3/8/2020 Three Men
Flyable all day, but overcast and uninspiring so again we opted for the late afternoon/evening slot. And again we opted for Three Men ... which never fails to deliver. What a gem!
Four of us (Geoff, Dave, John and I) met up shortly after 5pm. A few hours too late unfortunately, Ian also arrived.
The wind was on the gentle SW slope - we're now after exploring more extensively the bigger WNW face - but gentle though it may be, that SW face certainly works well. The wind was on the light side, less than we'd have liked for this face, yet it still soared OK - just. I had a few short flights, concerned the wind may ease further as we slipped into evening. However, the fourth flight saw increasing sun on the ground and a few thermals appeared. They weren't that strong and generally the flying was very smooth, very relaxing .... all you'd expect of a summer evening.
With everyone airborne we floated comfortably between the take off standing stones and the far southern reaches with its stone hut. Around 7pm something more interesting kicked in. Stronger lift appeared and with it stronger winds ....Geoff and John climbed 800' until approaching the top of the back ridge where it was deemed wiser to head back forward.
A jaunt out front (although Geoff came back down to the cars, soared just above the wall then headed back up again - it was that lifty - even low down). Finally, all landed, we had the usual chat in the sun, remarked on how stunning the views are and missed ferry-bound Tom handing the beers out.
X Lakes weekend
I drove up on the Friday evening to The Flight Park and met up with Bud, Westy and supporters. I wasn't sure what my role was - but anyway, we pored over maps and lots of discussion ensued. The weather incidentally was superb .... almost too warm, but with blue skies, light winds (for Saturday at least) it looked as good a weekend as you could wish for. Handed some money over to take part in the one day event, but minus a tracker ... not a problem. I just fancied some flying, a task on the Saturday and a lift to site.
Saturday: Saw everyone off into their world of pain and we noted on tracking the two main splits ... down the western fells into the south Lakes ... or east and the Far Eastern fells.
Then my pain began. A hot walk up Carrock to the very summit ... not even convinced it was that good. Eventually arrived on top to find a better breeze on the hill, but light and little in the way of thermals. While others scratched around, landed, tried again I waited - for about an hour. Quite by chance my launched coincided with the first proper thermal - but only to about 3300' so I set off with the small gaggle in tow. Heading for Bannerdale crags I missed the line slightly. Whilst others just made it I slope landed short and had a 15 min carry across.
Another launch only to find a line problem that resulted in harness off, spanners out and a lost 20 minutes. Not done that for along while - Sod's Law! A launch into Bannerdale. expecting a scratch provided an unexpected thermal and a decent climb - again it just didn't keep going, yet gave enough to easily get over onto Sharp edge and the back of Blencathra.
It went a bit wrong here. Going the other way (north) I passed Barney and (higher) Mike. So like a lost soul I turned and followed .... cos Mike always finds the best thermals. Another slope landing and with it still not working that well I balled up for a hundred feet. Mike came back low into Sharp Edge, disappeared from sight for a spell, before climbing back out.
Third launch of the day. Again, luckily into another climb with a few others above. But yet again it never went high enough .... another 500' would have been all it took to get over onto the back of Lonscale. So I took what would look like a suicide glide into the middle of Skiddaw Forest .... basically to bag another Wainwright. So far I had four and it seemed likely I'd committed to a fair walk up if nothing didn't salvage the flight. I landed low by the main path, packed and set off up the back slopes of Lonscale .... not steep for the first 45mins ... then a really short steep section. I was down to my last swig of water when out of the hillside a tickle indicated an ice cold spring. A Godsend.
A nice ENE was blowing by now and after gaining 500' I set off for the back of Skiddaw. Great slopes, a bit shallow and not working that well. I touched down behind Little Man for 5 mins to assess why. Just a brief light spell it seemed. As the breeze increased again I made my fourth launch and onto the back of Skiddaw. It's a huge scree'd slope I'd soared a few times before and as always it worked superbly. Bagged Skiddaw and Bakestall to the north. This was perfect evening soaring in a stunning place with walkers lining the top ridge. I could happily have stayed there for some time but with a land by time of 5pm I had only 20 minutes to make it back to the Flight Park. A long, rather sinky glide down and I made it in with about 100' to spare.
