19/7/2023 Park Fell/Ingleborough
The first chance to fly after a dry, warm, June followed by a wet (but mostly windy start to July).
The forecast suggested a decent few hours before the wind increased and the rain storms arrived by mid afternoon - hence we went early. In fact, it was much better and for longer - maybe we could have done more with the day as some did.
Rob, Alan, Kev and I had a sweaty walk in arriving on the take off slopes around 11am. The sky looked quite promising, but the wind was light with odd thermal gusts coming through. From this point on the sky would got better, base never seemed that high and the wind increased slightly making it just soarable. Although until well gone noon we endured a number of slope landings followed by carrying a little higher up the slope each time.
We enjoyed a good, long spell of flying and reasonable thermals that never seemed to go more than 1000'ato. Just south of us John H and Tim R could be seen scratching on Barkin south - whilst we had regular climbs they seemed to find very little. Interesting.
After an hour I decided that would probably do and having gained height set off back for Barbon village. On the very end of Barkin south, at wall height and on the lower end I found I could maintain. The more I explored, the more I realised it was actually possible to stay up OK. Oddly, John and Tim at the higher east end and above me by 300' seemed to be scratching and struggling on a short beat.
As the sun hit my part of the ridge the lift improved and with more height decided to fly the kilometer along towards their higher, steeper section. It definitely wasn't working, the wind seemed off and the lift poor. I scuttled back. Shortly after they both dove over for MiddleEarth. My thermals got better and I contemplated flying back to ME but decided after an hour and half to carry on to the village and land by the car.
I arrived over the village with height, did a tour and found spots of lift but I'd already switched into cafe/coffee mode. Landed in a nice field by the car and headed down to the Mousehole. A little later they all started turning up so we had a very convivial hour or so.
LINK (Just a few pics)
I wanted a decent day to test fly the Photon and make up my own mind. I was intrigued by the mixed reviews .... and I'd read a lot. Ultimately nothing beats flying it and coming to your own conclusions. I'll begin this flightlog with the day itself, the flying and finish with some thoughts on the wing.
Weatherwise we travel in hope at the moment - I've never known a July like it. I'd had my eye on Wednesday for a few days ... not a thrillingly, rush out of bed day, but it seemed to offer a decent slot until early afternoon. It started flat calm, bright, but not sunny, then by 10.30am it seemed maybe too windy in the village. Packing the wing (if only to maybe get a chance to unfurl and connect) I set off for Ribblehead. Confounding expectations it was actually a very light WNW and bathed in warm sunshine.
I walked up expecting conditions would conspire to deteriorate - in fact they got nicer. I laid out on the lower slopes of the NW face, it was still on the light side, but maybe I could get up from low down and save the walk. I balled and walk a further 40' up the slope and was easily away - a scratchy beat and then more easily until well above the top. There were even thermals.
I flew down to the summit of Ingleborough, probably the easiest I've ever done ... smooth air, odd thermals and very enjoyable ... then back to Park - again very easy. It was lifting well off the north end of Park and I briefly contemplated flying over to the butty van and landing. However, it was such nice flying and I needed to start doing a bit of glider testing so I headed back to Ingleborough. It was OK getting there, but this time I arrived on the mid height slopes, below the cliffs. In fact it seemed to have switched off and getting high enough to make it back became tricky. Some scratching, still below the summit, I set off back, passing the SW bowl and finding enough lift to arrived just level with the the top of Park. This time Park wasn't working at all - the wind had dropped to very little so after two beats I opted to head down and land.
A fast (ish) nil wind landing and a hot sun! During packing it felt like a burst of summer. It was so nice I went to the rail station and had an excellent cup of coffee, sitting outside, chatting to the odd walker and enjoying the moment and the passing trains. I never even saw a hint of a shower but I believe they existed upwind.
A few photos LINK
So ... what do I think about the Photon?
Two points to bear in mind, Firstly, this is based on just over an hour in decent conditions; secondly, I can only make comparisions against the Fusion.
