Above: Climbing out from Birks with Chris
2/4/2023 Birks Fell
Whilst the western Dales is well endowed with E and NE sites, the central Dales are less well served which makes downwind xc's a bit limiting. However, all is not lost.
Sunday looked quite promising (I thought) yet few seemed to share my optimism and SM remained fairly silent. I'd planned several flights, mostly closed circuit from one particular place - just in case. What I hadn't much thought into was a downwinder, given the distance to the coast, even from the central Dales - I rather regretted this later. I'd thought the wind likely more E than the NE we had, which meant all my goals were too far north.
With few willing to deviate from the tried and tested, Chris Kay and I, were joined by another free spirit willing to indulge us and trusting of our judgement, in Rob Ulersmann. Rob would make a great day a lot better when he did a sterling retrieve job. Our plan? Walk up the back of Birks Fell from Arncliffe. Not having done it before it looked a bit of a beast. Actually, it's very palatable. Park outside the pub and a 45 minute walk to take off ... steep at first then easing to pleasant walking on a good track. (I'm not sure I should be sharing this).
We arrived on take off to a find a nice breeze and a great sky developing. Rasp had the best day behind us to the west, but that was starting to blue out - so how far could we get? Both Chris and Rob climbed out very quickly, but for whatever reason my first 20 minutes was frustratingly scratchy - I wanted to push out front where thermals seemed to be kicking off but not having any height I seemed doomed to waiting for one whilst hugging the hill.
Finally, I managed lift off and best of all partnered Chris as we headed for base together. Rob had meanwhile set off, sunk out and found himself soaring Cow Close (from which he would get up again). He's certainly a trier. Progress seemed awfully slow. On reaching Fountains I dabbled with the idea of heading south to Kilnsey with a possible triangle in mind. Downwind had only a few remaining clouds and then nothing but hazy blue. With no decision made it was rather made for me as I carried towards Settle rather unconvinced but with the die cast.
It really didn't seem the best idea with only lee sides falling away, but approaching Settle and almost into the big blue a decent climb came from a hopeful ground source above Giggleswick Scar. From that point on every climb was about using ground sources, and they all worked a treat. Not usually my strong point, but on this flight I actively sought them out and all worked. Very pleasing.
Crossing onto the Bowland Fells can be tough, but a small climb midway and we were there - into the boonies. Not Dales boonies, but real mean, long walk out boonies, enough to scare the pants off you in parts. Knowing the few moor crossing roads helps - and I know them well so that helps a bit. At a few points I got rather low, but my target slope, bowl or pimple worked - and a gull half heartedly confirmed one as I arrived. It wasn't hard work, but it concentrated the mind - so much so I forgot to take any video until the tension lifted as the far side came into view. One last, long, sinky glide onto a cairn/boulder strewn flat top and again a climb that confirmed I wasn't to be condemned to a heathery walk. Chris had split off at this point and continued to his Garstang goal - not having one I headed more west as the thermal drift suggested the wind was now more E to ESE.
Approaching Caton village in the distance and relieved to be leaving the moors, I slid into a shallow valley below the Caton turbines. It didn't look a good place to find a climb other than the sun had been on it all day and it was in wind shadow. At 800' agl above an isolated farm I stumbled into the nicest of climbs - never strong, just smooth and consistent. With Caton and the Lune confirmed I pressed on to the M6 ... the coast lay ahead but still needed another half climb. Again, over the M6, some gentle lift appeared - only enough to maintain and drift and slowly Hest Bank looked achievable. In fact - the gentle, light sink, allowed me to cross the town, the railway line and head out over the sands a short way before returning to land on a dry section of beach. No sign of any seabreeze (the tide was way out) and a gentle breeze blew down the beach from the NE. Great to land on a beach - a bit special when you just run out of land.
I packed on lovely, beach-washed grass - walked over a railbridge to the road and 30 minutes later Rob's car appeared. A really special thanks to Rob who risked wife ire to collect both Chris and I and drive us back to Long Preston. Also my thanks to Chris who gave me a sight seeing drive back to Arncliffe.
