2013-04-19/20/21 Combe, Milk WH and my first XC from Milk Hill (albeit a short flop)
After the great day of the 14th March this last few days has been the best flying weather for quite some time. It started with the high pressure moving in from the Azores and creating the classic high pressure system ripe for the TVHGC sites.
Friday Combe Gibbet: So on Friday we still had remnants of the low pressure system in the morning before the high moved in later in the afternoon. I hung around on Combe Gibbet in the hope of it dropping from the 25mpg winds I found on arrival. I knew it would settle at some point so sat it out watching many pilots fly overhead from Liddington during the day and wondering if I had made the wrong site choice. The conditions weren’t ideal at that time with big clouds and hail. So I was glad by the afternoon things looked up with the wind dropping and the sky looking much better.
I set-up at around 3pm and met up with Lee and launched into reasonably strong winds and the conditions were still quite lumpy which is exactly what the clouds looked like. After 5pm things improved and we were delighted with some lovely smooth conditions with the odd thermal around. Height gain was about 1000ft above take off. I was enjoyable gaining something for the effort of the day. We packed up at sunset.
Saturday: Helping out as TI with Cloudbase on Milk Hill White Horse. Great day lots of students getting through their EPs and most this was their first hill flight. They were launching off the top of Milk Hill White Horse by the end of the day. Cracking day! It was great to also show the students the pilots flying overhead from Golden Ball on their various XCs.
Sunday: “My First XC from Milk Hill albeit short 6km”: Back to Milk Hill after the morning actuals looked promising for a short morning get away. I arrived to the sight of gliders flying high but it looked strong. When I arrived at launch it was gusting 18-20mph but it was fairly consistent for at least 15 minutes. I met Craig Atwell on launch and we setup for a committed but quick launch and we were up and away. The conditions were fine out front but very sharp spiky thermals earlier which as expected got stronger. There were about 10 gliders in the air but with good lift and separation it was good to get out and seek the thermals. The best thermals seemed to be developing over the southerly escarpment and into the bowl.
After about 30mins and at 11am I got a good 4mps solid climb that took me to about 1000ft above the hill and over the back quickly due to the drift but it was fairly solid. I met up with another orange glider above me (maybe Adrian T or Craig) over the back near Golden Ball car park but I couldn’t find the thermal or updraft so made the decision to leave and head on towards West Overton hoping to find something en route but nothing. The sky was still blue at this point and I found it difficult to find a source of another thermal. On top of this I was in 3mps sink and ended my flight at West Overton next to to a road.
On packing up I hitched a lift with another paragliding pilot who was heading to Milk- result! And arrived to find the last gaggle leaving in a very established climb around mid day which I later found took many of them to Milton Keynes.
It was always going to be a gamble of a day, leaving soon enough to avoid the deteriorating weather conditions vs holding on for the better thermals. It was really interesting looking at the track logs of those who went on for some long XCs. I noticed that they took a more easterly route crossing over Pumphrey Wood at the back of Golden Ball. So maybe a combination of me pushing too much north east and just missing the stronger thermals. Whatever it was it was still fun and learned loads in the process. This would have been helped of course by setting my flight plan up on the GPS in advance 🙂
What as sport… the learning continues….