1. Easy enough to launch given any wind, I get the feeling that nil wind launches may be more tricky with the smaller cell openings/longer rods and being a bit heavier. The initial inflation is fine ... quite steady Good in strong winds .... easiest ever.
2. Feels really good in the air. Comfortable. I was concerned about the brake lengths but actually I didn't really find them too long - my preference is for low hands. That said when it came to thermalling I did take a wrap (they cut which is why I'm no fan), and I did try to get a faster turn with weightshift/cross braking and I guess you can get one ... but basically it's pretty flat. Reminded me a bit of the M6. Agile it is not! The Fusion can be thrown around and responds fast - you could land it on a daisyhead. I noticed when scratching that you need a little more lee-way and care.
3. The B's are really light, in fact they feel lighter than the brakes; so light I found myself thermalling/steering with them. They are effective .... the more bar, the lighter they get. At full bar I'd actually prefer more feel - but I think it's just a case of getting used to them.
4. The glide is superb. It's hard to know how the Fusion would have transited today - but I have never made it so easily, lost so little height and every small bit of lift seemed to get used efficiently. On the second run, which was harder, it again made it without fuss when I may have turned back on the Fusion. The funny thing is ... I just knew it would. It's a very efficient wing.
5. I'd heard the wing moves around somewhat ... like two halves. I can't say I found that. I took a lengthy spell of video pointing up at the wing during a rougher thermalling period (I had 2/3ms at times). It doesn't feel or look like it moves much. But .... I'm sure it will have a higher workload than the Fusion (which handles anything thrown at it) ... in a rough thermal, or snotty air. Certainly a wing to respect and learn how to manage.
6. Landing --- easy enough. It was almost nil wind so needed a double wrap to kill it.
6. *The Concerto bag. Well .... it's OK, it's light, does the job, but it lacks the features of the Saucise. For me .... the zips are the wrong way round and should close from an open trailing edge. If the cells need care; then it would help to have something to hold them together - the clip doesn't.
7. It's very orange!
* 28/7/2023 Now I've got to know the Concerto ... I LOVE IT. Best bag I've ever had, and so light and small.
Overall, very happy, but time will tell.
Rob, John, Chris and I met up in Ingleton and pondered the options. The sky wasn't that inspiring and it could be too windy. We settled on Dodd and drove straight to take off finding two gliders in the air and doing OK. Like the previous day there was less wind over this side of the Dales.
It was fairly light on take off but it was working well. Soon there were about eight gliders in the air, spread along the full length of the ridge. For the first hour it was very pleasant, smooth air and good ridge lift, for the next hour, as the sun spread slowly from the north and the wind increased, it got steadily more bumpy and less appealing. Having had two hours airborne we all landed and headed into Hawes for coffee and cake at the Penny Garth.
A very worthwhile flying day and good to test the Photon in some rougher air. Definitely a higher workload than the Fusion due mainly to the slower response to inputs and a less direct feel. But it's fun, it has character and keeps you thinking.
24/7/2023 Park Fell/Ingleborough
Rob collected me just before noon and we set off up the Dale to gather Alan en route and Chris from the 12:07 into Ribblehead. My initial thought had been the north face of Semer, but at the station it felt a little west of north. In fact it was NNW pretty much all day so it would have worked OK. Park however was handy and there was a glider flying - in total there would be, I think, about eight of us.
An easy walk in, a set up 100' above the fell wall - each time I seem to lay-out lower. A few scratching beats and that was it - soon I was 500' over the top. It was not long before lots of gliders were strung out across the ridge to Ingleborough summit. The next hour and half we all climbed in odd thermals, pushed upwind, crosswind, generally just wandering around. Finally, most seemed to head back to the north spur of Park and try their luck there, probably tempted by more sun on the ground. It wasn't delivering very much at first.
