above Helevellyn. Cruising along the east side of the corniced capped ridges was straightforward - the usual lift was there and heading over Great Dodd (TP cylinder for my optimistic triangle) I got nicely above 5000' for the first time. I also got a shock! A funny, indistinct sound had me look down at my new Flymaster to see a small, micro SD card lodged loose behind the screen. Wow! Where did that come from ......... does it mean my tracklog is up the swannee? Still the vario was still working and everything seemed OK .... so I carried on after a quick check that the backup Skydrop was happily logging away.
A street led out over towards Keswick ..... although the better bet seemed to turn east. It also seemed likely that the sea breeze was already pushing down Bassenthwaite and limiting options that way. So ..... plan B (based around the Keswick bus back south) became head as far NW as possible until the thermals ran out or the sea breeze is reached. Then do a quick reversal back to Keswick. Midday way down Bassenthwaite Lake I hit the SB and getting under 3000' confirmed I was dropping into it so I turned and ran back to Keswick. A landing on the lovely grassy knoll by the lake ended a very enjoyable flight spolit only by the poor visibility and occasional ratty thermals.
Right place, right day ............ poor timings, poor prep!
This was spoilt by my usual reluctance to get anywhere early ............. so leaving the hill at 12.30 ish was too late. I also hadn't done my homewrok on the airspace side. This was the NS Cup ................ and Spadeadam had been 'opened' for the day. Sometimes it pays to be a fb user. This (amongst other things) was to be my undoing.
Despite a forecast that suggested it may be on the breezy side, it was anything but. On the hill by 11am it was fairly light and scratchy with few clouds in evidence. Typical Tinto. The first big gaggle of the organised pro's were already leaving the hill - the rest were scattered across the heather 'awaiting developments'. After a bit of waiting, as the light and variable wind switched around until on the hill, I was off and although not very lifty it was possible to stay aloft and hunt whilst a few slope landed. Ben worked well, sniffing out lift in front and soon we were away - not quite together, but in range. This was no big gaggle ... or even a gaggle - just a few random pilots drifting over the back in their own private thermals. Passing into the windmill strewn hills south of Abbington it remained a disparate group haring off in all directions. Ben I knew, knew his stuff but he too turned west towards the A74 and from that point on it was pretty much a lonesome trip with only the odd glider hoving into range occasionallybefore heading off.
The clouds were very spaced, but I seemed in sync as they just seemed to start forming downwind when I was about ready for them. Progress was slow, but steady; the thermals slow but occasionally rough in parts. Pasing east of Moffat the airspace rose, allowing me to go to base at 6000' A long line of hill, moor and forest leads towards Langholm - an area I've always struggled. Remote, not a place to land with a good walk promised but without getting high I kept heading towards the border. The problem was now patently clear ........ and the late start was to catch up with me, plus the lack of knowledge about the Spadeadam status for the day. Approaching Langholm, the sea breeze was very obvious with tell-tale lower tendrils of cloud and even the denser wedges very visible. Now I was penned between airspace on one side and the SB on the other and with the gap getting smaller by the minute. I almost squeezed through - I did find climbs but after a few turns the airspace warning was sounding (set at 500m) and I had to pull forward. Inevitably I sank lower and into a fresh westerly sea breeze ........... eventually at 80k it brought me to earth.
Great flying, respectable distance but given the day so much more was possible ..... so a tad disappointed but with a resolve to get out of bed earlier.
15/5/2016 Barton Fell
The day of the big social fly-in.
Many of the Weasels, disappointed at not taking the Saturday, were eager for a decent flying day. The forecast was less good and less certain than the previous day day and after some deliberation, cafe breaks and Baz touting cloths on Reghed car park we made the long walk up Barton - all eight of us.
The day looked excellent, a text book sky, but the wind was very light. A lot of waiting as the sky clouded over until a bit of wind tempted us off. You could stay up but it wasn't easy or pleasant with rough little bits of thermal, no dynamic lift to speak of and no great height to be had. By 3.30pm we decided the pub offered more fun.
This may have been premature as the day did get better, the sky opened out again and the quality of the thermals improved.
Still - we got to fly had a good laugh and a few good beers in Pooley Bridge to finish.
Very similar to Sunday.
I arrived to a very quiet Tailbridge with not a lot of wind on the slope, but a good looking sky.
I was really just after some flying - even ridge soaring to try and set up the new Forza harness.
Nothing much happened for a few hours beyond scratchy short flights, so on a whim, I decided to fly as far as possible to Mallerstang, pack and walk up. Which I did - to the very top. Boy! the Forza is heavy ............ a ridiculously thick weighty pod being the major problem - and quite unnecessary. I had a not very pleasant rough flight in broken thermal - landed lower and walked up again.
