Kev came round and we decided on Brantside - good as anywhere and a short walk in for a change.
On take off it looked good - a steady breeze, on the hill and a decent sky although base was only around 3500'. For 40 minutes we soared happily enough without any big thermal coming along. Finally things got a little better and we circled back towards Great Knoutberry. When it weakened, and given the lowish base, I headed forward to see if better would turn up. For a while I thought Kev was with me, then glancing back I saw him quite low over the summit - I assumed the fresh wind meant he was rather committed to going.
Kev played it well .... he slowly climbed higher until on his way across towards Stags. To be honest I didn't give a lot for his chances but he did well for the day. I didn't see him again as I sunk out towards the railway line. Running back to the hill low - below take off height, I stumbled into a corker of a climb and was soon back over the summit and near base. So .... on my way and with a cloud to head for. The sink arrived and went on --- and on until things got a bit desperate. I was sure the cloud would work - it didn't, and I was down just outside Hawes.
A quick pack and even quicker pickup saw me dropped off at Newby Head. The idea was to walk up Wold Fell (just across the valley from Brantside) ... and launch there followed by a fly back to the car. I heard Kev was down near Middleham (39k) so I said I'd get back to the car and retrieve him. Walking up Wold I was a bit concerned as to whether it was too windy but actually it was fine on launch and a glider was now doing some gale-hanging on Brantside.
A quick, easy fly back to the car, passing over three ground bound wings and I was off to get Kev, then we enjoyed a pint in Hawes.
I've linked this and the following two days into a single album as I took only a few bits of video of each flight.
3/8/2021 Murton Pike
A great rasp and lots of site options; all would be good to superb, except the one we chose!
Tim Rodgers and I met up at J37 and set off for Murton with high hopes ... the wind, the sky, everything looked good for the Cross Fell ridge run and back. I say ridge, but for those who know it, it's a lot more tricky than that.
Yet again, for the third or fourth time this year I flogged to the very top under a hot sun, the wind light (again) and off to the west (again) yet a great sky overhead (as always). The sweating was then followed by hours of waiting around. During the whole of the wait the sky looked excellent. I tried a few short hops - the first connecting with a broken thermal and a climb above the top, but my problem came (Sod's Law) with a line outside my pod so I decided to land and sort it.
More short hops until well gone 2.30 when it came more onto the hill and felt better. Helped by Liam Oliver (who was great at pushing out front and marking thermals) I finally got the proper climb out and set off up the ridge. A second climb arrived, followed by a third and progress was reasonable. But - yet again the fates decided otherwise.
Whilst others were steadily making their way to the east coast I was rapidly seeing a big storm brewing out over the Eden valley and spilling onto the north end of the the Cross Fell range. The sun disappeared, the sky darkened. Still, for a few more k's continued heading north. The climbs got stronger, the sky even darker until spots of rain began - for the second time this year I turned tail and flew back towards the sunshine and the car. Later, as we drove through Appleby it was raining.
We were both disappointed .... another day of promise that gave very little reward and then rubbed salt in the wounds as just a few miles from home they were making great flights. It's getting tough this year.
LINK (Same set as above with Murton added)
This wasn't a day we had planned for - the weather was forecast to break down and whilst it looked great at 10am there were already plenty of signs of great instability with growing clouds. Chris and I reckoned we'd even be lucky to get a flight, especially as we were already almost an hour behind schedule. On the drive over towards Hawes we spied half a dozen gliders laid out on Stags and could guess the rest. whilst some areas of sky looked to be heading towards ballistic, others looked really excellent - especially to the west. So ... our Plan B kicked in - Cotterside. Chris and I tend to be on the same sheet when it comes to trying different places.
A quick check with the farmer and we had an easy 30 minute walk to take off. It's quite shallow at the west end but soons turns big, steep and is a very thermic place. In terms of thermals it beats Stags hands down. Although light it just felt like the place to be. Chris was away first (he can be in the air literally within five minutes of putting his sack down) ... 10 minutes later he was climbing away. Meanwhile, I was videoing a steamtrain heading into the Mallerstang valley and plugging a O&R into my Skytraxx/xctrack. This all takes time.
My climb out was equally fast and easy - great thermals, strong in parts and every cloud working. Chris by now was a mere speck at base. I wasn't quite sure about whether I wished to take the climbs quite so high - seems silly with hindsight but I was forever pulling out front at 4000' for another. The sky didn't worry me, but it did unsettle me and I was flying in a very cautious mood. At this stage the route down the valley looked good, the sky was fine and I didn't have any great hankering to go over the back - a 40k OR would make me very happy.
