15/9/2022 Park Fell
As Chris, Tom and I walked towards Park Fell I was, at this stage, little more than annoyed at leaving my phone and wallet behind - something l normally never do. It certainly looked very flyable, a nice NW breeze and we would be able to launch very low down. Chris hopped along for 50m whilst I got lucky and straight off into a thermal and with barely a few short beats I was climbing well above the ridge. Despite it being quite early ... about 10.45am, everything seemed to be working surprisingly well. Chris and Tom came in below but by this point I was well on my way towards Ingleborough summit.
The clouds were working well. a convergence line was visible to the south and leading downwind - now the absence of phone, wallet and not even a cursory glance at the forecast made itself felt. I hadn't taken the day seriously. I'd loved to have hared off downwind - which is what the others would soon be doing, but the lacks of the basics for getting back changed all that. So ... staying within the confines of the valley seemed the only option.
A good cloud in front of Ingleborough became the first objective. It worked well and simply heading forward I climbed to just short of 4500' without really circling. Looking down towards Kingsdale the thought occured to head for the back of Whernside - the NW face. The other thought was - what a perfect Three Peaks day. In two minds I pressed on south for a decent out and return. To the southeast the convergence strands sat lower and were very tempting. Also in that direction Chris and Tom were embarking on their down-wind adventure.
I finally turned back and made Ingleborough easily ... perhaps too easily. Back north along the ridge to take off and off the ridge end. Then a snap decision to do it all again. In fact, I vowed this time, that if I found myself over 4000' in front of Ingleborough I was going to go downwind and damn the retrieve hassle. The best I managed was 2800', although the sky had opened up more it lacked the abundant lift of earlier. Back north again, but approaching Park it was now noticeably windier, rougher and less pleasant than earlier. I found a climb, but didn't really take it due to the drift. Finally, I pushed forward, over the road, then the railway and managed to video the 12.30 to Leeds exiting the viaduct.
A nice, light wind landing behind the pub, a burger and coffee .. then a second at the station cafe whilst awaiting Chris on his way back from Skipton. I'd love to have shared that end of season flight ... next time the wallet and phone gets packed. But that would be too easy.
17/9/2022 Dales Three Peaks
For different reasons a few of us fancied an attempt on the Dales Three Peaks hike and fly.
I met up with Chris at Ribblehead, unkown to us at the time, Tim Rogers was about 30 minutes ahead of us - and of course there is no signal until half way up Whernside. On the walk up the main talking point was the wind strength - it was windy! We arrived on the top plateau about the same time Tim messaged he'd walked TP1, returned and thought it blown out ... there was every indication it was. We all met up, sat behind a wall and Chris dutifully set off for the front, intending to walk TP1 then return. He came back sooner than expected to inform us it was very top end, but may be possible. We all walked to the front, it was windy! Then along to TP1 ... Tim for the second time. We were on the verge of calling it quits .... then the wind eased; not just for a moment, but 15 minutes ... the venom seemed to have gone out of the day. Maybe, just maybe we had a chance.
From that point on it turned into a cracking day. We found a nice launch and got ourselves in the air. The first surprise was how smooth it was ...I expected a bit of a gusty kicking. Secondly, it didn't really feel windy and was easy to penetrate .... and best of all there were great clouds and good thermals.
Individually, we thermalled back over Whernside and headed for Park Fell. Tim came in high from the north; Chris low from the south .... he also got his worst thermal(?) of the year that led to momentary concern on his part. I had it fairly easy. Tim and I headed for Ingleborough at altitude, tagged the TP and then back north for a better run into PyG. Several thermals came through until one convinced Tim and I to set off with it. Getting to PyG proved very easy ... lift all the way and a good drift. It was very tempting to set off downwind it looked so good. We tagged the PyG TP at over 4000' and set off back - hoping the street that got us there was still working. Sadly it wasn't ... barely a blip.
We pushed slowly upwind, trying to max the distance and shorten the hiking which seemed our destiny. I managed a reasonable part of the way back, but still had to resort to 4k of groundwork. Still, it was a lovely afternoon for a jog.
We met up later at Ribblehead and had a celebratory pint for snatching a great bit of flying from almost the jaws of giving up. In retrospect we felt we set off an hour too soon.
Above: Setting off up onto the Barkin ridge
19/9/2022 X Dales 22 - task attempt.
The morning was taken up watching Queen Elizabeth's funeral ... sombre, lots of pomp, ceremony and splendour, but also exhausting after 10 days of intense media coverage. It felt slightly bad creeping off for a spot of outdoor excercise ... but I needed a release.
It was a tough day!
The evening before I'd had half an idea to attempt the X Dales 22 route. However, the morning dawned grey and uninspiring with low cloud and windless. The forecast had suggested a light WNW which would/could provide for sections to be flown, if only one could rely on forecasts.
It was a late when I left home, gone midday ... I knew time was heavily stacked against completing, but at least the sun had broken through and the clouds were now above the tops. It was at least excercise and I'd be happy with Ribblehead. As I approached Barbon there was a bang, followed by a few scraping sounds suggesting I had a flat tyre. It was in fact so busted that with no spare (just the normal useless can that cars now seem to carry) I was forced to abandon and start walking. The route just got a touch longer.
The first section onto the Barkin ridgeline was windless and hot ... height did not bring the hoped for wind. The ridge is long, but steady and passing each west facing bowl I wondered how well they would work should the wind blow ... just for future reference. Today they offered nothing. Eventually I entered the second TP cylinder at the north end and felt a little bit of NW and a shallow face that offered a take off. But .... I needed to go east.