The next flight was little better but I think 44' above take off was the best! I saw a lone glider climbing on Tailbridge so set off back to TB with barely enough height. I got there, just by scooting over the road (low) and coming in midway down the slope. Bugger! another walk up? Rough it may have been but I got up into better lift. Within 5 minutes I got the thermal I was after and climbed away to 4700' .......... downwind looked good. By the second climb (not that pleasant) I was hit be the realisation that having changed harnesses I'd also changed sacks so .............. no OAP bus pass, no wallet and about £3 in my pocket. Was this worth it? At 9k downwind I hesitated ........... no good thing, and made the decision (although the sky looked great) to head back with a possible triangle as consolation. The day had already taken it out of me, the sack was Forza heavy and I was skint!
Getting back started OK ..... at 4k I thought I'd make it but getting lower the wind (now SB) was fresher and my ground speed dropped by half. I landed on the moor above the road, 2k short and started another 1 hr walk in the warm sun.
A word on the Forza ..... it's OK, quite comfy, good protection and I love having plenty of pockets and an excellent flightdeck after the Ozium. The internal reserve nappy - no thanks! The killer however, is the pod - it's hard to believe any designer could decide on such a thick, heavy material. A lighter pod needs to emerge to make it viable in its market slot .............. a Forzium would hit the sweet spot. Oh ............ and one of those damned red balls will need to go!
I arrived at a busy Bradwell ........... or at least it had been. Lots of cars, but most pilots had either departed the hill, despite a good looking sky but modest cloudbase. A few were scratching the light lift, many sitting waiting for it to calm down (?) and a few better pilots were searching out front for a climb. Amongst them Ali G and Pat Dower.
I launched and got a weak climb right away and as it improved left the hill with Ali G (worth tagging onto) and Chris Little .......... they were about 1/2 k ahead. Ali then went walkabout all over the place so I was a bit on my own again. My second climb over Owler Bar took me to base 4300' and flirting with the edge of a good cloud. Below Ali and Chris came in 8000' under were climbing too. I should have waited for them at base as crossing south of Sheffield is never easy so good company or good height helps. But ............ confident I could push on and do it on my own, I went for it. Ahead lay a big blue hole with cloud in the distance. I knew I'd arrive low, but was sure I'd get a climb and get out of the hole. I did managed to get a weak and broken 200' over a housing estate but it was getting a bit desperate. Eventually I paid the price for not holding back and taking a joint cautious approach to making the transition into the flats. I landed south of Sheffield at about 23k and met the local estate scallies - friendly enough.
A nice flight while it lasted.
23/5/2016 Green Bell
Lots of Weasels indecision! Given the NNW/NNE wind no one could work out where to go. The Dales offered big showers and the Lakes light winds. We went exploring and ended up on Green Bell at the north end of the Howgills. It's worth mentioning that although shallow it's a long walk in. Not sure I'd want to do it twice!
Hot and sweaty, eight of us eventually laid out in a light wind on not the steepest or biggest of hills that essentially is more one side of a gully that a bowl. A great sky to the north, more threatening and overdeveloping to the east and it looked like it could be difficult to get a climb given the conditions. Geoff tried, was on his way down - in fact as he set up for a landing I gave up interest and could only dwell on the pig of a walk out back to the cars. Five minutes later he reappeared from behind a small hill, climbing ...... slowly but definitely. How on earth?
I dived off and headed the same way, ignoring the hill and without the same ultra low drama managed to get a weak climb. It got better with height and a more relaxing mode of thermalling took over. Before reaching Geoff he hared off south, "I'm not happy with these clouds".. They didn't look as innocent as they might ..... nor were they much over 4000' ...... but they we all we had. To the west and north looked stunning (the Lakes was the place to be?). We had a nice fly, but it wasn't working after the second thermal and with a car at Sedbergh we opted to land there and later de-camp (as the rains fell) to a pub in Ravenstonedale. Later it poured with rain so we felt a little more justified with our decision and happy with a short xc.
24/5/2016 Park Fell
Three flying days in a row but none really hitting the spot weather-wise.
As we drove up Chapel le Dale towards a Park Fell take off the sky looked stunning, the only question was the wind - too strong? It was forecast to increase so it looked 50/50.
Actually, the wind was fine and never proved a problem .......... the sky had other ideas. Within 30 minutes it had gone from classic to total overdevelopment .......... grey and totally uninspiring. We all launched easily from Park Fell, got a modest climb and flew across to Simon Fell to see Geaff Y and Kevin M laid out but unable to launch - too much wind? Overhead seemed fine so we thermalled (a bit) soared around (with decent height) and dribbled away over the back into a bleak looking sky. It wasn't worth going past Ingleton (home) so John, Geoff C and I landed and did what we do best ............ went to Country Harvest cafe.
