3/6/2023 Swarth Fell
It looked like another windy, Dales day, although the forecast suggested otherwise. The usual easterlies meant Tom, Kev, Chris and I made our hopeful way to Swarth (NE). Windy on the drive in, although not excessively so .... more disconcerting was the southerly element to the wind for the majority of the walk in. Only just below the take off did it back to ENE.
The wind strength seemed OK and we were all soon in the air. However, given it was freaky easterlies and this was the Swarth area it wasn't the most pleasant air. Tom and Chris went a little too far back which forced a top landing. They reported a big increase in wind - Kev and I decided it was better in the air and sat it out. Later, they would move well down the slope to get off again.
I was getting ENE and felt Wild Boar should work and maybe it was preferable to a roughing up on Swarth. The crossing was slow, given the northerly element, but once established it was fine. The air did seem smoother, still rather strong, but manageable. I pushed well north onto Middleark which although lower seemed to be producing nicer thermals and the drift appeared more from the east and the ground behind more friendly.
The second climb I decided to go with ... it never went beyond 3900' which was about the limit for the day. I passed over a large gipsy encampment near the Fat Lamb and carried on over the north slopes of the Howgills, mindful of the wind and keeping an eye on all the deep valley's that run crosswind along the northern edge. Given it was blue thermals it was always a bit of a gamble.
In need of a thermal I spotted several gliders laid out of a small slope .... the impression they gave was 'training' .... but with 'Northern' no longer operating I'm not sure who they were. A gentle climb came along and allowed some progress deeper into the hills near Bowderdale. Another climb, better this time got me back to about 3900'. Up to this point I'd been happy taking the northern route around my nemesis, but the drift was decidedly pushing me south - into the bigger hills. Usually not a problem but mindful of the wind strength and limited height I had I kept trying to stay to the north and didn't want to get low in the lee.
As I headed towards Tebay, I knew the next climb could be the crucial escape and I would then head more southwest towards Whinfell It didn't arrive, not a sniff .... I'd been quite hopeful but it just didn't happen. I landed on the moor edge above Tebay. I'd almost gone for the M6 crossing to a hill on the other side, but being low the thought of being rotored onto the M6 didn't appeal.
Kev later took the south route and after a very low save near Sedbergh made the Irish Sea coast near Bootle. A great effort.
Very few hands free moments to film LINK
5/6/2023 Clough Head (east)
Increasingly fed up of the easterlies and its effect on the Dales we decided on the Lakes. The previous day six of us had walked up Birks Fell, sat around as the wind increased - and walked down to pints at The Falcon. We sort of made a decison that this would be the last outing until the weather changed.
It wasn't easy to settle on a good site option and pondered several, even Souther before deciding it had to be the long walk in to Clough east face. It may not be a tough walk .... but boy, is it long and boring. Later I had the pleasure (?) of also walking down that same track.
As we walked up the slopes of the east face it looked good wind-wise, the sky stubbornly blue but all seemed good. About a third of the way seemed enough to just soar effortlessly to the top. Speedy Chris tried and went to land lower - maybe not so easy. On a face around the corner, the ENE bowl Liam was also laying out.
Above: Chris laying out for take off shortly after arrival.
My turn came ten minuters later. I didn't actually soar much before the first rough, bullet took me to 3000'. It wasn't especially pleasant, not unexpected given the conditions and what lift there was, was disorganised. After 30 minutes of being low then high, then low again I landed high up the slopes for a breather, drink and ponder. Essentially there was no meteo wind, just thermal gusts and light breezes off to the ENE ... an awkward direction. Liam flew over and joined me high whilst Chris battled lower down with a few short hops.
By 2pm the first cu's appeared (and wave disappeared) and grew until they scattered themselves across the sky. It looked a completely different day - infact a really tempting day with a decent base. Another flight, my fourth I think and this time it was boomtime. Chris got off, got up and found a climb - best of the day. I came in lower. This took us to base at around 5000', was smooth and the drift a mere 7kph at height. The sky upwind looked superb. Not sure what happened to Liam as we blasted into orbit in front of him sunbathing.
I pushed out front to a cloud - it half worked. I then pushed towards Great Mell to a better cloud. It was a long glide, I lost valuable height but it just had to work. How could it not? I found bits, I could turn in some but it never seemed like it had legs or I could not find a decent core, Chris being higher and a little behind found something better. About my height and 500m off the end of Wolf a OXA3 appeared (Tom?), when he turned I headed that way - a glider at my height would be easier to work with. As I headed that way he stopped turning and carried on west. I just hit sink and turned back towards Clough along the front of Wolf.
It seemed some of the big clouds, whilst tempting were now in a state of decay. I did have a 5% er I headed for, small but growing. It may have worked but I was too low, down below the crags, shortly after a landing and long walk ensued. Bit disappointing after a promising start.
Beer and chips in Ings and that was our day done.
LINK (my video stills and few iphone pics from Chris)
Aniversary of D Day.
