3/4/2019 Wolf Crag
BPCup - task 1 (cancelled)
Last year we had a Spring heatwave, by contrast this May brought us an arctic blast with northerly winds and high instability.
The choices were Tinto (long drive) or Wolf Crag in the Lakes - about half the drive length. With a 3hr drive and early start probably putting quite a few off we opted for Wolf.
We arrived on Wolf to find a very light wind, slightly off to the east but with signs of the sky breaking a few k's out front. It seemed best to use the slightly higher and more into wind take off above the crags. As people arrived so did a light, but soarable breeze and I opted to check out conditions. A brief flight confirmed decent climbs and nice smooth conditions, although base remained under 3500'.
The task was set to Staveley, 26k downwind and the race start began at 1.40pm with easily soarable conditions on the hill. Given the nature of the day I felt the need to be up and away fairly quickly. With this in mind I left the start cylinder shortly after it opened, with decent height and hoping for some cloud suck en route towards Helvellyn. At this point the wind still seem fairly light and the conditions quite smooth.
I didn't meet much lift on a long glide to Catstycam and arrived about half way up. Easy soaring allowed me to then glide into the higher bowl beneath Helvelynn. Still the conditions were fairly smooth and my appearance must have been entertaining for the huge party of walkers millng around the summit. A small snow shower gave me a brief peppering and the first rough jolts ruffled the wing. With little happening I then struck out for the east end of St Sunday Crag which has a small northery section and trying to get a line to avoid the worse of any possible rotor from Striding Edge. Not a lot happening or much height to be gained, so another transition to Dove Crag saw me looking into the Priest Hole, bivvy cave (which I recalled from new routing on there 40 years before - strange to be back here again in such close, intimate contact). Again .... nothing was really going up, but ahead lay the lower, yet more attractive north facing High Hartsop Dodd ... so I set off expecting a more appealing place to fly and the chance of a thermal to get me out of the worst of the hills.
I was now more conscious of the increase in wind speed and the turbulence. There seemed a lot more anger in the air and managing the wing was become more of an issue. I entered into the higher section of the long, craggy bowl to encounter a double problem .... I found I had almost zero forward speed! Thinking, as I sank more into the venturi, it may result in a horrible high wind landing I scanned for the softest and flatest area - that was an enforced plan B. Plan A was still to get forward. The turbulence got bad! I can hardly recall a previous occasion of keeping the wing open in such rough stuff for so long. Fortunately, the B2 is a solid and manageable wing - or proved to be. Using some bar calmed the wing a bit and enabled me to get forward into better air; then a lot more bar and I was out of the jaws.
I did consider carrying on over Kirkstone Pass, but given the wind it seemed a bit rash to head into the narrowing of the pass so opted to land at the Brotherswater campsite. A little later the sky opened up a little and looked more benign.
More about survival than flying.
Photo (below): The BPC wings, (just visible) beginning to layout on Wolf Crag
5/5/2019 Barton Fell
BPCup task 2 (cancelled)
I don't know who feeds the data into rasp nowadays, but they must have picked up on the grapevine that it's felt to be undergoing a mid-life crisis. Take a look at the picture above and tell me that's a 5 star sky.
A long, but dry and flattish walk in saw the BPC laying out on an unusually busy Barton in the North Lakes. It should have been blue skies and forming cu's, but what we got was a very light wind and a tantalsing patch of sunlight in the far distance. However ... in paragliding hope springs eternal.
Gareth set a nice, 51k race task to Hawes in the centre of the Dales. Not too ambitious for the promised day, but way too much for rasp to cope with. As the start opened at 12.20 it did at last become soarable in an on/off fashion - sometimes OK, sometimes putting pilots below the cliffs. For the next hour and a half I found it, in a word - frustrating. The thermals matched the day, weak and rather shortlived. A few gaggles made it to about 1200' ato before heading back for the hill ... the more optimistic - or desperate carried on in hope.
It seemed most joy was to be found off to the east end of the hill, so I ended up hunting there and, eventually, I climbed away with two other gliders. This was no great shakes of a thermal, but at least it kept going until cloud suck could play its part. The other two wings fell away and as always seems the case, I was on my lonesome. At just over 2000' ato I set off downwind. Passing over the end of Haweswater I spotted two gliders soaring a small, craggy ridge above Swindale (decent climbing, and where they filmed, 'Withnail and I' many years ago) - rather them than me, I've been acquainted with that ridge and the walk out before.
Resisting the temptation to head for civilisation I made for a small patch of sunlight some way ahead on the moors - I'd be low if I got there, but this was very much about throwing the dice and hoping. I found a weak climb and stuck with it like mum's apron strings. It kept me just high enough to go for the next move ... a shallow rounded hill in the midst of the hills. It started to work ... sort of. What I noticed was the strength of the wind - quite fresh, and very northerly. My plan A, evolved quickly into plan C .... something must be pulling the wind in. Over the back was a shallow valley, a bit of brightness and just maybe a lee side thermal of some size - How else the in-draft?
And it worked, Textbook. Wow!
Right on que the best thermal of the day - a real one, emerged. This took me to near base ... as the lift got rather strong and with 8/8 cloud I decided to pull out and explore for the edge downwind. Once found I turned back for climb and milked it a little further. Now I felt I was on my way .... just not towards goal. The wind was far from the forecast NW or even WNW ... this was a true northerly, even with a touch of east at times.
