3/8/2023 Park Fell
A really excellent day.
This was a real surprise, sandwiched between some appalling summer weather. It's been so uniformly bad I barely glanced at the forecast - other than it looked a sort of OK day (not raining) but it seemed as if it could be too windy. In fact it was quite the reverse.
I walked up with Tim and following my usual practice I laid out low. It was quite light, but enough and Park works from really low down. It certainly cuts out the steep part of the walk. Easy launch, plenty of lift and with a few close beats I was climbing in what would be the first of many nice thermals. A good turn-out, perhaps eight to ten gliders. For an hour we just enjoyed the ability to explore the full ridge and push well upwind - far more than we usually seem able to, the clouds all seemed to be working. Gilders scattered everywhere it must have been quite a sight.
Eventually, a plan formed, the radios worked and we decided to form a gaggle, get high and head for Skipton. I drifted over the back with Chris just ahead, Tim in close attendance and Rob trying to get out of cloud leading the pack. I've always found that second thermal, as the ground descends towards Settle, a bit tricky, so took the cautious approach. It worked - especially the upwind/crosswind tactic and approaching Settle from the east I gambled on a cloud that got me to base and beyond. Sadly, I lost Tim.
There was a pronounced convergence - so common along this southern flank of the Dales. Once sussed and heading along the northern edge it was quite easy for a while - until it ended. Now it was back to proper head for a cloud, stay over the high ground and work for a living stuff. Chris was just behind and lower.
I pushed for a cloud, not a big one, just a cloud that may work, but before that bumped into a solid 2m/s and was climbing nicely. With Chris close by we worked it well .... he finding the stronger cores - me muscling in on his efforts. Skipton was in the bag ... any further meant staying under the 3000' airspace. I would certainly have carried on had some dribs n drabs come along, but the final cloud approaching the town didn't even provide that. We landed together in the same field under warm, sunny skies and light winds. How it should be.
Short walk to the station, quick coffee and onto the train back to the cars picking up some paragliding waifs and strays along the way - station by station. A final group pint ended a really excellent and unexpected day out.
I even found time to edit a bit of VIDEO
6/8/2023 Barton Fell
Riders of the Storm
Not the day we had hoped for - by a long shot.
Tom and I walked into Barton under grey skies and a diminishing wind. We arrived at take off to find we had it all to ourselves ... the wind was so light we walked further and higher. In retrospect that was as good as the day got. It was at least still dry.
We waited, the sky remained uniformly grey and stubbornly locked over us. The wind stayed light to all over the place - including coming over the back. Then the first shower arrived. We hid as best we could. Once it cleared we packed up. Upwind in the Eden Valley a really large cell was dropping its load, spreading and creeping ever nearer. Soon it was over Pooley Bridge.
So .... what do you do?
Not to be beaten. Gilders back out, harnesses donned, only to find the wind (light) across the hill from the north. A short moved across the hill, find a slope sort of into wind and away. The idea was really just to cut down the walk back and get nearer the car before the rain hit. It saved all of 15 minutes, we packed as the rain started and began the trudge back to the car, meeting up with Tom at Aik Beck. The rain eased a bit, but the walk seemed interminable; in the end my thinking slipped into Bermuda Triangle territory. You had to be there.
Above: Flying down with the storm very evident.
Driving south down the M6 we hit a really torrential burst.
Meanwhile .... not many miles away on Clough they had a quite a decent time ... just to rub it in.
Not the day we had hoped for.
8/8/2023 Johnny Barnes
I've always wanted to visit and walk round Grimwith reservoir. Today I got my chance, but it was unplanned.
Chris, Alan and I met in my living room and we debated the merits of a 'lucky' coat and where to go for best. With JB handy we settled on that as first stop and to check the wind. With stronger winds forecast it seemed best to avoid losing another hour and half driving and then walking up Troutbeck.
JB seemed about perfect, overhead a good sky, the wind on the hill and fairly gentle. Easy launches, rather scratchy at times between the cycles but the thermals were OK when they came through. We almost took the first, but then dithered and scooted back to the hill being forced to land on the top. Another launch and within 10 minutes Chris and I were climbing away together (John H had just left Three Men about the same time but we never unfortunately met up).
