5/4/2018 Far Whitestones (Looking back after climbing out from Far Whitestone - the Howgills)
After some dithering in Hawes (the Dales looked blown out) we settled on Far Whitestones as a lighter wind alternative. Driving down Garsdale I had a feeling Brantside may have more xc potential (a later message confirmed it flyable from 12.30pm) .... we'll never know now what it could have offered.
FW turned out to be actually on the light side, but with a great sky and pilots in the air it looked a lovely place to be. There was a decent crowd in the air and soon many were attaining base - about 3500'. I initially set up xctrack for the NCT task, but had also popped in a goal flight to Darlington on the Flymaster if it was possible to get away ... never that easy here to survive the first sinky 10k. I set off south clipping the first two NCT cylinders then decided, given the sky that xc may be better or I'd kick myself later wondering. I was all for going off the south end into the central Dales with its better terrain and sky, but for some reason; probably better line for goal, went north and took the second good thermal
and committed to the roughly A66 route.
The usual pattern followed for FW - get committed and the thermal breaks up. There weren't many clouds, at least no good solid looking ones with any depth to them. I took the only one with some life, although it meant a bit of crosswinding and a degree of faith. It worked after a fashion but without any great conviction .... a sharp 90 degree turn and a try for some wispies where it had worked before. Again, nothing to get excited about but it kept me heading away from the FW influence. Approaching Ravenstonedale things got a bit desperate until salvation appeared at the last minute. I'm getting a lot of very low saves at the moment and a lot of practice in working scraps to survive.
The climb out was slow with odd encouraging surges but again at 3000' it broke up. Downwind was getting bluer so with half a mind on Mallerstang and taking stock, I pressed on. Heavy sink followed and Mallerstang changed to Fellfoot (a low into wind ridge low in the valley and used as training slope - never flown it). Here I got stuck! Whilst it was working, getting a climb out proved hard .... several nearly thermals. The real problem was the valley wind that was too SW to working the lower slopes onto Mallerstang edge proper. The snowy crest looked superb in the sun and the dream of flying south towards Hawes and into Wensleydale ... back into better sky was my new goal.
I gave Fellfoot time to sort itself and then, with a degree of desperation I took a climb that seemed, at last, to have legs .... until at the crucial stage it was gone. Either I was losing them or they ran out of steam. The rest was rather a foregone .... no clouds, nothing to hint at anything and I turned back to head out towards Nateby and nice, dry landing field.
Another not quite day, but all good practice and of course over 2 hrs of airtime.
Photo below: Far Whitestones take off - pretty in the sun; lovely sky.
8/4/2018 Wether Fell
Not as good as RASP suggested but still an excellent few hours on Wether Fell. Light winds, weak thermals and plenty of people out to enjoy it.
9/4/2018 Semer Water (Above: Climbing out from Semer with Ben Keayes on his Zeno)
An excellent forecast and the first day that really felt like Spring ... proper warm sunshine and a great looking sky over the Dales.
Ben and I discussed the options and decided this was a Dales day and one to exploit to the full. Although the wind was a bit too south for Semer we reckoned on being on site quickly (no walk) and up and away before the strongest part of the day which could blow it out and drag the wind even further off.
I set a goal at Carlisle based on the wind in the Eden valley and the likely SB effect around Carlisle by the time I got there. Rasp looked good for the whole route. Ben set his goal a bit further west nearer the Lakes thinking the wind may be more easterly there. We were soon in the air, fearing an increase in wind if we dithered ... it was fine on launch, but it wasn't a day to hang about. As we climbed out 15 minutes later, Dave Smart took off and found a better climb out front so we pimped his climb. (Not sure what happened to Dave, but I think he may have waited for Jake who had just got airborne). Ben and I meanwhile were away and heading towards Stags.
Base wasn't great, approaching 4000' but the clouds over the moors looked good and I guess we were quite confident of the next climb. For some reason it didn't pan out that way. The high, heather moors were not producing a climb (decent clouds, but shading over a bit) and as we sank lower we found ourselves deep into big walk out territory. Ben went his way, I went mine so I only know my pain. I sank lower into a remote valley side (it felt remote) ... the wind was off the slope, it was shallow and after scrabbling to maintain height I headed forward on a last desperate gamble to a slightly better, rock-strewn face. The miracle appeared .... at first I just though it better ridge lift, but it turned into a decent thermal with some legs to it. I measured it in 100' gains until over the moors and committed. Then .... it took off and I knew I was away again, eventually topping out over the approaching Mallerstang Edge. (Whilst climbing I spotted two distant gliders well over the back of Stags - where the ground falls into Swaledale. Both were low and it looked a tough place to get out of today).
