A hat trick of winter hike and fly adventures.
17 / 18 / 19 December 2021.
You could see the settled high pressure coming on the forecast from about a week before it arrived. Surely there would be some flying to do. With super light winds and an inversion coming with the high pressure, it looked like hike and flys might be the order of the day. Fine with me! I love hill walking and I love being in the air!
Friday 17th December: Big Eildon.
With about couple of hours of daylight left after work on a Friday at this time of year and the Eildons being almost on my way home from work, it seemed rude not to. There was a heli chopping around as I drove along the Melrose bypass. Not ideal. I chatted to a golfer on the walk up. Anyone else golfing today? No. Ok if I land on the fairway? Yes. Excellent! Once at the summit the chopper was still there. Unbelievable. Buzz off! I got set up and waited. Eventually he scooted north…. And then a wee plane showed up! What are the chances! After a bit more waiting it was good to go. Forward launch. Go! Yes! Amazing, what a thing to be doing, drifting almost silently above the Bonnie Borders. Flying from the Eildons has been a dream of mine - in fact it was my number one flying goal since I saw someone doing it about a decade ago! Mission accomplished. Very happy wingbeater!
Saturday 18th December: Mountbenger:
Steph and I had just finished the 5km Haylodge park run and were sitting in Peebles having a hot chocolate when Tommy posted that he was already on top and things felt good! Crikey, better get a shift on! Rob had also made it to the top by the time I got there, but the breeze had dropped off a bit. What a beautiful spot. The southern uplands in all their glory strung out in every directions under deep blue sky. Gorgeous. Rob and Tommy were demonstrating well honed ground handling skills, effortlessly keeping their gliders overhead in the slightest puff of a breeze. I tried to join in and did the odd hop or two. Then Rob set off for the main bowl. He seemed to be doing pretty well, staying up and only losing height gradually. He came back over and reported that there was the odd helpful thermal bubble. In December! Almost enough for it to work. A bit later we all had a go at the main bowl in what turned out to be a slightly extended fly down. And my tightest valley landing yet! With a couple of hours of daylight remaining I decided to hike up for another blast and took off from the summit cairn. Why not?!
Sunday 19th December: Stob a Choire Adhair
Andrei had been posting updates and pictures of hike and fly heroics, flying above the highland cloud inversion for the last couple of days. I gave in to the temptation and joined him on the Sunday. We hatched a plan to fly from Stob a Choire Odhair near Bridge of Orchy. Although very little wind was forecast, what there was kinda pointed to it coming from a NE direction. If it that turned out correct… and just a few mph more than forecast, we might be able to do some spectacular soaring in the huge NE facing coire there. Plus if any of the inverted cloud came in and obscured the valley floor, we had countless obstruction free square kilometres of friendly Rannoch moor bog to land in. The thick clag all the way up from the Borders suddenly cleared 5 miles from our hill! -5 degrees in Bridge of Orchy, but we were sweating on the walk up. +10 degrees on the summit in glorious sunshine. A proper inversion! The wind was forecast NE but was blowing E in the car park and S on the way up. Have lunch. Now blowing from the West on the summit?!? No matter really as there was hardly any of it anyway. 2mph max. Forward launch. We picked our spot and Andrei went for it, executing it perfectly and demonstrating how to get airborne before the big patch of ankle breaking rocks 25 meters away! My turn. Bit nervous. Steady up then run run run. Just away before the rocks, phew… Wow. What a fly-down. Beautiful in the low winter sunshine! The waterfall in Creag Steallaire a ribbon of white in a golden landscape. Small puffs of silver cloud forming below me. Over the woods to Victoria Bridge and a still frosty car park it got colder and colder. That inversion again.
Thanks to Andrei, Tommy and Rob for the adventures. Who needs thermals or ridge lift to have fun flying!