1/6/2020 Coniston Old Man
A fair number on the hill enjoying the warm sunshine and blue skies.
The first flight lasted just short of an hour and I can't say I enjoyed it. Was I the only one dealing with bastard thermals and resulting collapses? I eventually decided there were better things to be doing with my life and went down and landed.
Westie (looks like an Ironman contestant) decided I should walk up again (at my age). But ... I'm easily persuaded so led at out at jogging pace, straight into a bog, fell over and ended up covered in smelly, brown shit! "You'll dry out" he laughed and we then wandered up to a take off as the drying process took place.
To show an interest I decided it was about time to actually attempt the COM Cradle task .... just plough on and see how it goes. It was all going swimmingly until about TP 3 when the Flymaster GPS and the xctrack task didn't correlate as they should. The Flymaster would either send me too deep into cylinders, or leave me short. Meanwhile xctrack was happily ticking off the TP's. All a bit worrying as I usually trust the Flymaster, but at the wrong moments the GPS would drop out for a few minutes before coming back. In the end I flew mostly using xctrack.
Anyhow I got round and xctrack flashed up its congratulatory GOAL REACHED message.
I later uploaded the Flymaster igc (my usual practice) and it didn't look correct in places so resorted to the xctrack igc. That seemed to work OK.
And ............ I left my Peroni on the kitchen worktop. Missed it when I needed it most.
2/6/2020 Dodd Fell
Most of J36 opted for Barton Fell, but with Dodd a lot handier, a great Dales RASP and whetted by the previous day's task on COM I favoured the ease and challenge of Dodd.
Mid morning could only muster a very light northerly and a very blue sky, but with hopes of something much better gone 1pm. Even early, the parking was full .... separate cars soon fills things up. I strolled over with Kev Mc to find a busy take off, but no pressing inclination to take off. Odd blows came through, 45 degrees off to the north, but still very light.
By 1pm there began to be hints of better. Richard Meek tried but had to slope land; I tried ten minutes later .... bit more life, but another slope landing over on Grove. I preferred to be on Grove ... it's shallower, but it seemed from the gulls that what thermal there was, was tracking up the back of the bowl. There was a big permanent flock of gulls resident on Dodd
all day ... not sure what they knew.
By 1.15pm the game began, at first scratchy .... some good pilots hanging onto everything before it lifted off with one great thermal, probably caught in its early development. Latching onto it late left me 800' below the first group, so more or less on my own I climbed in a strengthening thermal to 6,800' .... only been to that sort of height three times before in the Dales. There was a little more to be had to over 7000', but Jake, Dave S and Chris F had all shot off north. The day now looked quite different with good cu development springing up to the north and west.
I milled around a spell trying to decide - Do I go to the clouds? Do I start on the GRID challenge which I had plugged in (I hadn't even got xctrack switched on yet). Richard Meek appeared at the same height and very colourful on his red/yellow Zeno so it seemed worth a quick capture on video. Richard then also headed off to the north.
I made the decision to go for the GRID, headed back up wind to the start cylinder and went through the switch on process with xctrack en route. In my head I thought, given my huge height, I'd just waltz around the cylinders, ticking them off with ease. But ..... that GRID is tough!
I exited the start at over 4000' (which actually felt rather low) and quickly knocked off the first three cylinders. From that point each cylinder required a hunt, a climb and often a pull back upwind - slow, given the north in the wind, and it was 18 -20kph at height. Around TP 8 I spotted Geoff C, obviously doing the same thing, but about a TP ahead. By TP 12 the more distant cylinders were getting harder and the thermals less strong. Given the northerly drift I was pulling out of anything less than 2m/s and consistent .... the extra height just didn't bring any benefits against the increased upwind distance to the next cylinder.
After two hours I made TP14 ... but couldn't find the climb for TP15 (only a short distance to the side and left it late, arrived back at the hill some way down. Fortunately, the wind was now more square so I managed to get up again. The downside was the thermals had almost died off as an SB influence had now settled in. TP15 remained too tough to conquer ... so that was it and I called it a day. Geoff managed TP15 .... I had enviously watched his climb appear after TP14, but by the time I had got there it had long departed.
