7/5/2017 Llangollen (North/South Cup)
The first day was canned due to high winds, but expectations were high for the Sunday.
We bussed to Llangollen; all but the last winding roads. Conditions looked good, despite the absence of clouds which indicated a rather slow, tricky day. Goal was set at intially Fforest Fields campsite (base) about 88k away with a more distant one to test the superstars at Abergavenny; about 130k. Bonus points for making each
Take off was .... testy. The launches alone would warrant a video .... mine was so fast I don't recall much of it. Pull - then next thing I was airborne, pointing the right way and with an open wing. In slow motion it would have appeared fast! Once in the air it was quite slow going en route and didn't appear that windy at all .... in fact light if anything.
Huge gaggles soon formed, winding their way to cloudbase (without the clouds) .... but once there everyone seemed reluctant, given the conditions, to leave the safety of the group. The ones that struck boldly out soon found themselves on the ground around Owestry .... it wasn't easy for the first 25k.
Slowly I meandered along, first with one group, then another, all the while the groups got whittled away by the conditions until it was just two's, three's and four's. At the 35k mark I came into Long Mountain, near Welshpool to scratch alongside four others. It's not the best of sites and worse given the fickle conditions. Soon, all four of my companions were down or slope-landed. I was almost in the same field but on approach found something I clung onto for dear life. First I maintained, then climbed 50', then 100' ...... after five minutes I was level again with the top of the hill. The climbed wandered, but strengthened and 15 minutes later I was back at 3500'. I could hear the gnashing of teeth. That seemed good, but I later found that further down-course they were reaching 5500' - something I could only dream of.
A second, not quite so low save later and I found myself coming into the lower slopes of a rather odd, conical hill. The shape alone put me off. I soared up to the pimple on top. Inexplicably, I didn't recognise it as Corndon - a site I'd previously flown and known for being quite thermic. In fact in the time of hang gliders it held the British record for a while (Bob Calvert 112 miles - yes it was miles then,)
Rather stupidly, and writing off the hill, I pushed away to the south .... and landed 10 minutes later. That .... was a big mistake - giving up on the hill, and I kicked myself later. I'm sure it would have delivered and the better air beckoned so close. It would have been nice to make my goal at the campsite. Still ............ 50k and a lesson learned.
About 8 made Abergavenny and about the same Fforest Fields. Down course others were spread at regular intervals, including some big names who were grounded not long after leaving the hill. It's quite a lottery sometimes.
AND ............ the south won again - comfortably.
A better day than I gave it credit for .... so wasn't fully prepared. The next day was my focus which was a pity as I discounted the Tuesday too much.
The two Geoff's and I walked up Park Fell, whilst others went the longer conventional route up Ingleborough. On top is was lovely for sitting around but not too inspiring for flying. The wind was a bit off to the west and typically thermic fickle so some good fortune would be required.
Geoff Crossley tried first, gained a few hundred feet and headed south. I followed gained a bit more ..... and also headed south. Not the best of moves. Geoff was soon down and not a happy man. I top landed Simon Fell and gave it 10 minutes. The site of Pete Darwood climbing out just to my left was all I needed and I jumped into his thermal. I've noticed Pete is an extremely good thermal marker.
Pete didn't take it to the top and pulled back forward, meanwhile I carried on with no plan and nothing really coming to mind. Initially I decided to head towards Pen y Gent, then I changed my mind and headed north. A few low saves and I was looking back at Ingleborough (photo) and still thinking. OK ... so what do I do? I carried on north with a vague idea of Dodd Fell, into Wensleydale and around a bit then back ..... sort of. Then I changed my mind and decided Pen y Gent ... then back .... or something along those lines.
I began the forest and moor crossing to Pen y Gent, for some reason obsessing about the walk out (it was hot). It was slow going,but after a decent climb I could have glided onto the PyG slopes (W) .... but decided the wind would be across it (it wouldn't in retrospect). I dithered and was down .............. and still had a fair old walk out along a lot of the 3 Peaks track.