I floated along happily, passing over Borrowdale (did an Easter walk with my daughter and friends there a few weeks earlier - a lovely, overlooked valley). Leaving the hills always brings sink and ahead lay the village of Grayrigg, the most likely place to be down. I arrived over the village very low and reluctant to glide beyond it into small lanes and a set of windmills. But again something weak starting providing a sort of climb, I didn't take it too seriously at first but exploited it for all it was worth. It was very slowing winning ... my height rose - gradually, the drift seemed very slow, until I was over the windmills and approaching Killington services.
The sky ahead had a hint of convergence - the Bay convergence. It didn't look too pronounced, but just think .... if I could get into that and follow it east, this battle of a flight could turn into something special. I ploughed on ... I knew I'd arrive low, but the rewards were possible and I was confident ... perhaps overly so. It seemed to fade on approach and only a desultory blip was the outcome. A long final glide and I landed at Endmoor in a very light northerly. Still - 43k with TP's wasn't to be sniffed at given the day.
In retrospect, an enjoyable flight - different to many, full of decisions, hopeful punts and rewards ... very satisfying. A short walk to Ben's van and I heard later the task was canned - I presume blown out. That's what you get from RASP - the Sequel.
A was working so hard I took little video ... but the few stills illustrates the nature of the day.
It wasn't a promising forecast with a cold front heading south and rain by lunchtime. I headed for Pendle early, expecting quite a few out given it was a Bank Holiday, but laid out on the pimple was one solitary glider. It actually looked a really nice day at this point, sunny, nice clouds and a nice gentle breeze on the hill.
I plugged in the NCT task and reckoned I could do it in an hour or so ... the weather seemed to be set for a few hours at least. I crossed easily onto the main face and headed through the started cylinder without bothering to gain much height - a mistake! The wind was actually rather off the hill and bombing along regardless I took chance after chance that the next bit would work. But .... it didn't and I landed to have a sweaty walk back up a lot of the hill. I took off again, the wind now coming more on, and headed back to take off for a top landing and chat with Mr Lone Flier.
Took off again and tagged the cylinder afresh ... gained lots of height and then noticed, not exactly rain, but a haze that looked a bit shower like .... Oh Dear! Time for down ..but the lift had other ideas and was everywhere. I headed out a good ways and then spiralled down ... even at low level the lift was apparent and I came in on ears!.
Packed in rain and went home to dry out.
11/5/2019 Clough Head
By the time I arrived the NS Cup were long gone ... en route to their goal at Skipton.
I shower-dodged on the walk up and although the sky looked good in parts it also looked like it was on steroids so I was a bit wary. Take off was easy enough but the climb-out was just a simple point into wind elevator ride. It fact I found it concerning! With little forward speed ... some very energetic air and a curtain of rain showers dotted down the Eden valley behind - it didn't look the sort of day I'd enjoy.
So I landed and joined others for a cup of relaxing coffee and cake in Threlkeld. Some days are just for the mad, the brave and the lovers of Alton Tower rides. That isn't me.
One of those days where it was good everywhere and we were a bit spoilt for choice. So ... we took the easy option and went for nearby Brantside.
Despite a superb looking sky the wind was well off the hill and rather light with intermittent soaring possible, but no big climb-out. Twice I sweated back up the hill and it wasn't a pleasure given the heat.
Eventually, it happen and a small group of us climbed away. Geoff and I had plugged in a triangle, but the southerly drift made that a bit awkward. At 10k out Geoff went for the triangle, I dithered around doing a big circle - losing a 1000' before deciding it was more a downwinder. Off I set across the moors towards the A66 ... for a short while I had Chris Kay for company, but my circular dithered meant I lost him. It wasn't too bad until the A66 and then it became more height management for a spell into Teesdale ... the five reservoirs looked awfully close for long while. Eventually a decent climb arrived and I was able to escape the valley.
Having a plan is a wonderful thing and being clued up on the airspace is part of that. This is not a direction I often take and I'd not really studied the navigation issues. Before I knew it I'd slipped too far east under the 6000' ceiling .... not low by any means but trying to push back west to get around the corner met a fair headwind ... so I ended even further east and rather trapped.
So ... I opted to do what I knew wouldn't really work - I carried on to the east. The airspace drops to 4500' but the big problem is it's a thermal graveyard. And so it proved ... with barely a blip I found myself touching down in Crook. About 70k with TP's but it could have been so much better given the potential of the day and the terrain.
Big thanks to Peter Balmforth who drove to Bowes to collect Chris Kay and I.
13/5/2019 Murton Pike
An excellent looking day and a big crowd on the hill ... Tim had even opened up Warcop for us.
After a bit of a slow start the thermals started passing through. In dribs and drabs we got high and sauntered up the ridge. For most the task was a simple, if long, out and return. All went well until the 10k mark when we hit the convergence. Being very familair with it I then did the inexplicable and went through it with the arrogance an ageing pg pilot has at over 5000'. Within 10 minutes I was on the ground .... too far to walk out, too hot to walk up and with the wind across the slope from the NW (the sea breeze). Meanwhile others with brains were flying out along the convergence and turning the OR into a triangle.
At this point I fell out of love with flying!
A long, hot walk up to a take off and ........... down again just half a kilometre gained. Another walk up .... dripping with sweat and .... another trip to the lower slopes. But this time I made 2k and a tarred road. Just as I heaved the bag on my shoulder the two Geoff's arrived ... boy was I glad to see them. Beertime!
The last few days have put me off flying a bit ... I just feel the mojo has gone out of me. I don't feel like flying any more ... maybe it's time for something else.