A nice adventure, a few twists and turns just not the thermals I needed ... or at least strong ones that went high. Bagged about 8 Wainwrights and just skirted one. The aim had been to get over to Catbells but I never got close
Sunday: Spent four captivating hours watching the boys (and DD) on Flymaster tracking. Absolutely rivetting and really impressed by the flying in very breezy conditions as Bud and DD separately battled along the Helvelynn range. Bud made Latrigg, whilst DD landed below Scales. Most others walked.
About 2pm I drove along the A66 looking for DD, Bud or Westy .... instead saw several gliders happily flying Scales and Souther. The wind had died away considerably ... in fact it was more on the light side. I couldn't resist a short fly before heading back to the Flight Park. A quick walk half way up Souther and a nice, smooth boat around before packing and heading for the FP.
Presentations followed around 6pm. With this type of event and complex scoring it's not easy to predict results ... it could have gone several ways, DD? Bud? or people like Rod who had tracker issues and who's progress was a bit unknown. It seemed likely however that to be brave and competent enough to fly the full Helvelynn range in tasty conditions was going to put you right up there.
The end result was:
1. Keith Paterson (Bud)
2 Dave Ashcroft (DD)
3. Rod Welford
1st Team (Bud and Westy)
I'm quite in awe of these flying athletes. The X lakes is tough .... imagine then what the X Alps must entail!
And they didn't even look knackered at the end .... that's a real puzzle.
A sultry, hot day threatening to produce afternoon storms.
Geoff and I walked up independently and met on top. Just before meeting up Dennis Marston radioed down that whilst he'd had a good hour, things were on the change and he was heading down. Ariving that much sooner had certainly been a wise move and gave him the best of the day.
Geoff and I ummed and aahed .... was it building? How quickly? The wind was either on and perfect, too light, too strong and even over the back on one occasion. It wasn't ideal. I took off and the first beat up the ridge was smooth, pleasant and enjoyable - then it was straight into heavy sink and a headwind. The wind now seem straight across the hill.
A sinking blast back to beyond take and a rough bit of lift. Was the wind coming from the west again? Nope .... now it seemed NE. I headed out and landed in almost no wind ... kiting towards thr track it then gusted to 15mph. That's it then. Geoff flew down and landed and we went for a drink in my garden.
Geoff and I left a windy Dales and drove up to Carrock. The wads of low cloud that had plagued the previous days still clung to the higher tops, only the visibility was worse. By the time we struck the M6 the wind had fallen light and reports coming in suggested Carrock was becalmed with no one flying. It didn't look promising.
Carrock was packed with pilots - the optimists had walked up, some to the very top, others dotted the hillside at various levels and a bunch still hung around the cars and chatted. It definitely didn't any better on site.
We drove a short distance up the road for our preferred easier walk. Whilst laying out the wind remained light, a few tried a flight and went down .... very slowly, until all attention was focused on a lone Delta 2. He was going down - well out front and quite low. Slowly he turned and miantained then again, ever so slowly began to climb back to take off height and a little above. That marked the signal for lots of us to take off. The day had now changed ... cu's appeared and the visibility was a lot sharper.
A scratchy few beats ... the hill wasn't really working - but out front seemed a different story.
For the next hour and half lots of pilots piled into the light thermals that seemed almost everywhere. Slow climbs into the wispies that formed at the 3000' marked. We never got higher but the lift was widespread and easy to locate given the gliders spread everywhere.
Funny how days change and great ones emerge for inauspicious circumstances. There was quite a beery social gathering in the landing field afterwards.
15/8/2020 Cautley (East) - Great Dummacks
The windy conditions of the previous days had fallen to light in the western Dales so it seemed unnecessary to head further west into the Lakes. We were just on the edge of the low cloud and drizzle - 10 miles to the east. for us, warm sunshine and blue skies. However with a low inversion barely over the tops it promised no great height gains, but plenty of (rather bumpy) soaring. The main temptation was that the east side of the Howgills is a lovely place to explore by paraglider. We just don't do it enough.
Despite the walk up being described as a flog (I'd not done it before), it turned out to be quite easy - personally, preferrable to the Yarlside option which could be used in an east as we discovered.
