4/6/2021 The Magnet
I met up at 10am with Kev and Chris K at the entrance to Kingsdale and decided of all the options the nearby Magnet looked as good as anywhere.
Everything looked really good on the walk up. A great sky, nice breeze and a plan for somewhere towards Stokesley ... we felt the sea breeze may scupper much further. Everything felt excellent on take off and shortly after Dennis arrived too so that made four.
We were soon airborne but struggling to find that one, big climb out and as time passed it looked increasingly blue out front. A long line of clouds to the north and the SE but for us a sense of having missed the bus. Eventually, Kev and Chris got away .... for Dennis and I it was more searching and hoping. I took a gamble and headed off the very north end to a lonely cloud .... it delivered (Phew!). I was on my way.
This was a really hard sky to work - lots of top cover and just darker bits that seemed to evidence a cumulus. But they worked and I edged my way NE (there was more south in the wind) which could prove awkward from a goal point of view. I kept looking out for Kev and Chris but they were 20 minutes ahead so I wasn't too hopeful. Finally, I caught sight of them, still together and mincing around on the moors behind Nappa. So I set off across Wensleydale.
Approaching Nappa I found a good climb and from mincing they decided mine was better and came back to join me. Being lower they struggled a little and somewhere around this point we lost Kev. A little further on I stumbled into a corker that at last took me just into cloud at 4800' - Chris just a little below. Now what to do?
Two D areas, Fieldom and Bellarby meant a decision had to be made - between them (best route) ... or least risky route, south of Bellarby (easier retrieve option). I took the latter and moved to skirt the south side of Bellarby. Given the wind I should have gone round the north side - seems obvious now. The net result was I hit a thermal when I need one (getting rather low) ... just on the point of passing close and (long story) took one 360 too many and breached airspace by 10m. That rather wasted the flight .... DSQ!
I now settled on landing at Leyburn, getting a pint and a bus back. Sod's Law just had to provide another thermal over Leyburn which Chris came into 5 mins later. I minced and landed not feeling too happy ... what a lovely day it was now - to blow it with a stupid error.
A 50k plus flight, most of the hard work done and I do that.
An interesting flight, technically quite hard.
Just a few photo's .... note the long line of cloud to the north on leaving Whernside - blue where I am. Also downwind the grey top cover with little blobs of cu embedded in there.
Photo: Heading out over the moors uinder a great sky. What could go wrong?
The sky looked excellent over Brantside, but the wind was surprisingly off to the south - not unsoarable, just awkward and limiting for what we had in mind. It was gusty enough to slow down proceedings, but luckily we had Tom S .... plucky, confident and first to test the air with an excellent launch. Shortly after I launched and a little later Geoff - others were more reluctant, given it was bit spicy. It was decidedly bouncy with broken thermals and a fresh wind adding to the rodeo effect.
Eventually, others joined us and after a frustrating spell, first Tim R then Geoff got high and away -- 10 minutes later I too managed to get high and committed. Downwind the sky looked excellent but the drift still showed our heading to be more NNE than the ENE we'd hoped for - so goodbye to the original goal.
Over Cotterside the next climb arrived under a well marked cloud. Below I spotted Tom ... he seemed low as he exited the moors; in reality he was probably higher than he appeared and a climbed came his way too, but by then I'd lost track of him. Progress was good .... the moors working well and I saw Tan Hill ahead from cloudbase (5000' ish). The sky looked great (see photo above). Passing over Amanda's, Yorkshire far at Ravenseat, I couldn't resist a bit of video - just in case.
I passed over the Tan Hill pub which looked busy. There were two clouds to head for and so set off across the large, flat moors towards the A66 which seemed a mere glide away. For whatever reason neither cloud delivered - barely a bleep. Getting low the choice now became the A66 (a fast road and not great for lifts) ... or turn back as far as possible to one of the moorland road leading to the pub. I chase the latter figuring a remote moorland road best for hitching.
The landing was uneventful, but it was breezy!
