6/4/2019 Great Coum
Five of us went to Great Coum.
The reasoning was the forecast showed lots of cloudcover encroaching from the east and extending to the mid part of the Dales (later photo's suggested it didn't come in as far as predicted). Great Coum is a bit of a flog up, but we made it .... it's a big steep bowl, flexiible re wind direction and it looked the best place in light wind. It was light! It was the possibility of cloud cover that put us off Cow Close - pity in retrospect.
Still .... we were slap-bang in the middle of a 5 Rasp area and with an increasingly good sky and a 5000' base. As sort of predicted it started to weakly cycle at about 1300hrs. It looked like getting off at the right time and getting a climb was the only chance - soaring was either scratching or going down as some proved. Chris doesn't hang about and gave it a good shot, eventually getting into a weak climb - I followed but missed it and ended up way below the top and preparing for a landing. Lady Luck turned up at the right time and got me back level with the top so I drifted towards where Chris was climbing about 800' above. This time the climb was there and was pretty strong and soon we were both up at about 4500' and deciding on a triangle.
My problem was a knot in the left brake cascade - it didn't really effect the wing but the left hand was up against the stops whilst the right was always lower - just felt a bit odd. We headed for a cloud behind Whernside that didn't want to work - at this point I left Chris (who was without a vario!) and headed back to land and sort the knot. I was convinced the day had kicked in and taking off, getting a climb out and away would be easy enough. It wasn't! The rest of the day was spent scratching the hill below a decent looking sky that didn't want us to get up and join it.
A bit disappointing really so we finally went to the Marton Arms for a few beers whilst a glider soared happily above us on Tow Scar (SW).
11/4/2019 Cautley Spout (Above: Joseph Edmunds shortly after take off).
Best looking day for a while - although not as good as Rasp said it would be.
I arrived late on the hill having had a morning appointment in Barrow. There were about a dozen gliders laid out - but no-one flying. As I walked up Chris Kay gave it a go and it seemed OK. By the time I got near the top of the first step and had decided to layout, Chris came and landed near me. Not so good he said - broken thermals and rough with it; I guess the reason others were holding off. Still ... the sky looked OK, it seemed to be cycling through and Cautley always takes a while to sort itself out.
I had about four flights, not going that high and as Chris said it was horrible broken stuff with plenty of holes to drop into .... rather odd, weird and unpleasant air (rather than rough).
By 4pm I'd pretty much decided to call it a day and the next time I scratched below take off I'd made my mind up to go down and land. Way below take off and setting up for a landing off to the side of the hill I got a few weak blips and just turned out of instinct - but the weak stuff still lingered until I was now level again with take off. From this point on it strengthened into a fully fledged thermal with some strength. 10 minutes later I was climbing towards 4000' and left wondering what exactly to do given the zero drift. First moves were towards Wild Boar, then back again heading into the Howgills - finally it became downwind for Kirkby Stephen. Although I tried the best clouds they never worked that well and certainly never had the strength of the climb out. Eventually I landed just south of KS to be greeted by a couple of excited small kids, but their initial excitement soon waned and they shot off into a nearby farm at the distant call of 'teatime'.
A quick lift back to the car, greased by the promise of money to a passing stranger. Rather a disappointing day given the early promise - now back to a week of wind.
20/4/2019 Stags Fell
Photo: The best things come (eventually) to those who sit and wait.
A dozen very capable pilots sat, sunbathed and chatted, laid out on the east end of Stags - waiting with occasional sacrifices to show it wasn't working. Then, from a hot, blue day some signs of life as Gary Stenhouse showed you could maintain ... even start to climb. Game on.
I joined Gary, though no one else seemed that keen. Ten minutes later were were going through 3000' and the flurry of activity below was evident. Quite a few piled off, some went down and some got very low before finding a climb and becoming the nucleus of the gaggle I would later join up with. As our climb fizzled , Gary, with his own plan, headed off east - I decided that on such days the power of the gaggle was important and headed back forward to join them.
For the next 18k north it was good climbs, occasionally strong and a tadge rough. Once near the Tan Hill it was a question of what do we do? I'd not tagged the start of my own triangle and I thought all the others were heading north - so at that point I turned back SE towards Reeth fairly confident of making it back over the moors and into Wensleydale. At the Tan Hill I'd registered a 8mph WSW and thought the run SE would be fairly fast and given my height (over 5000') then it should be fairly simple. It proved not to be the case, and something that would catch everyone out.
