7/7/2022 Dodd Fell
After a spell of poor weather I had high hopes for a good xc day. Geoff, Tim and I arrived on Dodd just before midday to find a large gathering of pilots .... some in the air and lots planning their day. It looked more promising than my previous visit when I'd flown to Harrogate .... then it had been blue and rough on the hill; today it would just end up frustrating.
There were few clouds, but it seemed bouyant enough despite the lightish wind. The pattern was soon set, broken climb to 3800' and not much more. Base stayed low .... the few clouds were thin and whilst some pilots drifted off downwind I was far from convinced given the lack of clouds and the high ground for 30k. Still .... I hung on in there up to the point where I realised it wasn't likely to get any better.
After maybe two hours a couple of things happened ... the wind increased and went more off to the south, pretty much as the forecast predicted and I knew RASP said the thermal activity would weaken. More interesting, although I didn't take it seriously at this stage, the base over Ingleborough to the south, dropped to touch the summit. Living directly under it I know sea breeze when I see it. At first the clouds didn't suggest it, but soon the telltale signs appeared, weak at first but developing as it moved north. By the time it was approaching the south end of Dodd, maybe 15 minutes had elapsed and by this stage it had grown impressively. I thought it worth an explore despite the base under it being quite low - it turned out to be 2800' ... so not far above the top of the hill. At this stage there were few gliders left in the air ... most had landed, left or were sat on take off.
As soon as I approached the base of the convergence wall the lift began and I headed west (it was aligned east/west). A little ducking in and out and I steadily climbed the cloud wall. Below and behind only Graham McAnany on his Rook 3 thought to follow. By the time I was nearing the top of the clouds at 4,200' Graham had more or less caught up. We didn't stay together long, but enough to get some video - another glider in such spectacular cloudscapes really helps. Graham then headed back east whilst I headed more west. In retrospect I should have played around a lot longer as such experiences aren't too common.
A foray towards Newby Head showed the lift more broken and the clouds began to break up so I headed back for a top up and second play.
After landing .... it had gone! As quickly as it came. A second short flight and back to land by the cars showed there was still abundant lift to be had .... just quite rough and windy.
Finally, driving down into Hawes we spotted a paraglider (Pete Morris) really high over Wether. He felt he had wave .... which seems about right; but mine was definitely convergence.
A pub gathering followed with chips to follow. Not a bad day afterall. To add ... for those who went over the back it was a lot better than it looked and there were some good flights. Most notably Pete Darwood to the Humber, and Dave Southern to just SE of York - he actually though straight through my goal!
VIDEO CLIP LINK Just the convergence part, I've cut out the interview with Gary S as it went on a bit.
9/7/2022 Dodd Fell
It looked very much like a re-run of two days previous. Wind OK, but the sky quite blue and base even lower at no more than 3500'. It was cycling through with decent spells when everyone was in the air, followed by spells where many got grounded. After a good hour of this a line of clouds formed off the south end and a radio message from Martin said the wind on take off was now SW. I decided to explore the clouds and join Rahul who was nicely being bounced around in amongst them. A short spell cloud surfing and Chris joined in. A brief shouted something .... no idea what, and I rashly headed downwind on a wing and many prayers. I wasn't in lift, not high and with little to head for. It really was taking a big gamble. My only reasoning being if the wind is now SW on Dodd then maybe Wether might work better being more protected. Chris .... no doubt thinking I was quite mad, followed.
We minced around low in rodeo air that gained us little before scooting off for Wether - at least the classic hayfields in the bottom were being worked. There were at least two hangies ground-bound and two paragliders .... and despite us flying in front of them no-one seemed interested in launching. In truth we didn't really inspire them. Finally after 15 minutes I found a decent lift off thermal, Chris came in below and we climbed out with a sort of raggy cloud above that we never reached. I would not reach a single cloud from that point as each climbed fizzled out just below - around the 4000' mark or less.
The flight down the south side of Wensleydale wasn't easy. No clouds marking thermals, but climbs came along - often not easy to work. The lucky one, well of several, was low in front of Addlebrough. From this point Chris had a harder time then me. Always lower and often playing catch-up. It didn't feel great at my modest height, his situation was more desperate, but he has a knack for hanging in. We progressed down the valley .... taking climbs that started broken and weak, got a lot better then died away below 3500'. Due to the lack of clouds I just went to places where I'd always found climbs before, and each time it worked, almost without exception. I guess past experience is sometimes a useful thing to fall back on.