A really good day.
Another lovely day but a poor rasp .... lots of rather hazy sunshine until 2pm when some high cloud would drift over. Despite the poor thermalling prognosis Chris looked at the soundings to find the inversion was about 4000' .... so not too bad. We decided to have a look as Moughton is only 10 minutes drive away; Rob was keen as ever so he came along too for a look-see.
A warm walk up to see Chris doing his karma points thing by topping off a wall. On take off there was none of the usual hurry. The wind was on, but it had a rather spooky feel - it could be OK; it could be riding a wild horse. Eventually, I took off .... and it was actually OK. To qualify that .... it was mostly OK, but there were also some rough thermals, some strong in parts thermals, sharp edges and a bit of pitching thrown in. We climbed, pushed out a bit, scratched the edge at times ... and explored the ridge.
My reward came after 40 minutes with a good climb out. I was in the process of crossing to Robin Proctor scar when I met a nice, solid thermal. What to do with it? I was thinking of heading forward to the edge at Fiezor which was easily within reach. However drifting back meant I sort of ended up just going on the very good drift. My best was about 3700' not quite enough to head for the rising ground heading up to Dodd. As per usual the thermal died (always seems to here - just when you're committed). I went on a long glide getting ever lower, crossing the Horton valley with Rob below. Worse of all the high cloud had come over and shaded everything out.
I was ridiculously low on reaching the first drumlins .... almost ready to land, when a few weak beeps sounded. Over twenty turns later I was drifting up the rising ground - climbing slowly alongside the ground rising at the same rate. If only it could release and discover some legs. Dodd wasn't far away and it was maybe possible to achieve an escape. Then it was gone - or I lost it. I tracked towards Newby Head - a few surges, the odd turn but nothing to get too excited about. I landed by the road.
A quick pack, two easy lifts back to Helwith and a drink with Chris and Rob. It has been worth venturing out afterall.
A few photos LINK
7/4/2023 Worlds End/ Mallerstang
The first of two consecutively, excellent days.
With a light northerly forecast, a direction with not many Dales options, we (the Season's cafe crew - seven of us) took a punt on Worlds End. As usual it played its tricks.
A warm walk up under a developing sky only to find it light on top and as often seems to happen here, off to the NW. When it did blow up the north face a few of us tried it to no avail - my attempt resulted in a stiff, steep carry back up, only to find they had all moved over to the NW face. So ... another glide across and another carry up. It was taxing. I was knackered!
Kev managed to get up after some scratching, then Chris and a short while later I did too ... but being about 4k behind I was in 'chase them down' mode, Eventually, just beyond Cotterside I caught up and by Newby Head we were all reunited. The climbs were good and being together is a huge help ... even if we aren't the best radio users (Chris is mostly static and Kev had flat batteries).
Kev got lower over Newby Head and fell back, whilst Chris and I pushed on for Pen Y ghent. The flying was always relatively easy, we stayed high and the climbs came - Kev really had to work for his flight. We kept seeing him well below, at one point scooting down the Horton Valley - but he always kept going and making the best of what came along.
We passed Settle at over 5000' then Long Preston, where Chris was eager I should get some photos as we passed over his house - so I dallied. We had set Burnley as a goal (but missed the start cylinder due to the move of the launch point) as we headed towards Pendle the clouds had died a little, but the climbs were still decent. However, progress was slow and the thermal drift consistently showed SW to WSW - pretty much as forecast (it was now after 5pm - we hadn't left the hill much before 3pm. Way below I spotted Kev still engrossed in his own battle with gravity.
We could have carried on, goal wasn't that far, but my lazy side kicked in and I suggested heading back towards Settle; it would still give us distance, but allow a very easy retrieve. So we all turned back .... a long smooth, bouyant glide. chris landed near his house at LP, Kev and I on the outskirts of Settle. I kept hoping for just one miracle thermal to allow progress back up the Horton valley but it didn't happen.