All a bit silly .... this turned out to be a 'late' day. As I walked out Pete was making 5 grand en route to PyG. So .......... an opportunity squandered, but pleasant enough flying.
Nice day for a long walk out
In front of Dodd Fell at over 5000'
10/5/2017 Dodd Fell
Everything said Wednesday was going to be a special day in the Dales. However, your opinion on that may vary according to which site you found yourself on and whether circumstances conspired against you. For most it was either, pick your moment, do a little work then get hoovered up and away; for some I believe it was annoyingly, frustratingly tough. We've all been there.
I arrived at a busy Dodd on a stunning morning with a lovely inviting sky beckoning. It wasn't simply a case of take off and fly ..... you had to exercise a little patience and get the timing right. In most cases the judgement was good, the climb quickly found and effectively worked out of the bowl. One of those occasions which the less experienced probably found hard to fathom as it wasn't a ridge soaring day in the conventional sense.
First decision. Is it a triangle day or a downwinder? I tapped in a triangle; 15 minutes later airborne and climbing I was changing that to a simple downwinder. I left with my second climb; just Pete Logan and myself with Dave May just behind and always on our shirt-tails; never quite with us but never far away. Slowly heading towards Great Whernside Pete and I took the abundant climbs .... once wrapped up in cloud, awaiting that delight bursting out of the edge moment into deep blue and white cloudscapes. magic!
The more time passed, the more I was convinced it was a triangle day. The thermals had little discernable drift and the Dales sky looked more inviting than downwind. I offered my apologies to Pete and we departed, him heading on and me turning NW. From this point xctrack was brilliant for navigating a triangle. The sectors were showing, all the distance markers came up and it was constantly updating the FAI size. Really effective and easy to use. I was expecting to have to cross Wensleydale, the first leg being almost 20k but it showed the tip of the sector still on the south side. OK, that'll do for starters.
Progress was good, the clouds all worked and monitoring thermal drift showed there was hardly any wind at height .... so I tried to stay high. I tagged the sector and xctrack showed a 43k FAI. I was tempted to push deeper into sector but there were few clouds that way so headed back towards Dodd, trying to approach from Hawes to avoid any confliction with the air ambulance. As it was, it passed 4000' under me near Addleborough and gliders could be seen flying Wether. As usual when 2pm passed the thermals changed in nature - now smoother, with less sink between them. By 3pm they were big and easy to work .... only the sea breeze could come and spoil things as I had ambitions on Pen Y Ghent after yesterday. A day dream.
One last good climb and I knew I could make it onto Dodd - actually it was a bit tighter than I thought with only 200' to spare. No one was flying, but a couple of gliders were laid out. Back near take off I got another climb. The sky was good and Dodd was still working well. A push forward and back again to over 5000' and heading towards Newby Head. Ummm ..... maybe Whernside. Again, xctrack delivered. Essentially it said you've completed a 43k, but if you wish to extend it, go SE .... so I did. I headed as far as the sea breeze allowed , then being high, a bit further. With xc track saying 47.6k FAI (if closed) I turned back.
I arrived back at the cars (nice feeling - no retrieve) with a few hundred feet to spare and landed in a light southerly. 10 minutes later I heard Mike and Geoff on radio ..... it was so clear I knew they must be close. A look up and they were on finals into a light northerly.
Geoff was buzzing like a cat with two tails; Mike had seen it all before .... totally unruffled.
A great day for many, a frustrating bugger for some and a heli ride for ******* ****** ..... I hope he mends quickly. Best wishes mate.
Some stills from the video I shot HERE
A very short video clip of MIke and Geoff landing after their 57k declared FAI flight HERE
Climbing out front of Brantside
Baz and I met up on Brantside. The wind was light but smack on, there were cu's embedded in amongst the top cover and there was hints of sun. Would it work?
We didn't hang about and were soon airborne to discover it was wonderfully bouyant and each cloud was working well. Climbing to base was no problem, discovering base was not much over 3000' was more restricting. Still .......... it was extremely pleasant flying so we climbed and pushed out front some ways, or off to the sides.
