8/3/2018 Far Whitstones (Photo: John Westall coming in to land)
At midday I had no intention of flying as it looked too windy. A whatsapp from John Westall suggested Far Whitestones .... and a second message from the top said the winds were actually light - if off to the north. Still ..... although sceptical it was a trip out after a long spell of cold, snowy weather.
The hills were clear of snow, but the access road was well banked up along its length, evidence of the huge drifting that had filled the lanes. Interesting driving - if you were to meet anyone coming the opposite way.
At the bottom the wind was light ... and well off to the north, but Westie had taken off and was flying OK .... in fact starting to gain decent height. The sky suddenly looked very thermic the first decent sky of 2018. An easy walk up the right side of the face to about halfway and the gallery of horses, still showed a crossed wind ... but starting to pull more on and I thought this process would continue.
An interesting take-off where I lost a brake line that then decided to wrap itself through and round various lines. The air was 'bouncy' so I settled the glider just using the brake line above the tangle then proceeded to undo the mess. A few minutes of getting the wrong combination and the brake came free. Phew! Relax.
The next hour, whilst not always pleasant was a very useful exercise in getting to know the glider in 'proper. air. The more I flew the more setlled and confident I became. Despite some hefty early spring bumps the glider never put a foot wrong, no collapses, the odd unloading and surprisingly little pitching. Next came the speedbar experiments. At a quarter bar the wing felt even more solid until eventually I began increasingly pushing towards the pulleys.
After an hour the wind seemed to be increasing so I decide to head out as far as possible and then land. Actually, it got increasingly mellow so I probably was a bit premature in landing. Others walked up for a second flight whilst I just chatted with Steve T and admired his ultra-light wing. How can one fly on so little?
A good day out and a useful one too .... didn't expect that when I got up.
9/3 2018 Blease Fell
A beautiful, almost warm day where I forgot to take my camera along.
A noon appointment in Barrow meant I never got underway until 12.45 so my arrival approaching 2pm coincided with a sky full of gliders enjoying the best of the day. A quick blast halfway up the hill, and although light it seemed bouyant enough to risk it. A brief five minute scratch and a timely thermal got me onto the upper slopes. A second scratching period and another thermal took me level with the top. The crowds, having had the best of it seemed to have departed and only a single glider passed going west and sinking towards Latrigg. I played around for a spell, but 2900' was probably the best to be had so I headed out to be unexpectedly rewarded by the best thermal of the day and good practice for the new wing.
There was little wind at any height so it was interesting to push out into the valley and explore the glider's speed, handling and stall/spin points. I boated around in the smooth, bouyant air for a good spell before landing back near the car and a slowly packing Geoff C.
I missed the best part of the day, but an enjoyable and useful hour nevertheless.
A slow pint with others in the Horse and Fariar, but disappointed not to see Steve E and Ali to swop notes with and try to prise my long overdue £10 from Ali's mitts. I suspect it could be a long wait.
11/3/2018 Carrock Fell
A carload made the trip up to Carrock (Dave, John, Simon and I) with hopes that it would be brighter and lighter further north. We arrived to a fairly quiet carpark considering the day had Carrock written all over it - in fact quiet a lot had travelled the other way to Conistion OM.
A few were already walking up and the day seemed OK .... quite light (usual thing here), sun shining but a little off to the south ... pretty much as forecast. At the half way point it was deemed soarable ... just - so we laid out and settled for a short wait. Soon a 777 King appeared below and from out of sight around to the left ...Gary S! Gary deemed it OK despite a very crossed wind so from that pint on we all took off.
From that point on the day got going, more gliders appeared until about a dozen were scattered around the hill with several heading out front. Despite a low base the clouds and climbs were working OK allowing us to get several miles upwind of the hill toward the forests. At this point we milled around but couldn't find the next climb to get us further upwind and gradually we were forced back towards the hill. A quiet spell followed then a little better appeared allowing us to push more towards Sandbeds to the north and Mosedale to the south - just with never enough height to really push the boundaries.
A lovely afternoons flying .... where I managed a nice 3hr - 45mins; then it was time for a few pints in Mungrisedale before heading back.
STILLS LINK (from video)
20/3/2018 Clough Head (photo: John Hamlett of me just after take off at Clough)
We arrived at the Clough road end to find it almost flat calm, but with hints of a breeze blowing done the hill. As it was still early (for us) and with things forecast to happen in about an hour or two we set off up. For once it meant going higher than usual but with little else to do we reconvened on the grassy knoll and contemplated the wind - still coming over the back and still very light. It'll get better ... once the sun comes round it'll start working- and bang on cue it did. Light ... but nicely soarable as Josh soon proved and soon everyone was airborne.
Having managed to delete my waypoint set from the Flymaster it meant a reload of a simple goal task. After 15 minutes I decided it didn't look a hard day and hared off down the ridge full of confidence and making Helvelynn with little trouble and little height loss. The warning signs should perhaps have been Josh who had arrived 5 minutes sooner and suddenly seemed to be finding nothing. From this point on I lost him so I don't know what became of him.
To the south was now very shaded out, the thermals stopped working and consequently the wind dropped to near zero on the slopes so the ridge lift vanished too. I kept progressing south trying each slope, bump and corrie but nothing was happening ... not a whimper of lift.
Dollywagon became the final hope to jump onto Fairfield but the sink continued and forced me around the front of Seat Sandal when I wanted to go behind. From this point on I knew it was not going to go well and I was slipping out of the sweet zone and into a shaded Gramere.
And that was about it. Within 15 minutes of landing the sky opened up again and started working for those following just behind. In retrospect I should have waited ... or tried to just hang in near Helvelynn until things improved and help arrived.
Just one to put down to bad luck and a poor decision really. Can't be helped.