Getting back. The first part involved an hour's hike across trackless, but flat moor until I reached a tarred road. Traffic was scare and it took two miles before I got an unexpected lift on the back of a small flat top truck with a strapped down hay-bob. Three very friendly farm folk were occupying the cab so it was suggested I find a place alongside the hay-bob and hang on - space was limited. I ended up rather squashed in. For perhaps 20 miles we bounced along the moors accompanied by all manner of machine rattles whilst my legs, unable to move, became increasingly numb. The counter was superb views .... all around was simply stunning and mostly new to me. Eventually we entered Kirkby Stephen.
Getting off was .... difficult. My legs failed to function as legs should, the right especially would not even support me. I waved goodbye to the laughing family and collapsed against a wall to reassemble a functioning leg. When I started off, on what I thought would be a long walk to the station, I had the gait of a 90 year old cripple. Could I make it? Then .... from nowhere a 4x4 stopped with Alan Blackett driving .... good old Alan, he drove me to the station. 10 minutes later Tim R picked me up and drove me to my car (thanks Tim) which had been brought to the Moorcock (thanks Glen). All sorted and back to Hawes for a drink.
I didn't quite make the drink as within minutes I was Northallerton bound to collect Geoff after his mega flight. He didn't make a big story of it - no blow by blow account and we managed a pint at the pub in Bainbridge (expensive!) ... but Geoff paid.
Youtube video (far more interesting)
6/6/2021 Whernside (W)
Another walk up the back of Whernside with Chris (and more UFO stories). This time we took the WNW face .... so the other side of the wall. Slightly behind us was Dean and the school and later other assorted pilots added to the gathering. A lovely sky, but almost no wind so it was going to be tricky.
Chris as always was first off, followed by Dean ....and they stayed up, then climbed so it was definitely working. Later Dave May managed a fight too. With little wind to speak of it was a tough call to commit to launch - and possibly a walk back up. Chris then headed at height towards Gragareth .... not to be seen again. Forty minutes later Dean followed leaving his baffled students sunbathing. He came up on my FANET as being 7k upwind at around 4,400' so doing pretty well.
I managed two flights ... small height gains and one short, steep walk back up. Finally, there were indications of things changing from the Kingsdale side and we were off. The first climb didn't comvince, but the next at the Dentdale end of the ridge was better and I was soon heading over the back above 4000'. It was slow going and it may have been better to follow the good sky forward but I had a goal set at Wells and opted to go for that. Just as I was leaving Dean appeared from upwind.
It was pretty straightforward to Wether Fell, but the sky downwind was 7/8 cover ... looked showery and all the ground was shaded out. Once under it the lift was strong so I pulled forward for a re-think - thought you wimp, just go for it. Goal didn't seem that distant so a 180 and back in again. The strong lift appeared again and took me to base .... but the worst thing was no obvious escape routes. OK .... a re-assess.
Given there was little wind then why not go for a triangle. The sector was near Baugh Fell so I headed over Widdale and some good clouds. If only these worked as well as the others this could get interesting. I tried, searched and minced but I could find nothing .... which was a real pity. Everything looked very promising - the ground, the amount of sun and the clouds but it didn't go the way of the textbooks.
Another slow 180 and I headed back to land in Hawes.
7/6/2021 Three Men
A two hour late afternoon/evening session. A little breezy and bouncy with odd mixing thermal .... probably with a sea breeze influence.
8/6/2021 Three Men
Quite a breezy day, although if you got to Parlick early it was OK and the sky looked excellent.
Geoff and I arrived late, about 6.30pm to see a mystery glider flying and doing OK. A quick walk up and it was pretty much perfect wind and direction - except we were too late - we thought.
Soon into the air - very smooth with odd weak thermal gusts. We soared back and forth to the south end - sometimes scratching, sometimes a few hundred feet agl. Just after 7pm we bumped into a proper thermal at the south end and followed this for a 1000' until over the very top wall of Gragareth. Wow! 7.15pm ... the usual fantastic evening views towards the Bay and over the hills out front. Pure bliss. We had it all to ourselves, perfect, gentle soaring conditions and eventually landed and agreed it had been a lovely hour of flying.
