1/7/2021 Cow Close
A new month and a very different sort of day. RASP was excellent, but limited to just the Dales. As Chris and I drove over it had all the signs of a hot, blue day and quite difficult. I'd not been to Cow Close for some time but today it was popular with maybe a dozen plus pilots.
It was a hot walk up and approaching the hill the first gaggle was forming and soon high and on their way - a triangle we assumed given the lack of any wind. There really was no meteo wind to speak of, but thermals were regularly coming through and although a few went down or slope landed some were also doing OK in the first (rough) thermals.
My own personal disaster came on discovering I'd left both my instruments by my pc! Can't say my sack felt any lighter. Fairly despondent I was resigned to flying down in a fit of pique and sitting outside the Queen's in Litton. And I did fly down - almost ... low over the lowest pastures I felt a climb (a surge) and turned by instinct. In super quick time it got me level and then 1500' over take off. So ... what to do with no instruments? I pondered and wondered if maybe I could use my phone (which also has xctrack with the same screens I usually use). A landing, followed by a spell of string and elasticated engineering plus anything else I could find, managed to clag my phone onto my flightdeck. I added a vario widget. OK, try again.
Now I had some info but no vario sound and the widget values were late and crude, but worked a bit. Another landing, another moaning session, more widgets - but no sound. Eventually, now about 2pm Tam graciously loaned me his mini Syride to strap on to my harness. Let's try again. A good flight followed ... at last I could thermal and at last I could get high. Off to Pen Y Ghent. I followed a Zeno .... which turned back. I kept on in hope ....it was very sinky away from the hill. Eventually I turned back too. Then it got really sinky and the bullet thermal that got the Zeno out of the bottom field left me behind. It wasn't easy to thermal at 60' over a bottom pasture!
A long, hot, very sweaty walk back up with diminishing water supplies. By now it was approaching 4pm with hardly a soul on the hill - just Joseph lightly thermalling out front. Flight number 5 or 6 followed with a top landing and think, as Joseph continued to thermal closer. The sky was now changing markedly .... cumulus started appearing and the best part of the day was about to switch on for real. I didn't know it yet however.
I took off and thermalled back with Joseph. The sky showing all the signs of convergence - but seemly limited to this confluence of the three valleys - in fact very much like the previous Sunday at Loweswater. Maybe simply a huge valley lift off - restitution? It felt more like the Alps.
From around 5000' I headed across the valley towards Birks Fell - easy progress. I arrived expecting a climb - but nothing. Turning back through the sink, again over Litton the lift appeared. Back to 5000'. This time I thought I'd try for Pen y Ghent, or Plover Hill .... same flight into sink. Again sink on the way back until over the valley .... back to 5000'. This is getting interesting. The climbs were now much mellower and wider - lovely thermals. So a plan formed - a modest FAI triangle to exploit the valley release. Again, from a great height, I headed again back to Birks Fell, aiming to push further into the Langstrath valley. I did but the same sink appeared .... so back towards Litton the plan being to climb high again and head south, down the valley to Arncliffe. My phone said the max possible was 18k FAI. A pity ... there was a huge lifting cloud that I simply barred through ...hit the 18k max sector and barred back. Job done. Well nearly .... with all the lift around over the landing field it took some effort to get down.
Amazing how things work out. Had I brought my instruments maybe I would also have been down and in the pub by 4pm, or off home. As it was the end of the day can often provide the gems we crave - lots of smooth and very special flying.
Finished with a pint at The Queens, sat outside in warm sunshine with Stephen, Chris, Helen and a VERY buzzing Liam, who'd also had a great flight. We were made up for him.
8/7/2021 Murton Pike/Tailbridge
Rather a wasted trip to Murton, followed by 40 very pleasant minutes on Tailbridge.
Driving through the Dales it was surprisingly windy, in fact blown out and rather uninspiring under a grey, leaden sky. By the time I headed up the Mallerstang valley it was quite the reverse - hardly any wind and although 7/8 cloud, a lot brighter.
