British Paragliding Cup - 1st Round Pennines
4th - 7th May. Excellent weather throughout the four task days with a full set of tasks, three being xc based. Aside from the excellent company and great flying the weather was quite exceptional with warm/hot sunny days (with decent thermals)... more like flying abroad.
4/5/2018 Parlick SW bowl
The morning began with a soarable breeze on the hill, but the cloudbase had still to lift and break to the forecasted sunny afternoon. A Cat's Cradle task was set by Gareth which proved challenging enough for the non xc conditions, in fact too testing to complete. Most people made it most of the way round until TP5, well out front of the hill, which only a death glide could tag. A few did that and bagged the extra three points. Barely worth the walk out on a low scoring task.
The sun was now shining, the temperature rising and the scene was set for a brilliant three days to come.
5/5/2018 Parlick - south side of the SW bowl
We began the day with the biggest walk in I've ever done on Parlick ... first up - then across to a take off at the edge of where the bowl turns towards south. Again, we had a nice soarable breeze, but the sea breeze was evident out to the west - and not that far away.
Goal was set at the 26k mark near Austwick. Conditions looked quite tough, with a low base and weak thermals ... the inversion wasn't much over 3000' but grovelling along seemed possible. Given the high moors had to be crossed, most deemed it easier to edge around the east faces before makng the final dash over the moors and into goal. A few made it. When I set off I was little more than 700' ato, on my own and not that optimistic. Somehow I hung in, just working very weak stuff and gaining very little beyond my leaving height. At Slaidburn I finally managed to get my first proper thermal to the magnificent height of 1700 ato. It felt high as I reached base and surveyed the inversion ... but in reality was not a time to relax. Another climb - maybe two was required to get back up over the moors. It wasn't to be and caught low the wrong side of Stocks Reservoir and a forest I thought it wiser not to follow a weak, broken climb into at least hot, walk out territory and landed by a minor road near Stocks Res.
Despite the backroad I was on I managed a lift in the first vehicle to pass and straight back to the Sun Inn, Chipping. Now ... that was a result. At first I was quite pleased with my bimble in very little .... but someone always seems to make goal. And they did ... but not many.
Later we enjoyed an outdoor barbecue once Gary Stenhouse had lit the fire and survived cutting his finger.
6/5/2018 Parlick (off south face)
A hot walk up, but at least only onto the south face - not a very big face so it could have got crowded.
Goal was set near Sedbergh ... about 46k. This could be quite awkward given the likely sea breeze into the Lune valley at about the time we were likely to be approaching it. Later it proved the nemisis for many of us.
Quite early on the convergence across the moors started to become apparent and most of us were eager to be away and went straight off and into a climb. The first gaggle was away very soon after the window opened and my small group about 10 minutes later. Midway often proves tricky, crossing the broad Blaze Moss from Sykes Fell to Tarnbrook Fell. The upper edge of Tarnbrook works well but arrivng low is the norm ... and I arrived very low! I'd rather delayed, undecided by two options - my least favoured had some gliders slowly climbing, whilst to the better east end was further and I was short on height. I chose the long option and arrived way too low. Still, despite looking down on ground that was now awfully close it did at least now rise towards the main edge above. Fortunately, it favoured the brave and a strong, rough in parts climb soon had me above the top and as the climb consolidated it was cloudbase bound. It must have been the biggest thermal around as it hoovered in a all manner of immigrant pilots until we had a small gaggle to help as we set off in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale - what could possibly go wrong?
Once we left the hills the cloudstreet ended, but if only we could stay high. The sea breeze was likely in at low levels. We had also got split up as some stayed to reach base and I was already high and ahead .... and hopeful at this stage. My preferred route was onto the high ground east of the Lune Valley; so Barbon Low Fell and then Barkin. Two gliders very slowly climbing near Kirkby Lonsdale became a distraction - then an obsession. So I aimed for them and the only cloud left in the sky - and not a big one. Again ... I was just too late and left fighting the remnants to gain a meagre few hundred feet. And that was it. Low in the sea air it was going to take a miracle. I meandered up the valley until near Barbon and a landing in my favourite field ...next to a golf driving range. It does carry the risk of collateral damage from hooked shots.
