Ripon XC

By Jim Ashley on  April 1, 2019 11:50

To get the ball rolling on our new all singing web site, I've been encouraged to write a few words about the first decent day this flying season.
For once the day arrived at the weekend Saturday 23rd March, light winds and WNW. Parlick was the obvious choice but Andy Archer and I decided on Dodd or Wether Fell in the Dales to avoid airspace restrictions - nothing like ambition! We arrived at Wether Fell but the wind seemed a bit west so we decided on Dodd. We managed to cadge a lift and left the car on the main road avoiding the long drive in on the lane for easier retrieval which eventually proved to be a good move. The day didn't initially look too promising but soon brightened up so we all launched into a reasonably buoyant sky. At times the climbs seemed promising but they rarely took us above two and a half thousand feet. Every so often people were peeling off in pairs, it seemed, and making the glide to Wether Fell which is just down wind. Eventually we made a decent height and set off ourselves towards Wether. Dodd gives you a second bite of the cherry should you fail to make a good escape since you can easily drop onto Wether Fell as its only a few kilometres down wind.

clip_image004Wether Fell & hang gliders

It was interesting to fly with hang gliders on Wether, it took me back to my early days on Parlick. There was a class 5 rigid wing which was pretty sporty and a flex wing who dedicated himself to scaring the pants off me for the 20 or so minutes it took me to get away. A slow climb to four grand and we set off toward Semer Water, I had been left behind slightly so managed to cut the corner when they all diverted north to a small ridge east of Semer which is used for training I'm told. Anyway, it was a good move as most managed the climb out - we dropped two pilots here who glided off north in search of the road and an easier return. So four were still in it but I had fallen out of the lift and ended up gritting my teeth on a low glide to the next dale. Arriving at ridge height at the lee side I knew I might take a beating but happily the lee ridge was gentle not sharp so little rotor effect and bingo - a lee sider. A slow & a rough one though but it took me to base eventually where I realised I was a climb and a glide behind. Andy, on his Iota 1, had done a fine job sticking with the two ahead, one on a Zeno (D wing) but he had to big ears out of cloud at one point so I was on my guard. There can be benefits to being at the back (as well as getting called a 'pimp') since you can tell when things haven't worked out for the leaders and choose a different route - but I wasn't really close enough and in the end lost sight of them. Airwhere or other tracking software might have helped here.



The next moor crossing was a big one with smoke from a heather fire to the south, cloud threatening to suck you in and a huge moor to walk out of if you blow it! Caution was needed here, the climbs were assured to some extent but you needed to judge where you would hit the cloud if at all. The trick was to clip the edge on the downwind side but in the event, I didn't enter cloud at all which is good for me. The gaps between the clouds were quite small so it wasn't that difficult later in the flight but boy was I cold. Having neglected to bring a base layer, I was now shaking like shi££ing dog and even briefly considered landing early. But the rewards were there and eventually the dramatic Dales landscape came to an end and the flats beaconed, I heard on the radio that Harrogate was ahead which confused me as my instruments were saying Ripon and I wondered if I was off course but all was well. There were some glorious formal gardens west of Ripon but the sky had cleared and it was obvious I wasn't going a great deal further.


Ripon Ahead

Andy had chosen a landing field at Ripon which turned out to be an army barracks so had to reconsider at the last minute! Once he was safely down we had a chat and he pointed out the other pilots just north of the town which I hadn't seen. They appeared to be in zeros at best so kept my course to cross the racecourse at the south side. The A1 was in sight and I hoped to cross it between the MATZ at Linton and Topcliffe although it wasn't likely. My landing field at Skelton on Ure was complete with a welcoming mad March hare darting around in a bonkers dance - I felt like doing the same just to warm up! Having packed up next to the church of Christ the Consoler I made my way into the village to find the usual story with regard to public transport - a bus an hour earlier or an hour later then not at all till Monday so I began thumbing on the almost totally deserted road. Car three stopped and took me to the pub Andy had found near the square in Ripon, after the first pint it was beginning to dawn on us that we maybe weren't getting home tonight. There is no obvious route back and zero public transport so it was with relief that I took a call from Jacob Cleverley who, incredibly, offered to drive out to pick us up since his chances of flying after work had evaporated - thankfully!

Once Jacob had arrived and we'd bought him his tea we set off for Hawes and Dodd. It seemed to take forever to get back even in Jacob's motor and had we decided to try our luck hitching we'd have ended up sleeping in the gliders at the side of the road probably. It was pitch black when we arrived at the car and we were glad we didn't have to make the trip across the moor on the gated road. Our thanks to our saviour on the day Jacob - you are the man!


Fire flying


Big walk out here



Ripon racecourse


Flight Diary–Parlick to Haltwhistle

By John Murphy on  February 15, 2019 09:56

I had a really nice flight on the Thursday afternoon, floating around at cloudbase out the front of Pendle so had accepted Friday would be a work day. Fortunately, when I got to work I had a quick check of the weather forecasts.

RASP was looking excellent, boundary layer depth over 5000 feet, light southerly, a 4 star day for what would be the track north from Parlick. It was too good to miss, so a frantic 3 hours followed by a quick exit from work saw me on Parlick for 12pm.

