1/7/2018 Coniston Old Man
Hot! (and blue). It looked like more of the same as Chris and I made our way leisurely up the hill .... a few others, Helen, Marek and Dennis ahead of us. on their favoured path. Eventually we all converged on a grassy patch just above the quarry and were soon joined by Westie making his way down. Yes down ... don't ask.
It was mostly light with occasional gusts and slightly off the slope to the south. Chris, Westie and I were soon off and working our way up the upper slopes ... it was quite light and scratchy and a decent climb out thermal was called for. I found one fairly soon and was up and away ... Chris followed shortly after, but Westie had a battle out front and eventually took a low climb from over the Coppermines valley.
Just beyond Swirl How, although at 5000' I noted Chris had a better climb and was higher, so headed that way. A climb up to him and we both sat at the spectacular height of 6400' with a great view warranted a spell of indecision whilst I shot video of him... too many options., too many awesome views. But - Chris sans radio or phone made it awkward. I think he shouted, "I'll follow you". So I set off on my original plan - a 45K FAI to near Greatend then to Red Screes and back to CoM. The glide to the head of Langdale was uneventful, no hint even of a thermal .. darn these blue days! Chris ended up a lot lower and working the terrain - I had the luxury of some height - but even 4000' felt low today. There were climbs, but despite being in a good place they never really got going. I greedily wanted 6000+ again. I set off down Langdale, trying to stay over the high ground towards Pavey Ark but it was slow going and heading upwind was not going to be easy. Below I saw an Alpina 2 (?) low and struggling on the slopes below Pike Stickle. Eventually, missing any big climbs I crossed back to Pike o Blisco and slid down into Wrynose fearing a sea breeze whistling through from the back.
Dropping ever lower into Little Langdale things were getting desperate. I gambled on the valley confluence off the end of Blea Crags - it's often worked before. And .. it worked again, as I climbed out I watched Chris come in equally low below and find the climb. It wasn't that strong but it made possible the jump across to the big Swirl How bowl - and that always works. It didn't at first, but once deep in it soon had both of us popping out of the top.
Just a straightforward glide back and some messing out front and we landed after a great tour of the some of the Southern fells. I'd predicted as we walked up that these hot days can be really special later. As we sat sipping a pint the sky began to fill with odd cu's at over 7000'
Maybe we should have stayed in the air a bit longer - we may have missed the icing on the cake.
3/7/2018 Coniston Old Man (again!)
This flight got more 'interesting' than it had any decent right to.
It's becoming a regular thing to hike up CoM, in the heat with a heavy load. Finally, made the now 'usual' place above the quarry to find reluctant to take off pilots including Ben, Simon and Dennis. It's not easy to slope land anywhere due to the rocky nature and those who had taken off had struggled, made it ... or not. Hence the reluctance.
Eventually everyone was off and on their respective plans mostly going north into the Langdales. I had a triangle and the first leg took me to the north end of Glaramara. Going north was no problem, decent thermals, some company to pimp off and soon I was ready to push back to Glaramara. A Gin wing heading north was low on the slopes and a useful thermal gauge. As soon as he started climbing he was glider bait and with his help I tagged the cylinder and headed back into the top of the Langdales. As with previous triangle attempts the wind slowed foward progress to a crawl - although it never seemed windy at this stage, just the usual thermal entrainment.
Eventually, I gave plan A a miss and decided to just head back for an O and R. Flying around Bowfell, Crinkle and Flat Crags was highly entertaining .... company and quite smooth. So nice and pleasant infact that after gaining a good height I set off to cross Wrynose directly into the Bowl below Swirl How. I had lots of height and thought I would possible arrive with 1000' to spare.