Dodd again delivered a really special day .... across on Wether nothing that I'm aware of happened. The hangies seemed unable to get off.
The Dodd GRID is tough! It's a marathon 20 turnpoints with some awkward TP configurations - you manage an upwind TP after some effort and it then sends you back downwind to do it all again. Even the goal is at the far north end and there's a fair chance of a long walk back to the car. That said, I'd recommend it as a long, engrossing, probably frustrating challenge.
A grand Yorkshire day out.
I didn't take much video, so few photos (LINK)
9/6/2020 The Magnet
To those who know the 'Magnet, it needs little introduction and the name bestowed speaks volumes for the regard in which it's held ... and its qualities. For everyone else I'm going to give little away beyond an assessment of the site. Some things you have to work for.
I'm new to the place, unbelieveably I've never taken it seriously .... and I can't provide any good answer as to why. I can only recall flying here the odd time, always on poor days and never getting to explore it or know it. I almost did the same again.
I walked up knowing the best I could hope for was a top to bottom. The wind was light, rather off the hill and the sky a uniform grey. A huge flock (over 100) gulls had colonised a section of the upper slopes, maybe it was special for them too. Aside from an odd few testing the air from time to time most seemed content to stay on the ground. It wasn't a day for them either. My primary aim was a recce.
The walk in is about 40 minutes of pretty easy going, often along a well marked grassy track, with a steeper section towards take off. Roughly 250m of climbing that that gets you to the 600m mark - so quite high. Take off areas are abundant, as are easy slope and top landing areas. The bottom is Jumbo jet size. Several things struck me. The size ... it's got a fairly long beat for WSW, not especially steep, but with a long draw. The flexibility - between NW to SW, even a north bowl (as I remember from my hang gliding days). Above all, the ground out front is prime thermal territory, whilst the ripples you fly are great triggers. Everything screams out that this place should boom on the right day (and it's been proven by others to be the case) It should also work earlier than any other Dales site in this direction SW to WSW. Sea breeze will have an effect, both good and bad .... mostly good. The SB is probably the trigger that causes it to work earlier than some Dales sites. It could also sea breeze out but given it's height it may just ride above the worst effects for a while at least. For downwind xc it looks excellent, but tryng to get back there and close circuits looks tough in this wind direction. Heading into possible SB and over high ground. So .... maybe a few limitations, but overall it's positive.
As expected, and despite a long wait and a few short hops, I was always destined to go down. But it was far from a wasted day. Too often we end up going to the same old places, when a little exploring can reveal gems literally under our very nose. In the past twelve months I've discovered (or been pointed at) four sites that I now regard as possibly the best in the Dales for their direction.
I met up with Tom S and Cefn + family at the Marton Arms. The chances seemed about 50/50. It was a warm, humid airmass although the visibility was near perfect. Overhead was lots of evidence of wave and the problem could be too much wind.
As we walked in to the north end of Gragareth it seemed OK and the chances of aviation grew in our favour. On top. laid out, were Simon and the Ditchfield twins deterred by the wind strength and possibly the sight of wave. Both Cefn and I had flights and it seemed OK, the lift wasn't great and the wind a little off to the north .... top landing was straightforward.
The problem for the others remained the wind strength, nor was it especially smooth in the air at this stage ... possible wave plus some early stage thermal development roughing things up.
It remained pretty much this way until about 2pm when the wing came increasingly onto the hill, although the wind strength remained fairly constant. In the air the wind was never an issue, but on launch it was a question of picking your moment and confidence in your launch - def an A/C required.
After 2pm the flying got quite good, my second launch saw me climb almost a 1000' without turning and able to push well forward, Cefn even further out over the valley. I explored Great Coum and considered visiting the south end, but there was no sign of anyone down there so I didn't see the point after finding it quite sinky in that direction. The best lift always seemed off to the north.
I landed after my fourth flight, possibly far too soon as it appeared to ease off and provide excellent flying into the late evening. Some decent flying ... but disappointing for others.
20/6/2020 Middle Earth
OK ... Middleton Fell if you insist.