As I walked up I was watching John Oliver climbing out in what was obviously a really nice thermal. A couple of the local pilots were sat on the top, they were able to confirm that Paul Winterbottom had left the hill earlier but they thought conditions were a bit strong. It didn't feel too bad to me so I quickly got ready and launched. A few exploratory pushes out towards where the clouds were gave bits of lift but nothing good enough to tempt me away from the hill. A radio message from one of the guys on the hill that it was blowing strongly up past take off brought me back and as I pushed out from take off over the big gulley that runs up the south face of Parlick I got into a super 2m/s climb all the way to 4000 feet.

parlick_haltwhistleThat was me committed to leaving the hill and as the lift slowed I glided over to get under the big cloud that was tracking slightly west of me. This also worked and I was able to stay with this cloud over the 1st moorland section although I didn't make it to cloudbase.

JO radioed to say he was down at Abbeystead in what he thought was sea breeze, with forward speed of 5K when he landed. PW also came on the radio to say he was over Killington Lake and that the wind strength was OK all the way to there.

Both messages were a help – as I glided towards the next cloud I tracked towards the east side of it to try and stay away from the sea breeze, and knowing that the wind shouldn't be a problem for the next 40K took one worry away.

Good lift under the next cloud took me all the way to cloudbase at 5000 feet, and this made the crossing of Tarnbrook and Mallowdale fells, often tricky with a long walk if you go down, relatively easy. The sea breeze was noticeable as clouds were forming below me on the western side and it was bumpy as I negotiated what seemed to be an area of convergence.

The lift died so I set off on a glide to a cloud to my north. On route it started to dissipate with holes showing in the cloud shadow. I decided to head back into wind to try and find lift, partly as the cloud I had left still looked good. This didn't work and I ended up at 1,000 feet, 12 minutes after being at 5,000 feet.

At this point I realised that rather than looking at the clouds I should be looking at the ground features. Off to my right, among all the green fields were two brown dry looking graded fields with one of them on a slight slope. They worked for a broken climb to 3000 feet and then a short glide to the edge of Kirby Lonsdale and a better climb back up to 5,000 feet.

Another long glide and this time I used both the ground features (nice dry cut field with a tree line at the downwind side) plus clouds just downwind to find a good climb back up to 5,000 feet.P5020045

It was tempting to head into the Lakes following a line of cloud that was forming along the windward side of the hills but I decided the better option was to carry on along the direction of the wind, especially as my Oudie was telling me that the wind was up to 26kph so my drift was good.

This was new territory for me, I have never managed to fly past the eastern side of the Howgills and for the first time ever I was flying with a pee tube. As I was high over open countryside I decided to give the pee tube a go, leg out of the harness and - nothing. My brain couldn't persuade my body that it was going to work without me ending up wet and smelly!

The next 15k to Tebay was very pleasant, flying in towards the middle of the cloud to top up and then back out to the sink at the east side of the cloud, down 200 foot or so then repeat, drifting along at a decent speed. The views were fantastic with the Lake District on one side and the Howgills and then the Yorkshire Dales on the other.

North of Tebay I had to work hard for about 20k before another great climb back to cloudbase which was now about 5,300feet.

The next 20k were incredible, again drifting with the cloud I flew the length of Cross Fell at over 5,000 feet, watching 5 sailplanes that were flying the ridges about 4,000 feet below me. The first half of this section was along the eastern side of the cloud, the sun by now was off to the west. It was relatively smooth with gentle climbs and transitions to the sink. One of the highlights was watching the distance to take off pass the 100k. Another highlight was managing to use to the pee tube for the first time as the pressure overcame the doubt. I was glad there were no spectators as it definitely can't look cool flying along shaking your leg to try and get rid of the drips!

The lift started to slow so I transitioned across to the sunny side. What a difference, stronger lift and sharp edges, this wasn't as comfortable. I also had to decide which way to head, stay with the direction of the drift even though it looked blue ahead or try and work crosswind into the flats towards Carlisle.

With hindsight I may have made the wrong choice due partly to having the display on the Oudie at too small a scale, I stayed with the drift without realising it was taking me straight towards the Spadeadam danger area, which is huge! By the time I spotted it on the map I was too close to fly round and it's too big and high to fly over. This meant that there was no way I could achieve one of my ambitions, to fly to Scotland from Parlick.

The flight ended by flying past the moors where I had a long walk out earlier this year after a flight from the Lake District, to land on the outskirts of Haltwhistle for 121K. A slightly windy landing, short walk, lift from a chap I had asked directions from and I was at the train station.2018-20184087-1

Another lesson from the flight, removing pee tube attachments need more privacy than the middle of a field. For anyone who saw me after I visited the loo on the Virgin train from Carlisle, the tears weren't emotion, they were pain, after discovering that the glue on the sheath sticks even better to hair than skin!

