After a few phone calls and a head scratch over the wind strength, the decision was made to head for Ettrick Pen.
I picked up Dave who was all ready to go, apart from not being allowed out the house until he’d finished doing the washing up. 21st Century Man at his finest. We collected Tommy (late 19th Century Man at his finest) and headed into the hills.
Conversation on the walk-in from ranged from piles and a re-vamped Wingbeat initiation ceremony (naked from the waist down), to whether a pedigree or mongrel furry friend is best. Tommy insists that you can’t beat a good mutt.
45 minutes got us to the saddle of the ridgeline where the wind strength felt a bit iffy coming up the front of the hill. It’s the classic winter dilemma of whether we were feeling real wind, or overestimating the windspeed due to the cold heavy air.
We dumped the bags and walked to the top of Ettrick Pen itself, but there was no obvious change in strength, which gave a bit of comfort with regards to wind gradient.
After half an hour or so, by which time Fred and Linda had joined us, the wind felt like it had dropped a bit, so I thought I might as well have a punt. The air felt a wee bit shaky to start with, but that was likely just some swirlyness caused by the forestry downslope. Once away from that, it was straightforward to cross over to Hopetoun Crag, and then onto Wind Fell. Tommy, Dave and Fred followed shortly after, and we all enjoyed a good winter float about. Heading further over to Loch Fell looked tempting, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have been able to push back into the headwind, and wasn’t sure of escape routes. Best left for another time with more daylight.
After about 45 minutes of very mellow soaring, t’other three landed, although Fred kited up the hill a bit and re-launched for a final 10 minute waft.
Pushing out from Wind Fell, I got the impression that the windspeed was starting to increase at about 2300ft, and it was getting a wee bit too easy to stay up. My groundspeed had dropped from about 15kph to 8kph in the space of a 100ft.
The sun wasn’t far from dropping below the hills to the west by this point, so channelling my inner Falstaff (Henry IV, Act 5, Scene 4 – look it up), I went in to land.
The whole time I was in the air, I was very aware that I was losing feeling in my hands with the cold, but I wasn’t prepared after landing for the worst hot aches I’ve had in years. Fred landed a respectful distance away as I curled up and cried like a baby.
It was pretty dark by the time we got back down to the cars – topics on the way down included frilly underwear and Velux windows - and we all enjoyed a small snifter of The Balvenie courtesy of Fred & Linda to warm us up. A very civilised end to the day as we watched the stars come out.