The day didn't have a lot to commend it other than a pleasant SW wind and some sunshine - the RASP wasn't that great, although better than recent days. Still .... it seemed a nice day and I optimistically set a 85k goal from Windbank.
I walked up chatting to Tony Fillingham, whilst overhead the first gaggle of half a dozen was forming, climbing and injecting a little urgency into the day. By the time I arrived on top there were only a few pilots there, none flying and the gaggle was now heading over the back. Again I chatted happilly to a nice guy, Simon, wasted more time, before realising the urgency and plugging a goal into the Skytraxx, but neglecting to do so into xctrack (something I usually always do and came to increasingly regret).
I spent a rather boisterous 20 minutes on the ridge before finding a solid, smooth climb out to base (a modest 4'100' ... it would rise only a few hundred more as the day progressed). I rarely do xc flights from Windbank, and given the SSW drift whilst familiar ground, I approached from an unusual direction so it felt quite different ... and slightly weird. I'm usually heading the other direction.
The clouds all worked well and the odd quick check on the FANET screen indicated how some of those 20k ahead of me were doing. Some OK ... some struggling, and a few down.
Again ... Bellarby/Fieldom provided a dilemma. Left. right or between? The clouds rather decided it and I passed to the east towards Richmond. The climbs kept coming, the clouds formed up nicely so I always had the next lined up for when I topped out. Teeside airspace arrived and fortunately the clouds just skirted the north edge as I passed just north of Darlington (seems big from the air). I got a little low but another climb arrived ... with another ahead so confidence remained high.
I never really got low, nor desperate ... the clouds seemed very predictable. The Skytraxx was now not helping with the track to goal ... for some reason it wasn't auto zooming and before I registered how much I was off track I was too far to the south. The clue was the distance which seemed slow at counting down ... a sure sign I was sliding past, not heading towards. At 11k out I was directly cross wind ... and it now seemed quite fresh. Then a another problem loomed. Peterlee!
I'm not familair with the airspace here and suddenly found myself heading towards it with little space (a few k's) to easily get round. I'd decided at this point that the coast was easily attainable and maybe around the northside (best for wind and distance) would be best. It may also squeak the magic 100k. Getting crosswind and around proved difficult - any climbs lead me closer to the D area. Again ... a change of plan. The clouds upwind looked OK ... maybe I could, somehow come into my goal from the side/back. I can't say the climbs upwind weren't there ... but they were almighty rough; nothing like any others on the day.
Heading further upwind I assume I got caught in entrainment gusts from a strong core - they reduced speed to zero, were strong and unpleasant. The end of a very pleasant flight proved rather a battle, but the landing uneventful as the gusts passed through. Looking back I wish I'd just carried on to the south of Peterlee and the coast - just 7k away. It would have been nice to land near the beach. I got greedy perhaps.
Now the interesting bit. This was unknown lands to me so getting back could be a nightmare. Actually, it proved remarkably easy and fast. Lady Luck was definitely on my side.
A short dirt track led to a main A road - busy and fast. Just as I though ... not a chance of hitching, a car pulled up. Inside was an old hang gliding buddy from 20 years ago, a top pilot, Steve Gill. By chance I'd landed near his house and he kindly gave me a lift to Durham station. From there three quick train changes and I was back at Skipton by 6.30pm (and the tickets from York to Skipton were a mere £6.90 total. I won't mention the First Class error from Durham to York!). At Skipton, Mahood (top taxi man if you want a deal) ... said slip me £10 cash and I've got a man taking a minibus to Grassington - he'll take you to the Tennants Arms at Kilnsey. A short walk on a lovely summers evening and I was back at the car by 7.25pm. Two superfit young women were doing two of Kilnsey's hardest routes (through the mega roof) as I passed ... how times have changed since I last clmbed there.
I great day out that I hadn't planned for when I woke that morning.
Very few photos (rather too busy, no one to film and the flatlands are a bit boring)
17/6.2021 Three Men
I arrived to an empty carpark just gone 1pm. The sky looked very good, the wind light WNW and certainly worth a walk up. Given the direction I followed the track until cutting up onto the WNW slopes.