Approaching Fremington, the headwind became very noticeable, the sink alarming ... and the lower I got the worse it got. I tried Fremington, but the wind was across it and the air rough ... so I bailed out before reaching Reeth. Once grounded the radio chatter of the gaggle now coming the same way for their own triangle suggested they too were struggling. Jake made it a little further than me, Ziggy scratched along the south faces of Swaledale but couldn't get over the Buttertubs, and John 'magic' Ellison scratched all the way back to the start with a great effort.
A day of mixed fortunes and quite a few lessons.
21/4/2019 Moughton Scar
The day before, Jake Herbert and I had shared a bus ride from a remote, but beautiful Dales village; lounged by a hot roadside awaiting a lift, bemusing over how 6000' and all going so well gets reduced to this so abruptly. We reckoned that maybe tomorrow would be the same hot, blue, but probably blown out. This was the time to put money on Jake… I could have made a fortune. Just 24hrs later he had flown over 160k up the spine of England, crossed the dreaded Cheviots, rounded Newcastle airspace and made it part way up the east coast to the North Sea. My effort was a far less ambitious affair - in deference to my age I now only fly to bus stops, train stations and waiting lifts.
Sunday split between the optimists - 'it looks doable'; the pessimists - 'blown out' and those in the middle who took their lead from the last person they spoke to. As I spoke to Chris Kay last, he was of the, give it a go clan… Although I admit to taking the first walk up the 'new' hill minus a sack. Such was the strength of my optimism - what the hell. Nice day for a walk and I 'won' a classy dog lead.
Chris knows and has flown every obscure bump and hump known to man - but not the paragliding species. So… He took me to ------- --- probably one of the best sites for this direction in the UK for reasons I won't go into. A real, smack you in the face, gem, and only 10 minutes drive from home - you tend to miss what's under your nose. Rushing down for my wing the Cavmeister rang and was persauded too - he's still recovering from a long bike ride last year and tree planting, but seemed keen to rediscover his Zeno touch.
Like the previous day the thermals kicked at 1pm, this Easter you could set your watch by them. Chris, Cav and I climbed away together until it broke up at 3500'… Not high for these parts and enough to leave you anxious. Cav them hared off as usual, no radio, no plan we knew of beyond Edinburgh someplace. So… That left Chris and I, each thinking the other knew best. By Ribblehead I was VERY low and reading numberplates, Chris meanwhile was circling high overhead - what an absolute… STAR. Then I discovered God. I eeked my way out of hell and slowly rose onto the moors, first below, then level, until finally we were reunited high above. I will not take liberties again Lord… Now we stick together ya bugger!
Then - a most odd sight. Close terrain hugging was Cav, his shadow skirting along way BELOW our usual take offs on Dodd and Brant. At one point he crossed the Settle to Carlisle railway just high enough to allow a train to pass. Then on he drifted into the wild and afforested area between Dentdale and Garsdale. It seemed fortunate some trees had been cut to allow him progress through the col. I was now heading for the lower slopes of Baugh Fell and a bit desperate too - Cav was a lot lower. Well, if he can get up from there, and he usually does… I have a chance. Again, I clawed my way up the slopes on a weak thermal until over the tops and heading for the back of Swarth. Renunited again with Chris we conveniently stumbled into the best climb of the day… At approaching 5500' the temp felt so wonderfully comfortable - rare you can say that in our neck of the woods. Unphased as ever Cav settled for a pint at the Moorcock.
High over Wild Boar I threw a spanner, actually several, in the works. Chris said - Where to next? Now, the - sensible option was east - back onto the main Pennines moors. Unfortunately I'd plugged in a goal due north at Brough - wrong place and nowhere near enough for the day. The second error was it was bang up against Warcop D area. BUT… The real biggie cockup was not checking Warcop for transit… It's open about 30 days of the year and Easter Day just had to be one - Yeh? I always want my cake and… So opted to clip the goal then head east and not take the chance. I admit to bucket loads of optimism at 5000'. Getting onto the very end of the Cross fell range was easy and would have given a fairly straightforward semi ridge run for the next 40k - I know it pretty well, the wind was spot on and it's been a long held dream - the full ridge. It'll have to wait.
