Photo: Kev over the east end of Wensleydale
4/8/2018 Dodd Fell and Brantside
With a due west forecast there were too many decent options, so - if in doubt just drive over to Hawes. Heading over Newby Head it was possible to see gliders doing OK on Dodd and as Wether came into view about eight in the air and getting reasonable height. I opted for Dodd although there were less clouds there.
Last into the air with a decent breeze on the slope - it looked an easy day. The six of us (Dennis, Tam, Chris, Dave, Kev and I) enjoyed a reasonable hour thermalling up occasionally to a modest base (3500'). Kev brought a little excitment. After pushing out from the ridge he came back really low, in fact it looked impossibly low and seemed like a walk up was on the cards. After some masterly scratching he got back up - it was better to watch no doubt - but impressive.
An hour passed and the wind started to go off the hill to the south (usual thing here) and get lighter. In various places we landed and decided to try elsewhere with Brantside looking the best option. We passed Wether to find it looked OK, but with no one flying we pressed on.
We arrived at Brantside to find the wind square on, smooth and soarable with no one else here. I don't think anyone mentioned it at this stage, but out to the west things were developing. In short time we were off and barely beat the ridge before climbing out to 4000' - the reason in part being the now very evident sea breeze front coming in. Kev described it later as looking like a monster heading our way as it roll in over the hills to the west. Chris said go ...I'll follow you - so we left.
Without great height I was reluctant to just dive downwind and instead headed north for a cloud that simply had to work. The ground seemed awfully close and the walk-out long and devious over the moors. The cloud didn't work, which was a bit awkward and the walk out was not what I was after. So it became a dive over back routine, just a lot lower than it might have been. Approaching the very northern end of Dodd I was way low (under take off height) with just the terrain now in my favour, a stand of trees and maybe a cloud above. At this point salvation appeared with some weak lift - I just worked and worked it - slowly gaining height and finding better cores. Meanwhile, out in the valley Chris was low and struggling with his own attempts to stay airborne - eventually losing out. Next to appear was Dave - he had more height and almost made it, getting well past Hawes before gravity won. Tam's struggles came to no avail either. That just left Kev and I.
As a third climb appeared off the end of Wether Fell I felt a little more comfortable and glancing back saw Kev, not that high, but slowly climbing behind me. For the second time today he was proving tenacious at hanging in through tough bits. Eventually we met up at base approaching Caperby. Up to this point we had a great drift and were able to make 65kph on glide. The sky was rather over developed, but working and looking back showed the sea breeze front still chasing along on our tail.
As Leyburn loomed into view it looked like we were heading for meagre times. The clouds evaporated and the drift slowed ... the sun appeared, but the next good sky was 12 miles ahead. Taking separate lines we drift on finding very little, although i got the usual sniff of lift over the pig farm We landed close together at the 40k mark. Earlier we'd have happily taken that, but given we'd just got in the groove and with the VoY ahead it was a shame the lift we'd enjoyed disappeared.
Big thanks to Tam who drove out to collect us and take us back to the car. Tam was keen for a trip to Murton on the Sunday and I didn't delliver on a promise. So feel a bit shit.
Photo: Murton PIke from on high. Below - looking south into the Warcop D area.
5/8/2018 Murton Pike
I felt really bad on the walk up. For almost two hours I'd shilly-shallied about whether Murton would work. RASP had indicated it could be too windy and lighter winds looked more likely further south. I'd told Tam and Dave May, both keen to fly Murton as they had never been there before, that I would take them. But I cancelled and only at the last minute did I make the decision to try it knowing it had been cleared with Warcop. Tam and Dave were now committed to their Windbank option. What made it worse, was as I walked up it was about as perfect as it gets with plenty flying, a nice light breeze and a decent sky. Well ... I really buggered that up with my indecision. Really sorry guys.
Actually, although the flying was OK the thermals just didn't deliver, especially out front and base never rose beyond 4200' - but enough for the ridge along its full length as the ridge lift was so predictable. One of those sort of days. It was also one of the few days that the full ridge through the D area was open.
I got plenty of flying, but in retrospect it was a lost opportunity to discover more of the ridge and perhaps do a big out and return. What undoubtably put me off was the lack of a retrieve as going down in the myriad of roads out front I find too daunting to contemplate.
Ben and I commiserated over a few pints in the Royal Oak.
Photo: Looking down on the main ridge just after it got soarable.
9/8/2018 Bradwell (BPC - day 1 /task 1)
In the days leading up it looked as if it would be too windy - a decent rasp, but possibly blown out. The reality was quite the reverse, until 1pm it was very light with lots of high cloud and a shower bearing front approach from the west - so we were time limited. The forecast rasp 5 was almost nowhere to be seen, except disappearing off to the east maybe.
Approaching 1pm, Chris Blanchard launched and looked to be simply heading down to the bottom field after a single, sink laden beat. Interest in his flight was suddenly re-ingnited as he very slowly began climbing out from over the bottom field. First level with take off, then above .... then well above as he sat under a cumulus hiding under all the grey. At this point - finally some wind was felt on the hill and it became just soarable
Gareth set a dog-leg task of 54k to NE of Nottingham with the first challenge for many being a 'new' turnpoint to load. That used up 15 minutes of discussion and puzzlement. Eventually, we got underway with the window open and 20 minutes to race start.
