31/7/99 - Alex Coltman, 56.3km from Talybont

Saturday, 31st July was a typical, hazy, blue sky, high pressure day, with light, SE winds, so off I trundled to Wales. Once there I spoke to Pete Taylor, who convinced me that it was worth walking up Talybont instead of watching the BPC pilots at play on the Blorenge. After walking halfway up we checked the wind strength and decided to take off.

Having zipped into my romper suit and clipped in I launched, straight into a thermal in which I fumbled to about 600ft ato. Pete was still on the ground, fine-tuning his Epsilon speed system (with a pair of pliers!), so I came back to the ridge, just as a blue Swing Astral took off from the top. We soared around for 10 minutes before the valley triggered again and, this time, I couldn't resist the climb out over the Beacons, along with the Astral.

The view of the peaks is breathtaking but the air downwind of them was a tad interesting and I got well and truly spanked! I was over the A470 before the air calmed down enough for us to find another climb - it always seems easier hunting the core when others are chasing it as well. The Astral and I chased this one 'til it keeled over and died at almost 5000ft (nice, civilised sport). The Astral then went on a glide to the West and I was left alone, tracking towards Sennybridge. There were still only white smudges in my part of the sky - no really defined clouds - so I started looking for ground sources.

Just South of Sennybridge, a ploughed field was being harrowed and the dust plume pulled all over the place as thermals triggered off the slight hill. A Warp Factor 2 glide and a bit of looking around resulted in a climb to nearly 6300ft, and my first cloud (!), over Sennybridge. From here I tracked West-North-West, following the road until past the danger area, with some gorgeous views over towards the Usk Reservoir. Once past 'Halfway Forest' I got back on my North-West heading and lift seemed to be everywhere - I was only losing 200 to 400ft on glides and still boating around at over 6000ft, under nice looking clouds.

I then came across the 'Welsh Desert', which is a huge area of marsh, forest, sheep and no roads (also no beer, no chocolate and no ice creams - hell on earth) that stretches as far as the eye can see, even from 6 grand! After swallowing the lump in my throat, I convinced myself that, from this ridiculous height, it should be crossable and off I went at Warp Factor 4.

"Something really bad must be about to happen: this is just too easy.", is what I was thinking as, even over the marshy areas glinting in the sunshine, there were nice, fat, gentle thermals, with really weak sink. It was then I noticed a line of huge, grey, cumulus clouds that not only

looked very angry and had bases about 1500ft *below* me but also seemed to be closing fast from the South-West. After reading about flying with sea breezes loads of times, the only thing that came to mind was not to get caught on the wrong side. From where I was watching, my side would do me fine but I still didn't like the look of those clouds and, without making a conscious decision, the more I looked at the clouds, the more Northerly my track became (running away is always the best option!).

As I reached the last part of the 'desert' the lift disappeared, the sky was clear and the sink arrived with a vengeance. I think I had flown into a much weaker sea breeze, coming South-East, and was now cornered. It was final glide time, laid back, speed bar on (Warp Factor 6), hoping to reach civilisation before terra firma. Not even a bubble of lift on the glide but my trusty X-Ray and I screamed over Llanddewi-Brefi and on to the largest town I could see. I fired the retro-rockets and landed in the sports field at Tregaron. Ten seconds later I was surrounded by kids and an old guy who turned out to be an ex-para; after chatting for a while, he invited me back to his house, where he was having a barbecue. Some hair-raising stories, grub and a beer later I made tracks to start the long walk/hitch to meet Pete, who was driving to meet me (cheers, Pete!).

This flight alone was worth learning to fly for and I'd like to thank Dave and Rick at ParAvion for getting me hooked, Robin at Airtopia for selling me my gorgeous X-Ray and everyone in the Avon club who's helped me along the way.

Alex Coltman.