More development today but with strong, unpleasant cores - the glider handled everything well; the pilot less so! After three hours I broke and decided enough was enough, it wasn't enjoyable and flying had to be better than this. Still, John Hamlett proved the better and flew a great flight to the west for 30k's
7/4/2017 Wether Fell.
I had a few hours sleep on returning from Bassano and woke to 8/8 cloud but a nicely soarable wind. The sky was busy on arrival and was starting to show signs of breaking - it didn't looked too xc-able though, with a modest base over the Dales. Still ...... I plugged in a route.
The next two hours was a mix of thermalling, a trip over to Dodd and back and more thermalling. All the while the sky was looking increasingly better, although base stayed stubbornly at less than 3600'. Finally, I flew out into Wensleydale and hooked a good climb with little company bar a lone M6 hanging in below as we sauntered over the back.
I managed to stay fairly high and given the south in the wind was tempted to cross to the north side. The climbs were regular and good ..... the lower base has its advantages. Meanwhile the lone M6 clung on a lot lower and a thermal behind ...... for him it was a battle; for me a darned sight less work or pressure. After 30k we reached the eastern end of Wensleydale and I think the M6 finally was beaten to earth. I spied a lone Zeno haring along a few k's behind - Gary Stenhouse I discovered later.
Over Middleham it was my turn to struggle ..... I felt being forced out into the valley could be my undoing and took the last, brown, tree covered hill just a few hundred feet above it. Good decision and timing as a thermal began to break away as I arrived. The climb improved, the thermal gathered itself and I'd got out of jail. Ahead the Vale of York beckoned, despite the late time (gone 4pm) the clouds still had life so a speed up was called for. I was making good decisions for once and fairly confident of at least crossing the VoY. A good cloud led to a strong climb over Masham, but suddenly, within the space of minutes, the sky turned increasingly blue. Moreover, my ground speed dropped alarmingly. Previously I'd been able to hit well over 60kph on 2/3 bar ....... now it was in the 40's ... then high 30's. By the time I approached the A1M1 I started to pick up a very light easterly, the sky was blue and any climbs very weak. Finally I turned back west again and landed near West Tanfield.
I was actually pleased with the flight, or at least for once my decision making seemed sound and the calls I made were good ones. Given it had been possible to start a lot earlier and the VoY had delivered then I think I could have cracked 100k. Some company would have been nice and maybe helped but I suspect it may have also hindered my decisions.
Retrieve was interesting as I had very little mobile power (17%) ....... my last call was made on 1% to get a late taxi ride up from Hawes. Two good lifts got me back in 2.30 mins ..... decent going as it was getting late and cold!
Stunning day, not a cloud in the sky and warm .......... remind me this is April in the UK. Not that great for thermals however.
Geoff C and I arrived at Windbank, late as usual but with gliders in various stages from slope landings, to scratching to reasonably high. We took off into a light wind and soon found our first climb to about 1400' ato. Some climbs were OK, some a bit broken and rough edged and all banged up against the inversion. Geoff .... on a mission wanted to go as far north as possible to bag a turnpoint so I tagged along. It went OK at first, but near Litton the valley closed, we got lower and the climbs failed to appear. Geoff got one excellent climb which I missed and landed below Cow Close with Peter Balmforth. Later Geoff on his return ended up decked there too.
Lovely day to be out even if the flying wasn't mega
17/4/2017 Tinto (N)
Great forecast, but likely to be marred by over-development and big showers. Big declarations made that had to be scaled down in the face of reality.
A decent numbers of us made the 2hr road trip north, A fair sky but zero wind until 1pm, when, on cue the cycles and the wind started. After a short spell of scratching, most of us got up and away quite quickly, a few heading for the hills and the hundreds of sprouting turbines - some more west towards the M74.
I crossed the valley without finding anything worth circling in and was aware that others were scrabbling around for the next climb. Some found one - some of us didn't! I spent a good spell low and soaring Devonshaw Hill with Ali Westle ..... ever hopeful of something building out front and considering Plan B - moving to the next hill along; Startup (aptly named) which past experience indicated was better. As it turned out on the crossing a climb started - got better and better and we were away again. Ali took the same climb ...... just not into cloud.
The climb really stoked, on nearing cloudbase and not too bothered about it I went in for a spell until the sun shone above as bearing guidance. Breaking out of the side was the flight highlight - amazing! Sharp edged clouds dotted around and below - with the moors (plus turbines) filling the ground views. Ali was down there too. We meandered over the moors and through the turbines towards the east of the Devil's Beeftub, increasingly watchful of the building clouds and rain showers ahead. Radio chatter suggested some concerns around Moffat.