All went well intially, Not far off the rib that swings down I thought ... OK, maybe with 600' to spare. Caught behind the rib and looking at the steep, rocky fall-away it still appeared OK ... I'll skim over and into the bowl with maybe 40 to 50' .... close! But it wasn't to be ... at this point, at this time the wind was howling over the edge and ground speed went zero - then minus. I managed to steer into a small space clear of rocks and 'drop' in there ... not easy and not pleasant. I balled up the glider and walked forward to the grassy edge ... it was still very strong and no place for a dragging. I walked a little lower down the shoulder to a actually very nice grassy step and as the wind abated took off there expecting to get rapidly hovered up the craggy bowl. The lift was very poor, the air smooth enough, but nothing wanted to go up.
15 minutes of gaining height to get over the col back towards the Coppermines each time met with rotor from the col. Then company arrived in the shape of Dean - at least two to battle it out. Finally, a rough and combative thermal allowed sufficient height ti get back over the col and a more sedate flight back toa landing below CoM. I found out later that quite a few had been in that bowl and run for cover before I arrived ... I was the looney that tempted Dean back in.
A great day ... aside from the 'interesting' bit.
4/7/2018 Pen y Ghent
Chris Kay and I took the opportunity to explore the potential of PyG ... best SE in the Dales (BUT NOT A CLUB SITE!).
A long, steady walk up from Horton with faith, hope and the wind on our backs. That's a bit odd - it should be on our face. First lesson learned. As we reached the gate onto the SE face, there was the wind all along, just where it should be. To some degree it seems sheltered from the sea breeze where Whernside is very open ... a bit of simple study tells you why.
We opted to to launch mid way up the face ... which is very steep in sections,but offers several easy layouts. Now - how well does it thermal? Straight off and boom! A rocket to over 4000' Yep, it thermals superbly and the terrain out front is the creche of thermals.
We dogged around for about an hour, able to climb high, but never able to find a thermal to go higher or not die on us just over the back. Eventually we got away together with height, but no thermal - again it left us very quickly.
A long, hopeful glide into walk out territory amongst the forestry and moors behind Dodd. Above, no clouds, but looming temptingly ahead towards the Hawes road were the first signs of the sea breeze convergence. A second good thermal got us to the clouds and at last the climbs had some conviction to them. Now we could reached well above 5000' and look down on the clouds ... awesome, amazing, simply stunning views and great flying. First of all they were wispies, then cauliflowers - then just a huge spread-out mess. From total blue skies we increasingly found the navigation through this clutter hard to make sense of.
Heading over towards Garsdale the clouds beefed up and spread out, we tried to stay along the south side, but first they reduced the sun to patches, then the whole of the Eden valley ahead seemed in shade. Bugger! A good climb approaching Garsdale and another on the rising moors beyond and a murky Wild Boar hove into view. Would the clouds work minus the sun? They did for a while until coming off the high ground towards the Tebay road it all went rather dead. We landed near KS station.
Still ..... it was an easy train ride back from Kirkby Stephen to the car ... and only 6 mins to wait for the train. Not the goal I had in my Flymaster, but a lot more special than I expected on the walk up.
PHOTO STILLS LINK (use the slide show button for full screen)
5/7/2018 Wether Fell
Tim Oliver, Chris Kay, Kev Mcloughlin and I took a punt on Wether Fell. It wasn't very busy but it was flyable and the sky looked promising - aside from the big over development downwind. I set a goal at Wetherby.
After about 40 minutes of climbing but not feeling it right to commit I eventually saw Kev climbing to 5000' and decided to run for his thermal and commit. It didn't really work and suddenly I was scrabbling ... stuck low in the Semer Water sink hole and just placing myself where I though thermals may trigger. This was the start of some prolonged scratching on valley sides!
I managed to get over into Bishopdale ... low! Again, I soared the limestone edges with poor lift for a spell until I managed to escape, just - onto the slopes of Buckden. Last winter's walk with my daughter now proved very useful as I'd scouted the terrain in case I ever found myself desperate and stuck there. Close terrain soaring followed, trying to assess the wind and likely thermal sources. A dabble round into the bowl to the south gave me fairly instance success. A boomer arrived and got me over the moors towards Great Whernside ... then it departed (I lost it probably) and ended up running for Gt Whernside with the sink alarm persistently ... screaming back. I was ready for yet another scratching and waiting session but providence provided a decent climb and I was able to sail over and bypass GW.
