After a short chat session with the farmer's wife about her recent successful hip operation and a few things farming, Pete, Liam and I headed up to take off. It was a nice enough day but the wind was light, a bit off to the west and the sky was 'messy' with increasing signs of instability. To the east looked rather dark, whilst over the Mallerstang valley rather nice with fluffy cu's.. Not the most inspiring of days, but you take what you're given.
I took off first, in a gust, and set off along the ridge, gaining height and noting at least four large buzzards. if it was the site of choice for them, then maybe Cotterside was an OK option. For fifteen minutes all was fine, but as the last of the sunny patches departed so did the lift and any wind so I went in for a high, slope landing. A further short hop and I joined a sweaty Liam who had landed lower and walked up. We mulled for a while and then mulled some more .... the wind was off the slope and light. Later, as the sun crept onto the foot of the hill, and the wind came more square I gave it a punt.
A bit scratchy at first but after 10 minutes I was climbing out ... and going nowhere, but at least I was going up. I headed slowly over the back to 4100' .... spotted Pete had launched and headed back as he seemed to be doing OK out over the valley. Two would be easier today.
Pete never made it up, and after another climb to 4300' I again set off along the back of Mallerstang. It wasn't straightforward to get the right line. Was it the full cover, dark clouds to the east, or the sunnier west? Given the SW wind (more noticeable at height) ... I should probably have gone more NE. This is constantly my dilemma nowadays. Retrieve options dominate my decision making and tend to over-ride the flying ones. I know where I should go, but force the flying to determine my getting back. Hence, I went N ... even NW.
Over the back of Nine Standards I reached 4660' in strong lift and decided the slopes leading up from Brough .... and the road over to Middleton in Teesdale would work. Still I went NW, pulling away from the high ground. As ever the height unwound, the drift was almost zero until I found myself over green fields and banking on the odd, freshly ploughed one. Unexpectedly, one worked .... it was a bit on the weak side, although after gaining 900' I was confident it would come together. I drifted on a little, it fell apart and approaching the A66 it became mincing in light dribs and drabs. The last throw of the dice was leaving the scraps to join a small flocks of gulls back upwind. However, they pulled a sucker punch and left ..... it didn't surprise me; there was less than the scraps I'd left. Mindful of a walk out with a gammy knee I headed back upwind to a nice landing field.
A 1k walk ... bit of a hitch into Kirkby Stephen and a call from Pete Morris saw him collect me from the Costa. Pete very kindly drove me back to my car. Big thankyou .... especially as it had started to rain.
It's not really coming together at all this year .... I suffer badly from retrieve anxiety which may be a combination of both age and a leg problem that's come out of nowhere.
Photo LINK (not many, the light was poor).
6/6/2022 Great Coum
It wasn't a very inspiring day, despite a decent RASP. When Tom (with Chris) suggested they were walking into Great Coum via the backdoor I regarded it as at least an opportunity to get out. For convenience I opted to approach via the top of Kingsdale/Deepdale. I knew it would be rather too northerly ... but you never know.
A short walk up the track to the spoilheaps and with my ligaments acting up I went for a hike n fly approach. Once clear of the fenced off horse area, I launched and flew deep into the back of the gully, crossed it and landed. Did it save much? Not a lot. So I did it again with another 200m hop along the valley side with the wind 40 degrees off the slope. A quick pack .... and a further walk up.
I've taken off low on the north facing spur before, the bowl of the Coum works well from the bottom. The problem was .... whilst plenty of wind it was a true northerly so not really working. I managed a bit of a slow climb towards the top before being sunk out to a landing. At this stage I realised it was all a bit futile, flew down and followed that with another uphill walk to the car.
7/6/2022 Whernside (via Semer Water)
Not expecting the day to get going until well into the afternoon I headed first for Semer. During the night my right leg/knee had kept me wake, probably a result of the previous day's efforts, so I was keen to keep the hiking to a minimum. At this stage Semer was a non starter (it would get better during the afternoon), but for now it was fairly windless and all over the place. I headed back to scout Whernside as I knew Chris was heading there, probably others too.
