Initially 4 of us Tommy, Rob, Chris, and myself met at the farm around 11:45, and I think that we were joined later by Andrew and Dave Hutch. The sky looked perfect, lovely and sunny out front with lots of blue and a very nice build up of the white fluffy stuff. It did have all the makings of a classic XC day even if base was estimated at 4,500ft. Well when I was walking up the north west shoulder I felt a breeze at the back of me and I started to have my doubts that this was the wrong site for the day, however having a chat with the others on top they were all convinced that we were in the right place so I put down to being a thermal. That was the first sign of things to come and it wasn’t going to be the day we all envisaged.
Being early spring we were all ready for the punchy thermals that would come through so gear was assembled and flight plans discussed. So prior to take off Tommy was planning to stay local as it was his first outing on his new harness and would probably need some more fine adjustments before he was happy and we other three were going to have a shot at XC. We also noticed to the West that there was large spread out that looked to be coming our way and that made my mind up to try and get away before it reached us.
Well within a few beats it was quickly discovered that it was going to be reasonably lumpy there were small strong climbs coming through, but before you could get established you have lost them and you were coming down just as fast as you went up not a comfortable feeling when you are not that high off the deck initially. So it was a case of do a few beats and search for stronger lift and slope land as the cycle went through, re-launch in new cycle and repeat the process. So I think that after 20 minutes of this I got a little higher above hill height, pushing out for something that would be workable and I got it out front of the spur to the left of the big bowl, and I then had my climb.
Well I was climbing out slowly in and out of lift until I got to just over 4K and that was it. I then looked down and saw Rob was on the ground, Chris was low and wasn’t making much head way to getting to me. I looked to the west and the spread out appeared to be getting closer, so it was decision time and I turned away from the hill and headed out towards Peebles, and I had Eildons in sight and that was my first target.
The day was made up of two quite different flights as I found out later that Rob wasn’t that far behind me and took a different track. I had decided to follow the cloud street to the north of Peebles where Rob went to the bluer area to the south side of the valley and fly the spurs on his route West, his main reasoning on doing that, being extremely aware of the lower limits of Edinburgh airspace to the north. In hindsight he had the better of the day where he climbed to the max allowed, got the glides and made the distance. Enroute I never experience any major drama’s on my Sigma, as I heard later that Rob’s flight again different, where I think he had to work quite hard to stabilize his twitchy Carerra. In parts I had strong 8 ups and also experienced through the flight a fair bit of yaw and pitch before I fell out the thermal and then enjoyed 8 downs with the audio alarm on the GPS reminding me to get back in it or put on some bar and get out of there, to another place of lift. I also never got above 4k as I moved from one cloud to the other, until the last cloud when I was above Glen Tress I went for, and half way across to joining, it quickly degraded before my eyes and I found myself in major sink, there were plenty of other cloud options out front, but they were a fair distance away and I would be over heavily forested glens so I took the safer option heading for the deck at Innerleithen next to the Tweed. Also in hindsight I was a bit blinkered as I had other cloud options behind ones that I had already flown through so I could had tried flying back to previous lift and attempt to make another connection, it might have kept me up a bit longer!
As it was the spread out I was concerned about didn't get anywhere near us so rushing away early was probably also a bit of a rash decision
Later on after packing up I spotted Rob quite low on a forested spur West of Innerleithen working hard for every foot of likey lift, but after it looked an age of what seemed like not having any luck I watched him drift off on a glide along the valley ridgeline to finally make Clovenfords on the A72, and unfortunately be just shy of Galasheilds. A very good effort considering the challenging conditions!
I heard later that no-one else managed to get away from Broughton, so I suppose that says it all really, Rob and I were quite lucky to get something out of the day.