We flew for about two hours in good conditions, until we'd had our fill and headed off back to the cars at the roadhead. A lovely afternoon that gave us a lot more than we expected.
Mike arrives back on his Zeno.
19/5/2017 Murton Pike (Steve E landing back at Murton - video)
had the Eden valley and Xfell down to Murton as their hotspot - beats Rasp by a mile for reliability.
At 11am it was looking windy, unstable, building showers and not promising - but based on a forecast for a good afternnon we went to Murton anyhow. In the carpark we sat and listened to rain on the car roof. As others arrived we left for the cafe at Dufton (shut) then across the road to the excellent pub and took coffee and tea on the back garden - idyllic. About two sips in we realised the good sky to the west had arrived so headed off back to Murton.
Take off was low down so a short walk, the wind had eased to pleasant and the sky now looked superb .. it was to get a lot better though. Just about everyone plugged in an OR of differing distances as it didn't yet appear a triangle day. For everyone take off was into a climb, so as a group of about 8 we circled up to near base at about 5000' and headed north. Within about 11k it was obvious we were about to enter a huge convergence zone and all plans changed. For once I'd forgotten the camera which was a real blow. The cloudscapes were fantastic as we entered a magical lift zone as a group, sometimes going into cloud, sometimes around.
A 90 degree correction had everyone streaming west, The bravest venturing deep under the convergence into the strongest lift and thence into cloud .... and they were building quite tall. Progress towards Penrith was slow but it was mostly straight-lining with little need to turn. The further we progressed the more the street started to break up a little and so did we as differing plans came into play. Finally, just Ben and I were left until Ben turned back. I had a little further to hit my sector on xctrack and then I too turned back. The direct route to take off was across a huge blue hole covering lost of the south of the Eden valley. So it was back along the street. A bit of the energy had gone out of the convergence making it a little more tricky but soon I was back at the High Cap area.
I've made the flight south along the ridges quite a few times, it tends to be slow going and tricky unless you can stay high - it's not a leg to rush. It took a while given the SW wind but each cloud gave a little something and managed to keep me fairly high. Below and behind others were struggling in the bowls, gullies and edges and never quite made it. The killer is the final wide crossing over High Cup Nick mouth and slightly upwind back onto Murton - for this you need height and it always seem to be into wind.
I made the crossing with height and was soon back over take off - and going up again. The sky had changed with top cover coming in, the lift far more mellow but widespread. I wished afterwards I'd actually worked it as I skirted along just outside the D area (Warcop) to extend my triangle. Again, xctrack is a real Godsend with triangles and takes all the guesswork out of unplanned ones. I pushed out towards the golf course until it said 40.1k and turned back with height to spare.
I knew a good number had gone down but 15 minutes after landing I spotted Mike and Steve E cruising in towards landing. Mike having been well north of Penrith up the M6. Steve had done a triangle taking in Melmerby. Ali had gone down there ..... in fact I'm sure he's taken up residence there.
A fantastic day .... one of the very best and to share much of it with mates especially so. Later we convened back at the pub to excellent beer and very friendly locals. In fact Jocky is now booked to take the local farmer's wife tandem. The thought of losing Murton, (see forum note) a superb flying site doesn't bear thinking about.
DHPC Coaching Day: Not a very promising forecast but we gave it a go and it paid off.
See the DHPC link below which has a brief outline of the day and an edited video.
A hasty mobile phone picture taken approaching Carlisle from the south.
25/5/2017 Cautley Spout
I'm stood in a small layby near J42, south of Carlisle - hitching. It's gone 7pm, but the temperature is still well up into the 20's; I'm hot, sweaty and tired .... it's been a hard battle at times to get here, but the dreaded sea breeze has finally downed me. This is a really tough place to hitch and I'm having no joy. A car pulls in with a young couple, I summon some reserves, haul my sack and run towards the car. As I approach they accelerate off with whoops of laughter and hand gestures. For the past three days Manchester has been flooded with goodwill, strangers helped strangers .... nothing was too much trouble. Welcome back to normality.