From the road a few gliders were just visible and Chris began a low scratching session .... not that inspiring, but the afternoon was forecast for the great switch on. It was worth a walk up, I had time and if I took it slow. It was warm, sunny but the wind seemed light and worryingly off to the south - not a good sign here.
A gentle plod and eventually I made it, bouyed by the sight of two gliders (Rahul and Ian B) who had just taken off and were soaring the main ridge with no problems. A nice breeze, square on and I was more positive about the day. A slow hobble around sorting out stuff, then I was away and quickly heading onto the top ridge - rather out of wind (it faces E) but working well. Within a mere 10 minutes the big thermal switch on began and I was climbing out in a good, strong climb .... shortly to be joined by Chris.
Once together, the big 'shout out' began .... radios equal communication; but it take two for the system to work. Clearly visible was a huge convergence line to the north .... not too far away but further than the 4600' would give us, although the slow southerly drift would help. I set off, Chris held back a little. Getting low over the col of Rise Hill, I looked back at his great height and thought I may have been a bit hasty.
Salvation arrived, slowly at first, with a scrabbling around in weak, broken scraps, before the main event grabbed me in a strong 4 and 5m/s embrace, I was now the one on high as Chris slipped lower into Garsdale. We were approaching the edge of a towering wall of dark convergence .... Chris crept low underneath before being yanked skyward. We'd both made it.
Above: Chris is a small dot far left centre before being hoovered up.
Flying the convergence wall was spectacular! Chris revels in exploring such clouds, always deeper and higher. At times disappearing only to emerge higher still whilst I tend to sink into timidity and awe. I'd like to have videoed him from above, back-dropped by the cloudscape but it wasn't to be. Below us the wispies formed and for a spell it was just an experience to revel in. But .... back to work as decisions were required?
It's at times like these that communications come into their own. Shouting doesn't really cut it .... and certainly not several hundred metres apart. It struck me there were two options ... shortly to become three.
Option 1: Turn back SE along the convergence towards the Wether/Dodd area. I'd decided a few months back that given the opportunity and conditions I'd go for triangles flights instead of down-winders if possible. Having pushed NW slightly and being 14k+ out xctrack was showing good for a 40k+ FAI. However, I wasn't sure about the final leg looking at the sky.
Option 2: Continue NW, over the Howgills .... I thought it was breaking up that way, but was a good plan. Chris did that and so it proved. I was gradually heading that way when a gap in the wall appeared, enough to look through and spy the sunlit uplands of the lower Eden valley - option 3. I was tempted ... and I fell for it. I pushed through the gap - only to find badly sinking air. Despite pressing back, losing more height, and finding a weak climb I found myself locked out of the convergence line. So option 3 was accepted and my bridges burned.
Excuse time. Earlier I'd got pulled strongly into the convergence and using bar to escape, discovered I couldn't pushed bar with my usual right leg - too much pain. I switched to left which just felt so weird being 100% right-sided. So, yet again I fixated on a no walk out policy and Kirkby Stephen station began to fixate in my mind.
Despite a few clouds there was little of real substance. I skirted over the top section of the Howgills (never had any luck there). Approaching Ravenstondale low I got a few bites, but at a few hundred feet it was never really on given the downwind landing options.
Retrieve could have been awkward, it was hot and the roads quiet as I plodded along towards the busier, Fat Lamb road. Finally, a really nice chap in a camper pulled up and took me to Sedbergh. Funny, how interesting people seem to be the ones to stop. We chatted about all manner of things. Once dropped on the Kirkby Lonsdale road, before I'd even unrolled my sign, a lovely young women stopped and although she lived in Sedbergh, had turned around and took me all the way back to KL. Totally, out of her way .... amazing. So ... a big thanks to both my lifts and their company which made it all so easy and for their kindness.
Chris did really well, as usual, my lesson should be to stick with him like glue.
Next time .... maybe.
14/6/2022 Three Men
The day dawned like too many before it - grey, overcast, with the tops just touched by cloud. Still, RASP suggested a lot better and maybe the day would open up. That was the gamble. I used the morning to visit a cobblers, walk the dog and read the papers.