With most thinking of landing at Moffat I headed that way to see gliders milling, thinking out their options or heading in to land. A pleasant (for once) climb over Moffat, but suddenly the SB front clouds were down and a few turns had me into the wispies. Staying on the north side I managed another 800' before heading west. For whatever reason I then decided to go east, back to the higher ground. Unfortunately that dither left it too late, I made the high ground low, but also discovered I was now the wrong side of the SB. Instead of the expected northerly I had a light southerly. Out over the valley again, clearing the big powerlines and a landing in a light south wind in a field freshly manured. It took some doing to keep the glider overhead as I guided it towards a grassy roadside. Phew! in several senses of the word.
Interesting flying at times; a low save and rather a day that didn't deliver the rasp 5 ..... in any conventional sense.
Climbing to base near Helvellyn and bimbling along the convergence zone.
Kentmere is marred by shit parking!
Eventually, having dropped off people and packs I had to drive 1.3k back down the valley to find a park (this parking would however come good later). A mega walk up just got harder, still, we all made it (me about last) by 12.50pm. Not that it mattered - the hill wasn't working and what lift there was got the tag 'violent' by those unfortunate enough to have tangled with it. We sat around until about 2.00pm, cursed rasp (becoming a common rant this year) and generally weren't inspired or brave enough to take off.
By 2:30 we judged the conditons had mellowed, it was less gusty with spells of zero wind. The first group (about 15 on the hill) managed to get a climb very quickly, battle it and get high - base was around 5000'+. Later pilots would find it a bit more difficult as increasing top cloud filled in.
I chased west towards Grasmere, 10k away, with pilots ahead usefully providing condition reports via radio. I had a brief spell with Bud who headed into the Langdales whilst I veered off to the north. Passing north of Grasmere I spotted a lone pilot laid out on Steel Fell .... on the southwest facing slope (interesting). I'd lost height, but I'd seen people climb out 10 mins before from here and was fairly confident I'd get something. A short hunt around and I got a decent climb back to 5000'+ ..... the Steel Fell pilot took off and I think found the same climb, but a lot lower. There does seem to be a regular thermal in that area - worth noting for future reference.
It was now obvious that the SB front was well in to the west and northwest - in fact Derwentwater and past Keswick were flooded with sea air. I'd had a plan for an FAI that used the eastern fells as it avoids sea breeze better and gives an easier run in on leg three later in the day. So it proved and the theory worked almost to perfection; just a pity it wasn't the route plugged into my Fymaster! Change of plan required. I took a decent glide onto the south face of Dollywagon which worked a treat and took me back to base and provided time to study the convergence and formulate a new plan. Two gliders scooted low down Thirlmere (a 777 and another wing .... later joined by a low struggler) ..... two made it into the bottom of my thermal and one got high again, but didn't choose to follow. So I continued with my plan along the edge of the convergence.
Heading NE along the edge of the convergence.
The convergence was fairly well marked heading NE so I bimbled along it with half a mind to continue it towards Penrith. Beyond Glenridding it weakened - or I lost it! So with the car a tempting objective and no retrieve needed I turned southeast towards the Barton Fell to High Street ridge which I know pretty well. From this point I judged it was going to require two decent thermals ..... there was a very slight SE headwind, so it was slow going.
The first climb came off the back of Place Fell and got me back over 5400' and put me well placed for High Street. It was however very slow going and it's quite a long way along the ridge. The second thermal never arrived. Getting ever closer to the ridge top, with no sun and a real quandry about which side of the ridge to opt for, as it seemed inevitable I would not make it. Sliding off the right into Patterdale meant an easier retrieve but almost certainly a downer; to the east side meant into the head of Haweswater ..... it gave the best option to bimble along, but a nightmare retrieve. As I debated this I realised I was getting ever closer to the fall off into the head of Kentmere and the ground (close) was dropping away again. Bless the glide of these modern wings, I crept into Kentmere and nestled close into the crags under Ill Bell; the idea being just another 1,9, 1.8, 1,7k closer to closing the triangle. The further I went, the more the steep slopes and crags turned towards what wind there was. First I could maintain, then gain a little and on reaching Rainsborrow crag It turned into a nice little thermal allowing me to cruise easily past take off with spare height.
From this point I glided off down the valley towards that strategically, now well placed car - next to the perfect landing field. Thinking about it afterwards I should have headed out, used the lift that was around then returned to take off for a bigger triangle - but brain fade didn't consider it.
All down, safe and a few pints with mates in the Watermill. Grand out day out ..... Yoke always delivers and some lessons learned for next time.
Crossing moors/forestry SE of Moffat
Lots of indecision on the 'Weasels' between Barton or Tinto so with Mike, Ben and later joined by Steve E we opted to just go to Tinto. It had a great rasp, but maybe more wind later. As it happened we arrived to find, typically with Tinto that the wind was more on the light side when we came to take off. Lots of lift, quite a few gliders and a fast climb out - within maybe 20 minutes we were off and on our way.