For the rest of the gang ... it turned into a frustrating, knackering day - such is the margin between a super bit of flying and a day to forget. Thanks to Rob U for driving down to collect us with super efficiency.
This was a day that looked every bit as exciting, but this time with a light southerly drift. My main issue was time .... I couldn't afford to miss a family meal scheduled for 8pm in Penrith. When CK suggested PyG I weakened and built my plans around that. Those plans involved either (a) a triangle flight if it was light or (b) an IFR (I follow railways) in this case the Settle to Carlisle line for a fast retrieve or even land at Penrith/Carlisle. Yes, it takes devious paraglider thinking for such plans to evolve.
I left my car near Horton station and under a warm sun joined the masses for the hour and quarter grind to the top. How can a man of my age, with a 16kg load on his back sweep past so many carrying only their sandwiches? Well, it's the thought of three before me laying out on a perfect day. FOMO I guess. Unfortunately, I was still 10 minutes too slow.
I arrived minutes before Chris took off, managed to video Kev taking off and watched Rob Lund skying out. Yet again I was playing catch up. The hill was working well - like the others, a single beat, lock onto a thermal and away. At 4500', still with some height to be had I hared off - the sky looked great, the terrain I know and what could go wrong- I rolled the dice. As the previous day the drift was very slow. I'd plugged a 40k triangle into my instruments and swore that come what may I would stick to it - and the day seemed perfect for it.
About 13k downwind the first leg was completed, I was high and the next crosswind (?) leg looked under a good sky. A quick radio call placed the others (never did see them) only a few k further on. So ... I got distracted by the chase and the chance to join good company. Basically I chased off to find them - as the previous day. And that put paid to the triangle - which whatever the outcome I dearly wish I'd stuck with - even on my own.
The rest of the flight was a very solo effort - plenty (too much) radio chatter but I never saw another glider. I tracked up the Mallerstang valley, crossed onto Wild Boar but didn't find a great deal. Eventually I was just going down, down and soon very low - in fact, almost setting up a landing. Then I hit a rough, strong, bullet ... the sort you would normally reject, but take if it gets you out of jail. It got me up, got even rougher and the amazing thing was the glider didn't even flap a tip, but it raised my heatbeat - then it smoothed out to a lovely climbed to 5700' - my highpoint. I happily buzzed along Orton escarpment, trying to locate Glen and John H who I knew were close from radio chatter. Company is everything - more fun and it reduces the workload. Again, I saw not a soul - search the sky as I might.
Still, the sky ahead looked superb (see photo) - a well laid out chess board with all the pieces strung out waiting to be played. Easy eh? Never say easy - next decent cloud? Didn't work. OK, move on - next? Not working either. Still at 3000+, that's like 1000' over Ingleborough and this is the flatlands of the Eden valley. Today it starts to feel low. Next cloud? Tuck under it ... nothing! Why? Oh dear! Things are getting more deperate, but I've flown this track before - I thought I knew the best line to take and it always works. But - not today apparently and I find myself low over Appleby, gambling on the town. At first it gives - with a broken, bitty sort of way and I gain a few hundred feet. Some few surges, a few hopeful turns that peter out and a difficult to discern drift.
So, with the train station handy I give up and land. A short walk, eager to not miss a train, only to find I have by 15 minutes. Over an hour's wait which I then spend in the station pub listening to all the radio comms from the late Semer Water crew. They're close .. and scrabbling around the Warcop D area.
Not a bad day ... but one I'd like to have again. And .... I made it back by 6.15pm with time to drive to Penrith - why couldn't I have flown there?
15/4/2023 Whernside/Barkin South
Not sure what to make of today. Certainly a day of two contrasting halves.
With the light SE forecast to veer to south by 2pm I initially opted for Cautley. A check at Ribblehead (en route) ... then at Newby Head showed more NE/ENE so I doubled back for Whernside.
