3/7/2019 Dodd Fell
A good J36 team, a great sky, a sorted plan .... so what could go wrong? Nothing ... except within the first climb to base we became headless chickens and hared off in every direction. It was that sort of day.
We gathered on Dodd Fell, no wind to speak of, but a tempting sky and it had the makings of one of those 'great' Dales days. As we geared and briefed, a lone Zeno forged upwind (?) at decent height and obviously on a mission. It looked good ... if, we could just find that first climb. We sent off our star man and he sank out to near the bottom. Oh Dear! This is gonna be difficult - maybe. Next Ben tried his luck and managed to work a weak climb to sit 800' over us. It didn't do it for me though so I sneaked in on top and waited. A few others sacrifices that slope landed and then ... Dodd does what it unfailing does, and provided the climb out with everyone in it ... a few of our early sacrifices latching on late.
All together and high, some comms difficulties and the triangle plan lasted about 10 minutes. From that point on eight pilots had eight different plans on the go - although in many cases 'plan' would be flattering the thought processes. I fell into that category. Mike nearly fell to earth (and we actually gave him up as out of the game, along with his radio), in Coverdale. Geoff set off back to take off (school pick-up) and Ben went for the kicking of his life near Pateley Bridge. So .. we wandered from cloud to cloud, up and down dale - enjoying the flying without really going anywhere.
John H and I ended up together heading over the final moors towards Masham. Then John got low and stuck, but got a save and climbed back up. Interestingly, the sea breeze was evident, already touching the slopes of the eastern moors of the Dales - John's save saw his thermal drift heading back west. I got very low too - again the SB enabled a climb back west and some safety. I almost set off back south - a better mover (and the one Mike wisely exploited for his big traingle - Dales record). But not recognising a wise move I instead headed into the bits of convergence in the middle of lower Wensleydale then set off east into the VoY with John tagging along just below. Not a great move consider the SB - quite silly actually.
On the edge of the Leeming MATZ a weak climb gave a small boost and as a fast jet zoomed around us we set off back west, trying desperately to get back into better air. The ground speed showed we had a decent tailwind that increased as we got lower. Not as easy as usual to find a landing field with many still in cereal crop, but on que a nice pasture turned up and I landed in a light easterly. It was starting to bubble again - maybe a few more k's towards Leyburn. What if's. Why east?
A rather weird and wandering 3 hrs, but quality flying that only Mike really exploited by discarding his northern triangle for a southern one ... once he'd scraped his slippery way out of Bishopdale. South was definitely the way to go, never get fixated by a plan when the evidence suggests there's a better way. A day of many lessons.
Usual pub de-brief at the Mason's where all agreed it had been a bit special. Big thanks to Baz for doing the leg work on retrieve ... a star!
6/7/2019 Dodd Fell
A few days before we'd had a great day on Dodd, but although in many ways a different sort of day, this was equally good.
After a bad night (ill), little sleep and feeling tired I was reluctant to go out - although the forecast was very good. Ben and Mike called with Barton Fell in mind, it would have been my choice too, but trying to feel a bit better I gave it another hour or so to decide and went instead to Dodd. Although the wind was really on Grove Head (not my favourite place) the Dales rasp showed a very marked convergence, probably no more than 4k wide and aligned N/S .... so a bit awkward.
Take off was fairly busy, with many reluctant to take off given the light conditions and all the north in the wind. Eventually, I judged that enough sacrifices had been made and it was starting to work so off I went. It wasn't long before the good climbs came through and we started getting high - just not enough. The sky downwind looked OK - base not that great at this stage and the hoped for convergence was still in the making. For an hour lots of us generally played within 3k of launch - with the occasional glider pealing off downwind. Helen tried it, but after 4k shot back to launch. Still not the opportune time then.
Finally base rose and Pete Balmforth and I started on our way. Of course, we then went in rather different directions - I had a goal at Garforth plugged in. Radio chatter was surprisingly light. Thinking it best to stay as far east as possible I watched as a distant Peter climbed high near Pen y Ghent - the idea of getting too close to the SB looked risky. (I later spotted him on the low moors behind Kilnsey so I guess either way worked). He got back up again and went east - it could have worked but I guess the north easterly SB was making itself felt in that direction - a narrow corridor we've met a few times this year.