Later, a few sailed high overhead to make goal so I was a bit disappointed with the last part of the flight. Still ... a good task though that had you thinking. Tea and cakes in the Churchmouse, a lift with a lovely young, blond, lady pig breeder as we converged on my house and some sorting of a mini bus and taxi and we were all painlessly back at base.
7/5/2018 Parlick (again, same south face again)
Each day seems to be getting hotter!
Another sweaty walk up onto the south face of Parlick. It seems like a carbon copy of the previous day - except the sky looks quite different. The air is very dry and apart from the high streaks of cirrus there isn't a cu to be spotted. It looks a toughie - both to task and then to fly. We sit and chew the possiblilities and wait for Gareth to do the hard bit of finding a suitable task to fit the day. Eventually it's settled, a re run of task 2 to near Austwick.
It looks hard as we sit on a rather gusty hill with the wind increasing going more to SW. Within minutes of the task opening the first hint of a climb shows and we pile off ... this could get very silly or very lucky. I get off with the first few gliders and straight into a climb that Paul Winterbottom and I pull out of the pack. This climb has some steam and we take it for over 2300' above take off .... Oh to be away now. A quick time check and we have six minutes to window open, then five, then four .... I fly back forward towards a low climbing gaggle and maintain most of my height. two minutes, one ... seconds. I'm away on the button.
Rather to be safe than sorry I await the first gaggle and then tag along. It's like a re run of the previous task 2 for me ..... but with more height and a bigger comfort zone. We bimble along the edge of the moors and occasionally drop back into the valleys and higher sections of moor. The climbs keep coming - sometimes pleasant sometimes with a few kicks. Then a long, sinky glide follows towards Catlow Fell .... ahead a glider seems down. At least it has a tarred road at the foot of the slope. I'm not high on the approach to Catlow ridge (ridge?), but two others are lower. The low triple 7 Queen (Sean) hooks a decent looking core and we all pile in - me, Chris Blanchard and Chinny - ahead and higher in pole position, Carl breaks for goal.
The four of us take the climb high and set off for goal with Sean well ahead, Chinny and I neck and neck with Chris just behind. The numbers all say we'll make it comfortably but I have a declared in my Flymaster to Bishop Auckland and want to hit the Dales limestone scars with height enough to work them. Chinny full bars, I half bar and fall back. We hit goal with Sean first, Chinny second the myself with Chris close behind. Poor Carl is unlucky and having gone just too soon lands short by about a 1k ... it was a brave move that didn't quite pay off.
I still have 700' to use so head for a scrub patch, find a weak climb and take it back towards Wharf. This is a really nice climb, steady and smooth - best (or at least nicest) of the flight and I'm now climbing into the Dales - this should be good. Not a cloud to head for and now no other pilots so I aim for a huge quarry near Horton. Nothing! OK ... still enough height it'll happen. I cross towards the lower slopes of PyG .... nope nothing!! Funny lower breeze here too ... like it's flowing from the NW down the valley. I bimble up the east side of the valley picking up small blobs of lift that won't give me a full turn. Nothing upwind ... surges downwind .... so press on. Then .... three turns, maybe ... please get me out of here and I'm over the hill to Hawes and who knows. Nope ... gone again and getting lower. I land near Selside and scare the life out of a duck with four young.
Oh well ..... could have been a bit (more) special. Later I get whisked to the big group at goal (Gamecock at Austwick) and we have pints and lots of chips before the minibus arrives.
What a brilliant four days. What on earth does it take to persuade British pilots to give the BPC a go? Considering I made quite a few mistakes, very happy to finish the round in 3rd place and really looking forward to Macedonia in a month. Thanks to Gareth for his great task setting and Viv for doing all the shitty jobs and organising us all.
A few still I pulled from my video. LINK
North/South Cup - SE Wales 12th and 13th May
Ben and I travelled down on the Friday afternoon to find a growing band of eager pilots, most familiar faces and all bouyed by the excellent forecast .... at least at this early stage, for Saturday. Sunday looked more iffy.
