02/09/02 - Cath Hutchinson, 11.9 km from Castle Moreton

My first real paragliding achievement, Monday 2nd September, I flew a cross-country for 8 miles (13km) (according to your coordinates it was closer to 12km - Tim). And my biggest height gain ever -

2600ft. It was a sunny morning, light winds and fairly strong thermals starting to cycle through. I took off from Castle Moreton Common 11.45ish and I thought I was just on a straight glide down to the bottom but entered into a thermal which took me to 2600ft above take off. It was a strong thermal that wasn't exactly smooth at all, it was scary being wrenched skyward as the ground fell away from me very quickly. I had to radio to Marcus (Harley) on take off for some soothing words and advice as to what to do next. With instructions to bugger off and leave the hill behind I turned and journeyed into the unknown.

The mixture of fear, excitement and amazement made me feel a bit emotional, but adrenaline and a determined attitude helped me keep it together, which is quite important when dangling from a piece of material and string somewhere near cloud base! After calming my nerves I managed to pick up two other thermals on the way each taking me to 2200ft, the views were stunning. A patchwork of fields spread in every direction, Eastnor Castle looked very small, as did British Camp and the rest of the Malverns. A couple of buzzards joined me for a while, before tucking in their wings and heading up wind.

Another pilot, Rob Kerslake, caught me up and eventually we landed in the same field, which was good to have someone to enthuse at. We had to walk 2 miles to the nearest pub for a celebratory pint, then managed to get a lift to Ledbury, where a paraglider student very kindly picked us up and took us right back to the hill. So that was quite an adventure for me, hope to do some more very soon, and next time I'll take some photos.

I had read about feeders and triggers for xc flights but I didn't put this into practice on this flight, maybe if I had I would have got further - who knows? I concentrated on the clouds above and in front of me, relying on my vario to indicate lift, I still had a lot of height when I got my second and third climbs so the development of the clouds were more relevant. I landed around 12.50 and by 1pm the sky was getting over developed, so I counted myself very lucky for being in the right place at the right time.