On take off it was very calm with just odd moderate thermal gusts coming through. The first three flights were short, but each one seemed better than the one before. The fourth flight provided lift off. The thermals were quite abundant now with each cloud working as the wind strengthened and pulling increasingly to the W then WSW and finally S. I deduced the sea breeze was pushing in and triggering this spell of thermals activity. I took a few climbs to base (and into cloud a ways - spectacular) ... trying to decide if it was worth going with the lift and heading towards the Magnet. I decided against - base was only 3500' at best and with the now fresh wind I didn't feel like getting pinned on the back of Whernside. I settled for an hour as typically the sea breeze was now causing it to be rather bouncy.
A couple of others arrived - John H and Tony J. A brief top landing and chat, then back into the air. The sea breeze was now full in and not especially pleasant so deciding enough was enough I went and landed by the cars.
18/6/2021 Coniston Old Man
Tom, Chris and I met up at Ribblehead and quickly decided the Dales was blown out and unlikely to get better. So ... off to the Lakes.
A few choices, but COM seemed the obvious one. We arrived expecting no parking places, but not a problem plus we got a prime one .... or at least an £8/day ticket. (The lower, big overflow is soon to open and be added to the mega bucks they must rake in). The big surprise was no other pilots - and we never saw another all day which seemed odd given it was a good option for the conditions.
A pleasant walk up in hot sunshine and under a great sky. The winds remained fairly light with odd thermal blows coming through - all looked excellent. Chris launched, sunk a few hundred feet - scooted for the quarry spoil heaps and managed to get a climb. We then barely saw him (unless a mere speck at great height way out front) for the next three hours. For Tom and I it was a more frustrating and sweaty ordeal. Mine consisted of going down - fighting until the very bottom! Still, good hike n fly practice. A quick pack and I set off back up. 40 minutes later Tom and I were reunited and ready for round two (or three in Tom's case).
By now it had clouded over, the wind was still light so it looked like another ride to the bottom. Whilst contemplating the chances, Chris arrived crossing the Coppermines valley and sinking fairly convincingly. Then ... just when it seemed to be confirming our worse fears he found a climb - perfectly in front of take off. Game on. We dived in with him and climbed away.
A lovely hour followed. No great things - but able to fly the ridge, taking occasional thermals along to Swirl How. Feeling this could be useful terrain to check out for the X Lakes I had a good mosey around the options and tried out the new Wainwright's file on xctrack. It works really well, although when the first message popped up, 'The Old is really close' ... followed by, 'Old violated'. I couldn't work out if this was a personal reference until I twigged what it was really saying.
Finally, the last of the thermals died away, the ridge lift died with it and we went and landed together agreeing it had been a very enjoyable day. Chris had managed a nice local triangle and we celebrated with three pints of Loweswater at the Sun in warm sunshine.
A few photo's LINK (the smaller ones are courtesey of Tom's iphone).
20/6/2021 Swarth Fell
Being a grey, overcast morning I'd given flying little thought and made other arrangements for the day culminating in the Wales games at 5pm. Chris messaged he was off to Swarth and I wished him luck. A few hours later I chanced a look at the forecast and realised I was under a weakening cold front with blue skies and a great rasp advancing rapidly behind. I changed plans and set off with the skies opening up as I approached the Mallerstang valley. It looked very good.
A forty minute walk in to the bottom of the NE face where wind speed/direction were so good I decided I could launch from a grassy bank near the foot of the hill. Chris had just taken off from near the top. We had about 40 minutes ... it was 'punchy' .... mosty not bad, but occasionally unsettling. When Chris headed out, got low and landed I assumed he'd had enough. So ...I too headed out into the valley, found a thermal I wasn't looking for, discarded it and landed even further down the fellside. Chris walked down,"I wasn't intending to land, I saw you get thermal I was after". No radio equals crossed wires. We kited back up to the foot of the hill.