Ahead the Eden Valley looked superb, the sky as good as I've seen with a definite line of beefy clouds bang on track. One long glide to reach them and I connected with the first of many. Climbing slowly I witnessed a paraglider off to the west slightly ... then heading even further west into the blue, so no company there. Passing through several cloud layers ... spectacular! I reached 5300'. A short while later I spied Ben .... brilliant, we had both escaped a tough moor crossing in our own ways. We came together briefly, then Ben wished to be more west for his goal, whilst mine was more of the same under the cloud street (I assumed that was his plan ... Ben had no radio). So back on my own again ... the usual thing.
Much of the rest of the flight was really just sight seeing ... I never got low and never had to work very hard. There was always an obvious cloud ahead, a good line and the glide was always excellent. At 25k out I knew goal was in the bag and so it proved as I arrived with about 2500' to spare and still climbs I was passing through. I did think of tagging goal then turning east to the better sky again. Lower down the smoke and windmills were showing a light WNW so the SB was in at low level but I still could have escaped it. However, the temptation of a handy mainline station was too tempting so I put down in the perfect field, in a warm, light breeze and enjoyed the moment.
Thanks to Brian Doub who appeared at the field gate and ran me to the station 5 mins away.
A little later he did similar for Ben who via a more difficult route landed a short distance away.
A great day out to really get the season going.
PHOTO LINK (Stills from video)
14/4/2018 Windbank Photo: It was nice once the sun came out.
With four of us packed in the car we headed (at a leisurely pace) over to Windbank thinking ... no rush, RASP says nothing much happening until the afternoon. Still ... it was pretty galling to arrive and find a sky full of gliders which, despite the total cloud cover, appeared to be doing well and making the modest base. Geoff Crossley was all for doing the NCT task and was all plugged in for that. Thinking there was not a lot of XC potential in the day ... I did likewise.
Quick scurry up the hill and I was off. Cloudy, murky even but it was bouyant with light wind and decent thermals. The first turnpoint came easily enough ... a scrabble back low over Arncliffe - a thermal on cue from low and I was back high (relatively) and off to the second turnpoint over the caravan site out front. Again ... no problem, but a lower return and more testing climb back at the ridge. I had thought the next TP to the north may be the most difficult when I set it. It was well back in the big gully off the back ridge. Actually it proved fine ... I had good height, the air was lifty and once tagged I thought a fairly straightforward run into the next which is rather similar to the first - but further away.
Again I made good height before pressing upwind for the 'straightforward' TP. 200m short and after enduring unending bad sink I turned back ... a few seconds later and I may not have made it as I squeaked low back to the main ridge. A short while later I saw Geoff returning - with height having bagged it. Then for a while the ridge shut down as Ben, Geoff and I scratched around ... it should have been better given the sun was now out and breaking up the cover. Eventually it did and we each found our way back to reasonable height, with Geoff heading south to complete the task and make goal.
It was now fairly quiet in the air ... just a lone wing and myself when we both collared the same climb - definitely the best of the day with a strong core and bound for cloudbase. Although approaching 4pm the sky actually looked good downwind. As I touched 3600' I couldn't resist - ignoring the previous TP and I thought lets see what the day could yet offer.
The glide towards Buckden Pike wasn't bad ... I lost 500', then gained most back again ... so the clouds were still working. I knew from walking Buckden late last year there is a good into wind bowl near the top that takes SSW to SW. So thinking I knew better I ignored it. The clouds looked OK and I had an initial target of Leyburn (ish) .... Caperby actually. So I veered more north to avoid Buckden ... and from that point nothing worked. The perils of over confidence, low base and high ground. Rather than a long glide down Bishopdale I opted to land at the top of the pass for ease of retrieve and to avoid any lambed fields. A pleasant, if short jaunt.
Easy lift back. A pint awaiting me in the Tennants Arms and a sunny, sociable end to the day.
Warm, sunny and flyable .... but nothing very special. The wind was off to the west, a bit fresh and the thermals rather broken and rough in places. Most of us took what was enough and landed after about an hour or so. All but John Westall who went on to complete the NCT task.
After that we de camped to the Fisheries cafe for tea, cakes and giant ice creams ... with the sun out it seemed wrong not too.
Another warm, sunny day ... part of a three day spell that was good for lots of things but flying wasn't really one of them.
i tried the Hawes area but ended up cafe bound - again. Met up with Westie who had finally seen sense on Dodd and put it back in the bag .... too windy! He set off for Brigsteer, me for home with a promise that "Brigsteer will come good later... always does .... see you there later". Later became 4pm when Geoff C and I drove over to find it OK ... if a tad breezy.