Another breezy Dales day (OK in the Lakes). Expecting the evening lull I set off up Gragareth at 5pm, arriving at the lowest possible take off 35 minutes later. It was still quite breezy, but dying gradually with odd lighter spells. My 40' up the slope got extended to 60' as the light spells extended. I laid out, waited for maybe 15 minutes and took off. As usual here it works from really low down and after two beats I was above the top.
The flying was OK, marred really by the wind being off to the ENE and limiting the ridge to be worked. I had about 45 minutes, flew down and had a nice smooth landing in the valley bottom.
I'd spent the day helping set up at the LCC base in Grasmere. From 1pm onwards the sky developed from blue to stunning. By 3.20 I became redundant and set off home giving only a passing thought to an evening flight. As Geoff and Baz had indicated they may try Gragareth I made the small deviation into Kingsdale for the 50 minute walk up. Despite a great sky (see photos) I wasn't especially optimistic, it was fairly light and off to the south - not ideal here.
I laid out on the shallow, southern slopes - picking the steepest place I could find, yet prepared for a slope landing. The wind was still light, still off the slope slightly and it was already 6pm. Despite searching the sky I saw no one and assumed I was alone. A few beats - pleased to be actually gaining a little height before gentle lift appeared. Some light thermalling got me onto the main ridge and the first sight of two gliders laying out. At least I wasn't alone which is always more fun and more comforting. Soon there were three of us in the air and working the ridge.
It didn't take long - maybe 10 minutes, before the ridge became irrelevant and we all soon got hoovered to base. And some base it was. We passed easily through 5000', then 6000' .... and the magic 7000' loomed up .... and still going. I topped at just short of 7,400'. This was paragliding heaven. A beautiful evening over our home turf, a huge smooth thermal and the world laid out below - it was even still warm at height. Truly a gorgeous experience and one to savour.
I tried radio comms to the two 'strangers', I recognised neither wing .... but received no reply and they drifted off south from the convergence line with their own plan. What to do? It was tempting to follow the line which continued into the Lakes, but I had to be up early next day and really didn't want any late retrieve hassles. I passed over Barkin and into the Lune valley before deciding to head back to Dent and return down the Gragareth ridge for a triangle. It would make about 30k - OK for an unexpected evening jaunt.
Pushing back over Barkin was slow, but OK as I crept under a cloud which slowly got me back over 7000' - and all seemed good. Heading towards Great Coum and a third cloud my ground speed dropped appreciably and worryingly - from 20-25kph to single figures and the sink came with it. What climbs I found were too weak to turn in without slipping back - so I pressed on. What should have been no problem - Barkin to Great Coum with mega height became less likely. 100m short I was just not going to make it - so disappointing. A quick right turn and I scooted down the shallow, windward slopes to Bullpot Farm.
It was almost a landing below the road in a very sloping field. Somehow the slope worked - a bit rough, but it worked. First to above the road, then a small grassy knoll on the fellside which I beat for a short spell and gave me 150'. (Like many places, I'd scouted this 'bump' on a walk a few years ago - knowing it helped). With just enough altitude I headed south onto bigger, steeper but lower slopes below the road a few K south. I hopped over some trees and passed a car at window height who looked rather surprised and stopped to watch.
Another beating session continued down the ridge, a few weak turns before turning downwind at speed and heading for Cowan Bridge and a nice landing in a mown field. It was just gone 7pm.
That was a really novel flight - so unexpected, so different, disappointed to not make it to Dent and with a novel finish. One to remember.
This was the last, really good day and one that promised to be very similar to the previous day ... for many it turned out even better. It was the BIG day of the X Lakes. There were a number of options, but when Chris suggested PyG it was pretty nailed on for there. We went into 'covert ops' mode to stay under the radar and I steeled myself for the walk in - I recall the last time being a bit testing.Due to 'train' issues (that would come back again at the end of the day) ... I was first to a low take off. Chris, then Liam arrived shortly after.
It was quite breezy, very blue and it seemed we had a good hour to kill before the sky developed. It appeared very much a carbon copy of Thursday. The wind became lighter, the cumulus developed more extensively and whilst waiting we climbed a little higher for a launch point. Being covert, the gliders stayed bagged until we were ready to be off. Just after 1pm it started to look good.
I launched first, a few rather scratchy beats at take off height but finding the most promising area 200m left I stayed there. It was all very quick. The first thermal became the climb out in only a light drift. Passing through 5,500' I radioed back as Chris and Liam were soaring the point - whether to wait, but received nothing. The drift being slow they could soon catch up. I had a triangle in mind and approaching the first turnpoint and decision time I again tried radio contact to ask if I should wait around this area. I was now at 6500' and the day was looking brilliant.
Below: Preparing and soon to launch
Receiving no response I decided to just continue north - despite it being an excellent and big triangle day. This was probably the first of two mistakes.