The moors beyond GW always fill me with a little dread ... it's the potential walk-out or hitch out from the valley. I've found myself at least four times pushing on in sink ... and hoping (praying) yet each time the middle of the moor has produced a mega thermal. And so it did again ... a real screamer to cloudbase (5500'). At this point the blue skies were disappearing and the strong lift got a little worrying so I edged to the west and the edge of the clouds. Then ... no, you're a wimp! So I turned back under the darker stuff.
From that point on I had the longest, smoothest ... most bouyant glide to the outskirst of Harrogate. Barely a wimper from the vario .... it was fun while it lasted.
Quick pack, bus from the field gate and a taxi ride I shared with Tim who had landed close by and we were back home in no time.
A hard fought battle for a spell ... and then super easy.
6/7/2018 Johnny Barnes
Kev Mc and I took the long way round, via a blown out Wether Fell and eventually arrived on top of JB to find Westie and a message from Ben (who had just landed out front). Essentially it read, "rough, off the clock up, off the clock down ... it will take a man wearing brave pants to stick it out". It did put us off. We sat ... chatted, said things like, lets go home, ride a bike, water the plants. It was all enough to turned Mark Gravestock's van round and head home before even arriving.
Then ... I thought it felt like things had mellowed, the sky was tempting but the wind going off to the south was the real fly in the larder. It appeared the SB had arrived and that was that ... we were too late anyhow. We laid out and I took off first. It was off, but there was lift - in fact not bad lift at all. Westie followed and together we headed out into lifty air ... that became a thermal. Bloody Hell! We are actually getting a climb out. The drift was surpringly light ... with nothing else to do we got together and set off.
Things kept happening until we ended up divng towards the shallow bowl behind Great Coum. I had more height that Westie, yet it still felt a bit desperate - a gamblers throw. I got up and thought Westie had decked - but no; after a bit of a horrible kicking he made it up again and we set off (see photo). The sky looked very promising - BUT the big worry was the flight of the Red Arrows due up Wensleydale in an hour (actually two .. Zulu time). We headed over Wether Fell to see a single pg laid out and hangies on the deck - no one airborne. Worrying. As Westie seemed to have a better climb I headed towards him ... then on arrival, he straightened and passed me going the other way. Foiled again!
From this point on it became like the previous day. I committed to a good cloud, endured the sink and pressed on, it worked ... sort of. Soon I was scrabbling low along the slopes the other side of Semer and in last chance territory. My gamble became the farm under Addleborough as its worked before. Another weak, but improving thermal got me out of goal again ... in fact to a respectable height. I just about caught up with Westie, scratching slopes north of Pen Hill. He dived over the back with little height - a brave move, but with a sunny fields (plus tractor) to head for in Coverdale.
I soared a 'not working very well' Pen Hill, but when something weak gave me 1000' I went with it. My big focus was now on the clock ... 15 mins to Red Arrow time and staying south of their intended route up Wensleydale. Off the very end of the Pen Hill ridge, the north face I found a very good thermal that got me back over 5000' Phew! time to relax again. It was now approaching 4pm and Red Arrows time. I wanted to commit towards Bedale but couldn't risk getting low in their corridor so opted to edge south over the moors and try to maintain height.
Bang on cue the two flights of RA passed well to the north and turned into Wensleydale .... no sound, just possible to spot them. Now to press on with plan A. The problem was the sky had changed and flattened out and I'd lost a lot of useful height. I found very little after that and landed on the edge of Masham ... Westie a short distance away at Low Ellington.
We got together in Masham. Like a lot of places now the bus service is sparse ... and nothing much runs after 3pm! After a pint we headed for the chippy. Now Westie's military resourcefulness kicked in ... in other words he's not shy. He got chatting to a guy going to Harrogate, but was persuaded to go to Hawes. Dan turned out to be a real gem of a bloke. As friendly and generous as you'll ever meet, good comany and interesting ... well worth the fish and chip dinner and pint we got him. Without him we could have been stuffed. Thanks mate.
