A Classic Lakes flight
August Bank Holiday 1997
I had a fantastic flight up in the Lakes during the Lakes Charity Classic comp at the end of August. After a wet Friday morning, and a v. breezy afternoon, we didn't quite believe the forecast for light sou'westerlies on Saturday. However, sure enough Saturday dawned bright with very light winds. Jocky sent us all (pg & hg) up to Jenkin Hill, which involved the mother of all climb-ups! I honestly don't know how the hg pilots made it up - serious determination and true grit!
At the top it was many degrees colder in quite breezy and somewhat cloudy conditions - it was so warm down in the campsite earlier that I think a lot of us were rather unprepared at the top. Initially a race to goal at Penrith was set, but when it became evident that the NW wind wasn't going to swing round to the SW, the goal was changed to Ambleside (25.4km), which would involve a 6km hop across to Clough Head then a 15km cruise down the side of Helvellyn, finished off with about a 4km glide to goal. All well and good in theory!
The trouble was that the conditions at take-off were none too pleasant. We were effectively in horizontal (as opposed to vertical) rotor coming off the side of Skiddaw. (Jenkin is a S to SW site, not a NW!) What most of us who took off reasonably early on did, was to take off and immediately glide down to Latrigg which has a reasonable NW face. About 6-8 of us (Tim Brunskill & Clive Laurence-Peckham included) ended up ridge soaring there waiting for something decent to come through.
We waited..., and waited..., and waited... and eventually after about 45 mins for me (1.5 hrs for some others!) what turned out to be the one thermal of the day came through and we all got away. What a feeling as we left everyone else sitting up at Jenkin watching us with envy! Sorry folks, a question of being in the right place at the right time. Clough was booming when we arrived! I had my strongest ever UK thermal - I guess I was averaging 8-10 up for a couple of minutes...fantastic!
From there it was a relatively straightforward run down to Helvellyn where Tim B and I thermalled up to 4,400' and 4,100' respectively - the views in all directions were just mind-blowing, you really can't beat mountain flying! And from here it was again a relatively easy cruise down to Rydal ridge, but from here on in it wasn't so easy. The goal was in sight about 5km away, but the ridge ended here so it was a question of getting enough height and going for it. Clive was with Tim and me at this stage - he went with a thermal over the back to the next ridge (which ends slightly closer to goal) but got a serious trashing whilst doing so.
Tim and I opted to go the direct route once we had enough height. Not much was coming through now (I later realised the sea breeze was setting in from the SW), and it was clear that we'd have to do something pretty soon. I shouted across to Tim that I'd go as soon as I got 500' above the top. I actually got 1,000' shortly after, and left on the glide for goal, but I flew into some majorly sinking air and realised I had no choice but to turn back to the ridge again!
Meanwhile Tim, who had flown out into the valley, had found something nice and was now heading for goal 1,000' above me! (This scenario happens too often with Tim B - memories of our flight from the Malverns a month earlier were flooding back!). I then spent the next 30-45 minutes scratching around trying to just get back to ridge height, getting increasingly frustrated, knowing that Tim had probably made it to goal!
Eventually, with half an hour to go before the land-by time (6pm) I found myself about 200' above the ridge and decided it was now or never. I knew from the start that it was going to take a miracle (or Chris Jones' Exxtacy) to get me to goal and unfortunately I had neither! I squeezed between some trees to land on a football field 0.5km short of goal! Oh well - can't win them all!
I later discovered that I came 6th, out of only 8 people who made it as far as Clough Head - so a great day for a few of us, and an incredibly frustrating day for the other 50 pilots stuck at Jenkin/Latrigg. In hindsight it was probably the wrong site to go to (especially for the hgs), but on the other hand four people made it to goal, with another three or four coming very close, so who knows?!
I don't know the exact scores, but the final order was:
1st - Tony Delaney (I think that's right) (goal)