I had been keeping a keen eye on the forecast since Tuesday morning when I'd seen that it was showing an inclination toward light westerly winds and then RASP showing a 4-5 star day.
Perhaps unusually, the forecast didn't change much and I got my day of good weather.
Probably the last one I'd manage before the Wingbeat holiday.
After some deliberation we settled on a meeting around 10:30 at The Sick and The Wrong in Keswick then decide from there.
Jamie kindly picked me up in Carlisle and we travelled down arriving a little bit before Dudley, Tommy, Rob and Tim. Jamie did his best to coerce me into spending money however I resisted, much like I resisted that S+W tea!
Steve was inclined toward a variety of sites, none of which were on our radar, it seemed we were rather stuck on heading to Clough.
Clough it was.
Arriving at site, we were joined by Colin and we all trooped up to the already busy launch point. I took up 'tail end charlie' with Colin and enjoyed a good blether on the way up, including hearing his stories of Kilimanjaro recently. I can't decide whether our slow approach to the hill was Colin's teachings of the slow ascent of Kilimanjaro or whether it was a respectful quiet sympathy for my poor fitness (Thanks Colin).
There was no action at the top for quite a while, the wind was more out of the south. We sat and watched gliders take great height over Blease, across to Jenkins and Skiddaw. Rumblings of picking the wrong place were beginning to surface.
The wind slowly wheeled around and suddenly something happened, a gaggle got away into something thermic and slipped around the corner and hooked up into some nice stuff. In no time we saw then appear over the top of the hill.
After a short break, blue skies above us, things started to pick up again and another gaggle got away. This one saw Colin, Tommy and Rob take to the air and start to enjoy the conditions.
From nowhere though, the wind picked up and started to throw Dudley's wing around a bit. We settled in for a wee while and watched as 18-20mph winds whistle through.
I started to feel little breaks in the windstrength and nipped up to my glider to clip in and get ready. It continued to ease and I took my moment, with Jamie and Tim behind the glider in case I got into trouble, flicked her up, turned and paused, then stepped my way off.
I headed for the corner, perhaps a little too far out, just settling myself in a bit. I then came around and started playing with some lift. I extended down the valley a little before turning back to see what was all around. There was a fair number of gliders in the air which was a little daunting however I was soon slipping my way around the skies with everybody. There were some cracking wee thermals kicking around and I started to play around with them. My first time thermalling since my sailplane days, my first time on a paraglider, let the fun times roll!
I bobbed about the sky hooking up with thermal after thermal, taking them up a bit then working out and away again, all the while trying to refine what I was doing.
Slipped into a thermal with Tommy at one point to see him waggling his leg at me, he sensed my thinking "what is he wanting me to do" and yelled across to me to "come on Craig, crank it in". So I did, well I tried as best I could anyway.
From then on my comfort increased a ways, cranking the glider round and suddenly it felt so much more secure in the lifty, bobbly air. From then on I was cranking it around with whomever I found!
All in all a very good educational experience for me, the thermalling, flying in a lot of company and the usual flying in good company with the guys!
I know Rob ended up on Hellvelyn at some point through the afternoon, I did have a laugh when he came over the radio saying he had landed on top to warm his fingers up and eat his sandwiches!
A peek at my Skytraxx today gave me indications of best climb being 6m/s and ending up at 1024m which, from 380 or so pleased the newbie me. I know it might not be much in the grand scheme of things but "little victories" and all that!
A good day, maybe not epic but a great day for boating about and getting practice before the holiday.
Hopefully we'll get an update from Rob, Colin and Dudley as to where they ended up and hopefully some pictures from folks as I didn't have the cassocks to get my camera out!