A good day that came out of not a lot really ... we nearly gave it up. 60k ... not to be sniffed at up north.
7/7/2018 Dales Three Peaks
The day before Westie and I had pulled a blinder out of the fire - so we celebrated in three pubs and felt brave. Next day held a dilemma - football match versus a good rasp. So in a fit of beer driven 'who dares' we compromised on getting the best out of both.
It seemed possible to attempt the Dales Three Peaks hike n fly task (part of the Northern Challenge series) and be down in time for 3pm. Others were up for doing it too. From the racing ferret that is Andy Smith to more sedate plodders. Being in the latter it's a tortiose and hare approach, so I set off at 10am from the start cylinder at Ribblehead whilst the earlier racers were almost on take off on the west face of Whernside .... waiting. I'd planned backwards, given the day I didn't expect a lot of thermal action on that take off face until about midday. Why walk when you can fly.
I arrived feeling OK after a long, almost 1hr 30 min flog, being passed by lots of shorts and bikini tops who marvelled that any idiot would wish to carry that outsize bag up a mountain on a day like this. Still .... I took comfort from my cunning plan.
On take off it was light, rather too light for my liking, but the sky looked superb. A few others arrived bent on the same task ... so help and competition. I flew/hopped to the first turnpoint and then reassessed things as the first few were climbing out ... aargh! They have the drop on me. Andy Smith took off about 2k south and found it scratchy; I took off and confirmed it as we waltzed past each other below ridge height. Five minutes later, as Andy sloped landed I hooked my escape thermal and enjoyed the ride to 5500' that drifted me nicely through the Whernside summit cylinder. Game on again.
(Andy shortly after climbed out at the same spot and followed on although I never saw him)
Towards Ingleborough, the next turnpoint I spied two gliders, low ish and getting lower. That was not the senario I had planned and again the tortoise in me advised caution for the Chapel le Dale crossing. I edged down the ridgeline and limestone pavement beyond whilst a classic deep cloud set almost over Ingleborough. I made the cylinder easily enough and got a bonus climb to boot. Back north for a spell to a great looking companion cloud to 5600' and the crossing of the Horton valley to Pen y Ghent was assured. Now it got tricky.
I sat above Pen y Ghent a short while hoping to regain a lost 2000'. It didn't happen. Heading back to the Ribblehead goal was going to be tough. A blue hole sat between me and a long hot walk - maybe go around to the north? It would have made sense. Every bit of lift I hit didn't have the strength to reward turning. On a downwinder it wouldn't have mattered - but into wind sometimes you lose more than you gain. I plodded doggedly on.
On and on ... with the distance counting down and the ground ever closer.. Resigned to a walk, the question being ... how long a walk? I touched down in a fresh sea breeze; a killer low down in these parts - it fair whistles up the valleys. As I landed the distance to goal read 4.5k. Nothing to a ferret, but enough for a tortoise on a hot day.
I walked/semi jogged the rest - time is points in this game. And arrived just after kick- off and sat in a cooling resurgence stream I could resist. OK ... I'll watch the second half and get the beers on the way.
And it all worked out.
Even England played a blinder.
Below: Launching from Whernside (west)
Thermalling up with Chris Kay
8/7/2018 Dodd Fell
Having flown a lot in the past week I decided this would be a take it easy day as I had little appetite for a long retrieve hassle. Dodd looked a nice place to be and the Dodd grid a suitable challenge.
I arrived to find a few in the air and a nice light breeze on the hill. It was obviously thermic.
I probably flew for about 2hrs in lovely smooth air with gentle thermals coming through fairly regularly. Slowly I navigated my way through the task until about TP14 ... when it got quite light and scratchy so decided to land by the car. Kev and Chris had meanwhile gone over the back, and the lovely sky made it tempting. They were flying over on Wether too, which had more sun and a better sky, but they seemed to be struggling to stay up at times.