A pleasant walk up, using my own approach to a lower take off made life a bit easier. There was a lot of cloud cover, and a base not that high - it made for pleasant soaring but not a lot else. Quite a few gliders about, all able to enjoy the full, 7k length of the ridge. It was smooth and but not that exciting. Then the sun started to break through and things got more interesting - the wind also showed signs of veering so I was looking for a way to get over to Gragareth ... the more distant target was the Howgills. There didn't seem much action over that way (Grag ridge) so I wasn't too convinced it was working.
Eventually I left the hill with just enough to cross. A single glider took off midway along Gragareth and promptly went down. It didn't look good. The main problem was the wind very much going off to the south and few sections that might work - even if a bit. I arrived just south of Great Coum.
The best I can say is I was able to stay up - but it wasn't that great. Chris arrived low! I mean onto a useless little edge well below my height and with a crossed wind. To be honest I didn't give much for his chances, but somehow he managed to make it low to my face, climb, not spend very long and start climbing away. A masterclass in getting out of a shitty hole.
Thinking I'd best go with him, I set off into Great Coum for his climb but found little. Now I was in a shitty hole and my focus became trying to minimise a walk out and to avoid Dentdale. I sort of skimmed towards Barkin, hoping for the low, lee side miracle. A lot of sink, a few surges but nothing of note. A few hundred feet more may have given me half a chance on Barkin - although the wind was very much up the valley low down.
I landed at the bottom of Barkin just as a lone glider (Tim Rogers) took off. He stayed up but it seemed quite some way off the hill. Meanwhile, Chris (lowish) was following behind me did find something to work and climbed again impressively - maybe the broken bits I'd passed through had come together.
Quick pack, short hitched ride down to the south end and a steep walk up to take off. So ... let's see what this face will deliver. The day had now opened up, the sun was out and some decent cumulus were about - base still a bit low. Another goal set for Penrith.
Basically, it was awkward and quite rough at times. What thermal gusts there were, were neither on the south face nor the south east face --- just annoyingly on the point and switching. Eventually I managed to get a reasonable climb and drifted very slowly over the back. Initially I stayed over the high ground until forced into the Lune valley and some decent clouds. The rest was just a slow dribble with light lift and nothing really coming together into a solid climb. Eventually I landed by the road into Sedbergh.
Quick pack, a chat with a nice farmlad and the first car stopped and took me back to my door in Ingleton. Not a day to write home about, yet plenty of exercise, a fair amount of flying and I felt surprisingly fit after it all.
A few photos LINK
17/4/2023 Semer Water
The morning was best described as 'murky' ... on the positive side there was a nice, light ESE wind and it wasn't raining. After Rob had done some 'Raku' firing and I had sorted out our dishwasher we opted for an afternoon ride over to Hawes - just to see. As is often the case, over the hill the skies brightened, the tops were just about clear and it looked a better day with the odd splash of sunshine. I cast the 'exploring a new ridge' plan aside and went for the easy option - Semer Water.
I expected a few more on the take off shoulder, but only Martin, partner and dog had arrived and with just the three of us it stayed that way all afternoon. Aside from a lack of sunshine, it was just about perfect - a nice light breeze, fairly bouyant and provided an hour of relaxing flying. Afterwards Rob and I enjoyed a coffee in the Pantry. On the way back we spotted three or four gliders soaring Whernside.
A pleasant afternoon. I found out later that Wild Boar had been particularly exciting in a 'wave' way. In fact, getting down had meant a trip north to KS to find some sinking air.
A bit of video ... I find it passes the time to occasionally string something together.
22/4/2023 J B
At precisely 15.16 Barrow AFC went one goal down to Carlisle. Gutted! I intended to (maybe) go out after the game - at 5 ish, but this goal changed everything.
The morning was dreadful. Low cloud, persistent rain and the wind of recent days had vanished. According to the forecast the late afternoon held some promise - just perhaps the chance to have a soar someplace.
I settled on JB, the wind seemed more west, in fact even better for there - WSW, as that opens up the territory to the north - behind the the Barkin ridgeline. I opted for the easier, shorter walk up and used the north end. The wind was about perfect, just enough to soar up from below the top.