Again, in a light breeze we launched near the bottom and scooted up to well over ridge height. The clouds looked great, the thermals still strong in parts, but more organised. Again, the lack of a radio came into play. A good thermal took us high, at 4200' I rather lost track of Chris further back and a few hundred feet higher. My last check and my assumption (wrongly) was him heading back towards the ridge - upwind. So I did similar. The result was I rapidly lost 1000' as he climbed in a better sorted thermal to over 5000' over Baugh Fell ... and was gone!
Whilst Chris dealt with his own very low saves en-route to an interesting xc, I settled for battling the ridge for 90 minutes. Nice enough soaring and despite a fair sky the climbs just weren't there. Then the whole valley shaded out, nice to the north and south ... nothing happening on the hill. By 4pm I decided to call it quits and flew down and landed. Within 10 minutes the sky had opened up fully (see photo above). Aaaargh!
I went for a pint at the Moorcock. Messaged Chris re retrieve - nothing. Drove to Sedbergh, then KL ... still nothing. Turned out he was still flying. Finally, back at Ingleton he sent his location, just south of Galgate. Later he made it back to Ingleton and we drove over for his car followed by a late evening pint back at the Moorcock. Disappointing day for me, excellent flight from Chris - but I saw the Wales game.
Note: The Swarth/Wild Boar ridge is a rear gem.
With a light and fickle wind you could have picked any number of sites. The RASP thermal strength was excellent and the base forecast to be high at 6000+. Our preference was the north end of the Mallerstang ridge which is high and had the wind coming round onto the main faces by 1pm. There was a decent number of pilots, over a dozen, gathered on the World's End, northern pimple - I, having to be diferent, set up on my favourite edge about a 500m south. My reasoning being that the pimple never works that well and has no real face for a NW wind.
By midday the thermal gusts were building, but a few short hops showed it wasn't yet working. On my fourth attempt I connected and climbed with something not that strong. The usual group dived off the pimple and came in below. Cav, Ben (glider bucking a lot), Geoff and Chris. When that died there was a bit of scratching and I landed - only to see the rest climb away to near base. That was the last I saw of them.
The thermal gusts were now getting quite potent, total calm to 30 +kph. A few more futile attempts and top landings until finally one excellent climb to base at 6,400' (in fact base was still a bit higher). The drift was neglible so with half a plan on a triangle I headed SE towards Wether Fell. There were gliders on the ground, a few flying, but none seemed to be doing that well. Behind Wether another good climb got me high and although I wanted to now head west towards Sedbergh a long SB front and accompanying shade out was blocking the way. Maybe east? The sky looked better but the wind here was showing a NE (as forecast on that side of the Dales) ... it seemed slow going when I tried it. In the end I took the only way I could see as logical - straight downwind (?). Squeezed by the SB to the west, a NE to the east and a huge shade out chasing down behind as the sky filled.
Increasingly the thermal drift kept pushing me towards Skipton - due south. That is until approaching Grassington a marked westerly drift appeared. All change again. this move took me east over the moors towards Pateley Bridge. It was during one thermalling session I spotted a glider low in the depths of the moors .... now and again he'd appear, scratching along , low and with no hint of any sun. I felt glad that wasn't my predicament. Over Pateley the sky looked better but the wind at all levels was less than 5kph and pulling into climbs from every direction. Lovely flying, but incredibly slow. Usually a good thermal would get me to Harrogate ... on this day it took half a dozen weak ones. Time was the killer - at Pateley the sky had looked good to head over Harrogate towards Wetherby - by the time I got there everything was dying out and the sky had lost the good cumulus.
The final piece of excitement was approaching Harrogate and spotting a glider a lot higher and to the south - the same one as over the moors? Airspace awaits in that direction and he must have been close. Then he drifted on .... losing height like me. I landed in my usual field, a newly mown and marked playing field on the end of town. On both sides in adjacent fields they were spreading manure, really smelly stuff that I circled down through.
A fast and straight forward retrieve .... quick lift and a train from Skipton to Settle. Back with time to spare for the England game.
