Fresh back from my Scottish adventure I was already keeping an eye on RASP to see what the Bank Holiday weekend had in store for us, and Sunday was looking promising from quite a few days out, with the Malverns looking like it might be the best place to be. Clearly many others thought so too because there was a pretty good gathering of xc hounds all getting ready when Mike Humphries, Pete Waters, Nick Somerville and I turned up at about 1030.
Fortunately there was no sign of the massed ranks of the British Open Series hangie comp pilots at this stage as I think they were still preparing their thermoses and packed lunches when we arrived 🙂 I know quite a few of my fellow Avon Club members had been put off by the thought of sharing the sky with 70 hang-gliders, but they needn’t have worried because they were still only rigging by the time I climbed out in the second gaggle at 1115.
At this point the sky was looking fantastic – we really did have high hopes of a 100km day – however as we got closer to Hereford we could see some serious spreadout and over-development to the north of Hereford.
The first 20km or so were very easy – it was just a case of hopping from cloud to cloud – but by the time I was approaching Hereford with Bryan Hindle he chose a slightly southerly line to a cloud that I thought was dying, whilst I chose to head to a cloud that I thought was building. Needless to say he stayed very high whilst I, followed about 1 km behind by Colin, Jim Mallinson and one other (Guy Anderson?) got lower and lower over a shaded damp looking area of land near the River Wye. I found a blip when I was down to about 2,200′ and made a gentle 360 to encourage the pimpers 🙂 to come over to me to help me find the thermal. (Also, I though if I’m going down here then they can come and bloody well land with me 🙂 ). However the power of the gaggle worked and over the next ten minutes we climbed back up to 4,300′. Phew!
My original plan had been to head to the north of Hay Bluff by navigating between the two bits of airspace near Hereford, however with the sky to the west of Hereford not looking very enticing I headed to the south with Steve Ham, Guy Anderson, Bryan and Nick whilst Jim and Colin headed east.
At this point you might be forgiven in asking yourself why I’m making a fuss about the spreadout because the sky looks fine in the photo above, however looking in a different direction a few minutes later tells a different story!
Whist Guy, Steve and Bryan headed for the Skirrid I found a weak climb a few kms to the north of it and I wafted very slowly with towards the southern end of the Pandy ridge. When it finally fizzled out I headed for the ridge just to the north of Abergavenny.
At this point I saw Ken Wilkinson heading back to Aber from the Sugar Loaf, and as he was getting low over a completely shadowed Aber I saw him catch a nice thermal so needless to say I stepped on the speed bar and joined him in his life saving thermal!
Guy and a couple of other gliders came to join us and once we topped out at 4,500′ Ken and one other headed towards the Skirrid whilst Guy and I headed down the valley towards Crickhowell. This was a pretty radical change of direction, however I thought the sky to the south towards Pontypool and Merthyr etc looked very murky whereas the sky to the NW along the Crick valley looked better.
I found a nice climb to the north of Crickhowell exactly where I’d found a climb a month earlier with Mike Humphries, and thinking that Magic Mountain would work as well as it did then I pushed on towards it but didn’t find a thing. I was too low to go back to join Guy so I carried on hoping to pick up something from the south facing slopes, but to no avail, and after 3 hours 30 minutes in the air I landed a few km up the A479 Crick to Talgarth road by the village of Cwmdu.
Inevitably Guy flew high over me shortly after I’d landed, and a few minutes later he was followed by Bryan, and I now see from their tracklogs (Guy’s, Bryan’s) that they went past Brecon then turned back and flew 112km and 105km respectively! Agggh, yet another if only!!!
However I can’t complain because I was given a lift back to the Bridge Inn in Aber by a family who only happened to be very close friends with an old paragliding friend of mine, Geoff Moss, who I’d learnt to fly with down in Swansea back in 1989. What an incredibly small world!
And as Mike had got back to the Malverns first he did the hoovering up job in his car and came via Hereford to pick up Pete, then joined Nick and me at the Bridge Inn where I was onto my third pint and having a great chinwag with a bunch of other pilots! Can’t be bad 🙂
Incredibly this was yet another weekend flight – for once the weather gods are smiling on us 9-5’ers! Long may it last!
As usual you can see more photos on Flickr here.