Below: Heading east towards Stags.
I flew over Stags, regretting not topping up more - a few gliders were scratching and I wasn't too far above. On ... eastwards, over the moors towards a small edge that usually works a bit, although small. A low save arrived and again I pulled out as the lift got strong. This time I thought it warranted. Everything was now very shaded out and a big storm cloud seemed to be building further down the valley. I carried on to Nappa arriving just above the top edge. Part way along another climb I only took for 800' - the air certainly felt alive. It seemed more a case of managing the lift than avoiding the sink - odd. I had been in two minds about carrying on to Leyburn (the difference between declared and undeclared OR's is so small) - but it looked so dark that way I tagged the Caperby cylinder and headed back.
It was a lot less lifty now and having passed Nappa I decided I needed more height and turned back. Another short taken climb and I pushed west again towards 'small edge', but a combination of sink and a slight headwind and yet again I turned around for ease of retrieve and set down near Askrigg. A nice chat with a young woman in her field and I walked down into Askrigg in rain, before drying out in the cafe opposite the bus stop.
I didn't expect the day to offer the potential it did - I could have got a lot more out of it.
The last few months have been tough, masses of effort, 7kg of weight loss, but so little reward show for it. I decided to move the focus from downwind blind xc's to declared flights - but that increases the failure rate. My fail rate is high and that is getting hard to reconcile.
Over the winter I'll decide if i wish to carry on in this sport - it's taking its toll mentally and a gentler obsession may be a happier place.
Below: Cotterside ridge
23/8/2021 Park Fell
A bit of a day out of nothing really.
Chris, Tam and I met at Ribblehead to assess matters. The rasp was less optimistic than previously so we opted for nearby Park as opposed to the drive and walk into Wild Boar. So ... Park it was, an easy day, no big plans and after the recent spell of poor weather just being in the air would be nice.
Although the wind was fairly light and off to the NE on the spur we decided half way was enough to allow a hop over the wall onto the main face - it worked. Later arrivals went to the top. Although just soarable it was thermic and it rather surprised me with a lovely climb with Chris to a 1000'ato and not that far short of base at this stage. The day then settled into a pattern of short flights, odd thermals that were never that strong, in fact with a typically autumnal feel. Many flights later ... it was fairly scratchy and the thermals were few and far between. Coming in for a top landing it just felt a bit bouyant (?) ... so I pushed in through on the off chance. Six turns and 400' later I just drifted over the back in a small core - prompty lost it at the point of no return!
A long and sinky glide over Chapel le Dale just got me onto the pavings, but well below the ridge line of Whernside. Whatever it was that saved me was rough, broken and not to be triffled with - but it was all there was. Along with some intrepid skylarks I climbed slowly out until it smoothed and settled into a nice climb. That climb was the exception for the day. Most began as weak, gentle affairs that got better with height - but never more than 2m/s.
Once happy I spied a glider (Dave S on his Explorer) heading across the valley, he'd left with the decency of reasonable height but was still going to come in below me - maybe 700' lower. Slowly he turned, climbed and seemed to be heading in the right direction - upwards. Given a radio I'd have said hang in there, it gets better. But all too soon he dived over Kingsdale towards Gragareth. It looked sinky and put him onto the lower edges of he valley - meanwhile I was stil circling ever higher over the valley. Such small margins. It was a day of infinite patience.
Despite a modest base, but the clouds looked good, especially in the direction I was heading. Slowly I passed Three Men, then towards Kirkby Stephen, ignoring everything but the next cloud. Time and distance seemed fairly irrelevant - the mindset was simply about staying up and staying high, not pushing it, as low down I suspected it could be tough. KL passed slowly beneath and ahead the prominent limestone lumps of Hutton Roof and Farleton drew closer. Another climb before Farleton, disturbed only by the roar of a Typhoon fighter as it sped north along the M6. I was rather glad to be turning.
Approaching the M6 a long gap appeared until the next cloud .... somewhere over the showground, covered in large marques and assorted fences. I knew it would be touch and go on reaching the next possible climb - and the glide was poor. Actually, the poor glide also indicated that something was ahead - if reachable. It couldn't have been more perfectly timed or positioned - yet another weak climb that took some centering before it strengthened and took me to base. Wow! This day has got some surprises in store.
Although high I looked at the crossing of the Lune valley and thought ... unreal, we never get this high under nice clouds this close to the sea. Have I got the height to even cross it?