Now to my effort. I got off fairly soon and found plenty of gentle lift - not just on the ridge, but well out front towards the cement works and happily sat at 1500 ato awaiting the race start. I was ready to go several times, but the minutes ticked so slowly down. Upwind a big shower sat near Mam Tor and even if slowly it was heading our way. Then ... as the clocked pinged on race start I was lower but at least climbing and in good company with Tony Blacker and Richard Carter. As the lift petered out we set off downwind - not especially high and under a less than inspiring full cloud cover.
We took rather different lines ... the clever thing to do would be to follow the new 300k record holder from his favourite site. That would have been the clever thing unless you misguidedly think you know better. Along with almost everyone else in that small gaggle we made it to Hathersage, finding barely a blip, but hearing 'task stopped - raining on take off'. Meanwhile, despite being low Richard had clawed his way out of from Froggat/Curbar to better air to the east. Eventually he made it to near Nottingham, 56k away. So - the task could be achieved by a specail pilot.
A few pints in the Plough with David Thomson and Chris B before a friendly barmaid ran us back up to the clubhouse. As the weather cleared a good number enjoyed some late flying, but a disappointing end to a day that had held 5* promise.
11/8/2018 BPC - Eyam (task 1)
A beautiful start to the day, but with an approaching front the winds were supposed to increase and the rasp 5 depart east - so an early start.
We arrived on take off about 10am; given the forecast, plus the fact it was a Saturday it was already starting to get busy. The wind was already apparent, flyable but how much time did we have before it became blown out? In fact it was to hold good and get a lot better for the next three hours, until finally it was too windy for any who were still on the hill.
The early flights (several for many of us) were not especially pleasant, rough little thermals that didn't go very high, crowded skies and quite a few went down - sometimes through choice. Finally, at the third attempt the wind died to gentle/soarable as the thermals kicked in and we were able to climb-out with little difficulty. A small, but decent gaggle. Conditions looked pretty epic downwind - a good drift, a base over 5000' and for those intent on the east coast it looked very promising.
There were gliders in every direction, but mostly I had a pretty lone flight with the odd meets -ups. Being a race task of modest distance to Warne on Dearn the other side of Sheffield, it was easy to do it fast, but that seemed secondary to just enjoying the lovely flying and the scenery. On the final glide into goal it was a bit of a quandry - Do you just hammer on through good climbs or depart from the task and just head NE through RHAD's? The task bonus was an easy, paid lift back to base .... the alternative a possibly long flight into the Vale of York and then the coast. I took the easy option and landed at goal with Chris Blanchard and David Thomson, and just up the road, Viv Fouracre. Landing before 1pm, at 30k out under a great sky I'm not sure that made a whole lot of sense. I know I'm getting lazy - what would I give for a dedicated retrieve driver; retrieve fears plays an increasing part in my flying. Paid position for 2019 - contact me.
As expected an easy journey back to base with the others, plus a coffee on the way.
PHOTO LINK (from the video)
A bit of the video - LINK
Photo: On glide over Sheffield. They carried on NE - I went east to goal. Mistake?
Photo: Approaching the Howgills at cloudbase.
25/8/2018 Barton Fell
The weather relented to give one excellent day.
Mark Gravestock, Dave Southern and I met up at J36 heading for Barton. Enroute we dropped a car and met up with Chris Greenwood and Glenn Brookes. So ... we had a plan, a team and a degree of organisation. As extra an bonus we use the far better Helton parking and approach - dry and easy despite the recent rain.
The wind speed was the only concern, but it looked OK, confirmed as we approached take off when a glider launched and was doing well. A longish faff over take off as the strongish gusts put people off. Ben Keayes came over for a chat, Dennis and Simon went a little further on and Jan Little was some ways along too.
Eventually, I deemed it fine to launch and was easily away. Perhaps rather surprisingly, that was the last I noticed of any wind- once in the air it seemed almost light with lots of forward speed and little drift whlst thermalling. Ben climbed away with me close, but not that convinced we had the height or the right thermal. Whilst Ben headed off I pushed forward again to get my reward under a real beefy cloud. Now I was happy to be away.
The usual long glide followed to Haweswater, with Ben (?) a thermal ahead and climbing slowly. Just as I needed it the second climb arrived - slow at first, but gaining strength with height - quite strong in parts. Although there was plenty of sun on the ground the clouds were building quite tall and active looking so I was a bit wary. Next obstacle was the Howgills crossing - the poser being. Direct? Round to the north? or go south? They rise to 2500' over Fell Head and base wasn't much over 4500' Enough height, but a big beefy sat over them that looked likely to really suck. Rather cautiously I opted to go direct which proved fine and I departed Cautley for the big, flat-topped Baugh Fell. In the distance, Wensleydale was bathed in sun - to the south it looked rather ominious, ahead another BIG cloud. Drawn in by consistent lift, the first time I turned tail and reversed back up wind and popped out of the side to see a very dramatic cloudscape (damn! camera battery flat!). I pondered the way ahead and decided I was being a bit wimpish.