The day had a great rasp but little wind, so getting the site right and having some luck at getting up was the first priority. I got it half right. Stags was always going to be light and doesn't have the height to catch anything; the Lakes I (wrongly) thought would get sea breezed and rasp suggested a lower base. I later found out that Chris Kay had used High Hill - now that was a sound choice and worthy of consideration given its aspect and location on such days. A clever bit of thinking on his part.
So ..... I opted for Cautley with its huge south face - another 10 pilots seemed to think the same, but probably didn't factor in how tough it can be there .. or the day. I took off on the lowere bump - it was typical Cautley with broken thermals coming through. The usual fight followed to just get up on the main face - it was rough in parts. There was effectively no meteo wind just broken thermal gusts, still each blast gained me a little height. As usual ..... the next hour was the usual Cautley. It never seems to get its act together until mid afternoon at best. Up to that point the thermals are always broken, rough and unformed. So I top landed to wait a while.
Nick, Richard and I chatted for about 40 minutes ........ until the air seemed to have changed, the anger had gone out of it and the wind appeared more settled - it seemed a good moment to go. It was now approaching 3pm ... time was passing.
Right on cue and in the same place as always, we three got into the Cautley hoover and climbed away. Nick and I stuck with it, but Richard slowly fell away so I'm not sure what happened to him after that. The clouds were thin and spaced .... away from the hill looking north it was totally blue. I radioed Nick I was heading NW on a long glide to the next wispy cloud still over the hills. No reply .......... later I found we weren't on the same channel so from that point pursued our own route.
My second climb worked, anything producing even a hint of cloud had legs in this dry airmass. Then it was into the blue. I'm pretty decent at reading clouds, but today became all about reading the terrain for climb areas so this was going to test my weaker skills. On the plus side I know the terrain. I passed high over Tebay towards the higher sloping moors and harvested woodland. It got a bit desperate for a while, but the climb was there, not strong but slow and workable. I never managed any great height but the drift was good at this stage and I kept progressing and managing my height and studying the options.
Approaching the A66 ..... 5 miles ahead I was getting low, them lower, then only 300' feet above a small farm. I'd passed over three likely thermal sources and none had delivered even a blip .... now there were none left within range. I got a rough kick over the farm and assumed more likely a low broken and disorganised blip. Still, I took it for a turn ... then a second, half in half out. It gave me maybe only 30'. I sussed a landing option downwind and then put 100% into being in the zone and just worked what I had. Turn followed turn .... shifting the turn, cranking then opening and cranking surges to the edge of the spin and all the while slowly gaining height and confidence and setting small height goals. Slowly I drifted towards Penrith ..... not high enough to risk a crossing and forced to steer around the eastern outskirts. (Note: this is the third time this year I have been VERY low over a farm, once the previous year and each time got up. Do a cluster of farm buildings surrounded by fields provide a good source/rigger?)
I crossed Penrith - never high, but comfortable. I hoped something might come off the town and slowly it did. Again it was weak and typically late afternoon .... it was now gone 5pm. A few kilometres north it gained a lot of energy and took me to 5100' asl .... maybe I could have worked it higher but conscious of time I moved on. At this point I think I made a mistake. I believe this was the Solway sea breeze front, unmarked by clouds and I should have headed NE towards the north end of the xfell range. My initial goal task had been Canonbie ... but given the late start I'd changed it to Haltwhistle so it would have made sense to head that way.
I steamed off due north towards Carlisle. As usual at this time of day the air was wonderfully smooth and the glide was always excellent (15 to 18:1). There were odd blips I gained a few hundred feet in but nothing definite. What was apparent was I was dropping into the SB .... the ground speed dropped away. A ground fire ahead confirmed a westerly. The lower I got the worse it became. I crossed the M6 at J42 with some headwind for another kilometre then decided to turn back. I touched down by the Mway services into a 10mph WNW wind.
It was a very interesting flight, no clouds to work other than at the start and I dug myself out of a tricky section but then failed to recognise the SB area (I'd studied it on rasp that morning too - so I knew roughly where it was).
They did well in the Lakes - it was the place to be, but at least I learned a lot and got a decent consolation prize.