But ... the clouds looked great, they've worked so far, so why not. I had a nice glide across and arrived still quite high over Whitbarrow Scar.
Photo: On glide across the Lune valley headings towards Whitbarrow Scar. A bouyant line under the clouds.
The SW face of Whitbarrow produced the next climb to near base, perhaps a lee sider - slow, smooth and reliable. Enough to get me at least over to the hills above Cartmel Fell. Approaching Mike Cav's sprawling empire I was more than a little surprised to see two red wings, maybe 4k north, struggling low over forestry. By this stage I was still gentling circling near base in very light lift and headed that way - I guess the herding instinct took over. The two gliders eventually gave up the struggle, headed forward into the Winster Valley and landed. Ten minutes later, whilst about to cross Windermere Lake, a third glider came into view - not far north and not far short of my height. So .... we have company. I headed for him but yet again he pulled back into the Winster valley and I assume a landing. My thoughts were - the Dales guys from Wild Boar/Swarth. But I'm not sure it was as they landed nearer Kendal - puzzling. The the Osprey flew under me .... low fortunately with his huge rotors.
The sly was now dying. The strong clouds were dispering into weak raggy things and the day was about over. Still, the glide was really good and I headed for Greenodd. Two reasons. There were smoke fires pulling gently from the north and second the signs of very weak SB off the sands from the south. Over Greenodd, in fact over the sands I encountered weak lift ... accompanied by about a hundred gulls all circling over a large area. I should also mention - Greenodd has a great chippie it's also my home turf so I know it well. Anyway .... back to the gull and the convergence.
I took what there was for a spell, before realising it may suit the gulls but it's beyond my sink rate. I pushed on south, now into a light southerly towards Arrad Foot before turning back to land by a useful beachside carpark.
That was a great and very unexpected flight over ground I'm very familair with but have rarely flown. I also got a nice fish dinner and Karen came out to retrieve. Great way to end the summer.
PHOTO LINK (I may edit the video at some stage).
25/8/2021 Park Fell
Chris and I were the first on the hill - rather surprising given the level of chatter that morning. It was to be a day of surprises beginning with this looks good, to sitting around as the wind died and the day disappeared followed by elation as the convergence set up locally and provided some special flying.
Yet again we took off on the spur, hopped the wall and found the breeze strong enough to soar and very, very soon that early thermal. We climbed together to 900' ato, a carbon copy of Monday. This day has all the makings of ...? Whilst I pulled forward towards a good cloud over the valley and determined to test Chris's 'Dummocks' theory, he sidled over towards Simon Fell and abandoned me to his theory. His was the better course of action - Simon's at this stage was working better, Park most definitely wasn't. From that point I had multiple scratch, land and try again episodes. Hours passed. Many others arrived, all sat on the top of the spur .... with neither convection, nor conviction. Finally, mid afternoon, with barely a breath of wind and well off to the north I took off expecting a fly -down. Instead I went up .... not high, a few hundred feet when that climb died top landed and joined the others. For the next 20 minutes I too settled into a lethargy of the unconvinced - until.
I took off again in a nothing breeze, now directly from the north (bad). This time I went out and down a long way until deciding to turn back and land on the lower slopes of the hill (it's a big steep hill). It turned out to be inspired and sweaty. Nearing the top the wind now seemed more west .... Geoff skimmed past, at speed and headed out to a landing. Then .... within a mere five minutes everything changed. It clouded over, although sunny to the north and lift started to appear. Not just any lift, but generally bouyancy over a wide area, although still fairly localised. Gloom turned to full on optimism as gliders streamed off the hill. This was the famous (?) Ingleborough convergence.
I never really did a single beat of the hill, just climbed out with John and Tim O. Tim pulled forward and down, John followed it back and as he seemed to be out-climbing me I dropped back too and soon we were together at not far short of base (4000') and admiring the lower convergence cloudscape to our south. A short, shouted conversation (we don't do radios) and we headed off for Settle .... John always in a rush to make a dinner date. A woman is really special if you have to big-ear down.
We got a second good climb near Crummackdale and whilst the convergence was still evident it was breaking up .... its epicenter was Ingleborough and nothing much was happening approaching Settle. We both landed for a quick, easy retrieve and made our way back to Ribblehead. We spotted first one, then several gliders high and way out .... under a uniformly grey sky. It was just so bouyant over the Ribblehead area. Later, Tim and I mused the day over a pint outside the Station Inn as gliders floated back from the moors to the north.
These days just keeping turning up and they continue to surprise me.
I have some nice video but these stills will have to suffice. LINK