I arrived on the very top of Murton to find Tim R, Ges and Tam. It was still very light and well off to the NW .... so far from ideal. After a considerable wait our patience broke and we all flew off and landed at the bottom. I think I managed about four 360 turns in very weak stuff.
We set off back towards Wether and passing Nateby I just caught sight of three gliders soaring Tailbridge. Deciding it looked just worth it I did a three pointer and arrived just as Rob Criukshank took off and joined about four in the air. A very pleasant 40 minutes, short chat with Rob and headed back home. I'm not sure what happened to Tam, Ges and Tim.
Below: Ges landing at the foot of Murton
13/7/2021 Park Fell
I hadn't given a thought to it being a flying day until a trip tp the PO at 11am. Only then did I realise the sky looked great, the wind spot on and the direction made it handy for several sites within 10 minutes of home. Delays meant it wasn't until 1.30 I managed to get away.
Driving up Chapel le Dale it seemed I didn't have to go far or climb high. A glider was high over Park Fell whilst the school was able to fly up from the very lowest slopes and the wind was spot on at NW to NNW. A short chat with Dean/Chris and I was in the air by just gone 2pm.
For 45 minutes we waltzed around in light thermals, pushing out and finding nothing before heading down towards the Ingleborough summit in excellent lift. Another spell there; Dean going back north to student duties as Chris and I climbed slowly and smoothly towards base.
With no comms it wasn't easy to know what each was thinking. Given it was an easy retrieve I thought it worth a jaunt over the back with nothing really to lose.
Below: Chris in front of Ingleborough. The sky downwind.
As the first thermal weakened I led out towards Austwick losing a good deal of height. A weak area of lift appeared, Chris came in from the side and we gained a 1000' or so before losing patience. Chris headed south, I watched .... then pounced when he seemed to have a found a solid climb. This worked well .... smooth, not very strong and lovely views as we headed over Settle at 4000' just short of base. To the south was a clear SB front and 7/8 overcast - it may have worked. Ahead rather blue and poorly defined clouds with ground in sun, but it led down the main road and an easy retrieve. To the north ... crosswind and the better terrain which may have been the wiser route as Chris rightly pointed out later.
Whilst Chris glided to his house at Long Preston I headed on a long glide towards Hellifield and finding nothing landed down the Gisburn road.
A pleasant enough flight I didn't expect and just a thermal to base short of the airspace step- down.
14/7/2021 Wether Fell
A funny sort of day.
I didn't get away until 12.45 and had to be back by 4pm latest. It looked very nice, sunny, warm and a light breeze and I felt happy enough with a few hours social and a fly on Wether Fell. However, a slight delay intervened.
A few miles beyond Gearstones I came across a Kawasacki motorcycle lying in the road with the rider 30' ahead lying in a shallow ditch on the grass verge pinioned against a fence. I wasn't the first there, a cool and capable woman was already beginning checks. A short assessment and I rushed off to Ribblehead station for a phone. Sorted an ambulance and arrived back to find an off-duty PC sorting traffic. Shortly after an ambulance arrived on scene, took charge and I set off again for Wether.
There were gliders flying, and doing OK on Dodd, but not wanting to drive any further I opted to stay at Wether. There was a good sky, but the wind was light and no one wished to chance it (although I think Martin Bunford did as I arrived - but went down). Chatted for a good hour to Dennis, Simon, Alan and the hangies - Tony F. By now it was getting rather late for me and I decided it was now or head off home. So ... down the track 200m and a last check. I considered it soarable and probably the beginnings of the sea breeze making its way in .... it was also going off to the SW, another sign, although the sky was still OK.
In short - took off, found it OK with odd weak thermals coming through. Ten minutes later everyone else was also in the air, the hangies too a little later. A 30 min blast and I had to land, hurriedly pack and get away. They were doing OK as I left.
Below: Alan Shields on his Nyos(?)
Phew! Having flown seven days out of seven this is going to take some catching up. I'll keep it brief.