We passed Leyburn and things didn't look that good. Just beyond Chris landed. He'd struggled along at low level for the past 15k and was now just too low to do very much. Being a little higher gave me at least a chance. In fact, over Chris's landing field I found the best climb of the day that took me to 4,200' ... the most height I would manage.
Down Wensleydale the wind had showed west, then WNW .... now I realised it was a definite NW. This changed everything. I'd set a goal for York, but given up on it, however the wind change made it very possible again. I'd tagged the start, so why not - it was sitting directly downwind, but still 50k away. The track would also miss the airspace and just south of Ripon the good looking clouds started. I passed over Masham and got a decent, if slow climb ... it was actually looking hopeful. Another weak climb that didn't give me much and Ripon was ahead. Just one more thermal please.
That climb was the last, even getting low I thought something would turn up - just that one good climb to pass Ripon where the sky looked so much better and I knew RASP had it booming. I landed at North Lees for a 60k flight .... surprised we'd actually got something out of a desperate day, yet a bit miffed at missing the next thermal.
Retrieve was a dream. Within 10 minutes a lovely women picked me up at the gate of my landing. That got me all the way to Wensley bus stop - perfect, where a bus arrived within five minutes with Chris aboard and together we debriefed as we headed for Hawes. Again .... a mere 5 minutes and Carl Scraggs collected me for a run up to Dodd for my car. A big thanks to Carl for messaging me with his kind offer.
A tough flight in parts, a great retrieve and a lovely warm evening drive back through the Dales.
Not many photos, it was too hard work at times to take video.
10/7/2022 Mallerstang /Tailbridge
Chris and I opted for Mallerstang, meeting up with Liam on top and later (briefly, Tam). It was quiet with the majority of Dales pilots choosing to go to Dodd or Wether. Having got a feel for Dodd over the previous days we had an idea what it would be like, that it could sea breeze out and looked like being very blue. Mallerstang was a change and is a great ridge to explore. It didn't really look like an xc day, but you never know.
The day divided into two quite distinct parts.
Part 1 - Mallerstang.
A warm walk up. The breeze on top was fine, but mostly just the convection passing through so you had to work at it. First flights weren't easy and we all top landed half way down the ridge and awaited developments. There were decent clouds well out front and by 1:30pm they had started forming over the south end of the ridge. Chris and I launched and headed over with some parting words to Liam that it was the south end that worked the best and provided the best line out.
By now the ridge was working more reliably and the thermals were better formed and consistent. We both climbed to base, pushed forward for another cloud, climbed again and repeating this several times. The problem was, over the back remained persistently blue. Eventually, when something started forming we got tempted and drifted away towards it. Surprisingly it let us down, as did the next, despite our searching. Being that bit lower I slid into Cotterdale, then onto the slopes of Humesett. Chris was a bit higher, but not by much. On the point of abandoning hope I stumbled into a bullet like thermal and in half a dozen tight turns was above the top and thinking, 'Bloody Hell! I've escaped'. But I hadn't .... I lost it - Chris didn't and managed to get very low onto the slopes above the Buttertubs road. Almost on the point of landing I saw him slowly climb out again towards some raggy clouds. He got up - but with little but blue downwind opted to land in Hawes to get the car. I ended up in the Green Dragon after a hot, sweaty walk down.
Part 2 - Tailbridge.
We drove back up to Tailbridge ostensibly to just recover my car. I tentatively mentioned I may having an evening flight if it was OK. Chris agreed.
It was quiet on top, just two other pilots mulling the possibilities. Actually, it was about as perfect as you could get - a nice breeze, decent cumulus and bang on west. We launched and had 20 minutes flying, smooth odd light thermals but nothing going very high. At 6pm I got lift off in an excellent climb. Best of all it provided enough height to get across to Mallerstang. Despite arriving with fair height I found myself skimming along the lower slopes and banking everything on an outcrop that I had to edge forward to get around and not actually knowing what sort of slope awaited me. It turned out OK and after a few scratchy beats I was soon climbing/thermalling onto the top ridge. Relief.
Flying along the top ridge was pure pleasure. A stunning evening, great views, smooth, with nice thermals streaming up the slopes from the valley. As the shadows started to creep down from Wild Boar the evening release seemed to be triggering. Best of all, the crags at the south end seemed to be getting the best of things. I spent a while here until a good climb to about 3000' allowed me to head further south about 1k and off the edge of the ridge. Getting lower I thought it time to head back for the crags .... and being so smooth to set the video running as I headed along them and back north. An easy float along until the final shallower section and slightly out of wind proved a bit tricky. I made it back to Tailbridge a bit lower than anticipated .... but enough to get back up, do a few beats and land.