Pete Darwood, then Rosie took off to show it was easily soarable despite the light breeze and before long the sky had a good spread out of wings as others arrived over the next hour.
Pete made the long(ish) transition to Yarlside - arrived low on the spur above the first shoulder. I watched with interest. Could he stay up? Slowly he worked the short beats, got higher and headed over to Kensgriff (a very pretty, pointy summit). Later I visited it twice, chatted with several groups of walkers (it was mostly level terrain soaring) and found it a lot smoother than Great Dummacks - our take off area. Then it was back to take off and a short excursion south before too much north made it awkard to get back.
After over 2hrs of occasionally bouncy flying (I saw no collapses and only got a single small one) I went down and landed, with most coming in at the same time.
This is one place I will place a lot higher on my site list. It offers so much extensive flying, is really beautiful and given a hgher base we could have stretched the possibilties so much further. Kensgriff is especially impressive to fly and Randygill Top behind is even higher ... but was just out of reach given the inversion.
Most of the day had looked quite unflyable. By mid afternoon the sun broke through, but all still seemed becalmed although bordering on the unstable - it was only the need for exercise and some DHPC messages that prompted me to at least just head out.
Driving over to Hawes I spotted three gliders on Whernside, but judging by their attempts it showed it too light and well off to the south. I met briefly with Alex P at Stags, he headed over to Semer Water whilst I began walking up. After 100m I turned back, deciding it was too south. too light and tempted by a walk up Winder instead. Once popular, and a lovely place, it's rarely flown now - something of an over-looked gem. But it has some history that's worth knowing.
I had a brief chat with an aeromodeller soaring a shallow field below the car. What amazed me, was there was not a breath of wind, his theory being it was just evening bouyancy. More encouraged I set off up - still expecting nothing but a fly down. At this stage it was a lovely, warm sunny evening and the grassy spur of Winder a delight to walk up.
I arrived on top about the same time as a few passing hikers. One stayed behind to take a launch photo and chatted as I laid out. Still lovely and sunny, still no wind, the summits clear. I waited awhile, back to the wind, not studying visually out front - merely feeling for a waft. In the lightest of breeze I pulled up the wing, turned and ran. Instantly I could feel the rain, only light and see the shower heading in. More concerning was - there was lift and not the type you really need. I headed west, the shower intensity increasing with a desire to be on the ground before the wing got too wet. I landed by the walk up gate, the rain eased, the sun shone and a rainbow appeared. I packed a wet wing and walked down. Perhaps I also felt a little silly.
By the time I reached Barbon, the sky was black, the rain torrential and I was reduced to steering through flash floods. I entered a darkened Ingleton, rain coming down in buckets with the cloud at ankle height. All from a lovely evening which seemed a world away only 45 minutes earlier. Nothing of a flight - but an interesting experience overall.
18/8/2020 Tow Scar
A very relaxing hour of super smooth flying.
Although only five minutes from my door, I haven't flown Tow for some time - so this was something of a refresher. I thought it worth a look on the off chance and was rewarded by ideal soaring conditions to about 320'ato. Whilst the cloud was lowering on Gragareth, the sky was clear to the east with sun breaking through in front. Later it would clear out fully.
Well worth taking the chance with it being so handy.
We had a great forecast - rare this year, but I still spent the whole morning in time killing mode. Cafe, coffee, another cafe, coffee. We expected light winds, but it was fresh! As a result we ended up killing too much time as the wind eased quickly and we almost missed even the end of the sweet slot.
A quick race up Mallerstang ... instinct saying get into the air asap. The sky looked great .... in fact a dream. The wind was dropping fast! Once airborne it was obviously very thermic and and a bit frisky! I had a goal flight plugged in but (inexplicably) had all the waypoints incorrectly named so Maller to Pickering read as Wether to Wetherby. I blame flyxc which reverses the waypoints on a map. Weird. The goal flight was ditched from the start.