16/7/2021 Barton Fell
My take at the Helton parking at Barton was it was possibly blown out - but then it always appears that way here. No one flying seemed to confirm that however so I headed towards Penrith en route to the LCC. At Rheged .... I realised I'd got it wrong with about six gliders already airborne - and a great looking sky developing.
Sweaty walk up from Pooley Bridge and soon in the air from the lower step. Good thermals to a 4000'+ base and definitely a great xc day. However with the car the wrong side of the hill and other plans for later I just flew around for a few hours, top landed a couple of times, then mindful of the 'no fly' area top landed packed and walked down.
17/72021 Clough Head
LCC (Task 1). All groups on the same site so about 100 pilots - but never felt busy. A fresh wind but not really a problem, although it caught me out towards the end of the task. Down to Helvelynn, back to a turnpoint out in front of take off and thence to Appleby. Whilst the ridge was working OK the thermal activity over the back meant a dive and hope for many of us.
Having got the turnpoints all I needed was a good climb, ideally near the Dodds and then downwind towards the High Street ridge. Unfortunately, I thermalled back a little too far, tried to get forward over Clough and realised it was too close to risk given the wind - so shot off downwind with not much height. A weak nothing near Wolf that became a glide to nowhere and a landing amongst mini fir trees, followed by a 10 minute line plucking session.
The rest of the afternoon was a beery session in the Troutbeck Inn before heading back to the LCC base at Grasmere. 7th place I think ... with lots of others close to the same points.
18/7/2021 Clough Head
LCC (Task 2). A similar task to yesterday except for a final leg down the Milk Run and some turnpoints centred around the Grasmere base. However, conditions were very different. The sky had a nice collection of wave clouds and a stubborn bank of cloud shielded the sun from the take off and main ridge. The wind was much lighter than the Saturday, but the thermals were in short supply and rarely went to much height - tricky.
Those eager to be away and just soar down the ridge found zero lift .... nothing was working and they all went down. A full hour and a half later we were still stuck on the main take off cliffs (or better the back ridge) .... and getting very frustrated. With a little height and next to Gary he shouted ... 'Let's go'. It seemed a plan.
We made the first deep bowl lowish. Gary turned right, I turned left (as the wind seemed across the face) .... he went up and came first, I went down! How easy it is to make a simple mistake that carries a large penalty.
Again finished about 7th ... no-one completed the task - quite and the great majority went down trying. Perhaps most annoying of all ... as a dozen of us sat in the field near Thirlspot the ridge suddenly got sunny and switched on as the B compers cruised over - some at height. Just another 20 minutes on that take off ridge would have changed the outcome - maybe.
Overall, amazing weather (but too hot), lots of flying (can't really ask for more), great company and a very well organised event. Roll on next year.
Below: Gary Stenhouse in front of Seat Sandal nearing end of task.
19/7/2021 Dodd Fell
Another hot day, a very blue one to start with yet a good rasp. We planned for a triangle - that changed.
Kev collected me and we set off for Dodd picking up Chris en route. As the wind was light and it looked like nothing would get going until well past noon we took the longer walk to the top take off. We were about the first there shortly joined by Rosie and Ben.
Chris showed you could stay up and had a decent 20 minutes without gaining too much height before slope landing. I was lucky. Almost from the off I connected with the first thermals of the day to about 1200' .... tagged the start cylinder, headed north and off the end of the ridge to where the first cloud was forming. I was rather pushing the boat out .... but as things became a little desperate I connected and was soon up to 5,000'+.
From this point it was easy ... and a bit special. The clouds now started forming nicely, and every one just worked ... the only problem was they were only in the Dodd/Wether area and a little out front. Not ideal as I wanted to cross over onto Mallerstang for a turnpoint in the Tailbridge area. I spent a good hour just floating around at base, dodging into clouds and waiting for someone else to get up there and share it with. Down below on the ridge they seemed to be struggling - later they would find a lot better conditions.
