30/03/03 - Alex Coltman, 45.1km from Hay Bluff

Excessive Alcohol, spring thermals and the effects.

I woke in Oxford with a bit of a grape and grain head on the morning of the 30th, sky looked great so once I was free of all the toxins (Technicolor yawn!) headed off towards the Malverns. Got there to find the wind off to the North so phoned Dave Gibbs, he had just arrived at Hay Bluff and said people were at 1500 ft above take off so headed that way.

After the walk up the bluff, made easier by the fact that people were thermalling high over the hill, I got rigged and had a brief chat with Dave who described conditions as “spicy” but surprised me with the fact that no-one had left the hill. Finally took to the air at about 3pm to find small rough edged thermals but not too fast, about 400ft/min, and fairly plentiful.

While climbing I noticed that there were very few clouds over the Black Mountains but a line of cloud stretching down the Pandy ridge. I shared the last bit of the climb with Julian Brown and Martin Cray and as this was the way they headed I thought it looked a good bet and followed, a little higher than them.

Big sink behind Hatterell hill put Martin on the ground and left Julian soaring the ridge, I got very low but stumbled into a thermal from the back of Hatterell hill. This was a rude awakening and was the roughest air I‚d flown since St Andre with a slow general climb punctuated by 1100ft/min bullets of lift too small to turn in. After a few minutes of weightless moments and rustling wings I almost decided to chicken but didn't‚t fancy landing behind the hill in so much wind so clung on, singing to try and calm myself down.

The climb was rough all the way to base at 4400ft and I was glad to leave it while still being a bit worried about conditions I could expect further into the mountains. The next cloud was an easy glide, now heading through the valley North of the sugar loaf, no real climb here but bubbly air meaning slow but high progress.

Crickhowell was within glide from here so I set off, thinking I‚d be happy to be on the ground after my earlier kicking, then I noticed another glider off to the West climbing on the last hill before Crickhowell and decided that maybe I should try and continue (competitive spirit I believe its called). Came in over Cric quite low but crossed the river in a zero which lifted off when it hit the escarpment to become a nice smooth 400ft/min. The other glider was now in the same climb about 500 ft higher and I noticed it was Dave Gibbs again, on his lovely new Omega 5.

He left the climb as it slowed and headed across the Heads of the valley road towards Pontlotyn and Ebbw Vale while I stayed in the climb to try and get to his altitude. I didn't‚t quite make it and followed as Dave was now climbing again. We flew on like this for a while with Dave pulling away from me slowly (must be the glider!!) in the generally buoyant air.

After Bargoed the air changed, I think we had flown into a weak sea breeze, and the buoyancy was replaced with a steady 4ooft sink. A half bar glide trying to catch Dave had us flying over Trelewis where I found a very weak climb with almost no drift. Dave had landed and maybe I could have gone a bit further but having shared such a great flight I wanted to share the "Après fly" moment and landed next to Dave at 6pm.

A brilliant flight but also a warning to myself and others who are maybe a little out of practice; THERE ARE SOME GNARLY CLIMBS OUT THERE!

TO Hay Bluff SO 246 366
LZ Nelson ST 124 932
Glider Flying planet whisper
Duration 3hrs

Cheers alex