Shocking quality photos, but they serve to illustrate the sky I navigated. Meanwhile, those with any sense did some decent triangles and Cav came out again to show he's not lost his touch.
27/6/2021 X Lakes (Loweswater) out of Eskdale base.
When I signed up for the X Lakes, 'Daytripper' it sounded quite innocuous. The previous year I sort of guested it, enjoyed it and didn't feel it was much harder than any normal day out. In fact a nice roam around the fells from Carrock without any WW waypoints in my instruments. This year was to turn out a bit more complex, a lot harder, immensely rewarding and with very much the feel of an adventure.
The preparation didn't start off too well. A simple shopping trip on the Friday resulted in a freakish tweaked Achilles tendon and a pronounced limp. I decided I'd do what I could ... if I had to I'd limp it and hope it was mostly flying, not hiking. Being smart I thought I'd drive and over-night near Loweswater after registering at Eskdale base Friday evening - that went well except I never actually sussed out exactly where the start field was. Next morning, early (6.25am) saw me plodding the roads under an already warm sun, sack on back thinking it was only 100m away or fairly close. Discovering it was obviously some distance away I headed back to the car. Now late I drove until I saw flags and banners arriving just as the start hooter sounded and the race began without me. Mind you I prefer doing my own thing. Tracker sorted and 15 minutes later I followed my own solitary path. I had a plan.
A word about the task. There were three mandated WW (turnpoints) .... Grasmoor, Red Pike and Low Fell - roughly a triangle. Missing any would result in a third deduction of the final total ... miss all and it was nil points! The time deadline was 4pm and missing that also carried big penalties - 5pm, again meant nil points. Aside from the mandated turnpoints you gathered whatever extra you could, by foot or air. A sweet, but tricky 9hr task on a beautiful Lakeland day.
Below: Mandated waypoints shown as a triangle into finish field
Photo (above): Heading towards Rannerdale - one of the mandated TP's is Red PIke, the obvious summit on the middle skyline.
A glorious morning for a walk. I headed off on a route no one else favoured it seemed. A solitary trek through woods alongside Crummock, then some roadwork heading into Rannerdale. I saw barely a soul - just so peaceful. The leg was being tested, I was slower than normal due to a reduced stride length, but hoped going up hill would be easier. Heading into Rannerdale I was pleased to see the cylinder neatly clipped the path edge. I was chuffed by an easy bonus so early on. So chuffed in fact I managed to lose the main track when cutting a corner and ended up in a nightmare of head-high gorse and assorted bracken on a steep hillside - I was in the land of sheep. I could have retraced, but reluctant to lose height I headed in deeper and steeper! This felt a big gamble. I followed sheep trods, convinced that sheep weren't really stupid with their own special intelligence at getting from A to B .... and it worked. Within 40 sweaty minutes I was back in a landscape I understood of steep grass - pathless, but better than where I'd been. Better still - it did cut off a big corner towards Whiteless Pike. But it was becoming a grind.
Whiteless Pike was a swine .... false summit after false summit and no way around due to steep craggy sides ... so all the way to the top. Then followed a sharp ridgeline to Wandhope ... that was now three Wainwright's bagged. Getting there steadily. By now the wind was really howling up the immense gullies to my right (NE) ...I briefly considered if it was launchable, but the spine back I was on made it a very dodgy place to risk launching. The temptation was to gain height quickly by flying. I resisted the pull and succumbed to good sense.
As 11am approached I was heading onto the flat top of Crag Hill .... not fast but making progress. I'd planned to launch here and thermal back towards Grasmoor - most took Grasmoor on foot via their own approach routes. I met a fellow pilot heading down from Crag Hill .... he'd not actually been to the top, just tagged the cylinder and assumed it too windy (as he'd found Grasmoor). He intended to back track my route on foot. No sooner had he headed off down than a glider appeared in the sky ahead. I shouted and whistled - but he just kept on heading down at pace. More hopeful I continued on up.
Several wing's were laid out .... a few launching and the wind was almost light. In fact .... aside from a lowish base and the sea breeze visible to the NW it looked pretty good.