Eventually Chris joined me and we continued the local flying whilst waiting for the sky to develop - in any direction really. That direction became downwind - so that's wehere we headed. Again, every cloud worked, often sucking us gently into them ... base now rose towards 6000'. Approaching Buckden the cloudscapes were became amazing - huge lines of cloud to the east and south and often a lot lower. Sea breeze/convection fronts .... or a combination? Either way it was mind-blowing.
As we approached Buckden a lone glider scooted across the moors - he seemed lowish, but was probably at 4000'. Wow! Great stuff. Kev now joined us to make a very happy trio.
This is where the usual comms issue hit us again - lots of options but no way to have a conversation and make decisions. So we ended up getting a bit scattered.
I set off down the moors east of Coverdale. It was hard to head into the fronts without settling for a much lower base - after being at well over 6000' it didn't seem as appealing. On my own now I decided (getting lower) to aim for a beast of a cloud towards Masham - had to work? The lower I got the more it felt like a sea breeze from the east - only light but a concern. Big as the cloud was and black as it appeared underneath it gave almost nothing and finally I landed pointing east in an oven of a field. After the cool at 6000' ground level seemed incredibly hot.
A triangle was on .... yet not sure where. Wensleydale was blue until well after we all landed. Heading south ... again, a SB front in the way. Maybe on reflection from Gt Whernside I think perhaps back to Dodd, although the headwind was about 12- 14kph - not easy on a EN C. Kev did try to cross Wensleydale to the moors - a good route back but met with few thermals out of the working area and a lot of sink.
Quality flying - but we felt a little constrained by the area that was working. And ..... I didn't fancy flying to Harrogate again.
Pints in Hawes and a debrief.
Below: Stills from a new action cam I was trying (but have returned as the colour is just awful).
A great day, but totally the wrong site.
It seemed OK as we arrived on take off ... a little breeze and initially we climbed out OK to 1500'. No clouds and that's how it stayed all day ..... the thermals getting fewer, weaker and more broken. We expected the day to develop as the previous one had .... but on Mallerstang it didn't. Yet, 8 miles south on Dodd (we only briefly discussed it as an option) it was to become a classic, great day. Richard and Dave S made it to Summerbridge and back - inspired.
For most of us a lot of effort for too little reward - although 'Slippery Mike' did managed a decent flight out front towards the end.
I wasn't intending to go out until Chris said he was on Moughton. Being only a 10 minute drive it seemed worth a look.
He was soaring when I arrived and I quite like the walk up so set off to join him, arriving at take off as he landed.
A light breeze, on the hill but a distinct lack of thermal and very blue (see photo) ... but with hints of clouds starting to form.
Again, I got a bit lucky. A few beats and a good climb arrived at a timely moment and I was away. Chris just missed it and had to slope land.
The climb seemed good - the core dodging around a bit until at 1600' ato I lost it. Out in the valley a real cloud formed so off I went. I little height lost but the climb arrived - only yet again to depart as I reached 1600'. It wasn't a comfy height to head into the moors in front of Pen y Ghent - but I did anyway. Soon I was regretting it and thinking of the hot walk out. Then, thankfully at 400' over the prospective walk-out I got a climb - not a bad one either. Nothing like low saves and on hot days they are a Godsend.
I climbed steadily, all going well and yet again at 1700'ato it just disappeared. Either I was losing them, they were shifting or that was their lot I'm not sure ... base was way higher. The best direction lay over the forestry ahead - if you wanted another climb - however the penalty for failure was high - not the landing options but the walk out. That I couldn't face.
I headed back forward along the forestry and towards a good cloud - but probably too low.
The landing field approached, legs out of harness ... basically I was ground skimming towards it.
The cloud was now almost above me and two Kestrels started dancing and circling - a surge, a little further a bigger surge until I was able to turn over a sloping field. A hundred feet gained - more turns - then onto the edge of the moors, 300' gained. This is unreal. Some more 360's and Ling Gill was directly below. Given the rising ground I had minimal ground clearance, the climb weakened and next I'd lost it. So nearly.
That all ended in another walk-out - about 40 minutes and lost sunglasses. Still ... enjoyable in a funny sort of way - glad I went out in the end.
