January's weather was not so good for flying so when the forecast started to look good for saturday I was starting to get a bit excited. This was not helped by a busy week at work and the occasional txt message from Tommy telling me how good it had been up at the moorfoots on both monday and wednesday!
Friday night came.. and the forecast had indications of some high level winds, Dampening the enthusiasm slightly but a plan was starting to come together.
Stuart hoochy was heading over to Tommy's from colvend and would be passing through lockerbie so I grabbed a lift (after filling the car up with tandem and solo kit). Forecasts were mixed. Looked too west for the Moorfoots, strong upper winds made it sound like Bodesbeck was out and WNW to NW (with possibly a bit of sw too!) meant we had a bit of a tricky site choice for the day. Sundhope Heights covers this direction and although it's a bit of a walk up it gives a nice fly down if things are not so good.
Me, Tommy and Stuart got to the farm about 11am and set off up the hill. We had spotted a quad bike track that headed east then up so thought that might be an easier approach. Tommy thinks it was worth it. I'm not convinced as yet.
We got to the top to find a gentle breeze coming from the west. Not the best direction but the bowl should work. The sky changed from blue to more haze / high cirrus and the wind picked up. It was quite noticeable that dropping to the lower ledge (30 ft down the hill) that the wind was lighter so much discussion took place. Words like compression were mentioned and fingers were crossed.
Dave Lyal and Rob Beattie made it to the top. Moths were seen briefly as shpf subs were handed over but were soon blown away.
Dudley deciding to try to walk off the Christmas (and January?) excesses started walking up and was then given a lift up by Duncan (the farmer) on a quad bike. It's been a long time since we've seen Dudley smile like that as he got close to a take off ;-)
After a wee bit more discussion Stuart was keenest to fly and got off quite cleanly.
Tommy also had a short boat about. conditions were smooth but strong on launch. The wind was switching direction a tad at times but eventually there were 4 or 5 gliders scratching about in the lift. No one wanted to get too high or too low. after a couple of minutes I shouted across to Duncan that I was heading down. We'd arranged to do a tandem if conditions were looking OK. It also let me scope out the other landing field (much bigger, slightly flatter and less muddy but further from the car!)
Dave got flushed down after me and not long after we'd started packing up Duncan appeared with the quad. As we headed back to get the tandem kit everyone landed on the hill. not sure if that bode well or not!
On the quad the trip up the hill was much easier. I could see why Dudley was smiling so much! but the wind had dropped.
Rob had had a bit of a bullet thermal just before things dropped off and a couple of interesting seconds keeping the carerra flying. (a good reminder that spring thermals are not far away!) he landed safe.
The bowl was the optimal choice for take off but initially the wind was Easterly rather than westerly but this slowly changed back to NW as the thermal left the area.
Rob also proved that the carrera didn't want to forward launch. And I wasn't keen on a forward launch on the tandem either. Tommy demonstrated that the NW face was launchable so we got set up with the tandem. It took a couple of attempts to get going then we were off. The glider was flying but we were bumping down the little ledges at the top of the hill. We aborted on the third( second?) ledge as we were about to run over some boulders and I wasn't keen!
The ground crew of Dudley and Stuart got things sorted and we were up and away. Quote of the day goes to Duncan - "This is weird!" as soon as we got of the ground. A couple of minor wing-unders to get things going and we then glid down to the landing field. Slightly fast approach in part due to a wee bit of a backwind! (the smoke on the other side of the valley was different to the slight breeze on the landing field) but we got down safe.
Dudley and Stuart then headed down.
Me, Tommy and Stuart had a small debrief at the Gordons arms before heading home.
A very pleasant day out. The flying could have been better but you take what you can at this time of year.
Video (tandem fly down)