I set off for Three Men around 1.15pm, a great option to have on one's doorstep. It was light at the carpark, still 8/8 cloud although to the west things looked a lot brighter. Worth a walk up, although my concern at this stage was how light the wind was. Arriving on top it seemed just about soarable and the very odd patch of sun appeared out front. I actually thought it would take an hour to open up. It didn't. What surprised me was the speed the day changed from mediocre to a bit special. A few scratchy beats, a bit bouncy, the air was really fizzing and within 10 mins or less I was climbing out in an OK, although rather rough thermal. That thermal set the pattern ... infact, I met a few real ass-kickers along the way.
Given the wind seemed west I'd set a goal for Ripon, unfortunately it was more WSW, even SW at height which took me too far north. After the first climb I also decided the sky looked much better to the north and headed for Great Coum. Despite a nice cloud it didn't really do any more than lose me precious height, but the sky looked good. The long transition to the Magnet was a case of hanging on to odd bits of lift .... but I got there just above the normal take off place where a glider was laid out. A few turns, it also seemed a lively place, so I headed for the slopes above Whernside. The wind was slightly crossed here, I thought I may have made a poor decision until a good climb arrived on cue and again I was climbing out nicely and on route to Dodd.
Progress was slow, in fact I got very low on the moors beyond Newby Head and a walkout was a distinct possibility. But what's a walkout ... so I went in deeper - and got rewarded. Like all the thermals that day, low down they were rough, but you're happy to ride the bronco to escape. Aside from a few tip collapses it was OK and smoothed with height. On we go ... progress.
Both Dodd and Wether were deserted .... just as Brantside had been. The glide towards Semer produced nothing and again things got a little desperate until a weak climb began to take shape just off the end of Semer. Again, it strengthened, I figured it out and we were away again - but with no great height, under 4000'. Giving up on Ripon I sidled across Wensleydale mindful of Bellarby (which I'd just clipped the previous year). Two Tocano's flew over so a quick turn to highlight my position and onwards. Needing a climb I spotted a few gulls thermalling, sort of and headed over. Then, a lone buzzard appeared 100m to the left. His rate of climb was amazing .... like a bullet it came from well below to right past me and then way above. I soon discovered his secret! Hit by the same bullet I simply held on ..... can't say I enjoyed it at 8m/s. Still ... no collapse, no damaged done and it sorted itself out.
The rest of the flight was simply drifting along in weak lift, a bit of occasional thermalling and a lot of not really trying past Leyburn. The Bedale road is the one I've had the least luck on so there wasn't a lot of conviction flying on my part. I was also wary of the last bus from Leyburn to Hawes. I landed in an empty pasture near Constable Burton.
A bit of walking, a lift to Leyburn (thanks hangie Tim Swait) where I arrived just five minutes before the bus left. Great timing. En route .... I got a surprise call from Martin Bunford who kindly met John H and I in Hawes and drove us back to Ingleton. Big thanks to Martin as we had a really easy trip back and a pint at the Station Inn as well.
A nice day out, a nice flight and a lovely sunset.
Very few pics LINK
15/6/2022 Pen y ghent
Despite its easy proximity, I've never actually flown the west face of Pyg. When Chris suggested it, and that we may be OK on this side of Pyg, I was keen to give it a try.
We walked up via Chris's 'scenic route' .... not one I'd like to do again. Never steep .... just long and on this day, hot work. Whilst the sky looked OK, the wind was SW, so not really on the main face. First flights became short hops and slope landings. Meanwhile, we spied Dean on his triangle from Windbank.
Later the wind increased and became a lot more W, so ridge lift became predicable. The sky however went into shut down and although a few decent thermals came through it was never really worth chasing them over the back. The odd top landing and finally we flew down to Horton where we met up with Geoff and had a rather prolonged and unplanned drinking session outside the Crown.
A few photos LINK
The only other thing of note was a passing old guy in a blue footie top. Whilst sat on the hill he strode, head down past me, not stopping .... told me I was an ... 'F ing pest and not wanted here'. It was a very short conversation (?) ... and striding ever onwards his parting yell was, 'F ...off to where you came from'. Chris had a similar short encounter five minutes later, saying he just looked like Mr Angry. A final spit and he marched onwards. I suspect he'd had a bad day for whatever reason.