Sticking to the long, high ridges seemed to work quite well and eventually, near Kettlewell the convergence - after getting low over a high moor, made itself felt - it was very obvious, and looked strong. In fact to the SW was the SB front, quite mellow amd ragged whilst to the east the main convergence - a sort of double line of lift. At this point, having just emerged from cloud, I spotted a lone Zeno (Alex or Jake?) disappearing rapidly into the dark bottom of the main street. Five minutes later the same Zeno reappeared spiralling out of cloud. Ummm ... it looked almost too strong that way!
I carried on, rather undecided - my plan to get to the east of the airspace looked awkward and Skipton was also a bit of a blocker as it drops to 3000'asl - it was also totally in the SW sea breeze. In retrospect, I should simply have turned back (as Alex and Jake corectly did) - but tempted by a landing by a bus stop and a simple ride back to Ingleton - I pressed (slowly on into a headwind. I did get a decent climb near Rylstone that I should have followed back - I think it was my last saviour and I gave it up. Just outside Skipton I touched down - at this point I thought, 'Why did you do that?' I can only put it down to age and the urge to pee (that night I was up every hour weeing! But you don't want to know that) and to avoid awkward retrieves at all costs.
As it happened, the buses were infrequent, but I soon got a lift right to my door by a really nice guy in a giant Sprinter. That helped round off a good day that had started rather negatively. Not a long flight - but spectacular flying.
Well Done to Ben for flying 103k and landing just up the road from me.
VIDEO LINK (just the cloud flying bits)
STILLS (from the video)
8/7/2019 Semer Water
Nothing to get excited about. Dave Southern, John H and myself ended up on Semer. It seemed OK as we walked up, but at the first shoulder felt a bit light so we staggered on to the top launch. (Meanwhile, on PyG Chris Kay was finding it a lot better, decent breeze and climbing out).
Clouds seemed OK, but total high cloud was blocking off the sun - all appeared pretty flat and uninspiring. Almost nil wind. Proved it wasn't working by taking a ride to the bottom - then walking back. A little more wind - short couple of beats and back in on top. Tried again - nope! Went down and landed on the shoulder. Packed with DS and as we shouldered the bags, the wind increased enough to make the lower shoulder a possible goer. Just to spite it we buggered off for a pint in Hawes with Chris Kay (who had xc'd to Wild Boar from PyG).
Went home taking Chris back to get replacement car keys for the one's he had lost on PyG. As I write I believe he may still be scouring the slopes of PyG for the lost set and whistling a lot.
12/7/2019 Dodd Fell
It was well past 1pm as I drove over to Dodd under a great sky wondering why everyone seemed to have written Friday off (except Chris Kay). That included me ... I can't say I'd even looked at a forecast in any detail. I arrived to find just two gliders, both very high. The wind seemed fine at the cars and walking to take off it actually at times veered to the light side on occasions. Compared to the previous two visits, this was an easy take off and climb out in abundant lift and with some great thermals about. About as good as it gets on Dodd.
I'd plugged in the GRID challenge wihtout thinking if an xc was on the cards. As it turned out the GRID was the perfect task and given the 2000'+ height gains it would have been a fairly straightforward day to complete it. I began by chasing down the first four turnpoint cylinders and then found myself at base (4000') and setting off downwind - the GRID abandoned. Note to self - try sticking to a plan instead of going off-script.
The second climb soon appeared under a newly forming cloud and four or five 360's had me back over 4000'. I wanted to head towards Bucken Pike - but it was largely blue that way so I deviated and crossed the valley - it had a decent cloud midway (which didn't work) and some slopes I'd used previously (and successfully) .... this time they didn't!. Stuck on the wrong side of the valley, on slopes with the wind across them and rapidly losing what height, I had, I gambled on a re-cross back towards Buckden, pinning my hopes on a rather weak looking cloud.
I landed in a light breeze in a hot, mown field near Buckden village. Rather disappointing. I should have gone direct to Buckden Pike and ignored the deviation, but I was getting a NNW on my instruments (I'm increasingly suspicious of wind direction readings that come from a bout of thermalling - I think I'll stick to watching cloud shadow drifts). I should not have left the last good climb so quickly - it still had life and given the drift I should have just let it take me along. Too much of a rush .... maybe it was the late start.