So… We clipped the goal and headed back NE up rising ground and in gently rising air that didn't seem to want to actually lift off. A long limestone crag line had to… But it didn't and I'm told old to be marching back across huge moors. So we landed. Happy enough until the 'what if's' started. Five minutes walk and a car picked us both up, lovely couple who just happened to live very close to me and took us both back to my house. I think my wife thought it a bit weird my being back before the usual 9 or 10pm, or the usual pleading cry for a lift.
Time for a pint (Gamecock Viv… ) where we chanced to meet up with both Whittall brothers, Robbie and Matt, plus Deano and Rob Lund. Made my day… Several layers of icing and a darned fun adventure for guy with a bus pass.
Photo: Goal 12k ahead from 5000'
A word about Moughton Scar - on the quiet!
For the 12 years I've lived in Ingleton I've looked at the south escarpment along the southern edge of this part of the Dales. It extends with various valley cut in's and shallow bits for 12k - some parts are impressive and from a flying point of view they tick a lot of the boxes for a top site. So why ignore it for so long? Well a few locals didn't, but for most of us crowd suck and the usual sites always took precedence.
Moughton is the best of the crop simply because of its size and length and it's ability to handle a wide range of wind directions from SE to SW. Each time I've crossed into the Dales heading north it has worked ... it's a really good thermal trigger. The walk up is about 15 minutes and one of the more enjoyable (you'll know why if you ever do it). The take off is large, very clean and dry. Lots of top landing but beware of rotor if breezy ... approach with caution.
Quite simply it has the beating of Stags on a good day being better placed for xc. The only thing I'd say is that the area around Ribblehead is waiting to pull you down ... get past there by a few k's and you're away. I also think it's less likely to blow out than Stags.
Don't fly there without checking! Chris Kay is the best contact.
Photo: Fells End - unfortunately my camera locked up so no inflight pics.
28/4/2019 Fells End
Still in experimenting with new sites mode, we (Chris Kay, Kev Mc and I) decided to try the short, but high north facing ridge at the end of Mallerstang. I'd seen it some years ago and always wondered if it would give us what the Dales lacks, a decent, well positioned northerly option.
A pleasant 25 minute walk up from the usual Tailbridge carpark and we arrived on a lovely grassy take off. It's not a long ridge but it's quite high and for xc a good option given the ground out front and the high ground behind with no drop off. Expecting little wind we were pleasantly surprised to find a decent, just soarable breeze bang on the hill.
After a few short flights the thermal cycles strengthened and Chris and I climbed out together. The base seemed no more than 4000' which felt rather low over these 2000' moors for the next 8k. Staying high and finding good lift we followed a cloud line south, occasionally allowing ourselves into cloud to get the extra few hundred feet. Despite getting as high as base would allow the drift was very slow and it always seemed we were looking for the next climb just a few k after the last.
At the back of Widdale Chris seemed low (but did get back up) ... meanwhile I got another good climb and could see gliders laid on out Grove Head .... waiting. It may have tempted me to head that way, which wasn't the best decision in retrospect ... still, as I came out of cloud and sank rather alarmingly into the head of the Dodd valley, it didn't seem so easy. I stumbled into a weak climb and gained slowly - one of those get out of jail moments ... then the door slammed shut! I'd lost it, Iwas struggling and not so high. The sky had gone from almost overcast to blue .... everywhere. A lone cloud tempted me back over high ground and with some catious confidence I ploughed on regardless for it - knowing I would contact anything very low.
It didn't happen and I was loathe to dive over the back into a rather remote valley (although later others found good climbs here). So endlest a modest 20k flight hat could have been so much better. Only consolation was that the sky rapidly went from good to washed out. Chris madea about the same distance and point too.
Many thanks to Kev for picking us up so quickly ... a very noble thing to do as he'd not had a good day and missed the climb out.
Photo: Dave Smart (Meru) takes off before flying 80k
29th April Semer Water
A difficult day that grounded lots of good pilots after their first few thermals.
Semer was busy with about 20 pilots all chomping at the bit, but frustrated by the conditions. Semer was unfortunately its usual self ... breezy, wind off to the east and overhead a lowish base. Unsurprisingly many weren't keen and it took until about 1.30pm for the wind to ease a little and straighten. Within 20 minutes most were off and many circling over the back. First messages weren't encouraging with reports of big sink and quite a few down around Hawes.