23/7/2021 Middleark Scar
The day before I had CoM as the nailed on place to be ... even inserted all my plans in my instruments. Then circumstances changed those plans.
Friday morning saw Chris K and I driving up a windy Mallerstang valley and as a last option checking out a new take off hill. That being Middleark Scar.
The walk in was warm, but steady and probably the easiest approach to flying Wild Boar, especially with any east in the wind. It took about 45 minutes. We found a nice, grassy take off shelf with the wind at this stage OK, but a bit on the light side if anything. Chris was away first but had to land a little further on. My turn and straight into good ridge lift and punchy thermals that would become the hallmark of the day. Our plan was to fly towards Keswick but it proved difficult to get high and quite testing. I think later, after 2.30hrs in the air we both agreed that it was some of the most consistently rough flying we'd both had for a long time.
As time passed we became increasingly frustrated, worn down and just eager to be away from Wild Boar. A few clouds finally appeared, but were thin and wispy .... meanwhile over the Lakes - 30 miles away it looked a lot better day. When one climb took us to 3200' we just said, 'what the hell' ... and went for it.
It was a sinky glide to the Howgills, with odd bits of light lift to circle in as we approached Great Dummocks. Chris was lower and had a brief scratchy time before we both got level with the top. Again, it was rough! A change of hill didn't seem to make any difference. A 20 minute spell of being bounced around and we headed down the ridges towards Sedbergh, taking strong surges and odd tip collapses en route.
With little going for us we passed over Winder, Chris a little further north ... neither option really worked, nearly, but never convincingly giving lift off. As the ground rises across the Lune Chris found something near the Pulpit - he was low, I was really low, near the trees and then looking very closely into a farmyard. Another battling session and daring to dream of climbing out of the predicament we were in - the strong drift making it very committing on each 360.
We turned, we drifted, the ground rose slightly and we felt low. Eventually we met the ground a mile over the back and that was the end of flying towards the Lakes - the good clouds tantalisingly out of reach.
Interesting ride back squashed firstly into a very small seat in an ancient red sports car driven by an 86 yr old guy (interesting) .... then the plush white, leather seats of an execs car (extravangant and in style).
25/7/2021 Park Fell
I only had the latter part of the afternoon, so had a walk to the top of Park Fell. Another hot sweaty walk and a light wind on the NE face ... but at least some clouds.
Several scratchy flights and landings - a few people turn up but they went down. I decided it was time to do the same and just headed out and got a few hundred feet under take off when my target cloud started to work. Back up to ridge height, then to 600' over before I lost it or rather declined to follow it back preferring another cloud out front for a step up.
That plan didn't work so I landed and had a pint at the Station Inn.
26/7/2021 Murton Pike
With high hopes I set off for Murton. The forecast was good, the clouds sweet and the Dales A team was also heading there. Had to be the right place?
We all eventually met up on top .... the very top. Despite a decent sky the wind was very light (usual thing here) ... and well off to the north (usual thing here).
We sat around with odd fruitless attempts at aviation that repeatedly ended with slope landings and some carry-ups. This is fairly normal for Murton - it's a thermal site and usually takes until mid afternoon to get going.
On the button ... about 3pm it started and just about everyone piled off and slowly climbed out. The plan was either O&R along the ridge, or a triangle out front - neither plan worked out. I climbed out nicely after a low save mid-way down the slope - Phew! At this point the day changed very quickly, the nice cu's being replaced by dark spread-out along the first half of the ridge. The front runners (Pete and Jake) ... got part way up the ridge before deciding over the back was where the best cloud options lay. And they did well with 70k flights.
For the rest of us it was fairly quickly back to earth after a reasonable spell of thermalling. Thinking it was going to be lifty under the dark spread out I left the climb I was in to find it was actually very sinky and not a good idea. Maybe just heading north would have worked out better.
Funny place Murton .... frustrating at times.
And .... I got my first chance to use my new GoPro :)
Below: Thermalling with Richard Meek over High Cup Nick