In retrospect I actually wished I'd just done the GRID Challenge and saved a lot of hassle.
13/7/2019 Park Fell
I walked up Park Fell ... the easiest way to get up and flying Ingleborough (40 mins). The wind was fairly light, but on and the sky was breaking up nicely to give warm, sunny spells. By the time I'd laid out it was very light, then the sun also departed. A thirty minute wait and it began to blow from the west - usual thing here (sea breeze flowing up the valley). In fact it was fairly fresh at times - but OK.
I had several flights totally about an hour with some decent thermals at times despite the lack of much sun... it was quite bright however, so some solar heating going on. Eventually, with fair height I decided it was coffee time and set off for Ribblehead and to get a few photos of the viaduct.
14/7/2019 Park Fell
I'd walked up Park Fell the previous day to fly the NW face, but it did what it always seems to do ... wind up the valley. Still ... I got several flights totally about an hour and decided that was enough.
This time I was sat like Billy No Mates in more or less the same place, but on the NE face _ I like it even if no one else does. Meanwhile, over on Simon's - 3k to the south, they were flying ... lots of em. I did intend to head that way, but as they didn't seem to be doing a great deal I thought I'd stick with Park Fell, all to myself. It was interesting, from a met point of view .... just enough wind to occasionally soar, the odd weak thermal, a little sun out front - and then. Something started to feel different.
The wind fell fairly flat, for maybe 30 minutes nothing happened to even encourage a launch. Then ... lots of smaller birds appeared and started gathering and feeding off the main spur (a thermal - that's my theory). I took off in nothing - sank and headed for the spur ... still sinking, then headed out into the bird feeding area. I was actually getting low and thinking ... OK, that's about it. I found a weak bit of lift, turned ... and kept doing it gingerly back up to take off height. It got better ... small stronger cores - lose it, hunt, find it again and keep going. Eventually at 1100'ato I drifted back to Simon's. Phew ... you never know when you play a hunch.
Lots of gliders on the ground ... except one, Chris Kay (ace thermal marker). Together we followed one back a short distance then Chris set off upwind (zero wind) towards a sort of cloud. I watched, it worked, so I pimped off him - all credit to him for finding it. From this point on the convergence was obvious - stretching SE to NW ... a lovely sight. I guess that explained everything about conditions on the hill.
How to exploit it? The lift was fairly strong under it and the base dropped. I (sort of) wanted to go along the landward side - first to the SE, then decided maybe the NW was better - damn decisions! We crossed Chapel le Dale and then I lost him, I saw the FAI sector appear and though OK, why not. After clipping it (should have pushed deeper as it constrained the second sector) I set off for the second - it wasn't going to be big, but it seemed that the band of lift was relatively small. Gliders now appeared all over the place - many heading west. Kev found a climb in front of Whernside so I amused myself taking video as we climb again to 4200' and then pushed on for the final sector. I took it to the max point it would allow me and set off back with lots of height.
It was magic flying - rather unexpected and never that hard ... lots of lift and I guess I could have pushed it a lot further, but I was happy enough. I landed back at the car, chatted with the cows. (no retrieve - yippee!) and went for a burger and coffee. I like these easy days.
15/7/2019 Wether Fell
Not easy to get the site choice right - a very light w wind (although more like NW most of the day).
Six of us met up and opted for Wether. It seemed OK on arrival, but soon settled to light and we appeared to be sat in a shaded out area - OK to both sides, but nothing where we were.
Lots of short flights - never gaining much height and no hint of thermal. So it continued for several hours - until at about 3.30 more wind appeared and the odd thermal came through; but again no great height. Eventually, a solid climb did arrive and before I knew I'd made base at around 5000' (it says .... it felt more like 4000' ... but whatever). The drift was very slow. It looked like I may regret it if I didn't set off downwind, so in for a penny.
I slowly made my way towards Bucken Pike. Despite being very shaded out there were darker areas of cloud and those became the focus. A second climb came along, it felt OK but I carelesssly lost it someplace and carried on, now more towards Bishopdale. A cruise north along the edge, quite low and it all looked and felt very dead. A very low crossing towards Harland Hill and the lowest edge of Pen Hill. I guessed I was down in short order, but the edges and trees were quite bouyant so I simply floated on north, in, around and between the trees until forced out to land near the main Wensleydale road.