24/3/2018 Clough Head (Start cylinder tagged and about to head off south - busy on Clough)
A busy day on Clough. Probably the best day so far this year with pleasant sunshine, fluffy clouds and a light breeze onto the hill. No need to walk that high but plenty did.
I followed Chris Foster away and onto the cliffs and built a little height for the start cylinder out towards the road. Lots were already getting high. I was anxious not to hare off down the ridge as a few days before, but with a lot already heading south it was hard not to given the markers. Like the previous day it was shading out south of Helvellyn and obvious that staying high was a must .... get low on the slopes and it looked almost game over.
I met Tom Oliver briefly near one of the Dodds, but he soon went off south so I eeked and hung onto what was going before making it to Helvellyn. It was a carbon copy of my flight the previous days .... the sky looked the same, the wind was very light and often off the slope and judging by the struggles below it would be all too easy to slip once more into Grasmere. But ... this time I had a plan.
I'd declared a goal via two tp's .... one near Fairfield, the other just north of Barton before planning to head south through the hills to Kendal - goal. At Dollywagon it was still a struggle but this time I opted (whatever) to not go the death-glide side of Seat Sandal ... but to think what would DD do? With so much apparent north in the very light wind I went for the Fairfield spur but turned east onto St Sunday Crags. I'd not flown hear before so it was quite a thrill to glide along the face at 2/3 height .... it's a long way to the crags at the far end. The lift was poor until the very craggy end when something popped off to give me 500' (just above the top) and enough confidence to attempt the sinky glide across to Place Fell.
By working the odd bits of lift I actually got there with a little height to spare. I was on a WSW face but it was working and had some sun on it so it seemed as good to stay where I was as move just north onto the NW face. It still seemed a long way and two small valleys to cross to Loadpot and the main ridgeline. A weak thermal and a few dribs n drabs and I slowly edged towards the big ridge line. The big hope was the best cloud I'd seen all day ... a real, proper cu.
The cloud worked, the climb developed, again, not strong or especially consistent but it got me high - to 4300'; my best all day. Now what? My next cylinder was doable, but the wind here was a distinct northerly and I felt I could end up on the Barton cliffs and looking at the 100% blue sky I wasn't confident Barton would work that well. To the south looked the far more lifty line but the drop off after High Street would be sinky and the sky was filled in, with several showers visible. I opted to try to follow the mid line of half decent clouds to the ESE and then M6.
At first all went well, it was very slow and ideally further south was better but the expanse of moors put me off that route - essentially I was cross-winding in an increasing northerly judging by the Shap Cement towers. I had a few washed out clouds, and several that should have worked but didn't really do anything so I carried on with diminishing expectations. Eventually I landed 3k south of Shap.
Not a long flight, but quite tough in places; the highlight was the intimate aerial fell discovey trail. I passed lots of walkers on all the summits - often at close proximity. I'm not sure what the group on top of St Sunday crag made of a lone paraglider scratching the cliffs below them, then wheeling around just above them as I set off for The Patterdale crossing.
A stunning day to be out flying the fells .... it doesn't really get much better.
Thanks to Ben for the quick pick up and others for the beers later.
26/3/2018 Wether Fell (Photo: Ben surveying a near perfect Wether soaring/thermal day)
The original plan had been to start early, as far as west as possible, as early as possible - Johnny Barnes which we'd recce the previous afternoon. I felt the day wasn't going to get going until well after midday and it could leave us high and dry judging by the rasp. Brantside a possible but unsure of its reliability as we drove over, we opted on Dodd ... or Wether if the wind was on the light side.
There were a couple of gliders in the air as we arrived, not getting more than a few hundred feet, but the sky looked good and we figured in 30 minutes it would start working much better as the first cycles could be felt. We laid out, set our goals and as the other gliders all landed we judged it was about lift off time for Wether. Fifteen minutes later we were at base. Early in the climbed I'd radioed Ben to pull forward to where I thought the best core might be ... wisely he didn't and that was a really crucial moment. From that point on I was always half a thermal behind. Ben disappeared into cloud and five minutes later I followed. Much as I chased after him - all the way to Masham (with a coughing through the smoke from many moor fires) I couldn't catch him. Bar was taking me to over 70kph on the glides ... and still he stayed stubbornly ahead.
Entering the Vale of York everything became desperately hard; this should have been the very high, fun part of the flight but instead it became a low-level grovel. I passed Lightwater losing height with a quarry ahead that might work but gave little and I grovelled on towards Ripon. Again, on the north edge of the town the weak lift with occasionally stronger bits suggested I might just get up again but after a mere 500' it broke apart. Another long glide with airspace starting to impinge on my mind as well as landing options mixing with looking for thermal sources/triggers. This was really high workload with little more than 800' ground clearance. Down to 300' I headed upwind over a likely landing field, at first odd bleeps, then better and soon I was putting in a single turn, then a second ... and a third. How low can one escape from? Blank all the other stuff and just go into a zone and work it. I very slowly climbed over a small village, then the sprawl of old Dishforth. If only this climb could get itself together. Just find a decent core ... get some decent climbing turns in. It gave me some height but again broke apart and I set off downwind for the fourth time with little height and a half hearted sky. Slowly my meagre height unwound but there was to be no fourth low save. I landed near the village of Helpful (not appropraitely named in this case).
This was another of those so nearly flights .... I don't think I could have fought so low for so long before. Had any of the climbs blossomed I reckon goal was in the bag (set at 100k to east of Malton - it gave the option to head further east and maybe make the convergence). The Vale of York always looks tempting but is often a tough place to cross.
Very easy retrieve. Ben and I met at York station after a couple of bus rides; Ben had the tickets and beers waiting then we took two fast trains back and a bus ride into Ingleton courtesey of the nice Bibby's driver. One of the best Wether days you'll get but very few out.