18/7/99 - Marcus King, 16.6km from Nant-y-Moel
It was due to be a BPC weekend but a bad weather forecast had diverted us to South Wales. Sat turned out to be too windy, but we took the chance to have a look at Nant-Y-Moel. The next morning we awoke to low cloud and wind, so a lazy start to the day was made, this was probably the first mistake of the day. We had decided to drive home and we were on our way down the A470 when I noticed the wind had dropped and the sky was clearing. As it was SW we headed to Nant-Y-Moel.
Simon was first off and soon got a good climb and I thought he was off, but I saw him coming back as I took off. I took off straight into a beaut of a thermal. It was well rough at first but then as I climbed a few hundred feet it smoothed out. I took this back over the forest behind before wimping out at the thought of the valley behind and the trees, mistake no 2. I had a rerun of this climb before landing for a drink. At this point Simon and I both thought we had blown it by not taking the opportunities we had been given. I guess in retrospect we had kind of blown it by not going early.
At this point in the day it seemed to die off a bit. Nick Roberts turned up and flew, and as we were thinking of just flying around for a while he went over the back very low. Simon was first off, I again took off into a good one. I looked behind to see Simon climbing out over the trees, "right I'm not going to let him go on his own," I thought. I climbed up through the 'boaters' on and behind the ridge and out and over the trees behind. I was lower than Simon when I lost it, so went over to him just to have him glide off as I approached. I won't repeat what went through my lips, I was actually quite amazed at how let down I felt.
We both headed to Nick who was starting to climb from a scree slope on the end of a ridge. Simon was ahead of me and I was slightly surprised as he flew straight over the ridge to try and get in Nick's thermal. I got a climb as I approached the ridge, this was to be my best climb of the day which took me from 500' below takeoff to 3500' above sea level. At times it slowed up and I had to be patient but then it would get together again. As I climbed I watched Nick like a hawk, but saw that he was getting low, and coming back along a ridge looking for a climb. I was checking the clouds that were building around me and getting a bit threatening, so I headed to the edge of a clear area, where a climb took me to just short of 4000'.
I was approaching the final valley before the Merthyr valley, I relaxed at the thought of flying into familiar territory. I looked back to see Nick down and Simon still stuck on the first ridge behind takeoff. This is basically where my flight went wrong. I rushed on towards Merthyr instead of staying with the clouds. I expected to get lift on the lee-side of the ridge opposite Merthyr as I had done so far, but although there was something there it was very weak and never came together. I ended up cruising to Merthyr Common where instead of scratching I landed.
Looking back the sky had blued out behind me so maybe I did the best I could, but I definitely should have stayed in the air as a few people got quite high in a thermal 1/2 an hour after I landed, which would have taken me over the 20km mark. Still it was great to fly over new countryside, fly to a site where people were flying and t beat Nick Roberts for once :-)
In answer to Rich's point on the end of his article about this day, I do think Nant-Y-Moel has better potential on SW days, because if we had left in the early climbs we would have arrived at Merthyr at the time Rich and others were leaving. Only we would have already covered 17km! I think Nick Roberts has proved this on several occasions. Next time I'll try to leave a bit earlier.