Base wasn't especially high and at 4000' we were dabbling in the tendrils. Over Grag, then Whernside ... losing the next climb and crossing back to the one we'd just left and still working. Both high. I drifted over Ribblehead, found a decent top up and looked for Chris. It took a while as I was searching high until I saw him low (seemed to me). I had an easy glide and another climb over PyG. Meanwhile I didn't think he'd make PyG ... yet he scrabbled on and just made it, somehow. Quick radio question (It's getting windy?). From this point on the wind was a concern ... at least for me and I certainly didn't want to be low in the Dales terrain. I didn't envy Chris as he again went low over the back of PyG. At this point I seemed OK.
Within the space of five minutes Chris had skied out and I was the one struggling to get up. I think I caught the tail of his thermal - either way I didn't get a great deal of reward for my efforts. Now I playing my own game of survival. Over Cow Close .... nothing, on towards Arncliffe and the top of the Windbank ridge - familiar, but weird in a fresh westerly. At least the wind was sort of half on. I was at ridge height.
Over Arncliffe I hit a bullet - a small frontal that dragged in the tips before I caught it. Soon out and no drama's. This climb became like all the rest I encountered low down. strong into wind surges, wait, turn and gone - sinky backs to them. With too little height for comfort I ran over the back of Windbank and the more westerly shallow, stepped ridges running south. Another half frontal. This was all getting a bit silly. Despite being low I'd find something, think I'd escaped only to find it falling apart. There was a decent cloud 500m south - but would it work? I even saw two buzzards nearby who didn't appear that keen.
I eased under the cloud and it seemed like this could be the one - but again, although strong in parts there seemed no backs to them. So it went on, drifting rapidly back over the moors with a windy landing and long walk out in prospect. Eventually, the battle was lost and a safe landing became the priority. I drifted along the edge of Grimwith res .... noting the white caps and sailors putting into harbour. I landed fine - but in the most tussocky grass I've ever met - holes up to my knees! No chance of packing there so an awkward walk to a grassy track behind a sheltering wall.
Getting back proved very easy. A nice walk along the edge of the reservoir to an icecream van. More walking to the main road. Quick pick up by a really cool van guy delivering a cast iron fireplace to Grassington. I gave him a hand after a struggle to find the right house (14 Chapel Street). Then he did me a big favour and took me to the bus station in Skipton. A quick coffee and a bus to my door in Ingleton - back before 6pm.
Did I enjoy the day ... not sure, initially yes. Chris made it to the coast for one of those flights we all dream of (180k) ... I've waited over 40 years for that and I suspect that was the big opportunity. If only that damned moored had delivered that one escape.
Very few pics .... after Ribblehead I had other things requiring greater urgency.
After a morning in Barrow I set off back expecting maybe some late afternoon/evening flying. In Furness it was a beautiful day of blue skies and fluffy clouds - but it often is there. Approaching Brigsteer on the A590 I was just able to make out a paraglider, so an easy deviation and I was laying out by the car.
There was a fair breeze, but the direction was perfect. The Photon does strong wind launches easy - it's hopeless in light wind due I guess to the long rods. So I was soon away and climbing - a bit rough low down, but OK up high. The climbs were good and getting 2000'ato wasn't a problem. Brigsteer was just on the very edge of the good sky and sunshine - to the east looked pretty grim. It was a good day to explore the ridge - even down to the A590 and well out front.
I had several flights and Rob turned up to be introduced to the delights of Brig. The whole while I thought I'd been flying with Kitt .... after packing I discovered it was Artur from Kendal. Not a bad afternoon and I felt I deserved a pint in The Hare and Hounds at Levens.
10/8/2023 Stags Fell
I thought the day looked pretty decent, the following five less so; hence I was surprised at the muted response to going flying. I headed over to Stags solo, I knew a few were going there so there should be some company. I arrived to find a car, but no sign of a pilot on the hill so I assumed it was a walker.