A short, shallow hop of 100m, followed by a balled up walk for the next 100m hoping to find someplace to take off that would allow me to slide around the corner onto the east side. I eventually found a take off ... and it worked enough to get me over the NE bowl and heading across Barbondale as far as possible. This would become the problem throughout - with the wind so light it was hard to find a launch that faced W, yet would allow a transition going east. They were all done very low!
I was quite pleased on landing ... I'd made some progress and got a little way towards Great Coum/Craghill and Barkin was behind me. It was now approaching 3pm and I calculated I'd be lucky to make Ribblehead. the walk up towards Craghill was a long grind ... I was kept going by the thought I may find a nice breeze onto the upper edges. What I found was dispiriting. Little breeze and across the hill from the west ... cloudbanks were also forming over Barkin, the sun had gone and wisps of low cloud were now affecting launch.
A cross-wind launch and I was sinking fast and moving even faster towards the bowl of Great Coum. Being in the lee the sink was bad and I only just cleared the ground in places whilst dropping further into Deepdale. Most surprising was the speed ... at times I was clocking 55kph. The landing was low in the valley, some wind, but OK. One thing I'd noticed on the fly-down were gliders flying on the back of Whernside. I'd give anything to be up there - it was obviously working.
More tiring roadwork followed, something I hadn't bargained for so it took more energy and more time until I arrived at the usual Kingsdale parking for Whernside. The gliders previously flying had eventually struggled, scratched and gone down ... it didn't look good. I opted to walk up - at least to tag the cylinder. I could then rethink the plan even as the light began to fade. Again, getting over into Chapel le Dale would be problematic.
On the walk up I made a very simple, but strategic error that proved costly - I headed initially to go up the right hand (usual) side of the wall, then on the spur went up the left. Not only is it pathless but it trapped me from walking the extra 300m into the cylinder. The other side, our normal take off would have been so easy. I took off to hop over the wall but it was so sinky I found myself now 100m lower on landing. I balled and walk a little higher, intending to dump the glider and do the turnpoint on foot. The light was now getting worse, the clouds sinking onto Gragareth and a last possible lift was about to depart down the valley. Tired, out of water and out of luck I thought it wiser to just take off and head down .... all that effort to get to that turnpoint to be frustrated by a wall and a mere 300m.
I was fortunate to meet Dean and the AE students about to leave and one (Alan from Chapel le Dale) kindly gave me a lift down. They also generously gave me much need drinks.
I'd like to give it another go at some point. It's a challenging route and I've learned a lot about the conditions required .... another time and a bit more thought.
Below: Gragareth from Whernside - it was darker than it looks.
21/9/2022 Middle Earth (and other ridges).
You can't beat a little bit of exploring, especially on days when other options are either more of the same, not really xc-able or you want to scout a place for future reference. Over recent years I've developed a taste for new places and a bit of adventuring.
I'd wanted to re visit Middle Earth since Tom and I had tried it a year or so back and I'd been impressed. I always felt it was a potential gem .... in lots of ways, given its location, thermal potential and the ability to link ridgelines and other off the radar places I've scouted over the past three years. It's good for direction too, quite lenient and probably an early starter given the Lune is a sea breeze avenue .... that same SB also being a good trigger as it sweeps in.
It was a pleasant, windless morning when I set off from Barbon village ... what little wind still had a lot of south and although bright, the general base was quite low at around 3000'. A steady 30 minute walk saw me approaching the grassy, lower slopes, the wind was on and I only had to climb a few hundred feet. It's not steep, but it sweeps up a long way and just feels like it will work enough to take you the rest of the way ... even in a light breeze.
I was soon away and climbing, slowly and smoothly, there's fun in close contour flying. Within 15 minutes I was heading east, higher and deeper towards the summit ridge of Barkin. Many times I've looked over the back from the SE face ... now it seemed odd to reverse the viewpoint. The lift was good, not strong, just gentle, relaxing to work with the occasional hint of thermal to provide a few turns and assess drift and windspeed. It was never windy ... perhaps 12 - 14 mph at most. Quite a mellow day.
I'd studied the map and had my eye of the next ridge to the north - same direction, but different in character; heather covered and steeper with deep twin gullies at the top. I headed over ... it brought a renewed excitement and interest to try it. I came in about half way down, with little doubt it would work OK. I played here for a while, it was spectacular and impressive, before the next excursion enticed ... so another trip heading north.
This time I had no obvious ridge to head for - just a shallow, bumpy slope with the wind running up it ..I expected little bad sink. It was quite a long transition. I crossed over a lovely tree covered gully thinking landing was now a big possibility. I was getting low. Shortly after that I met a real thermal - it was unexpected, no sun on the ground, but definitely a thermal. I took this for about half a dozen turns ... lost it a bit and didn't bother to search. At the time it seemed to have done its job ... getting me over a ridge with Sedbergh now a mere glide away downwind. I drifted over the recently started big housing development ... it wasn't at all windy, yet I expected some wind on landing. In fact it surprised me with a nil wind landing. I would have been quite pleased to have made Sedbergh 20 minutes earlier, but now I regretted not using that last thermal more ... who knows? Could have got me to Baugh Fell ... Cotterside, Stags. That will be for another day.
I was back at the car within 30 minutes. Quite by chance a pg pilot's wife (Jenna Hartley) spotted my bag as a paraglider and kindly drove me back to Barbon. Very appreciated. A coffee in the Mousehole completed a lovely morning's work - just a pity I had it all to myself.