I don't think I could have found a worse place. I was on my own, but it was handy and reports from elsewhere suggested it was no better there. Initially it seemed OK at the bottom .... not unusual here, but once on top the wind died to just light thermal gusts and often across the hill. The sky had lots of high cloud and things became very shaded out. A long wait sunbathing and eventually it looked better with the odd proper cu. The decent spell was short lived and then it seemed to sea breeze with attendant rough thermals that died over the hill. The flying amounted to several 15 minute spells, a few thermals to 500' ato and one long sweaty walk back up when I over-stretched things onto the NW face.
Eventually, I gave up in disgust and the temptation of a cool pint at the Marton Arms where Tom joined me to commiserate.
Ironically, I'd spent a while the previous night planning and plugging in waypoints for a triangle from Windbank. Although it began very similar there, flight reports suggest it got a lot better and may not have been a bad day for a triangle.
19/6/2022 Clough/Wolf LCC - day 2
The first day of the LCC was blighted by strong winds and we stood down, but the next day held out more promise. Sunday dawned somewhat cheerless with a leaden sky, some light drizzle, but the promise of a much better afternoon. In fact, the afternoon rapidly turned into a classic ... just a little too late for the early finish to tasks.
The A comp set up on Clough Head and a task set that ended with a goal at Grasmere. Initially it was fine on the hill, but as forecast the wind began to ease around to the north - awkward, especially getting back upwind from TP1. For the B comp around the corner on Wolf it was a case of the day getting better as a northerly suited the hill. Wind speeds were pretty much ideal ... probably lighter even than forecast.
Having tagged TP1 I used a bit of local nouse to try and sneak in round the backdoor from Dodd. It didn't work. However, the sky upwind was now developing well and from the gliders out front on Wolf I could gauge the wind becoming NNE. A brief, scratchy foray on the northern bowl of Clough and I headed back onto Dodd and waited. I was there with a few other wings .... in a sort of ready to pounce mode. Once I saw gliders starting to climb well on Wolf I headed forward to join what looked like the one doing the best - an Air Design wing.
Together we climbed to base, he then left me and headed forward. In terms of the task, for me the day had now over-ridden it and time was too short to make goal by 4pm. I set off down the ridgeline towards Helvellyn ... glad I had height and very mindful of what a northerly could do if I got low on the craggy spines of the east face. Happily climbs popped off to keep me high - often rough and strong in parts. Once past Dollywagon, then Seat Sandal things calmed down and I could relax a little .... Grasmere lay ahead. Possibilities now opened up. the sky looked really good and I thought it worth carrying on. The slight problem was the easterly component making the better line towards Coniston although a sign of sea breezed showed further south. I opted to track as much east as possible which meant some cross-winding to get around Windermere.
I thermalled to base over Grasmere, about 4800' and set my sights on Ambleside. then Windermere. Initially things went well, but after Windermere the sky shut down, lots of shade appeared and climbs became weaker. The wisest move would have been straight downwind - down the Winster or Lyth valley, instead I kept hugging the bus route. I'm not sure how far the weak climbs would have taken me. In the end, over Crook, I turned back north and landed outside Staveley.
A very enjoyable flight, the day open up really well, but it also shut down early too.
A few photos LINK
20/6/2022 Dodd Fell
At 9am there were cumulus dotted everywhere - never a great sign so early. When I met Chris at Ribblehead at 11am they had mostly been squeezed out. It looked a tough, blue day.
Whenever it's W to NW there are lots of options and we couldn't really see better than to take the nearest .... so Dodd Fell it was. With almost no walk involved we were ready to launch within 45 minutes of leaving Ribblehead. A brief chat with a southern visitor, otherwise surprisingly quiet. A goal was plugged in for York just over 80k away. Also maybe a little pesimistic given the look of the washed out, milk sky.
Dodd proved surprisingly rough .... possibly the worst I've known it. Odd quiet spells then strong, broken cores - stay in them and you were just about OK, discover the edges and it got a bit fraught. A pattern developed of climb, pull out of the front and into some vicious entrainment where ground speed often fell to zero ... then a spell to recover composure. This despite the meteo wind being quite light. Eventually, using radio 'shout' we uttered the immortal ... 'Let's go'. A BGD wing (Mr Vistor) joined us .... he may have thought these were normal Dales thermals; or he may have just wished to escape the hill.