The day looked quite nice, sunny, certainly on the warm side and the 8/8 blue had developed some nice cumulus. The wind was good too. I expected SSE, but launched in 8 mph SSW just below the normal take off and crept along the edge to round onto the SSE face. Just coming into view was Fred in the process of setting up. It was a bit light, a bit scratchy but soarable and even better some decent thermals. A quick landing, short chat with Fred and off again. It was still light, but a lovely thermal hoisted me to about 1400'ato. Creeping low along the edge, doing the same trick as me, was Jason (Perry) .... so more company on what was turning into a lovely day.
We (mostly Jason and I) spent a good, long spell playing in the lift, pushing out and at times gaining some decent height. Eventually, wanting a little excitement and challenge, I pushed out and then west to Cotterside, easily bypassing Humesett and arriving just above Cotterside. Despite knowing it wasn't a good direction (it prefers SSW) I could easily stay up and there were thermals in the usual places. it was 40kph+ one beat; 14kph the other way. Fairly quickly I (plus two buzzards) were climbing towards base and heading back towards Mallerstang. It was tempting, but for once I'd left my wallet in the car and base was not that great ... little over 3000'. I decided against, came back to the ridge and had a lengthy spell trying to find another climb ... I never did. With 400' over the top I headed first out, then back towards Stags trusting that the clouds en route would provide something. They did provide enough to maintain for some of the way, but it was slightly into wind and slow going. I arrived level with Humesett, drifted into wind and eventually saved a walk by landing by a surfaced road.
40 minutes of very sweaty walking back to the cars.
A very convial end to the day with Geoff over a pint, followed by a meal in the Pantry. Later joined by a VERY sweaty Pete (cycled down the Mallerstang valley to his car) and a fresh faced Martin. By the time we got away it was gone 7pm ... no one seemed to have women or wife commitments for once.
LINK (Stills plus a bit of video)
15/8/2023 Murton Pike
On the drive up to Murton it looked like it may be too windy. Once past Brough the wind dropped away and arriving at the carpark below Murton it was virtually breathless. What few gusts there were came from the NW, not unusual here, and the better skies had given way to 8/8 cloudcover. Still .... with little better to do and tempted by the hope of an improvement I sweated my way to the very top. Shortly after Westie and Tim O appeared.
I knew base would be low, I knew there would be little thermal activity and I'd gambled on enough wind to attempt the OR to the masts. That plan was out of the window - on top it was still light and off to the north. We waited perhaps an hour and with a gentle breeze took off expecting a sled ride to the bottom. Tim had his sled ride, but Westie and I managed a bit of prolonged scratching of the NW face - it actually works OK and is far steeper and deeper than I'd given it credit for. I got 30 minutes which was far more than I expected and headed down.
A conversation with a German guy who's wife was planning to walk up later, then I set off back. First through a rain shower, then a very sunny Mallerstang.
Below: The NW face - falls steeply away for 800'
Less of a fly-down, more a walk up.
For reasons unknown to me the walk began at the Reservoirs. If Yoke is the destination it doubles the walk in time - don't do it! My excuse (?) was the wind showed a hint of west, very light but just maybe it would be possible to take off from Applethwaite Common and fly north along the valley. It was this decision that compounded the lengthy walk I found myself committed to.
The grind up Applethwaite saw the wind swinging increasingly south and dying to nothing. By the time I was at Wardless cairn it was hinting at SSE. After a brief chat with a lunch-eating walker I continued along pleasant, level paths to top out on Sallows. The reason for the deviation was to check out and photograph the SSW face of Sallows as future potential. I have a reputation (?) for being a bit of a loner, but it gives one the freedom to go places, try things, explore, go off piste and sometimes fail without any disappointment other than to oneself. Pace is also important at my age and young guns are faster.
Below: Sallows SSW face
I'd never been on Sallows before - a nice heathery summit. I rejoined the Garburn Road after a 300' descent and prepared for the long, steepening pull onto Yoke. I'd begun the walk in warm sunshine but grey skies now shaded out all the immediate area. Pulling onto Yoke I saw no sign of gliders ... 150m further on they were sat, laid out and waiting above the huge, awesome NE bowl that sweeps down from Ill Bell. It's very impressive, a bit daunting, a light wind launch could be 'testing' on both nerves and skill. In my climbing days Rainsborrow (the crags below) had a fearsome reputation.