The main lesson for me from the day was how lucky we are nowadays to have easy access to such good weather forecasting. RASP is especially good and learning to interpret it really can pay dividends. For me the town and city forecast to give detailed analysis of the local conditions, combined with the traditional maps to show the likely conditions on a possible flight path, give a great indication of what might be possible and also clues as to what the best track to follow might be.

Now just have to wait for the right conditions and opportunity to try and make that flight to Scotland!

View flight on XC League

PSC Social Night 12th November 2018 - Richard Carter's 300Km Flight

By Brian Stewart on  November 13, 2018 21:07
PSC Social Night 12th November 2018 - Richard Carter's 300Km Flight

The Winter social season got into its stride with a bang this month when Richard Carter came to talk us through his amazing record-breaking 300+km flight this summer. Richard needs no introduction to any pilot who has been around in the last 30 years; right from the beginnings of the sport in the UK, he stood out as having something a bit special. Regularly featuring near the top of the table, he was the first to do 100km, then 200km and finally 300 km in the UK, as well as holding the distance record several times in between.

The planning and preparation for this flight were meticulous – Richard revealed that he had been scouting out the Elan Valley as a launch point for such a flight for years. On the weekend that all the forecasts came together he was there early, fully stoked with a big breakfast with only one other pilot on the hill. After a tentative start in light morning conditions, the sky got better and better. Passing Doncaster, his major problem was staying low to squeak under the airspace there, but once passed he had the freedom to climb to over 7000’ and even to squeeze in a few extra km past his goal cylinder.

8 ½ hours, 306 km and stuck in a field on a Sunday night! Fortunately Scarborough was down the road and a hot, sticky hotel room awaited.

Thank you Richard for such an entertaining evening, giving us fascinating insights into what it takes to achieve such amazing flights

To leave or not to leave?

By Paul Hester on  November 12, 2018 00:16

20:30 Wednesday 6th June, Phil Colbert chucks a post onto Pennine Flight Club group asking if anyone fancies some XC coaching on Thursday. That day I'd walked about 8 mile with my 20Kg pack looking for non existent wind. I was planning a day off & had a course to go to. However, XC coaching with Phil.... had to be worth a go, course can wait.

Meeting up there were 5 of us - Me, Phil, John O, GJ, and another pilot off on sick. We shall call him Dartanian to protect his job. Whilst driving, Phil was giving me loads of tips as I sheepishly admitted I've not left any hill yet - but he was great and said that is exactly what this day was about. Note to all other pilots thinking the same!

I've had 3 knee ops in last 2 years & just started flying at the beginning of the month so I march off early knowing my muscles have deteriorated. Westy's IOTA in my pack - first real outing. On the way up, I am passed as expected. My poor limbs screaming as I attempted the steep incline. I was ready to admit defeat when a bay-watch style body came bounding toward me. Phil grabbed my pack (ooerr) and like a mountain goat took it to the top (I wasn't too far off in my defence).

Anyone who carries another's pack is alright in my book.

Holding back the puke I rested whilst the others got ready. The wind blew through in bursts as the thermals raced through. John O gave comforting words - thx. GJ took off near vertically. "Told you it would be easy to stay up" says Phil as GJ disappears.

Pukey feeling still there, Dartanian suggests I eat something. Really? I did eat a scotch egg but struggled to keep it down. But then I started feeling a little better.

GJ off, Dartanian off, John O off, Phil, off, me.... questioning my frame of mind - in hindsight that was a good thing to do. Decided the walk down was not an option so pulled up the new wing easily in a lull and effortlessly glided off the hill.

All 5 of us were up & down, thermals strong at times but a little narrow. Wind slightly off the hill. We got the first thermal but pushing out front for second thermal seemed more problematic until Phil, GJ & Dartanian seemed to cadge a lift off a cloud. Maybe not Dartanian actually but Phil & GJ left the hill.

John O cunningly waited whilst Dartanian bombed out way behind take off somewhere. All safe. I'll stick with John O was my not so cunning plan.

However, eventually I decided not to push things so I went to land. At Mach 2. What's this wing all about?

Of course, almost immediately John O went up in the strongest, widest thermal of the year - skies were looking great now as opposed to when Phil & GJ set off.

He already had his grin ready for when he passed Phil & GJ in the air.

Meanwhile, Dartanian had returned to the lip. Blown out! He (or she) had to walk half way down to take off into a crappy air mass.

Meanwhile, John O's grin was rapidly fading as all the fluffy clouds seemed to be missing him! He bombed short of Phil & GJ!

The retrieve procedure used Phil's airwhere & live tracking webpage.

Clicked on him then selected "directions to pilot" and job done.

Everyone picked up & returned to cars.

This day was a great learning experience & huge thanks to Phil for organising it. If you are just starting XC or are thinking about it, come along if he does another one - you don't actually have to go XC but you see how it can all work smoothly with a bit of planning & the right software. Airwhere tracking for android is worth getting (from play

store) - you can say you are hitchhiking or anything & it appears on a map.

Whilst I didn't get away, I was taught a load of stuff by Phil (& John

  1. O) which only made sense when I was on the hill looking to get away.

It's a totally different perspective between planning to soar & planning to go XC.

I just need that one big thermal & I'm off.

Paul Hester