An interesting take off that didn't stress me too much being on the sharp end, but had a more sobering effect on those contemplating it. It delayed them for a spell. As usual with Brigsteer ... get the take off over with and it's usually OK. OK proved to be an hour and a half of super flying - smooth, comfortable with decent thermals. Brig was doing what it often does ... releases late in the day along its length. For those new to the site it showed that it's more that a slope in a field that was once regarded as a premier xc site until attention switched elsewhere.
Again ... almost on cue the wind died away at 6.45pm and we landed and went down to the beer garden in the Wheatsheaf. A lovely flying and beer drinking evening.
What do you do when the wind is stubbornly SSE? Well .... you make several trips between Semer (lots flying but it's off to the south and likely to blow out) and Stags where no one is flying and the wind is off to the east ... and likely to blow out.
If you're me you go to the Penny Garth, have a coffee and read the papers. It seemed to work as I opted for Stags. Several gliders were now launching, the wind seemed OK whilst over on Semer gliders were gradually forced to land - I assume blown out. Take off was .... the long walk to the east end, but essentially it was hassle free. If anything the past three days have helped me sort a better launching technique with my glider ... I no longer dread the windy launches quite as much. We had a host of decent pilots ... most keen on xc and searching out the big climb were we could all drift as one big gaggle over the countryside. But it refused to happen ... the climbs broke up (sky looked OK) and we could make little more than 1000' ato ... not enough for the moors. For a while it was OK ... but gradually the wind increased, the lift diminished further and the air got uncomfortably rough at times. Soon , everyone was heading out for a valley landing field .... any stock free field to escape the ratty air. Smarty and Jake stuck it a litle longer before they too relented.
And that was it ..... down to the Green Dragon to sample the excellent but expensive ale. A couple more took off and actually it seemed better, but beer, then more beer led to a lack of enthusiasm and that was the day over.
Photo: Great looking day, Tim plug's in a route.
A bit of car juggling and six of us set off for Tinto. Depressing weather back home, but super looking Tinto with a fair number of pilots, a great sky and a nice gentle breeze bang on the hill.
I plugged in a 90k flight to goal just east of Carlisle and near where we'd left a spare car. The day looked good for it. I found my way after 20 minutes to big Tinto and the far east of the hill ... got a great climb, but then wished I'd stayed the other end as a big gaggle had formed and were climbing out together. Meanwhile, I was on my own and knew the crossing south to the hills was going to be tricky. So it proved .... soon I was low over Dungavel and forming plan B. Plan B involved going no further ... but landing and walking back with hopes of a lift to speed things up for a late second bite.
It was a fairly long walk! Not a car appeared, so by jogging and speed-walking I managed to get back to the Tinto carpark in under an hour. Walking back up I passed Ali Westle who encourage me with, "It's shit, a waste of time .... I'm going home". Still .... undeterred I pressed on up. Yes ... it looked pretty dead, not a bad sky, but little wind and little lift - a short flight, a slope landing lower. Another walk up!
Next flight the big hoover came. Chris Kay and I climbed out in a good thermal to just under 5000' and set off south. Again the Dungavel sink clicked in but with height we pressed on. The second climb arrived and fairly rattled us up. Passing 5000' The 'airspace imminent' message flashed up. Another 500' left to pull out. Pulling out was easier said than done ... and took a few combinations or bar and flapping ears. But ... we managed to squeak away 200' under critical.
Not sure what happened to Chris at this point, but I pressed on. To the south didn't look promising with big showers, no sun and every indication of a sea breeze from the Solway. So ... the big lift was convergence and having to stay under 5500 until Moffat would not be easy given the pull of some clouds. I also had concerns over the lack of escape routes.
I pulled west of the M74 to avoid the worst showers and use the slim, sunny gap heading south - but soon this closed up. I milled around awhile thinking and awaiting developments, then as things mellowed out headed back across the M74 to a tongue of high ground that has worked several times before for me. I did find a short lived climb that gave me 500' then lost it or it fell apart. At least it allow ed me to head for a nice playing field in the centre of Moffat.
A few pints in the Star as we all slowly gathered again and mulled events. Not quite what we expected, but we got something from the day and I was pleased to have gone back for the second late bite at Tinto.
Photos below: Chris below after the crossing and about to hits the hills again.
Approaching Moffat with shower activity evident.
Photo: At cloudbase over Carrock - it never got above 3300'
Geoff preferred Coniston (NCT reasons) ... so we went to Carrock. He was probably right given the flying that transpired at COM.
Plenty of flying, but a modest cloudbase and a few bone- rattling thermals that could well have stretched my lines. We had ambitions on a FAI triangle but never made a lot of progress given the wind strength. Geoff made a fair stab at TP 2 but landed short. His reward was a lovely, blond lady farmer who smiled at him kindly and brought him back. I'm sure he will embellished the story over time ... she's already got slimmer and even more beguilling already.