A short distance away is the west face ... far more appealing with its gentle, grassy slopes. We may have imagined a west wind, but it took little persuasion to move across and set up for zero wind take off's. A far better place to get it wrong.
With the sky stubbornly overcast the new goal became, see how far we can make it back to the cars - 5k away. It was also useful to test the relative performances of the B,C and D wings amongst us. The take off's went fine, the 10 min glide down was smooth and actually a lot of fun and very interesting in its own way. If anyone wants some glide figures I can work them out. Suffice to say they are closer than you'd imagine.
A quick pint in Ings completed the day - just as the sun came out. Typical.
It may not have been a flying day as such - but I really enjoyed the walk, the exploring and the fly-down. Not often you can say that.
23/8/2023 Grey Scars and Stags
I was optimistic about the day being flyable .... the question was really one of timing and location. Playing it by ear seemed to work well. An odd day that in terms of character felt like three days in one.
Grey Scars: My first thought was to head west - Brigsteer was the easy option, if not what I felt was the best. It was clearing from the west and whilst Ingleborough was only just clearing of cloud, Grey Scars is literally a five minute drive and the parking elevated enough to get a feel for the day and is a good viewpoint. My first thought on arriving was too windy? I gave it 50/50 at the cars. By the time I'd walked up halfway I knew it was flyable.
At take off the wind was on, it was soarable; even a touch on the light side. However, I'm getting to know this place and each time I fly here it confirms there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It's not a big impressive hillside, it's not steep and the beat isn't that long. What makes it so good is the deep liftband and the thermals. The ground steadily rises with odd steeper kicks all the way from the A65. It's probably why pushing out front for a kilometer and more finds gradual lift all the way.
An easy take off into a light breeze and plenty of lift to 500'. I'd set my self the challenge to fly to Moughton and back ... should be OK on a good day with a few thermals. Today wasn't yet the day to do it. After thirty minutes of smooth soaring and pushing to the west the sky started to break up, odd patches of sun poked through and finally a thermal arrived and gave me ... maybe, just enough height (2,200'asl) to reach Robin Proctor scar. It wasn't a bad line, the terrain helped and odd gentle bits of lift appeared occasonally. I simply drifted along.
I arrived at RPscar below the top and it seemed to be working, although the wind was a bit too SW for it. I'd always wanted to fly this scar so gave it a good explore and it works well. The sky had now improved a lot, the sun was out and finally a good strong thermal came through which I worked to 2500' showing only a light drift. I looked down on Moughton, now an easy glide away. I wish I could stuck to my original plan ... I get easily sidetracked. I had two issues. Firstly, I wanted to fly over the top of the impressive edge at the head of Crummackdale and video it. Secondly, I'd left my wallet in the car not expecting anything of the day. I should have gone for Moughton - but I didn't.
Over the back of Sulber Nick I hit a strong core, turned twice then lost it. Then I dithered a bit ... the moors in front of PyG seemed the way, but I couldn't face a walk out. I opted to land by the Horton road. I regret not making more of the day as it started to switch on.
I got a quick lift back to my door by a really nice hippy couple who knew the area well - in fact they had breakfasted in the Goat Gap and watched me for a while. You can't miss an orange glider.
Below: Robin Proctor scar looking east.
After a cuppa I cycled back for my car; warm work under a nice looking sky. The plan was to then head over to Brigsteer, but at the car the sky said otherwise. The Dales looked quite tasty and base was now over 4000' .... it looked higher. To the west were signs of an encroaching front and it was greying out. I decided to head for Hawes and Stags.
Wensleydale looked very good, in fact the sky was almost classic. The Cotterside/Leyburn run looked on but I settled on Stags for company. Except .... there was none. Not a soul. It was bit gusty on take off ... obviously quite thermic, but as some top cover encroached it settled down. I gave it 20 minutes to smooth out, took off and the flying was really nice ... I never really used the ridge just stayed well out front. For once crossing to Humesett was quite easy and the Photon is proving amazing at going places.