Another day that was a so nearly day, each of the recent days had hiccups in terms of wind strength, direction, too unstable or big shut-down. Nearly days where it just didn't happen. But I got a lot of walking!
Roll on June.
Lovely day on Whernside - thermals improved during the afternoon. Pushed north into Dentdale, came back south and took a small climb over onto Gragareth - soared/scratched it for about 15 minutes and then got a good climb out and went over the back in hope. Landed near Kirkby Lonsdale with a quick pick up and ice cream. Hot in the sun :)
28/5/2016 Semer Water (coaching day)
As the weather for the Bank Holiday weekend took a distinct, last minute up-turn this became a late call for a coaching day. Grab it while you can.
Seven of us, plus Kev and myself met at the Creamery, had a coffee and thought about a site. On emerging, the sight of two gliders hugging the skyline above Semer decided it and we made the short drive/walk up. The lower take off wasn't quite convincing enough so the top it was - worth the extra 10 minutes.
There was still a lot of cloud blocking out the sun, but forecast to clear (which it did about 2pm). We alternately scratched, top landed. slope landed and indulged in ground handling. It was far from perfect, but the better for it in many ways as it offered good practice in various skills. Once the sun came out better climbs appeared. although you could still go down - either to the bottom or the lower take off. I managed a good climb to base (4200') - and was tempted but thought the better of it. By 4pm we decided we may have had the better of the day, but as I finally rode top cover over Donald it seemed suddenly quite bouyant for my last 45 minutes in the air before landing. I may have called the end a bit too soon - you never can tell.
We finished with beer, referendum debate and met a few disappointed hangies from the BoS.
My thanks to Kev. The surprise was to see almost no free flying Dales pilots out on a decent Saturday.
29/5/2016 Wrynose (North) - Wet Side Edge.
Cumbria Cup - 1st round
Another late call as Sunday turned into a 5* day over the Lakes with a high base (5300') and light winds. The only problem was the awkward direction (NNE) with Wolf and Carrock out. We opted for Wrynose - or more specifically the ridge (Wet Side Edge) that runs up to Swirl How and faces NNE to NW ..... a useful ridge that we've used before.
The walk up was fairly short and easy going and once on the ridge some opted to launch at the first opportunity despite the light wind, but tempted by a great sky - others walked higher although it turned out to be hardly necessary. With xcleague rules applying (we didn't actually realise how good it was - I wish I'd set my original FAI) ........ Geoff Crossley launched lower and did his usual trick. He went down a fair way, we lost sight, then lost interest, before rocketting back up to 5000' and disappearing, a mere dot, towards Langdale as most of us were still laying out. The rest of us launched at intervals in the light breeze (light all day), scratched above take off or level for 15 minutes before finding a climb out. Mine was a base-bound one with Paul Winterbottom and Baz before we pushed forward into Langdale. The difference in our lines very marked. Really great flying, excellent views and at times strong punchy climbs. Paul found himself arriving lot lower, sneaking in below Pike O Blisco, but soon got a second climb and was back high again. Meanwhile, Baz and I went more north towards Crinkle Crags for our second climb. Baz followed this back, but I took it a ways before deciding there were better clouds and prospects ahead towards Grasmere.. From this point on - aside from lots of radio chatter, from all over the Lakes we tended to go our own ways. Down the valley towards Elterwater I saw a lone Simon Blake struggling, then catching a low climb ........... later having pushed over that way I briefly met up with him over Chapel Stile/ Tarn Hows.. I initially had some sympathy for his lower position as he hunted for another climb. ten minutes I had less sympathy as he moved ahead and soon sat about 1000' over my 4000'. Simon took a direct line towards CoM whilst I closed a small FAI at Swirl How, climbed and headed towards the SB front just south of CoM. It looked impressive. Below, Simon was scooting back along the ridgeline on his return north. I arrived at CoM high, maybe 4500' and should just have pushed it a little further to the SB before I headed back to Swirl How. I kept listening to the radio chatter of great beer in the Three Shires so, avoiding Swirl How, I went directly back via Wetherlam without closing a bigger FAI. It had been a memorable flight.
As everyone was saying on radio - it wasn't easy to get down. The Little Langdale valley really seems to lift. It was a bit of a rock n roll into a field behind the pub - fortunately uneventful at the end. I made two visits to the pub (thanks Jacqui and John) .......... cleared Wrynose of a broken down car with the clutch gone (four distressed ladies) and wended home late via Chinese chips.
Cracking day of flying, great scenery .......... but we were lacking numbers. Let's see what round 2 in September brings.
Provisional scores (top 6 until I get other results in) ........... these to be carried forward.to round 2.
1. Geoff Crossley 1000
2. Simon Blake 997
3. Ed Cleasby 836
4. Paul Winterbottom 575
5. Chris Tyson 536
6. Glen Brooks 363