Down to the south end of the ridge 4k away as per plan .... pick a cloud out front that looked beefy, hit a climb and straight to base. I watched Martin struggling below and quickly decided there was little point in staying, leaving was an easy decision. This southern line out of Mallerstang looked the best line - having tried the north end before you just head into sink - Swaledale is not a great place to be. At this stage the clouds looked pretty well developed but by the time I was heading along the moors towards Nappa they were breaking up too quickly. I felt low over the moors spending 20 mins in broken, unconvincing lift .... up a few turns, then lose the gained height. Tempting as it was to head out into the valley I hung in thinking it would eventually come together and provide lift off.
The struggle ended with a solid climb that got me back to base and skirting the edge of Bellarby D zone, with Leyburn now 5k ahead. The clouds lined up, the ground dropped away and the Vale of York opened up ahead. Crossing the first 20k was straightforward - the thermals coming with decent regularity about every 6k, a cloud marking each one. Pretty textbook stuff. Passing just north of Leeming ATZ the final cloud broke apart and ahead was just blue. It could have become hard work, but the 6k rule I had in my head kept working so the thermals were still there, just a bit weaker nor going as high.
Northallerton lay ahead, or as I like to think - the train station is getting closer. A good climb over the town and the train staion is getting left behind with each glide. Just before the beautiful North Yorks moors I was low, but again a climb hoisted me reasonably high and gave me a decision. Do I continue over the moors and in all likelyhood have a devil of a retrieve - or be satisfied. I chose the latter, scouted the moors and reckoned a half full carpark at this time of day would have walkers about to head home - maybe in my direction.
I landed in almost nil wind and walked the wing into the carpark. I fell really lucky - a group of lovely people in a Birthday walk group. Before I knew it I had unsolicited offers of a lift and a giant piece of Birthday cake (and I love cake). One of the great things about paragliding is the nice, interesting people you meet. I packed, we chatted and I was grateful for a lift to Northallerton station. So .... thankyou for the lift, very appreciated.
The rest of the trip back was three easy train rides in almost deserted carriages. A great day out.
Congrats to Jake, Richard and John E ....Jake and John managing 160k to the east coast.
A few video clips strung together - didn't film a lot LINK
A few stills from the video - LINK
26/8/2020 The Magnet
Flying the tail of storm Francis.
An hour sooner may have been quite pleasant. We caught the tail end and had to contend with lowering, enveloping cloud, drizzle and a spell of light rain. I managed all of 2 minutes, top landed, used my wing as a tent, packed and walked down.
But for all that, it was fun in a way.
30/8/2020 Wolf Crag
The day started well, then went downhill to some extent ... for me at least.
A number of site options but Wolf was probably the best place to be. Lots of people out, car parking at a premium. Wolf doesn't really get much better - a gentle wind all day, square onto the hill a decent base and good thermals. Some went down but the majority had some excellent flying. So ... nothing wrong with the site, but the xc potential of the day didn't deliver ... and lots tried.
After a hurried bundle up on my previous flight I should have probably checked my wing.
I laid out, very hopeful ... conditions perfect, and eager to join the gaggles already getting high. My problem came with line issues, and the more I tried to sort them the more they conspired to get even worse. Thankfully I carry a maillon spanner. One side was pretty much OK, but the other eventually required a spanner job on three of the maillons. That took almost an hour out of my day. Meanwhile conditions got even better.
Eventually I was ready. I was now quite conscious of the lost hour, but still plugged in a goal at Clitheroe, 86k slightly crosswind (although I expected the wind to back slightly - it didn't). It took a while to find the solid climb out I wanted, after various meanders I got one on front of the crags when quite low. You just know when it's the one - nice and solid. But more time was lost in getting away. I became conscious of probably flying too fast and taking ganbles on climbs that didn't materialise.
I climbed out with a glider that fell behind and eventually dropped out. What I wouldn't have given for some gaggle power. Finally I topped out at 4800' cloudbase. The drift was virtually non existent so I'd not really travelled more than the first Dodd. The best line was down the line of the Helvelynn spine but I wanted to go towards the eastern fells. I knew it wasn't the wisest line, but I was fairly confident of getting another climb and downwind was totally shaded out. No sign of any other wings.
It was pretty much heavy sink all the way and I still clung to the thought that the into wind slopes would work. bUt .... they were pretty much breathless, nothing moved the grass and nothing was happening. So .... for the third time in 12 months I found myself in Brotherswater campsite and heading for the 508 bus. A Looong wait!