The flight fell into three phases. For the first 30 minutes it was smooth, easy soaring and I took the short trip over the trees to the south hill. Eventually I scooted back low and found the main ridge to have become a bit more bouncy, more scratchy and it was only just possible to stay up. Meanwhile the sun was starting to make an appearance from behind some high cloud so I hung in. After 20 minutes of just above or just below the ridge the first thermal came along and some decent cumulus started building. The first climb was good, drifted me over the back only slightly and some good clouds built towards Great Coum. It was tempting to go that way despite it now being about 5.30pm. So .... began the thermal excursion stage.
I opted to push back towards a big cloud building in front of the hill. It didn't deliver very much but with enough height I set off on the crossing for Middle Earth. In the end I didn't need it as a good climb (shared with a buzzard - he insisted on turning left, whilst I stuck to my favoured right, so we passed regularly and neither of us was too phazed by the lack of etiquette) - this took me along to the next ridge beyond ME - which is more WSW. Again, an even better climb got me near base (not high .. barely 3000' over the back of the Calf. I'd made Sedbergh before with much less height and on a poor day - so I was hopeful. My sights were now set on establishing on the Howgills. Tebay would then have been a doddle.
I took a long glide towards some good looking clouds - it was now after 6pm but things still seemed to be working. They should have worked, but aside from a few hopeful blips they didn't - neither did the next cloud. What height I had soon evaporated and I landed on the outskirts of Sedbergh. Still ..... more than I expected when I left home; but less than I hoped for when I saw how things were developing.
Surprisingly quiet on the roads - but the third car stopped and I got a lift back to Barbon with a lovely young lady called Caitlin (apologies if I spelled your name worn) from Casterton.
25/4/2023 Barton Fell
Tom, Rob and I made the journey up to Barton. We had several options but this seemed as good as any, with some good pilots heading there. We arrived on take off early, about 11am, with only a single pilot about to take off and he quickly confirmed it was working with a great sky and thermals that soon took him towards base. Whilst laying out others (Tom H, Mark, Phil Q and even Steve E turned) later Mike and Ben would join the throng.
I was the third into the air, possibly being too soon (so unlike me) was my undoing. One beat and I was climbing to base at just over 5300' at this stage. The drift was very slow. A radio call to say, "Shall I hang about and wait? " .. elicited no response (I may have been on the wrong channel). A gaggle would have helped a lot. Unsure what to do I set off. Another lone trip and soon another triangle aborted in favour of downwind. I climbed again to just over 5000' approaching the A6 and the first leg of a semi planned triangle. All looked accept the wind speed - a very slow drift in thermals, but 50kph + on the transitions. So downwind it became.
The Howgills always puzzles me ... left, right or over? I wanted the big climb just before to take me over. Rarely happens due to the Tebay sink hole. Just approaching and whilst working some weak lift two very noisy jets passed to the north, one doing a perfect barrel roll (for me?). The sound really lingered and I couldn't hear the vario which was a nuisance. Whatever I had climbed or just maintained in departed, I was slipping under 3000' and the Howgills loomed directly ahead. Not appreciating how northerly the wind was becoming I headed towards the few features, really just gully sides, on the edge of Far Whitestones that might work.
And that is how I ended up in a horrible, rotory place that I battled for 20 mins before it spat me out. I landed in a fresh, boistrous northerly with very little to show for the day. Whilst some made it all the way to Harrogate, plenty more got caught by the Tebay sink. Once in the Dales I was confident .... but getting there is never easy.
A four mile walk, pleasant at first then rather wearing. A disappointing day.
Very few photos LINK
26/4/2023 Radar Masts
Another good looking day with a light westerly forecast, but it remained stubbornly NW for much of the day. By 2.30pm it was starting to shade out in the Eden valley. All very academic to me unfortunately.