For 15k we managed to find odd scraps of cloud developing and aimed for those - managing to stay fairly high. Base was around 4'300' asl ... just about enough as we were crossing high ground. Approaching Buckden Pike a Swing caught up and he seemed to know what he was doing, the BGD had fallen away so the more gliders the easier these conditions would be.
Now it got more challenging, the clouds ended and we were in scrabble around mode - as a result we were very soon split up with very different plans. Mine wasn't brilliant, but not having the height to get over the higher ground of Buckden and Great Whernside I had to resort to the lower slopes, gullies and edges. I wasn't too despondent as they have always worked for me, usually at the same places so why not again. I struggled on in dribs and drabs until the big gully above Kettlewell ... where I've always found a good thermal. Getting rather low was now becoming a concern.
A weak climb arrived .... exactly where it's always been. As I climbed it became easier, the thermal strengthened, got wider and Kettlewell became a dot on the map. Relax. Eventually I was back above 4000' and setting off across the large moors towards Grimwith. Scanning for others I spotted Chris low and setting up for a landing well behind Great Whernside. (Later - after some walking, he relaunched from Gt Whernside and flew a blinder; in fact he was still in the air by the time I'd arrived home after my retrieve - 6pm).
Ahead lay the sprawling Grimwith reservoir .... unmistakeable. Not a ripple on its smooth surface and not a lot of wind at height either. The further I progressed, the less the drift became and the weaker the thermals - but they were nice and smooth. Over the moors the thermals had been regular, now slipping off the high ground it could have got tricky, but again the lift seemed there - just very slow and weak ... also frustratingly drifting from the NNW.
I skirted the airspace by 2k ... the better (only) clouds seemed annoying just inside. Approaching Harrogate I was fairly high but getting somewhat lethargic and probably not really thinking too clearly. I placed myself well off the goal track, but was actually reasonably well-place. My thinking was more - given the drift to this point (which had seemed very northerly) to head for Wetherby. Then I remembered landing there once before, no train station, few buses and struggling to escape. Therefore I admit to welching out. Sorry Wetherby.
There were still climbs to be had, but a large green park in the middle of Harrogate and only 10 minutes from the station went from a temptation to a fixation. I ploughed through lift and landed in a light NE, the day was changing (as Chris discovered hours later when the drift became more SW). It's annoying afterwards to think what was possible with a bit more grit and stamina. On the plus side parkland in a city on a sunny day has people. I got a lift immediately back to Skipton bus station, jumped straight onto an Ingleton bound bus (with bus pass - brilliant things for a pilot) and was dropped outside my door before the 6pm news. Fastest ever I think.
Later that evening I did my usual Solstice (near enough) walk from Newby Head to Dodd for the car. Really enjoyed it. The flying was OK as well.
Stills photo LINK
21/6/2022 Three Men
Not as we've come to expect of Three Men. A grim cloud bank hung overhead, nice elsewhere.
Tom tried very hard to make it work but all to no avail. Eventually it cleared to a sunny evening but the (six or so of us) found it light and all flew down. Aviation - but short lived. (Above: Westie landing his Zeolite)
Went to watch Tony Johnston on Tow Scar .... I think his first flight on Geoff's OXA3. Chatted with him (and Sharon).
And that was about it for the day.
Kat, Andy, Baz and I walked up under a hot sun - the two Tim's joining us later. All seemed good on take off, but at this early stage it wasn't easy with little dynamic lift and all thermal. Still, it should be OK for our plan, a declared OR to Barton and back.
Andy and I eventually made our way towards the bigger hills of Yoke, Ill Bell and Frostwick. Having pushed the start cylinder a bit further south than I'd have liked, I was fortunate in getting a thermal to base to tag it - although base wasn't great ... just 3,300' at this point.
We headed towards the Stoney Cove col, the thermals a bit beefy, rough and surging at times. As usual accompanied by strong, sinky spells.