The crossing towards Davenshaw Hill was a lot easier than it can be and most of us maintained out height for the search before crossing the moors and the turbines. A few were scrabbling around the low moors below us. Again, the climbs came fairly easily to hand and my own crossing towards Moffat was straightforward. Ahead Mike had just gone down and Steve E was caught in unrelenting sink, he too eventually got decked at Moffat. That left Phil Bibby (XC5) and I. We went slightly further east, keeping over the higher ground until just south of Moffat we too were thinking the big sink had got us as well. We scratched around for 15 minutes with hints but nothing more. Eventually our reward came .... weak and bitty at first but gradually improving with height. My own climb was OK and I got high again, Phil seemed to be struggling a bit and dropping away below.
I started off south over the remote moors and minor roads - Phil followed, lower and still struggling to find that elusive good climb. Eventually he went down near Boreland in a place I've hitched from before. So .... on my own again. I know the route fairly well and the climbs were decent and when I needed them. As the ground fell away and civilisation reappeared I relaxed and started to plot a way through the airspace gap.
To the left for 15k was Spadeadam and ahead right Carlisle airport. Despite it being only about 2:30pm the sea breeze was already heading in, progress had slowed and the thermal drift was now going more easterly. On the positive side the convergence was pretty much on track. The downside, that it looked wide and very strong. It seemed to take ages to push what felt like crosswind and the prospect of getting on the western side of the Crossfell range increasingly remote. As I crept under the SB it grabbed me - it was strong! I tried pushing through with no obvious escape route but was heading up and into cloud faster than I was happy with. At a misty hint of ground I spiralled out, got drawn back in and spiralled out again before pushing bar to the west. The next foray south I took it a bit easier, at the first hint of being pulled in I edged out - the process was repeated until I passed the airspace. Thinking my work done and still at height I probably relaxed too much, certainly my next decisions could have been better.
Over Brampton I got a reasonable climb - again the drift was taking me east, and that certainly was where the best sky was. Hexham maybe? A dilemna - my goal lay south (or west of the Xfell range) yet the sky said go SE into the north Pennines. As the distance clocked towards 96, 97, 98k .... I still clung to the western route and hoped - despite the obvious evidence that I was dropping into the clutches of the sea breeze.
I landed at 98.5k ... bugger!! The sky still looked good to the south, but crossing the bay area still proved my undoing. I'm still struggling to get that section mastered.
Great pick-up by Mike and Ben within about 40 minutes.
Alan Shields and Kev Mcloughlin at the end of Wensleydale.
23/4/2017 Wether Fell
I'd like to have started a lot further west, but having called a coaching day it really had to be Wether and make the best of it. As it
happened, nobody really turned out for coaching. Mike went for Gummers How as it's just behind his farm ..... and he always
does something original. He didn't hang about either ...... never got high just went fast as if racing the day!
Kev and I talked about where to declare, he was after somewhere well north of me, up nearer Northallerton ..... I thought Malton was OK unless the wind turned against me too much. I chose it for the rail station as the VoY always strikes me as scary, uninhabited retrieve territory.
The conditions on the hill were spot on at take off and it only took about 20 mins max to climb away - Kev and Alan Shields were in the general vicinity until the end of Wensleydale and a few more were a thermal back. Wensleydale went pretty much as usual with regular climbs where they usually are and I tend to take it slow and high as it can catch you out. Kev struggled a bit over some moors but did well to get back up again. Alan, Kev and someone else (Nick?) got low near Middleham/East Witton and I think may have gone down .... although I know Nick didn't as he hangs on very tenaciously when he has to. From that point I was on my own and heading SE.
After each climb I edged south, passing Masham and heading towards Ripon. Dishforth having closed makes the VoY much easier so I decided, now back on track for Malton, to pass to the south of Topcliffe given the wind direction and to give me a better run in. The climbs had a slight ENE drift but nothing that was a problem although I had to pull out of one thermal at half height to avoid going into Topcliffe. A strong, rough climb the other side got me away again. I was now approaching the run in to Malton .... about 28k to go and perfectly on track. The sky looked superb, the drift actually felt quite slow and I was so sure that I needed only two thermals and they would be on cue. Changing down a gear is less a problem than changing up ........ I didn't take the last climb to the top, I lost my usual patience and went haring off confident of a climb. It didn't happen and you can lose a lot of height fast on a paraglider. I was down at 20k out, looking at a classic sky and left wondering how I could have done most of the hard work and blown it at the end with over confidence.
And ..... yes the Voy/Wolds is stunningly beautiful, got great villages and pubs, but very little transport infrastructure. Managed a costly taxi to Ripon and big thanks to Andy Woods for pulling up and giving me a lift to Masham. From there a couple of young climbers had me back in Hawes quickly. Meanwhile Mike was letting the train take the strain. But where was my car?