Below: Where has all the wind gone?
It was still fairly early .... no great rush, but the sea breeze seemed to be getting closer. Impatience then got the better of me .... time deadlines do that to you. Only 5 hrs to go and some tricky distant turnpoints to get. I launched .... or rather got yanked off launch in a less than elegant, uncool fashion. I had a short 10 minute soaring session, went forward and tagged Sail (now five tagged) .... arrived back at the hill to find a climb that got stronger ... and stronger until the ground became rather hazy, the cloud wrapped around me and the gaps smaller until just bits of a terrain jigsaw I couldn't place not knowing the NW fells that well.
A word on instruments. I'd put my intended route into Skytraxx ... and set it to 'hike' mode. It didn't work for me. At Rannerdale it didn't show cylinders clearly, or make any sense so I'd switched back to 'fly' mode which worked a whole lot better but doesn't store an igc file as the parameters aren't met. I had it running from the very start until I finished. The cylinder countdowns were my biggest booster - I love numbers The problem came when in flight I intended to use mainly xctrack for navigation. The issue was on switch on, no gps signal ... I waited, still nothing and took off with it still showing Harrogate from the previous Tuesday. Now entering the white room I needed xctrack to provide a heading - odd glimpses of ground didn't cut it. I took the best heading I could for Grasmoor, flew blind and tried to use the Skytraxx without much luck. It seemed a longish period in persistent lift with few ground references.
Eventually the ground and hills reappeared and below me a scattering of clouds, so spectacular and no camera .... there was also a 'ping'. The gps had finally connected. I appeared to have wandered off track, not far, but missed the Grasmoor cylinder. A quick turn back and it was tagged. Ahead, across the lake was Mellbreak .... I should have ignored it as I could have got it on the way back later. Instead I deviated and went for it. Over the lake I got a sudden, huge collapse ... about 70% frontal. A short fight before normal flight was resumed ... not sure where it came from as most of the time it was fairly smooth. I passed over Mellbreak high and headed for the back ridges intending to fly up to Red Pike. It wasn't to be and I did a high slope landing on steep rocky ground above a big face relieved to have escaped a big walk up.
I packed, fairly happy with progress - now I had seven in the bag and 30 minutes walk ahead was Starling Dodd, number eight. The ground was rough and boggy in parts, but a path appeared leading around a shallow bowl towards Red Pike ..... soarable? Maybe but it seemed better use of time to continue walking and launch in the cylinder of Red Pike. I arrived 5 minutes before Tim (Rogers) on a perfect grassy shoulder above an enormous, steep bowl with crags looming overhead. At any other time with the wind on and of a nice strength you'd have thought it nailed on soaring up to the summit. But I'd seen others struggling here as I walked up.
I launched and after a single beat found nothing, this was one really sinky place. I had hoped it would be easy getting up and heading NE towards High Stile and Haystacks. Instead I was being flushed out and down, back to Melbreak where gliders had been happily soaring all day. The climbs appeared as I approached ... nothing strong, just weak thermals but just enough to get me across the valley to Low Fell - the final mandated turnpoint. Maybe it was that fixation gave me brain fade.
I approached Low Fell just above ridge top height to see a glider laid out and it appeared windless .... but especially interesting was four wings above skying out. This looked like the famous Loweswater convergence. Getting high was easy - lift everywhere the question being, What to do with it? For reasons unknown to me I pushed back into the high fells intending to tag Whiteside (not on my list so a bonus). What I should have done was gone south where three or four Wainwrights were just begging to be tagged - I had time and even landing out would have at most been a 30 minute walk in along the valley to the finish. Whiteside was a silly, futile idea - high and in the lee, so I turned back 400m short having lost height.
I tagged Fellbarrow instead giving me a final tally of 11. It could so easily have been 13 or 14 had I realised the potential of my final height and all the lift. Somehow one can be quite blind in decision making at times. Too late I tried to get across to Carling Knott and in the end just made it back into the finish field.