A super enjoyable bit of flying. I'm always surprised at how many pilots relegate the evenings, especially on these hot summer days to a poor man's peuterey. When many have departed, the remains of the day can still offer up a feast of flying.
Finally, an excellent pint in the beer garden at Nateby .
The biggest headache of the day was selecting the optimum site. The best RASP was to the east of the Dales and moving further east as the day progressed. Extra complications were a quite low base in the Dales and a very blue sky for the most part. The wind was mostly WSW but different sites were to find it just not to their easiest advantage. It shifted around a lot from valley to valley. So .... up until 12.30 I was discounting sites for one reason or another. In the end I settled on Windbank knowing the wind would be off to the west, but hoping by not much once on top.
(Earlier I'd passed Wether - not my favourite site, but the wind was bang on, a nice strength yet not a soul there. But .... I don't like Wether so moved on)
I arrived at Windbank to a message saying it was too off to the west, and Carl Scraggs van the only one parked up at the bottom. I assumed Carl was on top, but there was no sign of any glider in the air. For a moment I almost didn't walk up.
As I arrived at the top Carl took off, showed it was more or less on and easily soarable. In fact we were never short of wind and towards the end of the afternoon it got fairly fresh.
The first trip up the ridge showed a lot of west and some bouncy, rough edged thermals. It was possible to work them back for a 1000' but then they fizzled out - base was at this stage only about 3000'. Over on Great Whernside a few gliders seemed to be struggling and despite it being a high ridge, they were rarely above the top.
At Windbank the ridge was working fine. In retrospect I wished I'd pushed further up the ridge and beyond Arncliffe, but clouds were now forming over the south end and the temptation to use them proved irrestible, so I turned and headed south. After finding they were working reliably I decided, after a while, to head across the valley behind as the limestone edges face more west and usually work well. A long, sinky glide, but with a cloud to go for began a series of good climbs, each taking me deeper into the moors. Finally, I made base proper and got enveloped by cloud at 3,900' asl. I was intent on carrying on, but search and wait showed no clouds forming downwind - only upwind. I could have carried on OK to probably Pateley Bridge, but decided to head back using the upwind clouds. In the end I got back easily with 1000' to spare. I quick blast up the ridge to complete the out and return - again miffed That I hadn't fully exploited the ridge earlier.
A toplanding, a brief chat with Carl and we were off again (only one other pilot turned up so we had the ridge to ourselves). It was now gone 3.30pm, the ridge was a lot smoother, the climbs more gentle and wider. Some high cloud came in and cut off the sun which also seemed to be the trigger for the valley to release over the many worked hayfields. A nice flight to end the day.
When Tom, Chris, Ben and I met up at Ribblehead, a long debate ensued about where best to go. Almost too many options and none quite fit the bill. At this stage it looked rather uninspring with almost 8/8 cloud cover, no wind and base not that high. We decided to follow the crowds and headed for Windbank.
By the time we arrived the sky had really opened out, good cumulus, but no signs of any action despite a hill full of pilots. Once on top things looked better aside from a very light wind ... and the few who tried slope landing or going down. Chris being the only one who managed to climb a bit, stay up a while and eventually top land. So it was possible and it was getting better. It was now gone 2pm.
I fared little better but decided to head along the ridge, neither climbing nor sinking, over a wall to the 'nice bump' which I landed just below. It just seemed a better spot to be, it would later prove a costly mistake. Our planned triangle had the start cylinder just south of take off, now, being 2k away it never got tagged ... I had chances, just never took them and moved to plan B.
I eventually, climbed out and headed towards the north end of Great Whernside, with the drift constantly showing SSW and the hope it would come more west as time progressed. Over Kettlewell a red glider came in below (Kascper?) ... but my thermal had died a little so I carried on heading for Gt Whernside and confident that whilst it may be out of wind to soar, it should provide a thermal. It actually provided little and I ended up pushing slowly south, into a fair wind until over the gully above the hostel. A weak climb began and steadily strengthened to become the best of the day and to cloudbase near 5000'. The drift had me back further north again but it was all going swimmingly. Now to head south again.
