It's that time of the year when it becomes hard to predict the weather on our fair isle and it takes a bit of luck making the right call. Saturday didn't look very promising weather wise, but late morning with the sun shining outside the living room window and the golden autumnal leaves stirring, a quick look at the various weather websites gave three options, Barbon ,Tow Scar or Parlick.
After a couple of brief discussions with my weather spotter in the Dales, Paul, he convinced me that it wasn't on so I took a chance and drove off to Parlick with some gliders.
As I drove closer to the hill the omens did not look good, with half a dozen paragliders grounded on the top, still it was a nice day for a walk and I decided to chance it and push on. The bottom of the hill was overcrowded with cars, mini buses, vans and even a sheeted up motorbike parked for the weekend. Looks like there were about 50 or 60 assorted ramblers, fell runners and para gliders, us Glider Guiders are a bit of a minority in these parts.
One of the vans had decided to block the turning spot, so I had to drive all the way to the top to turn around (no parking at Fell Cottage) and decided to stop and have a quiet chat with him about the lack of lift, as you might have guessed, he was a paraglider. He confirmed my fears that they were just walking up, jumping off and flying back down to the cars. Even the full size gliders in the glider station below were on an extended lunch break.
Still, being the eternal optimist, I managed to squeeze the little Fiesta in between two mini buses and started the climb up in the pleasant early afternoon sunshine, weighed down by a brace of heavy F3F models and a rucksack full of ballast, did I mention I was optimistic!
As I summited the top of the hill, I got lucky as the wind suddenly switched on and the air was suddenly filled with paragliders as they launched en-mass. I couldn't believe my luck and hurried down to the west bowel where there is a mini slope below the full size and paragliders where you can fly close in out of everyone else's way.
First up was the Cyril, with just two slugs of ballast in one wing, stupidly in my haste I didn't put any in the other wing although it didn't bother the Cyril as I only discovered my error when I came to put more ballast in later, doh! Wind was light and a little crossed to the left, launching has to be done with a good firm push as there isn't really an edge, just a steep grassy slope with no real compression zone just lots of powerful smooth lift. EM turns seem to work better for me today than yesterday, and I could get in really close to the slope nearly cutting the grass, it really is a bit psychological these rocky cliffs that I can't get close to!
I adjusted some settings on my camber and speed flap and tried some reversal as well to compare with the EM. Reversal still seems faster, but it doesn't last long enough with the wind crossed after the dive in, whereas the EM is very consistent and seems to deal better with the crossed conditions, you can get a great slingshot in the upwind turn, this speed can be kept to help with the down wind turn where you have to drive back through the head wind.
Practised my pump outs, but was a bit hindered by the full size and paragliders lurking above me, but felt better than yesterday, of course with no tight compression zone to worry about it is a lot easier. Landings were straight forward as the hill dips down into a saddle so you can land on the top in lift, just got to be mindful of the fence, but there is plenty of room and you can always go around again.
Chucked the Xenon off, and wow this thing really pings the turns, looks like it is better suited to EM than reversals, it seems to turn itself although it was dropping the nose quite a lot into the hill which needed correction so I backed off the aileron differential 5% which seemed to help. It also doesn't seem to mind snap flap in the EM, where as the Cyril hates it, in fact I could see the Xenon might have a new lease of life trying to learn the EM turn as it turns real nice. I had to have a few more flights with the Cyril to compare and the Cyril seems faster in a straight line whereas the Xenon carves the turns much better. The Xenon is still harder to land than the Cyril, I backed the elevator compensation off a tad on the Xenon but it still carries a little too much speed in the landing, but hey ho it got down in one piece.
The wind moved to bang on the slope (WNW) and then got really strong and moved to the right (NW), this is when it got dark as a giant black cloud covered the sun, although strangely a hole appeared in the middle of the cloud letting the blinding rays of the sun through making the Left hand turn difficult as the sun got lower. The paragliders had all dissappeared by now, not wanting to get sucked up into the cloud, so I had the slope to myself, apart from when I would land for a break and the full size gliders would jump in to get some close in slope action below me.
Eventually the giant storm cloud moved on and the sun was back out with blue skies, was still cold though but I have a new jacket that is doing a good job of keeping we warm compared to last year. You could see light showers rolling in from the coast, but they were all burned out before they got to me. The visibility was very good with the Lake district and the windmills out in Morecambe bay 50 miles away visible.
Managed a good 2 hour of flying, which meant I was the last off the hill as the sun was setting, the wind started to die and it was time to get off the fells before it got dark. It was eerily quiet when I got back to the car with everyone gone, apart from that lone motorbike all sheeted up as if it was going to be there for the long term, perhaps the owner has gone off wild camping, their helmet made an un-shapely lump under the sheet.