Friday 12th April 2019
Having been unable to get out to play the day before (I had to content myself with flying vicariously via xcrt.aero), so I was keen to make the most of a pretty good forecast for Friday and lift-sharing plans were duly made, and James, Tom and I arrived at the “Kettle Sings” takeoff on the Malvern Hills at 1130 where we joined a good crowd of hopefuls already setting up. Rupert Firkins was first off showing us that it was working nicely…
I took off at 1155 and headed northwards up the ridge because there was more sun on the ground, however no one else followed me despite me almost immediately finding a climb that took me to 3,200′.
However rather than setting off on my own I hesitated and pushed forward again hoping to connect with another cloud, which never happened. Meanwhile people were starting to get high over Kettle Sings, so after a bit more dicking around I decided to head back there. Inevitably about twenty pilots all climbed out in two large gaggles before I had a chance to join them, and I spent the next 15-20 minutes trying, together with a few other pilots who missed the party, to get high again! Although it was frustrating to have missed that climb, I knew that that there was no point getting stressed about it as another climb WOULD come along before too long.
And sure enough it did and by 1245 I was up at 3600′, on my own, and on my way, trying to chase down the gaggle that had left 20 minutes earlier.
The first 38kms consisted of four long glides, each some 8-10kms, getting down to below 2000′ each time, the last time down to just 1500′ (1000’agl) before finding a climb – not exactly relaxing, but it was what it was, and I managed to stay up.
Base was rising all the time, and my fifth climb, above Weobley, took me to almost 4400′, and from there the hills of mid-Wales were in spitting distance.
I was joined by Joe Dart here and as we circled together he shouted across “Where are you heading to?”. “Machynlleth or Aberystwyth” I yelled back (Joe didn’t have his radio switched on!). “The coast!!” he replied – fine by me and I duly fiddled around in Flyskyhy as I changed my route from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth.
Distracted by this nav I lost a bit of height compared to Joe, but by the time we were past Old Radnor and approaching Llandrindod Wells our roles had reversed and now Joe was pretty low having been tricked into chasing what he thought was a nice building cloud… This was the last I saw of him, but I later found out he’d managed to scrape up and into Llandrindod Wells.
By now I was fast approaching the Elan Valley reservoirs (not that I knew that’s what they were at the time) and I could see a gaggle of five gliders only a couple of kms in front of me just to the north east of Elan Village. They were spread out and not very high, and no doubt uncertain about crossing the reservoir and into the boonies without a lot of height. I found a weak climb which tempted them back into wind to join me in, however it really wasn’t anything to write home about so before they reached me I altered course 90deg to the left to fly above the ridge by the Elan Valley Visitor Centre and dam. I’d only flown about 500m when I found a corker of a climb which took me straight up to 4900′. I’d flown 88kms at this point and could see that I had about 20kms of complete boonies to fly over before the first sign of civilisation – what the hell, I thought, I’ve got lightweight kit, the worse that can happen is that I have a long walk out, so I went for it.
A climb 8 kms later, wingtip to wingtip with a red kite for much of it, blasted me up to 5000′ for the first time, and I noticed that I’d flown 100kms – the first of the year, wahoo!! The climb carried on and a brief trip to the white room took me up to 5500′, so an ice cream on the beach at Aberystwyth, now less than 25kms away, was looking like a distinct possibility, especially with some good clouds marking the way ahead.
I think I could have glided in from there but I played it safe by topping up under a couple of clouds and with the whole vista of Cardigan Bay opening up to me and glinting in the sunshine, I arrived over Aberystwyth with 3500′ to spare!
No spirals or big wingovers for me this time, I was just content to enjoy the amazing views as I slowly descended over the sea. I’d had a Telegram message from a friend advising that the best ice cream was to be found at Don Gelato, right by the pier, so that was my LZ decied then!
Wary of the possibility of rotor from the sea-front buildings I checked the wind strength as I descended – about 12-15 km/h – which I figured wouldn’t be enough to cause any problems. It was a bit bumpy at roof top height, but nothing to be worried about, and I touched down smoothly at 1612, 4:17 hrs after taking off, (3:35 hrs after leaving the hill making it quite a speedy 35 km/h average speed).
I knew the train I had to catch was at 1730, so I had plenty of time to chat to people whilst packing up, then wander to Don Gelato’s for that ice cream, then find a coffee, and some cans of cider and crisps and a sandwich for the 5hr+ train journey back home!
I was joined at Aberystwyth Station by Ben Friedland, who’d managed to make it by the skin of his teeth having flagged down a bus from where he’d landed 20kms to the east of Aberystwyth, and then Tom Cole joined us at Machynlleth having made it to his goal there. It was a long but fun trip home – all three of us are going to remember our flights for a long time!
3D animation here: https://ayvri.com/scene/pmkev43g5x/cjuk4sgcp000l3d5e9ye3qqud