Towards the end of this spell I stumbled into a real climb, solid, quite strong and for once consistent. It was an easy climb to base which was at a surprisingly decent 4500'. Earlier Chris and I had, had a brief radio conversation where he said (I think) ... if I get to 3700' I'm going. So .... I had no excuses, the only problem was both he and a B3 were still stuck on the spur and 2000' lower. Company would have really helped enormously - it was that sort of sky, that sort of day. I set off lonely, yet confident, with the benefit of height and clouds I hoped would work. From this point it was all down, sometimes depressingly so, and as I skirted over the limestone pavements at the head of Crummackdale it reminded me of a few similar flights downwind of Park. It's yet to deliver for me.
I landed on the outskirts of Settle. I initially set up for a schoolplaying field but then saw a large spray machine doing circuits and opted for the field next door. It turned out to be a good move as the school, like all schools now, was fenced to resemble a secure unit.
A ten minute walk to the bus (waiting) ... jump on, discover I've lost my bus pass and it will be £2 to Ingleton please. Still - he did drop me at my door.
Another good day out - that's three excellent days in the past five proving that the weather isn't totally up the Swannee.
I've settled into the Photon in terms of feeling comfortable, but a thermalling technique is yet to be sussed. It's not nimble, is rather slow to dig in and when it does it either dives or tries to flatten out (?). Thermalling next to a B3 showed it (the B3) to be a nimbler glider.
Mid morning and the hills remained shrouded in mist, forecast to get windy - usually I'd have canned it.
Driving up the Dale, Ingleborough was almost clear, the bowl would have worked but I didn't fancy the walk in to discover it wouldn't. Whernside still well hidden beneath the clag. Arrived at Brantside to find it clear with odd patches of sun over Dentdale. Began the walk in but turned back after 100m - too far off to the south. On the road again.
Cotterside looked a good bet ... lighter, brighter and with the wind on .... so I continued on to Stags. No one there but it seemed fine at the cars ... fairly light even, direction good. Walked up, laid out and took off into a steady breeze. Smooth, VERY lifty and all seemed good. Then it started to get really lifty and the lift continued out into the valley ....lots of bar. More noticeable wind now. On hitting the cloud tendrils I couldn't really see any clear slots. So let's see how well a Photon goes down.
Big ears - it doesn't. I'd heard they were almost impossible to pull. Not a chance I think the lines would have snapped first.
B3 - they came in OK and were effective with some bar. They look a mess and flap a lot, but they do work. They needed holding, took some doing and came out fast.
Spirals - you can turn tight but beyond that it likes to roll out.
Got over my landing area ... it was windy and lifting. Back to B3's. Popped them out and then gentle wingovers into the rising round - that worked OK. Easy landing even if a bit windy .. it came in gusts; I may have struck a lucky spell.
Went home, watched womens football .... sold a chainsaw and sythe.
A few Photos
By 4:45pm the wind seemed to have eased and the sky was allowing more sun through .... from my bedroon window Gray Scars looked quite appealing. I didn't have long, but on a whim I decided to drive up (5 mins) ... and then a 20 min easy walk. It was fairly light near the car, but on the edge below the top rather breezy. However, there were lighter spells.
I took off easily and it was both smooth and lifty ... my first beat extended to the small edge over to the east. Returning to the main take off suggested not just loads of lift, but windier with height. I pushed forward on bar, climbing... out beyond the road and the lift seemed everywhere. Perhaps I should have exploited it ... rather silly not too. Rather unnerved by the 'lots of lift everywhere' and the clouds coming together, I wound it off and landed in a very light wind up by the car. I should have done more with it than a mere 15 mins. I had to be back but still could have stretched another 15 minutes. Silly me.
Grey Scars is a useful place to know .... it works well, and has potential. I've always thought it more a thermal site, in retrospect I think it has a very wide lift band ... the long draw means in any wind it extends about a kilometre forward. Next time I fancy trying the OR to Moughton and back. Could have been on last night. A challenge to file away.