After Wingbeat members trying to fly various sites on Good Friday and plans to head to the Aberdeen round of the Scottish Nationals on Saturday it seemed as though all options had been covered for the Easter weekend. However a late change of time and venue for the Nationals and a quick look at RASP suggested that staying local may be a better option...but where to go??
Saturday morning saw a SE forecast with reasonably strong winds, lambing restrictions are still in place on many of the usual sites so Tommy started looking at Google Maps and we came up with 2 options. A short walk up Wardlaw from the Honey Cottage road or head up to Potburn and then walk up to the Ettrick Pen saddle. Sense of course did not prevail and we decided to take the long option, a 90minute walk up to Ettrick pen - why? - because we had never flown it before and sheep don't graze in the forests!
Leaving Tommy's around 12 after a blather saw the group (Tommy, Rob, Colin and Craig and me) head to the top of the valley and leave the cars at the Potburn turning. A gentle stroll in, on the new forest road, and past the over-engineered 'border control' gate saw us at the bothy on the Southern Upland Way, but this had been gently downhill, now the going became slightly more strenuous. Tommy left a marker for Dave H on the footbridge and we all headed up the quad track towards Ettrick Pen, leaving the top of the track and heading up towards the gate in the saddle to the west of the Pen.
On arrival the wind on the ridge was spot on but more than top end so we sat back in the lee to begin the game of 'para-waiting'. Eyes turned skywards as we watched wave bars develop overhead confirming the wind strength and para-waiting turned into 'para-sleeping' before someone suggested a stroll up Ettrick Pen. The panoramic views were awe inspiring as we looked south towards the Lakes and north over the Moffat Valley and beyond, discussing thermal triggers for potential XCs. And so the hours passed - Dave H arrived, more strolls along the ridge until we started to see small cumulus form - the sea breeze, convergence, decaying wave bars, alien spaceships, all were options!!!
Time to see if the wind had dropped, it had slightly. Colin and Tommy decided that one of them would vie to take the virginity of the new site (the rest of us were thinking 'wind dummies'). Colin was first to the edge to test the air, take off and soar gently along the ridge towards Ettrick Pen in what Rob described as 'apprehensive mode'. Only a short flight since it was still a little strong or was Ettrick Pen was objecting to loosing it's virginity!.
We waited a while longer until the wind dropped to 15-18mph...then the rush began. Colin and Rob into the air first, Tommy followed, then Dave H and finally me. The flying was sublime - west along the ridge, stay tight to keep in the lift band (Dave didn't stay tight enough but kited back up to take off again below the ridge) and then play at the western edge of the ridge. Dynamic lift, small thermals and the forest gently feeding the uplift, back along the ridge before turning for more. Height gain was only about 100m but what a site. We all played with the lift - circling, soaring, seeing who could get most height before all returning to land by the gate on the saddle.
Packing on the hill with that elated feeling that comes from flying a new site, we all took the easier walk downhill back to the cars just as the daylight was starting to fade.
Once again the Borders has provided a new site with exciting ridge and XC potential - well worth the walk and no doubt we will be back to see if those XC triggers to the north work.