Bike, Hike & Fly!

I’d watched this video on Monday and having already thought about doing a hike and fly sometime this week, it inspired me to add a bike ride to my plans in a homage to these three superheroes/nutters who cycled 100 miles from Interlaken to Chamonix, hiked/climbed up Mont Blanc, flew down, then cycled the 100 miles back to Interlaken!

And the setting for my mini-adventure? Talybont 🙂 Ok, so it’s not quite Mont Blanc, but at 762m it’s the second biggest hill in the south of the UK (assuming you count the peaks in the immediate vicinity of Pen-y-Fan as one) unless you want to drive 185 miles to Snowdonia!

I got up early on Tuesday morning (29th November) to get some urgent work done, but by the time I’d done that, had breakfast, made a sandwich and chucked my bike in the car it was 9am before I left. On the way to the M4 I had to stop for 15 frustrating minutes to answer some emails, so I didn’t arrive at Llangattock (nr Crickhowell) until 11am. My plan was to cycle 8 miles along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal to Talybont-on-Usk, hike 7 miles up to the hill simply known (in the PG world) as Talybont, fly 3.2 miles flight back to Talybont-on-Usk (hereafter referred to as Talybont), before finishing (myself) off with the 8 mile ride to Llangattock.

En route I’d posted a message on the South East Wales Telegram Planning group asking if any mad fools wanted to join me at Talybont for a hike and fly, and surprisingly the threat of a 7 mile walk didn’t put Mair James off, so we arranged to meet up at the village shop at midday.

My epic adventure didn’t start very auspiciously with me discovering that the towpath was closed at Llangattock, but fortunately I was able to rejoin the canal about half a mile farther on.

I hadn’t bargained on having to cycle uphill 🙂

The ride along the canal was an absolute delight (apart from the dozen or so low bridges that I kept bashing my backpack on – minor repairs will be necessary) – within two minutes the unmistakable dazzling electric blue flash of a Kingfisher darting up the canal signalled that I was in for a treat!


Over the course of the next eight miles I saw squirrels, another Kingfisher, dozens of pheasants and a heron, not to mention the beautiful views of the hills to the north – just wonderful!

Yet another low bridge…

I arrived at Talybont just before 12 only to discover I’d left my bike lock in the back of my car… Fortunately the kind people at the shop/cafe were happy to let me put my bike in their back yard,  and I was just ordering a coffee when Mair walked in. She ordered one too, and suitably refreshed, we hit the trail ten minutes later.

Onwards and upwards!

We traversed the gentle slopes to the NW of Talybont as far as the church at Pencelli, then we joined the track  heading SSW up to the high ground.

I wonder how many pairs of feet have trodden upon this ancient track?

We took it pretty steadily and by 3 ish we came across the first remains of snow left over after a big dump a week or so earlier.

“Are we nearly there yet?”

Another half an hour’s walking brought us to the east facing bowl overlooking the reservoir and with the sun getting low in the sky we didn’t dawdle getting our kit ready. There was virtually no wind so it was clear we weren’t going to be able to soar and get some height before setting off on a glide.

Almost ready…

I duly created a route on Flyskyhy which said I needed a 7.5:1 glide ratio to reach Talybont, and I was pretty confident that I’d make it on my Omega X-Alps, although a hill en route might pose a problem, but Mair, on her EN-A Nova Susi, wasn’t confident at all! I suggested it would made sense for me to take her car keys so that she could fly straight down the valley in front and wait for me to pick her up on the road.

And I’m off!

Being made of lightweight material, my glider pops up in the slightest puff of wind and I was able to reverse launch and get off with no trouble. I headed in the direction of Talybont trying to maximise my glide with half-bar at first to get out of the initial quite strong sink. My current vs required glide ratio was looking distinctly touch and go for the first couple of minutes, and I was trying to line up a ground feature beyond the brow of the hill I had to cross to see whether I’d make it. As I got closer to it my sink rate improved and it became clear I’d make it, although not by much!

I wouldn’t have wanted to be any lower going over this hill!

I could now see that i was going to make “goal” so it was time to relax and enjoy the next few minutes…

You can see the takeoff hill on the left just above the hill in the near distance

I realised I had enough height to cross the canal and road, and opted for the village cricket pitch seeing as it had a perfect runway to land on 🙂

The cricket pitch and runway (artificial wicket) at the far left

I had just enough height to line myself up on runway 09 (ie. facing E) where I made a smooth landing, touching down at 1551!

Touchdown on runway 09 🙂
The smile says it all

I quickly packed up, retrieved my bike and squashed it in the back of Mair’s car, then headed up the road to retrieve her. Fortunately we both had mobile reception at the right time and I was able to easily navigate to where I thought she would reach the road. It was almost dark by the time she walked down from her landing so we were both glad that this part of the adventure went smoothly.

Obviously it was now too dark to cycle back along the canal (phew!), and as no visit to Talybont is complete without a visit to the Stag (or Star, closed on this occasion) it would have been rude not to 🙂

Hours of fun, literally 🙂 (50 mins cycling, 2.5 hours walking, 9 mins flying)

So all in all a great day – thanks very much for your company Mair, and also for the lift back to Llangattock to retrieve my car!

Video to follow, but in the meantime there are more pictures on Flickr here.

Edit 2/12/2016 – as promised, here’s the video 🙂

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