Saturday, 10 November 2012

MHGC Alpine Expedition 2012 (NOT)

Well the more observant and geographically savvy will have guessed from the accompanying photos that this year’s MHGC Alpine expedition got off to a rather shaky start, in fact it was cancelled due to some rather persistent inclement weather that had settled over the alps.
However after a day of moping about Ian P came to the rescue with the idea of a 2 day trip to the Lake district, Hoorah! Needless to say most of the original Alpine Group plus Stuart M immediately signed up for a 2 day trip to Keswick and the next few days were taken up with logistics and planning (well done Ian). The end result saw various members of the group scurrying around Worcestershire in the early hours of Tuesday morning forming up into car shares and heading for

Day 1.

Ian had managed to arrange for us to join the local school “Air Ventures” run by Gordie Oliver (top bloke) for their morning weather and site briefing at a stone circle just outside of Keswick, which I would highly recommend

(if you thought Alpine weather and flying was different try the Lake district ). Gordies call for the day was Clough Head and the day promised much with light winds and talk of triangles, with a back up of sea breeze soaring later in the day. It was at this point that the two fundamental differences between the Lake district and the Alps became apparent:-
1/ They don’t build roads to take off in the Lakes.
2/ The sea is a lot closer.
Luckily some of Gordies students were persuaded to take pity on us and ferry some our gear half way up the mountain in their 4 x4 whilst Kobus managed to get Gordie to tow his van up which probably saw us half way to take off. The following yomp saw us still a long way from the top but on a spot that would allow us to connect with nearby cliffs and climb the rest of the way. What followed was several hours of waiting with the odd impatient pilot proving it wasn’t possible to stay up before eventually the sea breeze hit giving a soarable breeze on the face that allowed everyone to get off and climb out for some very pleasant flying. Everyone landed locally except Richard D who snuck off down the valley for a mini XC.

Day 2 

The morning briefing suggested Swinside as a good bet and being closer to the sea we expected the sea breeze to arrive earlier and bring soarable conditions as we had watched sites closer the coast become flyable an hour before Clough Head the previous day. Nice site, bit of a climb, more difficult with steep slopes, heather and ill defined paths than expected but 2 hrs later the elderly and infirm made it to the top catching up with the younger members of the group. It was at this point I devised two new rules of paragliding/parawaiting:-
1/ You have to wait at least double the time it took to climb before giving up and flying down. (Also known as recovery time).
2/ On small sites, signs such as circling birds of prey or feeding swallows are enough to justify launching first. On big carry ups it requires Chickens, pigs, goats or other farmyard animals to be hefted skywards before launching first is an option.
And so we waited, and waited , and waited! Annoyingly the breeze felt on the lower slopes had vanished at the top and despite watching windmills turn on the coast out in front and huge clouds build over mountains several miles behind we were becalmed? A trickle of local pilots tried and went down until eventually the call of the chippy lured the rest of us off the hill. Flying down at the end of the day revealed the low level valley breeze was still there which made landing easier for most, (It seems the sea breeze had stayed at low level cooling the ground and killing thermal activity without rising up over the bigger hills allowing us to soar, DOH!) Anyway a swift pint followed by fish and chips in Keswick and we then all headed home, tired but content, plenty of exercise, some flying was had and there are a lot worse ways to spend the day than lying in the sun atop a Lakeland peak admiring the view.

Top couple of days thanks to Ian P for the idea and organisation.

Chris H.

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