This was another of those local sites on Tom's bucket list - and what gem's they're turning out to be. Flying and exploring new places brings an added interest to a day out ... very rewarding.
The day didn't have the most exciting forecast and with more wind forecast for the afternoon we met early, or really early for me ... 9.30am at the bottom. Tom had done the leg work and sussed a field for parking - marred only by a powerline. A pleasant walk in (rather than up) got us to a nice, grassy shelf that would allow the rest of the hill to be flown up.
A nice breeze on the hill and a few scratchy beats and I was climbing nicely. I was also starting to realise this was a much bigger hill than it appeared - afterall, Calf Top rounds out at 2000' ... so not to be sniffed at. It's also a good kilometre or more into the far east bowl.
The sky was looking pretty good, despite being still early (about 11 am) and was really working well with some good, large thermals kicking off. At one point in a lovely climb, I thought, in normal times this would take me to the Howgills ... and you'd have been tempted to leave with it. After just short of an hour I felt the wind had increased so went in for a top landing at the lower shoulder. It was breezy so decided to walk down and brief Tom for his second flight.
The sky was now filling in and didn't look as good ... it seemed pretty much as forecast, so after a chat we decided to fly down and call it a morning.
I think we may have been too soon. By mid afternoon it was looking pretty classic and the wind decided to drop away rather than increase. It was fun while it lasted, something different, but we may have been a little premature in giving up on the day. In the end I just drank a fair amount of Steve Thwaites beer supplies.
Below: Looking out towards the Lune valley; Johnies is far left.
Tom laying out on the lower slopes.
I arrived on Brigsteer, after a message from Steve Thwaites that it was flyable. So flyable that Steve was sat on take off whilst a lovely breeze wafted up the slope. No time to lose.
We both prepared and shortly after I took off. The wind was more on the light side, and rather off to the south so the usual Brigsteer antics of scratching the trees looked on the cards. The first two or three beats showed it was possible to stay up - just, but touch and go. On the third beat a buzzard, followed by a few swifts pinpointed the lift and soon I was thermalling up over the scar. It was no great shakes of a thermal so it didn't go too high, but it also indicated the wind off to the south.
Meanwhile Steve had struggled and headed down to the bottom .... Nothing else appeared so I went in and landed by the car.
Collected Steve from the bottom using two sheets of MDF between us for isolation purposes.
24/6/2020 Stags, Grey Scars, Semer Water
This was a day I meandered everywhere and got pretty much nowhere.
I arrived on a hot Stags to find it .... FULL! No matter how mant times I counted wings I couldn't get it below 12. I wasn't too disapppointed as it seemed quite breezy and the earlier lift had changed to gale hanging. With the glider half in, half out of the bag I chatted to James G, Martin U and later Ali G. Eventually I walked down and set off to join the J36 team on Grey Scars.
Grey Scars was even hotter and the wind very light. A little soaring by Dave Southern as I walked up convinced me to continue. A small gathering on take off but the sky was bluing out, thermal cycles weak and it didn't look good (about now I believe it was getting very good out over the valley in front of Stags). We waited a while and then flew down.
A second drive over to Stags. Passing over Newby Head I expected a sky full of gliders and more counting. Nothing! Only binoculars spotted a yellow wing at the east end struggling with a wind well off to the east. So Stags changed to Semer Water.
I wasn't too convinced on the approach, but saw a glider climbing out (Dave Smart heading back to Stags after hours in the air). On the shoulder it seemed OK ...bit windy at times but with lighter lulls. Soon others appeared Dennis, Simon and Steve from Fremington and later Joseph and Alex Pealing.
The first take off attempt was horrible ...I caught a gusty cross wind that rather blew across the slope so I aborted and started again with a bit more caution. This time is was easy.
Soon we had a half a dozen in the air enjoying nice smoth lift for an hour .... just very relaxing flying with a few weak evening thermals thrown in.
Over to the west SW sites were being flown; to the east the sea breze had come in up Wensleydale. It seems for a good while in the afternoon Stags may have been the place for the convergence sandwich.
This was one picnic I missed.