05/02/03 - Alex Coltman, 24.7km from Hay Bluff

A brill day yesterday (Wed 5th), after much phoning wendy and general deliberation we (Rich H, Myself and someone who was skiving from work so will be called pilot x) set off for Frocester/Selsley after Howard said people were soaring there. Minutes later a phone call from Howard to say people had now stopped soaring on Selsley changed our mind and we headed over to Wales, ending up at Hay Bluff.

The road up the Bluff was impassable so after an even longer walk than normal we ended up on the Bluff. Wind direction was perfect but the days early blue skys had gone, with a layer of grey stratus pushing in from the East, under this was a curtain of precipitation (rain, snow,sleet, who knows)

I took off after finding I'd forgotten my gloves and spent the next few minutes trying to velcro the arms closed on my flying suit, to keep my hands warm, once that was sorted I realized I had been steadily climbing since take off and now had 300ft above the top. Here it started to snow so I thought I'd better burn of the height and tell the others to be careful. Once down pilot x and Rich were informed and I watched as Rich took off.

The curtain cloud had not reached us yet and was moving slowly so I decided to take off again after borrowing pilot x's spare gloves. Again nice smooth lift everywhere to about 5oo ft above the bluff, here I noticed that the curtain of snow had jumped across the gap in front of the bluff and was now below me to the east. I watched Rich H big ear and B line down and started to follow his lead with a spiral before realizing that although there was lift everywhere it was not too strong and deciding to head off along the ridge towards Talgarth.

I stayed a good distance out from the ridge and used the convergence in front of the snow cloud to maintain altitude, turning back towards it whenever I lost the lift and setting myself a maximum height of 850ft above the bluff to keep clear of the cloud. Whenever I reached that height I pulled big ears and full bar and headed away from the convergence. Once on the end of the ridge I headed over to the spur that sticks out towards the Talgarth road as I was a little worried about being on the wrong side of the Crickhowell to Talgarth valley when the new wind direction arrived. I stayed here soaring till the convergence caught up and then climbed out, drifting down the middle of the valley a little higher than the tops.

The next bit was beautiful with my climb slowing, giving me time to admire the snow covered tops, the brown-green bracken on the lower slopes and the spots of sunshine casting rays on the ground. Easy flying here with the occasional turn away or towards the convergence to maintain a good height.

As I reached Pen Allt-mawr (the huge stone bowl above Crickhowwell) the convergence seemed to weaken and I made a run for the bowl, which was soarable, I topped up here and took a weak climb over the top for about two hundred feet before it all turned sinky with the air coming down off the Black Mountains. The final glide took me over Crickhowell, then the Joint services centre, neither of which gave any lift and a landing in a muddy field near the river.

I walked back to Crickhowell and had far too many ciders while waiting for Rich and Pilot X who flew after the snow had passed.

A top start to the flying year, lets hope it continues.

TO Hay Bluff SO 242 369
Turn Point SO 185 306
LZ Gilwern SO 243 155
Glider: FP Whisper
Date 5/2/03

Cheers Alex