A Grand Day Out
A forecast of light southerly under the edge of a high pressure suggested a trip to the big hills up North on Sunday. Sods law that it was the night the clocks went forward, so an early start was made ruder by the loss of an hour’s sleep due to the clock change.
Fred & Rob were also up for an adventure so the plan was to meet at the Mhor 84 hotel by Balquidder.
By the time that a couple of coffees had been downed, there were about a dozen keen souls milling around.
I was more up for going to Tarmachan or Ben Lawers rather than up Balquidder – mostly due to Balquidder being a massive hard walk-up ! But the forecast and overwhelming odds prevailed, and so off we toddled up a huge lump of Scottishness.
The sky was looking nice with lines of cumulus dotting the local sky, so donning all the clothes I possessed (fecking Baltic), I set Aviemore as a goal (ha, yes, I was that overconfident), and lobbed off.
I found a decent climb pretty much straight after take-off and climbed up to where Sam Smith & Stephen Pegler were boating around. It didn’t take long to decide to just get blown somewhere.
The clouds were all working nicely and I have to say I didn’t have much of a problem finding lift. Cloudbase was around 5500ft,and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of scudding through the bottoms of the grayness before coming out into sunshine and amazing views.
Sam headed off more in the Killin direction, and seems to struggle for a while under a blue bit before I lost sight of him, but I pushed on north with Stephen. After a nice climb off Meall Ghoardaidh we headed into Glen Lyon where Stephen peeled off to the right to hunt for a climb. I went slightly left, into the sunshine and got shot back up to base in my strongest core of the day above Creagan nan Gobhar. Stephen on the other hand dropped like a stone, and the last I saw of him was scrabbling low on the hillside. Amazing how a slightly different line can make such a big difference.
The views along Glen Lyon were unreal - Schiehallion off to the east, and looking west Black Mount, Glencoe and right over to Ben Nevis and beyond. Well done Scotland.
I just kept going north. I had to scrabble around a bit before getting the next climb that got me to a comfortable enough height to cross Loch Rannoch - although I hate flying over water, regardless of the height. It just scares me.
Once up the west side of Loch Garry I crossed the A9, at which point it all went a bit tits up.
Funny how afterwards you can spot the moment where you made that one decision that changed the outcome of the day.
I was losing height on the transition and my brain let me down – what if I can’t get up here?...How do you hitch on the A9 without dying? What if I do get up? ..that’s proper bandit country ahead.
I did get a reasonable climb, but didn’t make the most of it, and it was tracking around the hill being funnelled up the valley. I think the mental damage was done by that point - instead of heading for the obvious ridge I surfed around the edges of the hills and eventually dribbled onto the ground near Dalwhinnie.
Even so, it was a good idea to have a goal set on my GPS. Staying in the air is easier when you have a purpose, rather than just mooching around aimlessly.
All in all a grand day out, rounded off by 3 good hitches back to the car.
To Do Differently Next Time;
Ignore the A9, and accept the possible massive walkout as part of the adventure.
Bring more clothes.
To Do The Same;
Set a goal
Stay high and fly the sky
I am definitely pleased I went back and waited for the day to get going. That said there were a couple of occasions I got lucky. Climbing out from about 50-100 feet on Ben Lawers and the same again at the bottom of Loch Rannoch. The rest was just push the speed bar and join the dots. Probably my biggest mistake was getting lost in the cloud at the start. I was a bit to bold, which made me over cautious the rest of the flight.
What I think helps a lot is just being relaxed about bombing out and not taking it to seriously. Just enjoy it for what it is.Also my own personal measure of the quality of a flight is quality = distance x time (smiles / hour), so hanging about where I can stay up safely for a while still counts.