I climbed out after the first gaggle and met up with Westie at near base, as we entered cloud I suggested we head downwind. Not quite as simple as usual. I normally set a heading and stick on that but as I steadily climbed in a white out I appeared to be making gentle left hand turns. The white room lasted for a good 8 -10 mins, where I couldn't shake off the turn until a glimpse of ground showed me not over Hawes ... but still directly over take off. I was also quite alone with the gaggle ahead nearing Widdale. So off I tootled. The Stags area seemed a sinky place so cautious edging from cloud to cloud had me catch up the gaggle which was struggling.
Nearing the Moorcock there appeared a spread of wings scrabbling for a climb with many getting quite low ... although not high myself at least the markers were nicely spread about below. Heading into Grisedale and East Baugh Fell some were forced to land until a small few of us were left. For some this was journey's end and a long walk out ... brave or desperate, either way it took balls to commit at such low altitude. Jake Herbert and I made a run over the back when it seemed unlikely we'd find much - but, a boomer of a lee sider, best of the day took us quickly to base.
Ahead lay the Howgills, familiar, yet obstructive. Oddly, the drift wasn't that great, but over the middle of the Howgills was a big fat cloud. Seemed the obvious route and once past the Howgills the terrain and sky looked a 100% better. However, nothing worked and we sank ever lower right into the cranulated centre of the big hills and narrow valleys. Jake was a good 500' lower and I watched with interest to see what shape his wing might make. But - everything seemed OK so we headed down deeper into the hills. Jake scratched a weird little hillside, I went for the next and then decided to continue and cut out some walking. It was all quite smooth and I landed in a valley bottom in nil wind. Ahead the sky looked the best I'd seen all day ... just never quite made it there, about a thermal short.
Lovely walked out .... a stream, super small stone bridges and shady trees. No one ever tells you about such places, but paraglding seems to search them out. Got Mike's car to Oxenholme later (he made about 100k - back in the groove) and we had a nice pint at the Crookland Arms. Highly recommended.
30/4/2019 Moughton Scar
I have developed a serious case of retrieve-phobia and it's really impacting my decisions. 30k in and having done lots of hard work, I reckoned I had the day and the convergence line sussed and could've gone a fair distance. The climbs got strong, the sky ahead OK and marked a strong convergence, whilst behind and to the west was black and horrible. High over Askrigg and faced with boonie retrieve territory for me, I just headed down Wensleydale and into a light easterly. Retrieve fears are seriously spoiling flights as I find I can no longer face the trauma of getting back ... as I usually do lone flights it's a solitary task.
I arrived at Moughton late due to an appointment and expected the others to be long gone. However, they were all sat there (except Chris K doing his usual scraping around). It was light, quite overcast and dark out front ... it didn't look good at all. After a short sampling flight and top landing whilst the rest went down or slope landed, I took off with a quarry buzzard that located a weak climb - so weak the buzzard left it! I climbed slowly, losing it, finding it and then it got a bit better. I've learned you need to max the climb-out here as the next stretch it often long and a bit sinky. As on the previous occasions the moors just north of Ribblehead (south of Dodd) started again very, very slowly but got me reasonably high over Dodd. Way in the distance a few gliders were visible on Stags ... with such a slow drift it would need another thermal. By the time I got to the Hawes/Ingleton road I was low and hunting down a desperately useless half thermal. Near Hawes .. I was very, very low whilst overhead on Stags they must have pitied the guy down amongst the traffic. I circled Hawes for ages gaining very slowly until it got a lot better and I was up. Near Bainbridge ... the convergence looked at its best and whilst the wings on Stags said westish, the smoke signals down the valley indicated south to SE. Heading out into the middle of the valley and hitting the first obvious convergence cloud was a boomer moment, lots of lift and quite extensive I went to about 4600' but in retrospect could have gone a fair bit higher.
(Wensleydale can be jet alley on a busy day ... today was one of those days, lots of fast and sometimes big and slow stuff. It was also a day of poor viz that low down made it a stressful place to be).
I looked at the moors, tempted to head north, the sensible way, but fearful of landing in some God-forsaken remote backwater (sorry Swaledale) - so I do what I always do - compromised. I decided to skirt the corner over the moors towards Richmond (bus route until 5.25pm) and then all being well - Bishop Auckland (train station). I do not like going due north into Cajun country! The net result was into the east wind, predictable sink and the inevitable landing.
I would pay £40/day for a following retrieve - assuming I also had my radio (forgot it yesterday or I may have heard the action ahead) and been more tempted.
Photo link. (Not that good as very poor viz)