Chris and I took the long drive up arriving minutes before the A team - Richard M, Gary S, Pete M, Rob C and a few others. The 'Masts' is handy, a short walk, but shallow in the extreme. Even Gary, about the only one who likes it, regards it as 50/50. Today it wouldn't get past 10%. A super sky but very light and off to the north. Even the 10% didn't cut it as all headed out and down to land beneath a lower but better scar. Even that was a bit too exciting for fun .... passing over walls, fences and gullies with feet to spare, just to get that bit closer, cut down the walk or escape an enclosure. (It should be mentioned that Westie; later a few others - Andy and Tim) were the only pilots to take the sensible option of walking another 40 minutes to a much better take off).
One wall required a run, further launch and hop over of about 50'. Desperate stuff.
First walk - Not so bad. We all walked up via various routes and at different paces to get on to the flat top of the scar.
Actually, the Scar felt doable (just) and perhaps I should have waited for better pilots - but you gotta do your bit - so I took off. It felt OK, I gained height, found odd surges and managed single turns. Confident, I headed further along the rising scar (first mistake) ... it turned even more out of wind and in desperation I did my usual very close scratching (second mistake). And that is how I ended up still sat in the harness on the cusp of the edge with the glider draped down over rocks and a line clearing exercise required. There were no take options above as a short, flat grass section (10') led to a wall topped with a barbed line. Hence draping the wing over the rocks .... barbed wire rips things!
So we come to the third mistake. I should simply have packed and walked back to take off - it wouldn't have taken long - fact I was still just above my take off height. I chose to walk a balled wing in full kit and full sun only to find myself trapped by walls and fences. I guess the hope was for the wind to spring up and come more on as forecast - it never did.
Second walk - this took an hour of convoluted detours, deep gully crossings, long flat section with some steep bits, searching for sections of non barbed fences - all with the wind always across the slope. Eventually I reached a nice knoll to allow a glide into the huge Melmerby bowl. I knew I wouldn't go up, the wind was across the slope and it was just a case of getting into the heart of the bowl.
(All this whilst listening to all the thermal seeking chatter on the radio as the others went about their triangle over the Eden valley.)
Third walk - after a long glide with no sign of lift I landed to be faced with another desperate plod up the shallow slopes. Overhead two gliders were soaring, no doubt looking down on the poor, struggling soul below. Where I was the wind often blew down the slope - so disconcerting and morale sapping. Did they know how much I was now suffering? I took it slowly, rested often and had no water; my abundance of clothing was soon literally wet from my exertions. It took another hour until I thought - do I simply glide out or keep trying. I tried. Another short flight took me to the more into wind south end of the bowl but a steep landing ... better, I lost only 58'.
Fourth walk - steep, but thankfully short - I contemplated crossing a steep section to a flatter knoll, but suddenly some breeze started flowing up the slope. Steep as it was I managed to get off OK and was even climbing - merely a short lived gust? I kept climbing and was soon above the ridgeline. What a different day it was up here despite the overcast it was bouyant - even thermals. My focus now became getting back to the cars. I was sure I was the only one left flying whilst the others waited to be away.
I wouldn't have made it back, but out front thermals now seemed abundant. I watzed around gained height and then glided over to land by the car anxious not to keep others waiting. Big mistake again - some were still in the air including Chris after a marathon almost four hour flight.
I didn't enjoy the day and I lost 2kg I can ill afford to lose - but I can't recommend as a weight loss strategy. It was all pain with no gain. The one consolation was an excellent pint with Chris and Westie in Langwathby followed by even better fish and ship from Shap, eaten al fresco on a bare moortop near Orton Scar.
29/4/2023 Wold Fell
The least said the better - not really worthy of an entry, but I record everything even if best confined to the dustbin of history.
Left home at 5pm, as much for the exercise as anything. At Ribblehead it was northerly, same at Newby Head. Nevertheless I still walked onto Wold Fell - the weight on my back simply to tax the body a little more. On Wold it was still NNE and the cloud was coming down to just below take off. Found a little bit of slope facing NE. Faffed with a stubborn micro knot as the mist rolled through and thickened. Emerging through the grey below were competitors in a Fellsman race. Several flights of no note whatsoever - just skimming a low 40' slope, several beats, landing and then doing it all again for want of a better option.
Packed and walked/ran back to the car.