And that was it. There were signs of the day changing again and as Ingleborough became enveloped in orographic - then Whernside I decided enough was enough.
Some video stills from Grey Scars and Stags LINK
Despite an inauspicious start to the day I was quite optimistic, I thought the forecasts all agreed and that RASP had it spot on. At 9am I walked in drizzle and low cloud for my paper, we were under a weak occlusion that I felt should clear the Lakes by 11am and the post frontal air should be excellent. Almost a classic forecast.
The night before Tim had suggested Troutbeck and another chance to get even after our bombing out a few days earlier. I thought it well placed for the forecast convergence, so why not. By 11.45am we'd convened at Wilf's for coffee and buns, met up with Geoff and the lovely Maya, chatted - hence, a bit later than planned, Tim and I set off for nearby Troutbeck.
The walk up was sweaty, the sun shone and the sky slowly filled with cumulus - all looked good. The air crystal clear. Above us Andy and Tom stood like Indians on the skyline - but didn't take off. Puzzling! Too light? Too off? Too strong? We felt little wind until near the top.
We arrived as they committed aviation. Scratched, soared weakly and slope landed - several times. There seemed sufficient wind, but as often the case here the slope never seems to work well. It was now well past 2pm. Again .... RASP suggested mid afternoon to dry out and get going so still plenty of time.
Then things improved. I took off, Andy followed and we searched the shallower, WSW face, no boomer but it was fairly bouyant and I managed about 500'. It's quite a long transit to the main ridge beneath Yoke, Ill Bell, Frostwick, but with a slight following wind it was a straightforward crossing. Tim had just done it five minutes earlier with less.
Below: The main ridgeline after climbing in the first early signs of convergence.
Plans: The main plan was an out and return to Barton. My secondary plan being a goal flight to Leyburn. The sight of developing convergence convinced me to change to the latter on take off - no big reason other than I felt it the safest and higher reward option. The wind strength and direction also played a role. I had a hunch Barton may be too far north of the convergence and not working well. So a goal flight was plugged in. Leyburn it was - this would come back to bite me 2 hrs later.
I arrived in front of Yoke and without a single beat got pulled powerfully into the convergence and simply pushed forward steadily climbing. A few turns without drifting too far back to assess drift and windspeed and I pulled out of the side for a think. It was a bit rowdy in there - the wind felt strong. Below, well to the north near Kidsty Pike, I saw Tim scrabbling and didn't fancy what he may be experiencing. It can be rough there ... and a bit mean.
Back under the convergence I decide this time to commit - half a dozen turns later I was at base (4,500') and heading towards Longsleddale. The drift didn't actually seem that great - surprisingly and the roughness of the hill became a thing of the past. Convergence can have strong, often rough entrainment and give the impression of strong wind - Troutbeck can be that sort of place.
Approaching the A6 over the moors, I almost blew it! Tempted by a cloud to the south I stepped out of the convergence (there was a gap), lost a lot of height and came into Bretherdale lower than I would have liked. Using odd weak bits of lift I slowly edged back towards the main lifting line. It took a while, the lift was a lot weaker out of the big hills and only after crossing the M6 and getting onto Orton Scar did I relax enough to get out the GoPro. The climbs were now quite smooth and gentle - only 1-2m/s. So .... now where to go?
All the way along Orton and then over the back the drift showed SW. With Warcop ahead I had to decide whether to head for the Murton Pike area - and then up the ridge, or Brough and the A66. To the south was cloudless, to the north of the convergence similar - both would likely lead to an early landing. Initially I crossed to the north side - the convergence was really wide and shading out a big area of ground. The drift now changed to WSW - so that was Murton out - probably, approaching Brough it became more W. I was now way north of the Mallerstang valley, but as the convergence showed signs of decay on leaving the Eden valley a great line of clouds set up due south. I wonder? Crosswind cloud hopping?