Passing over Great Knoutberry I hit 7,500' for the first time - quite intoxicating. The clouds ahead were lined up nicely and it became a case of join the dots. Occasionally slipping below 5000' actually seemed unreasonably low. I pressed on making good progress, although at height it always feels slow. More than anything I kept an eye on the time and whilst taking each climb to over 7,000' .... at one stage to 7,800', I was moving more into speed mode as the lift was so reliable. During the whole flight I never saw a single glider, but there was lots of radio traffic northbound from various sites - Grayrigg, Cautley and Blease. I few voices I recognised.
I passed high over the back of Wild Boar, the northern Howgills and into the flatter Eden Valley. A blue hole appeared near Centreparks, south of Penrith. A small cloud seemed to be forming so I reckoned that would ease the crossing .... as I approached it broke apart and my altitude dropped below 3000'. Over the A66 another cloud formed - small at first, but growing nicely so I pressed on and hoped. My altitude unwound further and rapidly .... down to 2000'. Having been so much higher 15 minutes before - this felt soooo low, low enough to start seeking out landing options. A few dribs and drabs of lift, some searching that ventually led to full 360's, that although weak at first, strengthened and soon I as back at over 7000'. The tricky bit was over and ahead looked good again.
Below: Passing east of Penrith
The next stage to Carlisle was quite easy, always high with climbs to head for. Radio comms and my FLARM screen showed plenty of traffic - with the occasional light aircraft and helicopter. But paragliders I saw none. Some new airspace showed up east of Carlisle, GND to 2300' - but I was clearing it by 4000' so went over the top. Just beyond Carlisle I started thinking retrieve options - I needed to be back for an early LCC start the next day.
At first I headed for Longtown, but then opted for Gretna. Windmills just east of me showed and easterly wind - to the west a sea breeze was showing a west. Probably my second mistake now occurred. I'd passed the 100k, crossed the border into Scotland and a rail station was showing at Gretna on my xctrack. Despite being in a lifty, sweet line - possibly the convergence; I pressed on through lift, through decent thermals and arrived over Gretna with lots of access height. In retrospect I should have pressed on towards Dumfries and with the Solway behind it looked good again . But I didn't. Again ...the thought I had to be back for the morning LCC niggled.
I did a wide circuit of Gretna, saw the station .... maybe even a bus station, flew south towards the edge of the Solway and landed in a moderate westerly. A very friendly farmer arrived via quad bike ... we chatted, got on really well but he dropped the bombshell that few trains went through the station and buses were very infrequent. So ... hitching it was. It took 30 minutes until I got a lift to Carlisle - followed by more walking for 50 minutes until bus stop appear and five minutes later a bus that took me to the station. It was 7.45pm. At this point I met up with Pete D and Pete L ... and we had a pint whilst waiting for the Settle/Leeds train.
It was all going so well ... until I discovered this train didn't stop at Horton (where my car was) ... so I got dropped off at Settle. Eventually, I made it home. Chris and Liam wended their way to near Longtown - great day, especially for Liam. Having missed our train they had to mainline south to Oxenholme.
A great day out, 4 hrs in the air - not especially difficult, which makes a nice change.
18/6/2023 LCC Grasmere (Nab Scar)
In the two days leading into the LCC, the X Lakes had enjoyed superb weather - especially on the Friday. By the time the LCC was due to kick off (Sat/Sun) after a month of hot and dry weather things were breaking down. We tried Saturday, but that resulted in a walk up ... and down the south end of Barkin with the odd light shower thrown in. Sunday didn't promise any better ... maybe even worse, with rain forecast for the afternoon. But - it didn't turn out that way confounding all the pessimists.
The morning dawned cloudy, but bright with a gentle SE wind. Staying local and eager to get underway and beat the weather - as well as providing a local spectacle, we decided on the east side of Heron Pike - starting at the south end, Nab Scar. As advance scout I walked up from Rydal Mount, basically the front of the hill, whilst the comp pilots took the back. A lovely stiff walk up and a better way to assess conditions. Things seemed good - the sky brightened further and the winds were on the hill and fairly gentle.
I met up with the A and B comps near the summit. Many pilots swarmed around the top of the hill preparing to lay out. Usually there is some fly in the ointment of tasking ... wind strength, off the hill, rain, low clouds etc. But .... it seemed really pleasant. The task entailed using the extensive east face of Heron Pike, crossing Grasmere to Silver How and north to The Lion and the Lamb before a goal at base.
When the window opened at 11:40am it was only just soarable, not everyone stayed up and a some slope landed ..... a few made the mistake of going below the brackenline and that was bad news! 20 minutes after the window opened, so too did the sky. The sun came out, cu's formed and there were decent thermals to be had in lovely smooth air. I had a nice run at the task ... probably got too tempted into thermalling and forgot it was elapsed time. I arrived low on Silver How, scratched a while, tagged the cylinder and then it too started working well. Without needing to gain too much height I learned the lesson of just doing enough to push the task time. So .... a bit of thermalling, over to the final Lion and Lamb turnpoint and into goal for third place.
Unbelievably the day had turned out really nice, a great task we could actually have extended and the sun shone as we closed down the event. Another successful LCC and the weather Gods beaten again.
A few photos from the task LINK