A pleasant relaxing day out.
Playing in the sea breeze convergence over the moors south of Bentham
11/7/2018 Great Coum
The forecast NE wind didn't quite work out.
Having taken a shorter route I arrived mid-way up the south ridge of the bowl before the others to find a fresh, gusty wind that was well off to the north - in fact a due north wind. Try as I might I couldn't get a message to them to abort their walk as I felt it was blown out. So, when all else had failed I dumped my bag and walked to the top to meet them. Oddly, the wind strength seemed OK on top, even light in spells if still well off to the north. Undeterred, we laid out and by various stages we all decided to use the short north face that Great Coum fortunately provides - a new one for me and I guess the others too. It's not a great face, small, but it does add to the flexibilty of the site.
(Note: It would have been possible to take off fairly near the cars, but we chanced on the farmer who said he didn't want anyone taking off inside the large electric fenced area - essentially most of the central section of the north facing bowls).
Despite a good sky it became spells of scratching, landing and then trying again, but despite
our best efforts it proved hard to get more than a few hundred - then promptly lose it. Finally, John Hamlett made a bit of height ... not more than a 1000', but enough to tempt him back towards Whernside bowl as the wind was a touch towards west of north. Then Geoff Moss, gained better height and set off downwind along the Gragareth spine. So ... it was working, just hard to find the climb-out.
Eventually, I managed to stumble into something - it wasn't that strong or convincing and I'd no sooner committed than it departed. Drifting downwind over the moors towards Ireby it didn't look good - I had diminishing height, soon below take off height and a heathery walk-out seemed a distinct possibility. Salvation lay in one decent cloud. Thankfully, the vario beeped into life and the climb was decent enough - at mid height it strengthened and on passing through 5000' ASL I knew I was away for real.
It's quite special to be passing over your house, relaxed, and at height. The clouds ahead looked good but to the east was quite blue, whilst to the west, still some distance away was clear evidence of the sea breeze front. I started to pick up radio chatter, some close some from pilots (Andy Wallis) on an xc south of Kidderminster. However, closer to hand was Chris Kay heading south from Cow Close. Close behind was Tam. Both with tales of wave which i saw little evidence of.
My original goal had been Chorley and given the sky in that direction it was a fair possibility. However, what happened next led me to a change of thinking.
The sea breeze had crept closer onto the moors but still seemed about 5k away. Then with little warning it enveloped me. Small puffs of cloud sprang up below and around me .... nothing sinister, just smooth patches of lift and clouds to left and right. Given the opportunity it seemed more fun to enjoy the experience than press on - especially being over one's home territory.
Having had time to study the SB I now decided to head back NW as it seemed orientated that way. At times it was slow going back towards Bentham, but gentle climbs appeared and thermals showed little drift. My original intention had been to head towards Kirkby Lonsdale but as the SB showed signs of weakening I changed more east to conventional thermaliing.
Ingleton arrived underneath with height to spare. maybe 2500' - but stumbling into a decent climb got me back to over 4000'. Maybe I could make it back to Great Coum - that would make a suitable goal. It was now getting late, gone 5pm and the sky was devoid of any clouds so it seemed an unlikely new goal. I headed into Kingsdale but it was now pretty sinky so I turned tail and flew to the back field of the Masons's and a pint with the guys.
A really special piece of flying. Again ... rather out of the blue as I'd come within a whisker of canning the day. A great spell of flying over the past 10 days.
Photo: Kev Mcloughlin
A rasping 5 star day - that wasn't!
Light winds and a decent sky soon became light winds and an over-developed sky.
We sat a while until a bit of wind arrived, never very much and then enjoyed a frustrating hour or so. Occasional weak thermals that never went beyond 800' ato.
Tim and I then retried to the Penny Garth, cafe in Hawes
A few photos HERE
19/7/2018 Brantside (eventually)
One of those days to forget!