From 4,600' I did a 90 degree turn south, put on lots of bar and sure enough hopped from cloud to cloud - always losing height gently, but the glide remained good. The Photon sure can glide. It seemed a long way onto the Mallerstang edge - no sign of gliders on Tailbridge.
I arrived just above the top and met quite a headwind from the south - this mean a slow crawl south until the ridge turned more in my favour. Only now did I notice a lot of wind. It was quite slow going down the valley, keeping well out but climbing all the time. On one occasion I turned back to check the wind but going north seemed even slower.
At the south end I pushed forward and into good lift, turned to check drift and found very little. Half a dozen turns later I hadn't drifted over the back and the turns were showing overlapping. OK .... that'll do me, I felt comfortable and on familair terrain. Over the back again .... it didn't seem that windy at all - just in the 50's kph. Over Humesett - then Stags where I'd been the day before. A weak climb and into the valley (grouse moors!). Over Bainbridge a straggly cloud appeared which gained me about 800'. It had more ... but two things distracted me. Firstly, up popped a message 'Task Complete' ... I'd programmed in the wrong goal - Bainbridge, not Leyburn. Bugger! Secondly I became aware that the wind was strong down Wensleydale and at trim coming close to 70kph. My focus changed to a safe landing.
I chose an open field near Askrigg - before the trees become a factor. In fact the landing was easy, smooth and there wasn't much wind at ground level. Although well pleased I think there was more to be had as I wasn't really working the last two climbs that seriously.
Retrieve: You never can tell, it could have been long and tricky. I was very quickly given a lift by a lovely guy and his son(?). They lived in Sedbusk and dropped me in Hawes. It always seems to be, not just the more generous of spirit, but the most interesting and curious of people who stop and offer lifts. Lots of good questions.
A quick half in Hawes and back on the road. The third vehicle stopped (well, reversed 50m at high speed), an open backed truck driven by a young guy called John. Super friendly and super helpful ... we chatted like we'd known each other years. He went out of his way to drop me at my door.
I had a great day - a memorable flight and my thanks to those who helped me get back. You were the icing on the cake. Great folk.
Some video stills LINK
28/8/2023 Three Men
Chris and I were the last to arrive, just before 11am. It looked good with one glider in the air and others laying out. Not a classic sky by any means 8/8 cloud, but with a hint of brightness and sunny patches upwind. A lovely wind strength and direction, WNW allowed us to launch low, beneath the track and soar up - it works well from low down.
For the next two hours we enjoyed excellent soaring, smooth with the odd thermal which allowed us to fly well upwind towards JB - but not quite. Instead four of us had a nice excursion onto Crag Hill before eventually flying back to Green Hill. Eventually Andy went over the back (I thought he was defo down in Chapel le Dale but mnaged to claw his way out). Chris also left shortly after although I didn't see him go - very stealth in his pale colours.
I'd set a goal, but the start cylinder refused to trigger - only later did it dawn on me that it was still before noon and the start time was set (default) at 1200hrs. Stupid! Not used to these early starts. More soaring - not as many thermals as before and waiting for the sun to arrive; which it did in patchy spells. Eventually, I got a solid climb (with Tom and Tom) to base and set off for Ingleborough. With base still only around 3600' it was just a glide to arrive 100' below the top and then soar up.
I spent a good 30 minutes on the point; no sun and waiting for something. The summit area was quite busy, so they watched me whilst I filmed them. The only patch of sun for miles around seemed stuck over Crummackdale - it also has a convenient W escarpment which I'd always wanted to fly. Now seemed as good a time as any with the wind on it. Finally I got a little bit of thermal, nothing that convincing but worse weather was encroaching from the west and I was getting bored after almost 3 hrs in the air. I set off for Crummackdale, with a good windspeed I reckoned on making it easily.
I arrived just above the top and had a spell soaring it, enjoying the novelty of somewhere different. I wasn't there too long and pushing to the north end stumbled into a strong, but small core. The wind was now quite fresh and I wasn't that high, but opted to go with it. For about four turns it seemed like I was on my way - then I lost it. Another glider or two might have helped but not being that high over the flat escarpment I was mindful of searching, getting low and flying low over the lee edge and quarries. Basically I did a runner.