This was a great day out. Probably one of my most memorable ever. The task, the people, the weather and the sheer beauty of the setting. I can't really complain ....but you always think, What if? I certainly learned a lot too.
LINK I didn't take any photos other than odd ones with my phone. To save weight I ditched the video .... rather wish I hadn't in retrospect.
29/6/2021 Park Fell
Decided to stay local for the 5pm KO of the England game. Hence, Park Fell just 10 mins up the road. It was wavy, very wavy and the best of any cumulus was certainly not here. The wind was up and down, but the real problem was it being directly onto the nose - so very little slope to work with and poor ridge lift.
As I arrived near the top Ges and Joseph took off, a little later as I chatted with Chris and Liam they headed off ... although it didn't look convincing. Chris did the same as I laid out, but again it was rather feeding off scraps and today wasn't that sort of day for me.
In the end I had about half a dozen flights. Bits of thermal but nothing to write home about and in the end decided the Station Inn and a pint was what I really needed.
During one flight a gaggle of four hangies came over from the BOS based on Dodd. They struggled entering Chapel le Dale and came over to Park and found that quite useless too and landed out. I was hardly skying out so I can't take the blame.
Below: Chris launches from the nose. Note the washed out sky.
30/6/2021 Fell End (Worlds End)
The final day of an amazing June. I've flown fifteen days during the month ... some really special flights and easily the most airtime/month in four decades of flying.
The night before, Chris and I decided there were really only two options - given the NNE light breeze and a very good rasp, either Fell End or Green Bell. Tom S and Liam (Toot) are adventurous enough and positive enough to fall in with our 'often different' plans. So that made a nice foursome. On the morning drive up it soon became obvious that Fell End was the best option.
Whilst high, it's no extensive soaring site, a short beat yet well place to catch thermals, with a good track of high ground downwind. In other words, the thermals don't die and others always pop up along the ridge towards Cotterside. Then it gets bit more tricky.
The sky looked good but was still developing. The initial flights were short beats, a few thermal climbs, repeated landings but within the hour the climbs were becoming more consistent and organised. Eventually, approaching 2pm and RASP time Chris and I found the climb we wanted and drifted away at cloudbase - not that high at 4200' over high ground.
Below: Not a very clear photo, but it illustrates the convergence line we followed along the moors with SB encroaching from the west (left).
Passing over Cotterside we briefly flirted with convergence cloud, but unfortunately we'd become separated. A little earlier Chris had seemed low, but got back up in the best climb of his day - I was slightly ahead and should have waited as I did see him 500m behind and also at base. As we've found before the next section looks OK, but is tricky., two of us together would have helped a lot. We both found ourselves at slightly different points on Widdale, both quite low and scrabbling to make the best of weak, broken thermals. Getting high again and over Newby Head would be a big boost on getting towards our modest goal for the day. (We'd set a task to Chris' house near Hellifield .... only about 50k, but our plan had been to turn east at the edge of the Dales as RASP suggested a strong SB washing up against it).
Chris fought a valiant losing battle and eventually landed in the valley. Meanwhile, fully engaged in the battle to stay up I managed a 1000' in a weak, occasionally surging thermal until I lost patience at the sight of a better cloud over the valley. Being more a cloud than a ground pilot I shift towards it, lost all the 1000' but did find the climb and it was better. Phew!
I regained the lost 1000', thought I was going to sail at base over Newby Head and knew from previous experience that the moors there always seem to work well and were facing south into a full sun. The sky did look really excellent. No excuses really.
Again, I lost the climb .... maybe I should have searched longer and harder, but lured by another cloud over a flat-topped escarpment near Newby Head I went for that instead - with no great height to play with. Nothing ..... I dribbled down the moorland slopes towards Gearstones. Odd surges but nothing beyond the occasional turn. Just one good climb would have got me to what I believe was the Bay convergence ... glider's were laid out on the NW face of Park Fell. Within 15 minutes one would get high and fly through our goal cylinder. So nearly.
I think the plan was good, I also think had we stuck together we could have negotiated the tricky section. And ..... yet again the comms (mine) failed just after take off. I've come to the view they are essential.