An adventure.... Fred and Rob
Did all the usual stuff as you do to go flying. Pondered it the day before, watched the changing forecast updates, and generally tried to second guess the fickle forces of the universe, a billion pounds of tech in use but still only had cheese in the fridge for sandwiches. On the drive north I kept looking up and saying to Rob ‘what do you think, where should we go’ and he kept saying ‘don’t know, you know the hills better’. Then at the critical decision time of ‘Coe or Tarmachan’ he was busy with his errant phone which is a short step from being in the gents at bill paying time. My instincts said Tarmachan and since I was driving, Tarmachan we went.
This was a minority report. Everyone and his other sheep had gone to Glencoe but the black and white collie dog had missed us... and we did worry a little bit about that.
A short walk to about the twenty percent up the empty hill and two gliders took off from somewhere hidden above, Ben Johnson and Bob Mathews. Game on, but watching them stutter and shake we did whatever the opposite a launch frenzy is called. Eventually I blinked first and took off and quickly we were climbing rather slowly in bits of quite strong lift and worrying about the nearness of the planet to our rock and roll turning circles. The wind was more north than we wanted but due to change soon.
I was not comfortable but we climbed up the cliffs to the peaks at over 3000 feet then it was still broken but better and up we went. Now what. The drift had us and we’re above and near the end of the ridge. I know this ridge well and it takes a while to walk to the far end. We were there in about 10 minutes and over 5000 feet.
We’d seen George Howryluk take off form Ben lawers at the same time as us and he overtook us headed into Glen Lochy and got a spanking. He later messaged ‘‘4.5 m/s with 4 bigger collapses and quite a few wee ones..’’. That wasn’t us though and I pointed timidly away from him to Meall Ghaordaidh, the next mountain west, arriving in the sort of bowl shape of it at about summit height. Rob had been doing that sensible thing of climbing high but the transition in 3 metre sink took away his house points and we were together looking for an uplift.
I know this hill too and have climbed it in every season. Landing at the bottom is about one and a half hours to Killin which is not so bad. That wasn’t for us this day, and after a few nearly thermals we were going up in 2’s and 4’s and more and although rocking about I was feeling more comfortable. Or less uncomfortable. This was joyful, it was new to me to fly with anyone away from the first hill and we got high. Climb out was 5000 feet and we were now back at 4700.
I had thought about the idea of flying to Glencoe the night before and casually mentioned it on the drive up. If nothing else it would be where a load of other pilots would be so good for a lift back. Rob had obviously taken this on board and we moved as one in the direction of the next mountain Beinn Heasgarnich. Not that inspiring to walk up but looking inspiring to fly at. The wind had now read the forecast and gone south of east and our drift was in the general direction of a very distant but obvious Buachaille Etive Mor 30 or 40k away. Now this is your proper flying, gliding within hailing distance of each other and taking bits of lift, the sun blinding and the sky blue. Over Loch Lyon dam and at 5000 feet again and it’s the middle of nowhere with a very very bonnie Scotland at every point of the compass, or should that be boony Scotland. All is very well in our little world.
Rob is being competent again and drifting down the middle of Loch Lyon and climbing slowly and away west of me. That route would take us over Ben Dorain which would be wonderful but leave us some into wind flying to get onto Rannoch moor and to ‘Coe. Not to mention those huge rocky faces and the imagined scary boomers they were generating. Lift hadn’t been in short supply so far so I pointed at our unspoken goal and thought to give Rob a couple of minutes to follow me or I’d follow him. He followed, and we’re off to the obvious hill with the obvious massive sunny corrie. The vario went from its usual noise to something like a mortally wounded bagpipe that kept gasping it’s last for a rapid 2500 feet. Then the massive Corrie basking in sun was devoid of all lift and my feet were out of the harness and we were in each other’s way trying to keep off the grass. It was still good fun though and felt great even though a walk from the bottom of this hill was five or six hours in either direction and that without a paraglider weighing you down. There is a road in Glen Lyon but several experiences have taught me there are no cars. Both Glen Lyon and Glen Lochy are dead end glens.
I think Rob was up for a sandwich sat somewhere special but I’d dropped below a top landing, and because I’m temporarily invincible went for the middle of the valley, and then went up. Slowly at first but then smooth 2 up to 6000 feet. It was a bubble and I was in it. Rob, slowed to join by a half eaten sandwich and a lost picnic story line was only just in it and miles below. Normally someone goes down and you go ‘oh well’ but this flight was a two-person thing and I was mumbling get up get up get up. And he did but I reckon it took a good helping of skill and perseverance. But mainly it was me saying get up a lot. Ben Wylie landed where Rob was three days later and it was two hours to the road and three to bridge of Orchy.
All is good now as we can make it to a road and over Loch Ba I go with Rob somewhere behind and it’s soon very probable to just make the ski centre. So naturally, since it’s not needed, we go back up to 6000 feet. The views are way beyond stunning and the air comfortable to sit and enjoy for a while. There are no other gliders despite the mass gathering broadcast on Telegram. Then far away someone scratching low behind the kings house and maybe two others just as low on other slopes. It had not been great for a fair few of the Glencoe cohort although one or two made it to Fort William after a bumpy start.
We could have headed down Glen Coe. We could have headed north over the Mamores maybe. We could have wandered around for an hour or two. Instead, after two and a half hours in the air we spiralled down to the kings house landing together and then for a sunny outside shandy and a meet up with Graham Saunders, Jonny V, and Steve Durkin. Happy Happy with all that. This day was not one bit about miles flown.
A long way away at massive convergence around Greag Meaghaidh Andrew Fowlie broke the Uk out and return record with a stunning 275k topping out at 8000 feet in each thermal. He enjoyed it for half an hour till Julian Robinson arrived and declared 317k. We felt like winners though and I got several messages from others stalking us on xcfind. The short one from Bob Mathews said ‘…Tiger line’. But it was not clever really, we were just where we ought to be and up for the adventure.
The quoted price from the taxi people was £207 to Killin… gulp, and Rob’s sausage roll bits sprayed his T shirt. But in fact Steve bought another round and then a fun retrieve with camper van, a bus,a car and a bit of taxi and less than a kilometre walking got us back fine and the day ended with a top notch fabby seafood linguine at Mohr 84 sat in the beer garden in T shirt and sunglasses watching the sun dip behind the massive bulk of Balquhidder Braes. Happy Happy and Happier still.
https://ayvri.com/scene/nxkw6rmyj8/cl413kx8c00013r6trn64rh5t link to Ayvri track