Met for beers with the others in Bainbridge.
23/7/2019 Stags Fell
Despite a forecast suggesting it could be too windy - and only likely to increase, I arrived on site to find it on the light side. There were plenty of wings laid out, a few groundhandling and most of the top Dales pilots. The sky looked far better than expected - maybe this was a day I'd under-estimated.
Initially, the SW face had the wind on and although a bit scratchy, Dave Smart proved it flyable - and even spent some time at a reasonable height. Soon - the wind fell very light and backed more to the SE, along with everyone else I then had the long, hot carry to the far more into wind slopes. Again, the wind was often light and still rather off to the east. We sat, waited and occasionally watched as a few tried their luck - some got back in on top and others went down. Jake went a long way down into the fields.
Around 1.30pm it got more soarable and the thermals a bit more organised. Within 20 mins I had my first climb out, but decided to return - into wind seemed quite easy and the wind still light even at height. A slower drift than I'd expected. A spell of soaring and along came the second climb and it seemed the one to go with. Chris Fountain was climbing out front under an extension of cloud so I pushed forward in lift, waited a few minutes and we joined up.
Whilst I took the extra few turns into the wispies Chris pushed on and found the second climb - I tagged along and we met up at base. Chris, ever eager was off again - I was more cautious. We now had a good drift so staying with the cloud seemed easier. Eventually I followed on, but with about 500' more height as we headed west for the Mallerstang valley. Being that bit higher gave me other options and it didn't look that good to continue west, so a quick 90 degree turn and I opted for the high moors towards the Swaledale road. Chris continued getting lower into the Mallerstang valley.
The clouds looked OK and despite losing height and getting rather low the next climb came along on cue and I was back to climbing again. This is where company would have helped - despite small strong cores it didn't map out easily and 1000' short of base I lost it. Seeing another cloud over towards Nine Standards I was confident enough to push on. Ground speed was now hitting over 70kph on trim so covering ground was easy. Interesting - wave was starting to explain a few things. The next cloud worked, but had similar characteristics to the previous - strong cores, then lose it. This one I worked a bit higher, maybe to about 700' off base. In retrospect it may have been better to have searched and worked, but ahead the sky suddenly seemed good - less big blue holes and a string on cu's leading into the Pennines. This day was now opening up opportunities I hadn't dreamt of as we sat on take off in the heat.
I picked a cloud - a bit of a glide to get there but It looked sound and beyond that who knows. I arrived as the cloud began to fall apart - but worse the great sky of 10 minutes before had become one huge blue east/west slot with only a few remnants of what had been in the distance. OK ... so wave is screwing things up.
That was about it, conscious of the wind strength I declined a tree covered ridge - a cloud above it may have tempted me, but it seemed safer to go for a nice big landing field. In fact the landing was very smooth and the wind not a problem. However, it was a bit remote - a single tarred road leading to a solitary house on the moors. This could be a long, hot walk!
Actually it turned out to be a very quick, easy trip back to Hawes.
I'd no sooner packed and was stood by the road when a car stopped and offered me a lift to KS station. A lovely couple with a car full of empty beer bottles (think hundreds) from a Christening party. 15 minutes wait for the train to Ribblehead and a quick pick up into the Green Dragon for a beer. I wish they were all that easy.
I didn't shoot much video after the first 12k as I was a bit preoccupied.
Given the poor weather over the past week I'm not sure where this day came from. During the afternoon it started to look really quite nice and by 4pm I'd decide to give it a look.
I drove over to Brantside, it's a fairly short drive and 15 minute level walk to take off - and the wind always seems to be on there. So it turned out ... only about 10 -12 mph, but it looked and felt good. I was soon in the air.
In total I had about 1hr 30 mins and all of it excellent flying. It was warm, a full on sun and the odd small cu's kept popping up. I didn't expect too much by way of thermal, but they kept coming through - nice smooth one's that allowed me to managed 1500'ato (3000' asl) and then pull forward for the next.
It was a superb evening, as good as Brantside gets and I had it all to myself.
Below: a train passes over the viaduct.