Getting back was a real bugger though!
PHOTO: Taking off on the lower step at cautley. Photo: John Hamlett collection.
28/5/2017 Barton Fell
Lovely day after a shitty morning. A light breeze on the hill, but an absence of clouds or pilots .... only five of us. Thermals were rather broken and gave up the ghost at little over 3000'.
I plugged in an FAI; Pooley Bridge, up to High Street out to Glenridding and back. Tagged the first turnpoint, scrapped around with rather too much N of W to commit low down the ridge and then landed for 20 minutes. Took off and tagged the first TP again and through desperation, not height, set off south. Scratched in broken thermal gusts into Rampsgill Head and listened to Buddy and co on the radio. Made modest height but High Street was the limit as there was little happening and I couldn't get enough height to commit forward to Glenridding. Scratched all the way back, occasionally out of the harness ready to land, but managed it. Best thermal was when I went out to eventually land ........ and that was crap!
31/5/2017 Murton Pike
The usual indecision on the 'Weasels'. The rasp was good, so good that getting the right site was a critical decision. Actually, in retrospect and with a few exceptions, most sites that took a SW wind seemed to deliver. With the advantage of Geoff's C's excellent Topmeteo we opted for Murton based on the base touching 6000'.
We arrived (Geoff C, Geoff Y, and myself) to find it blue and very light at times - a crowd had laid out near the top of the hill and scratching/slope landing was the best on offer it seemed. We'd left the Dales with high cover and decent cu's, here it was just blue and somewhat uninspiring. To cap it all, as we prepared halfway up the hill Geoff C provided updates from the livetracking sites - further south on Brantside we could follow pilots climbing out. Arrgh!!
Not long afterwards Murton began to work. Within minutes a large gaggle was skirting Warcop D edge and climbing out to around 4000'. Cumulus started to appear, rather spaced and thin but they were the pointers we needed. Geoff and I had plugged in a 61k OR - the later backing wind would be a concern for the return, but for now we were on our way north with a talented group. A few got low at times, but always managed to get back up again - my own flight was mostly high and certainly having a few 'go getters' pushing on helped to establish the climbs. The final 10k north, beyond the masts was new territory for me, but again the group found the climbs and we progressed with little bother.
At 30k the turnpoint cylinder came up and Geoff and I pushed NW from the gaggle to tag it. Turning back south we found the sky empty - like a dogfight, the melee of minutes before had vanished. We began the flight back south, but it was quickly evident the wind had backed and strengthened. A short conversation ensued (involving the conditions back at Murton, 30k south) and I suggested we may have to go to plan B - over the back. I think Geoff was just persuaded. There was one obvious cloud to head for, but precious little beyond that. So ..... that was the way we headed - east.
The first climbs arrived without issue - ahead lay one very good cloud, but also showing signs of a SB front .......... or at least some sort of convergence. We pulled in beneath to find strong lift (at times overs 6m/s) ....... then it was into cloud for a spell. Pulling out of the side at 5,500' was not the 6000' we had hoped for, but enough to gaze east towards Hexham and no hint of any cloud. Geoff was about 1/2k ahead and it was looking increasingly like the final glide. I crossed over to the north side of the valley and the rising ground to take a different line. It offered light lift, but increasingly it pushed me closer to Spadeadam in any climb.
I kept heading east along the high line of Hadrian's Wall; ahead, smoke from a fire was pulling south which suggested it was rawing into something. Sure enough there was a weak climb that maybe gave me 700' but was leading me again NE towards Spadeadam. Geoff had landed .... more conveniently he'd sussed a pub, railway station and a 6pm train time. Having shared the flight together it seemed only decent to share the landing field. (Actually, I heard there was no wind at ground level so expected an easy glide in - approaching over the final hedge/road and wall I hit a brickwall (not literally) of wind, got gusted up and had to do a quick 90 degree left and land in the approach field).
A quick pint, a £7 train ride into Carlisle to find a waiting Geoff Yeadon with my car. A really enjoyable day out and with an easy retrieve for once. So we celebrated with another pint at Tebay :)