Maybe we should have carried on through to High Street, but the base level, unpredictable lift and a developing WSW meant we could end up stranded to the north unable to get back. That said, north of the col it may have been more westerly again. We'll never know.
We flew back south to find the better climbs were over the smaller south end above take off. Heading south we passed Tim O who appeared very low as he headed north -but did get up with persistence fighting. Finally, running out of patience, I took a climb over the back to 3000', not high in these parts and went for it. Sink followed, consistently - across Kentmere and onto a low plateau the other side. This could be a short flight. Then a miracle. A climb began and strengthened - the easiest and best of the day. It went straight to base and into the cloud .... still only making 3,700', but it felt a lot better than before. Now where?
Ahead looked all shaded out, barely a patch of sun downwind. Thinking it may have lift under the cloud, I went under, found another patch of air going up and pushed on in cloud wondering for how long. I emerged to find it was actually blue, totally blue .... within minutes things had changed and it was hard to find a decent looking cloud. I simply pushed on towards Kendal and a bus back.
Getting low I found an unlikely climb, weak, but just maybe it was the get out of jail thermal. The drift was now showing SSW and the odds were the sea breeze would beat me as I slowly wafted up the A6. Beat me it did, waft as I might I eventually landed at Patton Bridge.
A nice enough flight while it lasted.
Thanks to Andy and Baz for the fast retrieve. A car drop in Kendal was near Andy's landing place.
The fourth flying day in a row ... and a 'Groundhog Day' pattern is emerging. It's not good.
Yet again I had a plan, it's a good enough plan with a new-found conviction to stick with it .... regardless This time I'm determined to not get sidetracked, not get tempted or lured away for whatever reason; even if I get decked pursuing it. Once more it doesn't go as intended
Chris, Tim and I arrrived at a likely looking Windbank .... some had departed for Stags, but it looked OK. Decent clouds were forming, a bit spaced out, but it was still before midday. Chris and I had similar ideas for a modest 32k triangle that took us up the ridge for 12k, before crossing over to Bucken Pike then back via Whernside to Windbank.
With little dynamic lift it was always going to be challenging to get the thermal cycle right. Fortunately, Dean marked the first weak climb, Chris being quicker out of the traps launched into it, I played a late catch-up. Although scratchy at first I just caught the tail end. The drift was very much from the SSW, not ideal. Following my usual (bad) habbit I had put my start cylinder off the end of the ridge. This meant on losing the climb after 800' I was forced to head upwind to trigger the start. I really had insufficient height, but was convinced a good cloud upwind, over the start cylinder, would work. I triggered the start OK, but the cloud didn't work for me and I headed back to the ridge low and eventually slope landing just under take off.
Back to the drawing board.
A short, sweaty walk ... a 10 minute wait, a task reset and away again. The obligatory scratchy few beats then I was climbing out. With more height than previously I tagged the cylinder, the lovely cloud above it worked and I thermalled to height, drifting slowly up the ridge and towards Arncliffe. Ahead of me a Rook 3 marked a thermal. This climb was stronger and saw me nicely placed near over the moors behind Litton for TP2 - given the SSW drift, so a glide and climb should make the turnpoint. Now, inexplicably I got sidetracked.
Directly downwind, or more accurately to the NE, was a line of lovely clouds, more a street, that seemed to provide a sure-fire route towards Wensleydale and specifically Nappa Scar. Temptation took over .... I saw an easy blast to Nappa then back west along the north side of Wensleydale to Stags and maybe Cotterside .... maybe even Baugh Fell. A really cool dogleg. And that was that, plan abandoned I hared off across the valley towards Buckden.
At first it worked. I connected with the first cloud .... found a climb and moved on when it faded away. I spied a glider low above Hubberholme, seemingly struggling. Searching for a climb of my own I focused on my own predicament. The street simply fell apart, the clouds lost their definition and before I knew it I was dropping into the head of Bishopdale.
A bit of slope soaring in a strongish, crossed wind, and I was down. Another of those days recently where the sink gave little opportunity or time to hunt a round.
It's hard to say what would have happened by simply bashing on with the task. Given the south in the wind it would have proved difficult to make it back. Still I can't help thinking I should have continued for TP2.