The plan to move on became - lose a bit of height to compensate for being pulled into cloud and then blast under with the escape, if required, being due north where it was sunniest. So I put on bar and blasted under. The strong lift again grabbed me and within a minutes I was back into cloud - total white-out, but the lift was smooth. Setting xctrack to the blind flying screen it was fairly easy to maintain a heading and eventually I again saw the ground ahead and the friendly, familiar sight of Dodd Fell. Excellent - from this point on there was a familiarity with the route to Harrogate (100k declared goal) - so I thought the hardest done. NEVER ever think that!
I passed over Dodd to see not a soul - the wind strength and direction meant it should be perfect (odd) ... then over Wether - again, no-one and only a single car (odder still). The sink and decreasing height ... I'd generally been high, became a concern as I headed to a cloud roughly over Little Fell plantations. I knew people had soared it, landed here - got away from here, but this was a new one for me. A couple of high beats losing height and something came through at the south end of the bowl of Grainings. Wow! Gonna get out of here afterall. The trouble was it wasn't consistent and I was loath to commit to the moors. The lift was maybe downwind, but the good cloud was still out front. I pushed out in light lift before turning and ..... nothing. Despite a search, still nothing.
Now after 60k ... the BIG mistake. I should have pressed on over the moor towards Buckden - either the moor or Buckden would have provided a good chance. Deeming (or it felt like that) I had too little height to clear the moor, I headed south into the deep valley and a big cloud. I've always been a cloud, rather than a ground follower. By the time I discovered it wasn't working it was too late and being flushed into the valley - I'd lost the high ground advantage. In retrospect I would have cleared the moors and dropped onto into wind faces on Buckden - doh! Low maybe ... but I scratched those edges and faces low once this year and got back OK.
A nice smooth landing in a light wind, short walk and Tam picked me up (Thanks Tam - making a habit of it). Tam got me to Hawes a a quick lift to Sedbergh and my car plus a pint off Chris.
One of those potentially flights I let get away from me.
Very few photos. I thought my camera was fully charged - it appears not.
Photo: Looking back towards Dodd from near Great Whernside. Kettlewell in the middle with Windbank to the left.
30/8/2018 Dodd Fell
Ben and I walked to the front at Dodd (we passed Wether and checked - it seemed on and soarable, but we pressed on). There was no one at the usual launch - odd! .... then we spotted the Indians, high on the bluff to the north. Rasp and other forecasts suggested a lot of high cloud until about 12 noon and at 11:30 it did seem to be breaking up and the sun eventually came out about 11.45. So ... 12:30 on seemed to be when it might start working. The wind was light, well off to the north and it was going to need some thermal activity to get things going. Lots more people arrived.
Fortunately, some of the Indians on the bluff were willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good to show it was getting flyable in patches. Chief Chris did much of the work - everyone needs a Chris. Cu's were appearing upwind, then closer to hand ... it was Chris who showed they seemed to be tracking up towards the Grove Head end and when he started climbing thataways, after three turns I thought, I'll have some of that and was off and scraping along over the wall onto Grove Head. Sure enough it was working, but not that strong. At the 700' mark I knew I had still to tag my start cylinder so headed back towards launch and fortunately a better cloud. From that point on it became pretty much a day of working clouds.
The climb out was pretty solid to about 4500' asl .... Kev Mc joined in about 800' lower. A decent cloud tempted downwind, but I wanted the max height so stuck with what I had. I rather hoped Kev would come up to join me, but he shot off downwind towards Horse Head. Kev was unlucky ... it should have worked but didn't. It didn't for me either, but having more height allowed me to cover two slightly into wind faces, both gave a little lift ... the second (High Coombe Stoop) near Moss Top was better, but the lift broken. The saviour came out in the valley - not just a decent cloud, but three birds thermalling, soon joined by two others and myself. A fair climb that got me back to 3500' and enough to allow me to cross toward Starbottom and Cam Head. Given all the north in the wind (although light) I had to keep crosswinding to get around LBA later. I got low at Cam Head and then found the best climb of the flight ... slow at first then much stronger to 5300'. At last I felt in charge .... up to this point it had been a bit of a fight.
God! It was painfully slow going.
Crossing the moors towards Pateley was straightforward, always edging east, with odd short top up climbs coming along. South of Pateley I wanted to cross towards Brimham rocks - Jake says there's always a climb there ringing in my head and I'd met a few there myself in the past. The crossing was really sinky .... I got very low. Just upwind from Brimham is a vaguely craggy escarpement with a farm above - the fields in cut hay. A last throw of the dice and a great trigger A good climb came on cue and gave me 2500' to near 4000' again. The whole climb I never moved more than 50m ... zero drift.
From this point on the climbs became very weak and despite good clouds they never seemed to have the legs to get much above 3000'. It wouldn't have taken much to get me high and beyond Harrogate, but the day seemed to have done with me. Landed on the edge of Harrogate.
A nice 'bus pass' ride with the others OAP's into Leeds and a quick train back for an easy retrieve.