Coe Pilots

An early drive up on Friday ensured a couple of pints at the Kingshouse before bedtime.No point in taking unneccessary risks, what? There were red deer in the car park, hand tame, presumably looking for food , but nonetheless an enchanting sight in the moonlight. If omens exist, this must have been one of the best.

A cold night, frosty in the morning sun, promised at least the chance of thermals even if the forecast was for high pressure and the “glass ceiling” that often entails. By half past eight Murray and I were at the chair lift, decided not to have a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich at the ski centre, and headed up to Creag Dubh.

We were early. It was sunny. There was very little wind. These are the conditions I find it virtually impossible to reverse launch in. These are some of the conditions Murray loves to reverse launch in. He took off, and flew away. I stayed on the ground after three botched attempts at taking off.

I was still there when Murray reappeared for his second flight; I felt quite chilled, as in relaxed, and let him go off again. I reasoned that if it was so light as to make launch so marginal for me, then conditions probably weren’t soarable, and a fly down was all I was going to get, and I was still there when loads of ather people with big rucksacks started walking past me, right up to the top of Creag Dubh. I sidled up that way since I was feeling silly, and vulnerable, and kind of camouflaged myself in the middle of them. I chatted to a couple of people, and I remembered days on the hill in the peak district, and even spoke to a couple of people from the D.S.C. which club I began flying with straight after I completed training with Peak Paragliding at the end of the eighties.

But still no flying for me, and not for many others either, but as usual, Murray kept appearing and disappearing with a rather monotonous regularity which did not bode well for the poor lass at the top of the chairlift. I myself fell for her, and I made her laugh, which I took as a good sign. Murray said it was more to do with the wet patch on my arse where I landed after said fall. Embarrassing.

But it was all still very quiet up on the tops, and noon drifted past at about the same rate as the cumulous which were appearing sporadically over the summits. The wind, what there was of it, backed, then veered, then backed again, although there was a fairly steady 8 knot Nor Easterly at car park level. There was an inversion at 500 feet-ish above the bottom station, according to Murray, up until about three o’clock, when it all kicked off, according to the gaggle that went hurtling skyward as I was packing up my glider in the car park after my first landing. Joe and Ian had turned up and gave me a hand to to an alpine launch, just as the wind semed to be dropping again. Turned out I just, just missed the start of the best thermal conditions of the day, but it put me in a good enough position to view it all.

After that, I changed gliders, from the Xenon26 to an Xray20, because it did actually feel bubbly on the way down, and I’m still a bit light on the Xenon. Joe, who’s in the mountain rescue team at Killin, gave me an elastoplast by way of broad hint, after my ‘sky diving’ at Glenshee a few months ago, and I decided  on a respectful approach to these early thermals.

Back on the tops, I mixed in with the hordes of gliders that were mixing like midges way over the tops and out the front. Distant groups were skying out a couple of thousand feet above me, over Leacann nam Braonan, and also later on, over Sron na Creise. I got into some good thermal, but I wasn’t coring it properly. Still, flying without a vario wasn’t really giving myself the best of chances in that department, so I wasn’t too bothered.

It continued excellent thermal flying for perhaps two hours. I came down because I lost the lift, promptly finding it again over the car park, and following a series of wingovers, and going to the edge of a spiral dive, managed to touch down within four feet of my selected spot, albeit a bit off balance.

Murray landed a few minutes afterward, having foolishly followed me down. Joe was already fixing himself a brew, but it wasn’t till twenty minutes afterward that Ian Aitchison followed his grin in to land after a damn good 41 minutes (on that flight). Despite a very late start, I think everyone must have had a great time that afternoon, and to judge from the standard facial expression at the bottom landing, delight was probably closer the mark. Murray has to post his own comments on this one though, because our opinions are somewhat from different perspectives if not at actual variance. Something to do with car arrivals or some such, I dunno. You know who you are.

One Response to “”

  1. Murray Hay says:

    What can I say? Yet another day having a blast in Scotland, all be it a gentle start…. by the time the BHPA crowd started to arrive arround midday (to all hike up to the top of the hill from the top of the chair lift) I must have been on about my 3rd or 4th flight having started flying at 9ish, even getting a top landing flight in what can only be classed as ‘light air’ but mainly ‘rock & rolling’ down to the bottom station!

     

    For most of the morning & lunch time the valley had a nice steady (and ‘up slope’ in direction) breeze above the inversion layer the hill had close to zero wind with not so much any thermals but the occasional touch of annabatic air flow! Still more than enough to make the imfamous DBXBRL a piece of cake for Murrayarty….

     

    Come mid afternoon and the thermal and valley wind starting to break through the 500ft layer to reach the hill it was fly ups and top landing but first a bit sweat was required as I had made the (wrong!) choice of leaving my skis rather than bring them up after the last flight down and planned heading (as much as to view the rest of the skiing area)… still the Argo cat (the + of having a full area pass) quickly got me to the “Cliff hanger” chair making it 1,600ft above car park level with no sweat…. but with out the skis (in the pickup!) it was a further climb, on the rocks ‘off piest’, to reach the top 650ft higher, MEMO next time take the ski tow it’s quicker and easier!

     

    Any way a nice little show field right at the top saw me 100ft above 4 BHPA types sitting about and not looking happy, they also clearly did not fancy the rock (too sharp to call boulders!) field in front of my chosen T/O position… but hey the standard ‘double bounce’ when a tiny thermal tracked up to reverse the fairly steady down & x-slope breeze clearly showing up on the banners for the snowboard/ski/Mt Bike comp all the time during my hike up (NB. again study MEMO on skis!)… so off and after a skim past the rocks and BHPA bods out and away, to a bit of a bummer, arriving 1.5km later saw me flying just below a gaggle of 7 or 8 PG’s in a nice solid core.. the bottom of which was already above me current level… so it was down to ‘mixing it’ with the rest of the pilots who like me were not quite in the right bit of air at the right time…

     

    Still the rest of the day was ‘top landing city’ for me, touch & goes and general fun and games… on the ‘fun side’ not to mention trying not to laugh out loud at the general standard of the ‘launches’, oh and at the bottom the ‘landing’ if call it that of a lady pilot’s car ‘side swipe’arrival!

     

    Got to say one pilot who got off the chair lift before me on the last lift up was SERIOUSLY fit, almost sprinting up to the BHPA take off, while the lazy amoungs us (me!) simply walked 30s and then flew up the rest of the way 🙂

     

    Last hour or so was generaly flying around wishing I had the camera rather than Ali as he was busy concentrating on keeping a good look out in the busy sky out front of the hill face, in the main I worked the cores over the peak then 360 down to touch & go and all the rest of the usual stuff for me. Seeing Ali head down I was living in hope the timing would be right (4pm last uplift) to join him and get back up for one last blast, but on finding the time following landing next him due to the LOTS of lift well out front of the hill, BIG ears, 360* etc. to speed up decent (it didn’t noticably) it was not to be, so after chilling with Joe and Ian for a short while it was off along the road to find a site to hike up with me playing about in the Scots pines… ‘intresting’ flying, best described as ‘short(ish) & sweet.

     

    Without any doubt a day to remember and a site to have a longer trip to fly over a couple of days later this year.

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