I landed fine near Helwith Bridge. Only whilst packing did I noticed how drammatically the day had changed. The clouds had lowered onto the summits, rain was approaching from the west and it looked rather gloomy. Could I stay dry? Fortunately the very first car stopped, a nice couple from Bentham who took me right back to my door. I've been really lucky with fast, easy retrieves lately.
Later: Collected Chris (he managed a very creditable 50k flight to near Skipton) from Clapham station. A quick pint in Peaks n Troughs completed an enjoyable day's flying.
30/8/2023 Three Men
It had all the makings of a pretty good day. Chris and I mulled our three options and settled on Three Men. The central Dales would be plagued by higher winds so we took the most likely option with proven potential - it was also very handy. Goal was set at 83k east of Wetherby and a bit of crossing winding looked necessary to avoid the LBA airspace.
With others opting to travel to the north Lakes we walked to take off and had the place to ourselves. The grassy, mid height slopes provide an easy take off and it couldn't really have been better. The wind was pretty much square on and quite gentle with occasional moderate gusts. Chris was soon away as I faffed a bit and was quickly high and well out in front
I took longer. Whilst there was plenty of good lift about I struggled to find that cloudbase bound core, meanwhile Chris floated about well above me in wait mode. Eventually I managed to find one and Chris came in at the same height. This would be the one he went with, but with him being behind me I lost sight and missed the joint the ride. I then had to push well forward for what I think in retrospect was a better climb in a better place. From this point I was always playing catch-up - slowly gaining, but we never actually got together unfortunately. With two of us working the tricky Wharfedale crossing we may have succeeded.
Things went OK to PyG and I hit a now decent base over the Horton valley (4700'). Up to this point the thermals had been OK - strong cores, a fair drift, but as the other day, much as I pushed to the upwind side I seemed to keep falling out of the backs. The wind speed seemed to roughen and disturb the thermals. The Photon is very good, but isn't agile and I could have done with more agility and authority in these conditions.
Between PyG and Fountains I hit a really vicious thermal that threw me and the glider around for what seemed a prolonged spell. All credit to the wing it never even lost a tip and seemed unflustered - which is more than can be said for the pilot. That thermal defo deserved an ASBO! I turned tail and ran from it to nicer air .... and considerable sink.
Near Malham Tarn I wasn't low, but certainly requiring a climb which as we were crossing a large blue hole made life difficult. Fortunately, some wispies appeared and started growing, the developing thermal couldn't have been more different from the previous monster. Not strong lift, but nice gentle turns that slowly wound me up to an improving base of 4900'. All good again.
I searched for Chris, just visible and sinking ever lower into Wharfedale - in fact struggling, althought the sky looked OK. On glide and crossing over to the escarpments and moors it was quite sinky, but I had a cloud to head for. I arrived under it without a lot of height to spare but it seemed to be working. Yet again it proved difficult which I can only put down to the wind strength .... strong upwind surges, wait, wait and then turn - gone. Lately I've found these windy, broken thermals hard to work. I managed a few hundred feet before again setting off down wind and getting low in windy conditions. Rather than sink into some tighter landing areas in the outback I opted to land just beyond Hebden and the main road (near a previous hitch-out two weeks before). It was windy but the landing was quite quite straightforward.
Getting back a was a dream. The first car stopped and ('Slim' mention me to the Geoff's) was on his way to climb on Kilnsey. A nice guy that I'd a lot in common with who dropped me at Threshfield. I got a bottle of water from the garage shop ... crossed the road and again the first car stopped. A lovely fella, Paul, with two young children then took me to Gargrave which was perfect for the bus to my door. A big thanks to them for making getting back so much easier and for the interesting conversations. A big part of cross country flying is getting back and I've had some life enriching expereinces and met the best of human beings that I wouldn't have met without a lifetime of retrieve hitching.