Tim and I drove to Brantside (15 mins from home) via Millars Leap (no wind, off the hill and cloudy) and Tailbridge (blown out and sunny). By the time we arrived, (after 2 hrs of driving) whilst it looked good with a great sky, it was getting fresh and a bit gusty - it seemed like the sea breeze was making itself felt.
We launched and had about 50 mins but it was getting harder to penetrate and the thermals were a bit broken and unpleasant We landed, called it a day and discovered the cafe delights of Dent village (the tractor cafe)
Photo: It looks a serious affair, but at this stage was more comedy.
Tim and I were soon joined by Glen, Chris and Geoff Moss. Whilst it was just soarable when the odd thermal gusts came through, it was weak and broken stuff and meant no more than a short hop and a slope landing near take off. Frustrating - made worse by the fact we seemed to be in a blue hole that wouldn't budge and doubly so when we could see and hear radio chatter from gliders climbing out from Whernside west. It seemed we had the wrong site - next time, Whernside - maybe, anywhere that doesn't have thistles!
Eventually, even the gusts disappeared whilst the blue hole persisted, so we sat around and speculated on whether the blue hole would bugger off, or to make a suicide dive into the valley or to count if the small birds were increasing in number or just mess about. The most positive thing we could latch onto was that out of the most pessimistic senarios, great days are born (we told oueselves).
I don't really know why, but being in harness I took off. The first two beats were fine, a whole 135' above take off; then down. Doing a beat at the bottom of the main slope it came to within an inch of a landing. Then a gust (?) of lift way round to the left lifted me back to take off height ... Wow! I can land. But this gust was actually our get out of jail and became a fully fledged thermal. Only Chris managed to scrabble into his harness quick enough and joined me. Success or failure on days like this can be down to seconds. The climb was followed from birth to expire at 6000'. Awesome! But, still over the take off, not a hint of drift.
Still regarding east as downwind I set off for Wether fell, Chris ahead but somewhat lower. What seemed like ages later I was above Wether ... still around 6000' and taking three thermals to get there. It is soooo slow on a paraglider without any drift. Gliders laid out said it all. It still seemed logical to continue until east until above Addleborough where it seemed more southerly - or was it easterly? Time for a change of plan .
The clouds were quite spartan, and whilst they were working it seemed a long way between them. Wensleydale and to the north was just blue. But nothing ventured. My xctrack indicator showed a sector coming in at about 40k - assuming I could cross the valley and head back west along the moors. It was predictably sinky crossing the valley but at least leaving with height gave me fishing time once back over and behind Stags.
The first thermal was a surprise, given I was in a blue area, not hint of cloud and whilst not that strong it bought me a 1000'. The second was a real boomer, strong and smooth. I knew instantly it was the real McCoy as it came with a stunning buzzard - a magnificent specimen to share the air with. At first I was wary - friend or foe. He came in close, looked at me - inquiringly, but never threatened. Together we circled close and tight for fully 2000' to a high point of 6700'. On touching tops he just glided off west until a mere dot ... far superior in glide and speed. I wish I'd filmed him.
At this point I was in sector, but considered pushing deeper (due north). The terrain and the few clouds suggested this was where the lift was. But, intent on closing the final leg and given the poor looking sky that way, I decided to use the height to make a stab at the final leg. My glide suggested I required one more thermal and on cue one arrived when half way back. Not that strong but there was zero drift and it gavea handy 1000' before I pushed on - certain of getting back to take off.
With a 1500' to spare and my car having gone back to Hawes with Tim, I found aanother half decent climb and headed back that way. I didn't quite make it, but anyhoiw .... job done.
It never ceases to amaze me how the great days often come out of inauspicious circumstances. Chris carried on and made it to near Richmond, Glen took a really interesting line towards Tan Hill that deserved better on his return leg. The others paid the price for those few seconds it took to don a harness ... the margins are really tight on days like this.
Rounded off the day with two pints and fish and chips in Hawes with the full crew.