Saturday: After a hard night on the ground - camping, a bit of breakfast and we started out for Talybont. Magic Mountain was the cleared site, but a last minute switch was made. It didn't look that inspiring with initially low cloud then lots of high cloud and weak sun - the cumulus hovered some distance away to the south. We were warned it was a bit of an hike ... it was all of that, and took an hour with a long steep pull at the end. I never thought hills could be this big in south Wales.
It didn't look much better on top for a few hours as the sun and cumulus struggled to find a way to us. A few tried - many slope landed and some went even further out and down to endure a second walk up the steep front. The take off was one of the most awkward I've experienced ... essentially we were on a broad, flat spur separately two enormous bowls and the wind, usually light kept switching in all directions. At last, gone 1pm the first gaggle got away. An initial huge FAI had been set around 125k, but then reduced to 85k. Ben and I thought with time passing we'd be really happy with 65k and set ours to that. To improve our chances it cut the corners of the big task to allow shortcuts to the leading lights. Sneaky or what?
Later than planned I got off .... Ben about an hour later so we were not together. I got a quick and decent climb out with lots of others and set off west along impressive and completely unknown territory. In the main we followed what seemed a long ridge line with steep bowls to either side. The good thing was there was plenty of company and hence lots of thermal markers so it was fairly simple. At 23k out I had to turn NW for our first turnpoint - rather strange as most carried on down the diminishing ridge. But .... hitting the line of the 'big' triangle meant I bumped into company again for a short spell until they peeled off and I carried on for my next turnpoint. Once tagged it was evident the final leg was going to get tough.
South towards Brecon, the sky was clouded over and the thermals weak and difficult to located on my own. Over Brecon, as I watched others land I managed a weak, but decent climb to 4200'. In retrospect I wished I'd hung around there and worked it a little longer. But ... with the confidence of some height I carried on south. The north side of the Brecons seemed quite close and I thought, just maybe the light east breeze might waft me up the huge bowls - if only I could reach them. For a spell I headed in that direction but even the foothills were out of glide reach and not a bleep sparked hope. I changed tack and headed down the valley. Later a small lead gaggle on the main task managed to find a climb and squeak over those hills proving it was possible. So ..... a smidgen over a 65k triangle became a 60k tp flight.
Still - an excellent days flying that didn't quite pull the points.
PHOTO (top): Heading along the Brecon ridge
PHOTO (below): Final glide under a leaden sky with the ridge in the distance right.
Photo: Heading south from Hay Bluff
13/5/2018 Hay Bluff
I wish I'd had some breakfast! We arrived at Hay Bluff with things looking perfect and goal set for Swindon - with the option to carry on ... and a number did.
Not a bad carry up and for my first time here I was impressed with the site. Ben and I were soon in the air and despite odd switch-off periods were at base and away within about 30 minutes. At this stage base wasn't that high, about 4200' and the big gaggles meant cloud flying wasn't recommended. I think Ben got a lead gaggle - mine was a rather disjoiunted affair of random pilots a short while later. All went reasonably for a while - the climbs were weaker than the clouds suggested and increasing spreadout was appearing. On the odd occasion I got low but managed to get back up again then the D area appeared on my screen ... bang on route.
It took a while to edge around the airspace, the lift was weak and spasmodic with a tendency to drift into the D area. The puzzling thing was there seemed to be gliders in there thermalling and I wondered if I'd missed something in a briefing. Rather than take the chance I just stayed out.
Further downwind it became quite difficulut to find the climbs, a group would have helped but aside from the odd glider it seemed strangely quiet considering the numbers there had been. I took one weak climb and was joined by an M6 and a red Sigma10. From that point on we all minced, feeding on scraps and not going very far in the light drift. Losing patience as well as height I headed for fire smoke. That didn't work and now with landing looming it was going to take something a bit special. I played around low over the landing option but with a major powerline and cropped field downwind it became more an upwind search. It didn't work and I landed with the M6 pilot. Downwind the S10 pilot seemed to find something and climb slowly away.
An amazingly easy ride back to the station at Abergavenny, then a drive out to the M5 and a wizz down that for two junctions to collect Ben who had done a lot better.
A bit disappointed with the day where I think the power of the gaggle made things a lot easier.