A few photos from the video. I didn't find a lot of time on this flight to video as the thermals made me work for them. LINK
31/8/2023 Semer Water
It had all the makings of a great Dales day. We met (Tim O, Tim R, Tom, John and myself) at Country Harvest to mull over the options (after Tim had done politics). Being car-less and having had a decent flight the day before, I was happy to go anywhere. We settled on Semer Water our only concern was parking - it was sure to attract a crowd with such a sure-fire forecast. Strangely, when it's flyable the 'Dales Flying Plans' seems to go very quiet.
To our surprise, on arrival there was only a single van parked up - Steve Gill as it turned out. A little later my old buddy Nick Pain arrived. On the lower take off it seemed OK - light but soarable and after a short SSE spell the wind came on again. Everyone's first flight was OK, but nothing special and when it got a bit lighter we landed on the shoulder. A short wait and off again.
The hill was now entering switch-on mode, the thermals became bigger, stronger and better formed and I soon found myself at 3500'. Others had to fight it out lower, but once high it seemed easy enough to stay high and zip from cloud to cloud. We had feared the day might cloud over, in fact it opened up and a convergence set up through the hill and towards Widdale. I left the hill at base 4600' and thought I was the lucky one. An easy glide over Wether, then Dodd and across to Widdale which provided an approach thermal and I was away again.
Up to this point it seemed I was destined for a lone flight - then the radio chatter began; first John (not far behind), then Tom and shortly after the Tim twins. Slowly circling and scanning behind I saw John high - OK let's get together. The two quickly became a crowd until five of us from J36 were circling more or less together. Quite unheard of and probably never to be repeated. What didn't come off was any polished decision making and the rigid gaggle discipline of the Dales A team. Those lessons are beyond headless chickens.
All went fairly well until the Howgills. There were large areas of shade out and the battle was to reach any sun. Crossing into the Howgills with John at about the same height I made an error - not obvious at the time. John peeled off to the south 500m whilst I ploughed on across the northern slopes - although they have always failed me before. I lost height - John lost less. I just reached a little sun before Tebay, felt the air change a little, managed a few desultory turns but had to land near the main road. I believe the Tim twins got slope height low on the edge of the Howgills but persevered and got a decent climb out. Less can be more.
Whilst beginning to pack a local guy stopped for a pleasant chat. Looking towards Tebay I saw John coming in to land - I thought. He still had a little height, had reached the sunny ground and slowly started circling. Each time I looked during packing he was higher, then higher still, until very high .... Oh dear! I wished I'd done that. Quite envious. The bulk of us were scattered between Tebay and Shap ... done by the spread-out. But amazingly John just sneaked out of Tebay after a low save and went on to near Wigton for about 90k+ Super flight.
Getting back was intially difficult - I crossed a field to the main road. It's straight, fast and the chances of a lift were slim to non existent. In the end I walked into Tebay Truckstop. Getting a bit desperate I consulted google for a taxi ... Tebay came up and a weird 0200 number. I called and the scam began. In hard to understand Indian, I got a price and 15 minutes sir. Well .... I guess if they're only around the corner in Tebay. The nub was they wanted payment in advance .... by card. Like a numpty I gave my card details. Next .... a text from NatWest. Did you recognise a payment of over £800 to some unknown weird place. Y/N. Scary ... N. Money saved ...card blocked and new one in the post. Came so close!!
Tom arrived and whilst I was listening to the looooong dreary derge that passes for 'killing time in a queue' music ...."Your call is important to us", was giving directions to a nice guy and his family. I guess we got a bit cheeky. He could only take one due to space - I drew the lucky straw to get back to the garage where my car was. He was a lovely guy, nice ladies too. A very interesting and friendly chap who in the end took me straight to the garage in Cowan Bridge. I'm eternally grateful not just for the lift, but meeting such lovely people.
Later, having collected my car from the garage, I paid my dues by picking up John from the Settle train. For a Birthday flight it wasn't half bad.
A few video stills LINK
Below: Approaching the Howgills Photo Tom KS
Photon note: Having flown about 20 hrs, a number of xc flights and in some rough conditions at times I think I know it pretty well. It's a straightforward, honest wing. It's handled everything with no drama's and gives you plenty of warning and feedback. Excellent glide performance, thermalling I'm still working out the best technique. Overall an easy, comfortable wing and lovely to fly.