28/4/2017 Dodd Fell
I originally was a dither, but set off for the first day of the BPC on Pendle. When the site change came for Parlick it seemed quite the wrong site when a short drive north the Dales had a good rasp and a wind that would work a lot better for a host of sites. I therefore had a direction change and headed towards Wether/Dodd.
Wether seemed a bit far north and the rather gusty wind quickly decided me on Dodd being the better bet. On arrival there was only Ian Brindle, laid out and ready to go. As usual Dodd was a lot more sheltered but the wind was still off to the north - but not by a lot and it does take round to NE at a push. As I collected my stuff Ian took off and showed that it was well flyable but certainly off to the north.
As I readied to take off, Peter Darwood and Ben Keayes arrived .... and just as quickly the wind fell light but remained as awkwardly off to the north. For an hour we para-waited - both Ben and Pete gave it a try but it wasn't having any of it. I walked a tadge higher and Pete did similar - Ben was a low lower in an awkward place should it get better. So ..... we continued waiting; the sky opened up, the sun cane out and finally the wind came more on the hill. it was looking a lot more promising.
Pete took off and essentially flew out. It seemed bouyant - in fact lifty. After he did one 360 I dived off after him to be rewarded by Pete's efforts. The first thermal was OK, but not convincing. Pete pulled out and headed north along the ridge .... and into a better climb. Again I followed. This was a much better climb and probably Pete was in the back edge - or that's how it seemed as I climbed towards him. As Pete pulled out I continued and this was base bound. A second factor arrived on the scene which was to dog the whole flight. It was rapidly closing in (over-developing) from the west whilst downwind still looked excellent. (See photo shortly after setting off downwind).
For the first 10- 15k the thermals appeared with nice regularity. Decent climbs although a little edgy. Initially I was more south of my usual track and although a decent street beckoned and it avoided the worst of the moors crossing, I chose to make an early move back across Langstrothdale and towards Great Whernside and a parallel street. I arrived at Great Whernside with the cloud cover behind yet still on my tail. I wasn't that high above Great Whernside and the moors, high ground stretched for some way back before Nidderdale and a tarred road. I needed a climb and some height.
Great Whernside only provided weak scratty lift and as the cloud crept in and cut off the last of the sun I took a big gamble - with big walk out consequences. I dived over the back towards a patch of sunlight with a decent cloud above it but not a lot of ground clearance. Once committed the sink alarm (set at 2m/s down) came on ..... and stayed on. Things were desperate enough for me to be searching landing options and planning the easiest walk out. At a few hundred feet AGL the vario came back to life with some heart-warming but not very inspiring weak tweets. For a while I maintained, then gained 100' .... then 200', it got easier. Just maybe? Then I hit something that was a bit mental and the vario hammered off the scale. Whatever this bullet was I had little option but to cling on (literally) and take it. With each ragged 360 I made good height and suddenly the moors were an irrelevance and the planned walk-out plan got ditched. Away again ..... even if I had to take a battering to achieve it.
I crossed Nidderdale high, noting how calm the waters on the reservior were and that any smoke seemed to be generally drifting straight up. Initially, I'd made good progress, but my the speed now dropped into the low 40's ... then into the 30's. Ripon or Harrogate? Given there was no wind it hardly mattered and my goal at York seemed a long way off again. Harrogate at least has a good station so I headed roughly to the south. If I got a climb into the VoY great - if not there was always a good road and a timely train.
Entering the VoY it was obvious the life had gone out of the sky, the clouds lost their definition, any lift was weak and the smoke was increasingly coming from the east. I wandered around over a small village, neither going up nor down but drifting back west until I decided that was probably it for the day. The final treat was to landed on a freshly mown cricket pitch, deserted, but as nice a place as any to pack up and enjoy the smell of fesh cut grass.
Given the day .... probably as good as I could have done, but for a while it had held 100k promise .... I settled for half that.
29/4/2017 Stags Fell
The forecasts suggested a blown out day - just. It didn't seem that bad so i took a half hearted trip over the Stags to make sure. Not a lot of wind on the way over and passing over Newby Head I could just make out a couple of wings scratching low on Stags ridge.
Not much wind at the carpark but clearly well off to the east. I passed Dennis walking down having takened as much scratching as he could take .... but there were gliders flying so I carried on along the east end of the ridge. Took off in a light breeze and found it easily soarable - as time passed it got better and soon Dave Smart joined me for a boat about. With my 45 minutes up (I was time limited) I flew down and landed.
Pleasant jaunt and mess with my new (damned) camera.
After a disappointing first half to the month the second half seems to have made up for it.