The clouds looked OK ... a series of them, but never really gave a lot. Continuing south I was ever hopeful although the clouds now looked less well formed. Into the FAI sector, and pushing it on to its limit I managed 21k .... not huge, but it would have to do. The lack of just one more half decent climb would get me back to Windbank and onto the ridge which apppeared to be working fine. Working along the lower limestone edges east of the river, I needed just a little climb, anything ... and given the conditions, they should provide at least that. Perhaps I should have persevered and carried on north to the next steeper edges towards Kettlewell ... instead I headed on a touch and go glide to the shallow grassy slopes over the Windbank landing area. I HAD to get established back on the main ridge .... even low, to close the triangle.
The slopes and landing area are usually are quite lifty and I needed maybe 50' to get around the plantation. I just hadn't got the height to clear the highest tree and that eventaully led to a landing. Whilst packing it was galling to see others finding it very bouyant again .... arrgh! Just the wrong timing.
Other than a frustrating end to the flight it was really nice flying, a georgous day and a few pints with lots of others at The Falcon.
Chris and I wended our lonely way to Cotterside. It seemed the last chance for a while and although not a great forecast it didn't look bad. The Dales was a bit more clagged in, than to the west, but the sky was opening up. A light, but nice breeze so it seemed worth a shot at our 'go to' site.
On our usual launch it was slightly off to the S (it faces more SW) ... which is OK for here and a bit light (also OK for here). We both launched to find lots of nice smooth ridge lift and equally pleasant thermals. We had a not too ambitious task, a 36k out and return down the valley to just beyond Nappa and back. Getting there is not normally a problem, getting back always seems to be the crux. Today played true to form.
We didn't hang around and were soon in the air enjoying good ridge lift and some nice thermals. My second climb got me to base (3500') and with the look of the sky mindful of the limited escape routes. The sky was 'messy' with decent, dark spread-out cumulus and then a higher top layer cutting off the sun. But the dark bits worked OK. I set off, Chris behind and lower. Stags looked rather dark with the odd glider going down and slope landing. Fortunately I didn't need Stags, managing to stay out front and use the clouds so I passed by modestly high.
The mid point is Whitfield Scar. It will soar, but I didn't wish to end up doing so, as usually happens here a thermal triggered on approach so I managed climb above it and to push out front. Nappa was next, again a climb, not that strong, but it got me to base again .... base now being a measely 2700'. The sky was now shutting down, the climbs weak and bitty and there was still about 4k to the turnpoint. The last k was a struggle - I was getting low and although odd bits of lift appeared it was barely worth turning. I tagged the cylinder low and set off back. It became a fast, very low skud along a small edge to a slightly bigger edge to one bigger still and eventually Nappa. I expected a lot more of Nappa than it gave .... on the plus side were four buzzards, but even they failed to find much (I did follow them around). Nappa faces more SW, yet the wind had too much south and whilst it would soar, neither I nor the site were happy about the direction.
I didn't linger long, the sky wasn't great. I took a punt on the crossing back to Whitfield Scar, the slopes are gentle, but into wind and the sky was a tadge better to the west. In retrospect I should have persevered longer on Nappa .... I tried weak stuff and nearly thermals I encountered, but getting too low to be useful I turned back and landed.
I've never had quite the day I wanted for this flight and today was my third attempt this year - all with the same result and in the same place. I'll come eventually given a better sky and base.
Very easy, fast retrieve back to Hawes. The coffee shop in Askrigg does brilliant coffee (closed); the pub next to it also does coffee ... the worst in the world, but the beer looks excellent.
31/7/2022 Semer Water
A wet, dreary morning that gave way to a lovely afternoon. I was on family duties until 2pm, then left for Ribblehead to check out the wind. It was soon evident the blowy morning had also changed to a windless and rather fickle direction. I noted that Kev and John H had walked to the top of Park, but given the light wind I deemed it not worth the effort and continued on for Hawes with the intent of checking out Semer (North).
The first surprise was the wind direction, still light, but ENE so the plan changed to the SE face - the main ridge. The question was, would it work? On the shoulder it was still light, but felt semi on and maybe doable if I continued to the top ridgeline. Once on top it still seemed only 50/50 .... however, whilst setting up the wind improved a little and I increased my chances of staying up.
I had an hour of decent flying, rather scratchy at first but gradually the wind strength improved and the odd thermal started coming through. In the end a decent afternoon's flying if nothing special. I never saw another soul, so another solitary flying experience.