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Sunshine and Snow on Morrone

Filed under: Club days in Aberdeenshire,East Scotland,Mountain days — Dunc1261 @ 01:06 pm

Last Sunday 2nd December saw a large contingent of ESP Club members and Precision Paragliding Trainee’s up on the slopes of Morrone, one of the hills overlooking Braemar.Light winds were forecast from the NW. After phoning Murray for an update on the forecast I headed out the North Deeside Road. The temperature was -2.5degC at Aboyne. Mist had formed on the banks of the Dee, but Lochnagar was clearly visible when I got closer to Ballater.I was low on fuel and none of the petrol stations were open. This was 9.00am on a Sunday morning! I made my way to the Old Military road past the Braemar Golf course and waiting for Murray and Alan Coffin to appear.Ian Archer arrived with his friend Barry from the estate and also Jonathan in his Westfield Sports car with Nova wing on the back luggage rack. He must have been cold in an open top sports car!

We headed up the hill in the comfort of 4 x 4 vehicles. Walkers on the track looked on with envy. I shouted to the leader to “Get the Tea on when they got to the top” when we passed them on the track.

Barry, Ian and I were in the lead vehicle, Barry’s land rover. We stopped near the mast at the top and Ian and I got out and checked conditions on the ridge. The wind was blowing square up the face. I said to Ian that this would be the take off point. Murray had stopped behind us and popped his wing up to test the conditions. We headed back down to where Murray was parked them came back up to the same spot on the slope.morrone-temp.gifA few wings lifted off into the air. People were correctly shouting “Launching” on taking off. Alan Coffin got away early and maintained a good height above the slope. I took off and started my beats. I stayed in the air for around 40 minutes and only slope landed as my hands and fingers were very cold.

Murray was flying tandem and I remembered the rules of the air and always to look before turning. I was also looking above and below me. Remember the lower glider has right of way!

Joe and Ian turned up as well so there was Murray, Ian Archer, Alan Coffin, Joe, the other Ian, Jonathan (PUT) and Nairn (PUT). Also Ian Archers friend Barry and his two sons.

Everybody got some airtime (even the boys on the Tandem with Murray) and managed to stay high on the slopes. The vehicles were busy doing retrieves from the lower section of the bowl.

Later Alan and I decided to head down to where the cars were parked. I needed to catch a flight to Heathrow and conditions had eased. We took off almost at the same time. I headed round to the right of the hill and above the northern slopes. I did not get good height and had a tuck and tumble “arrival” near the telephone cell mast on the east facing slope. I made my way down through the soaking ground and saw Alan approaching with bags of height above the valley. He landed safely and we saw Ian Archer and Murray fly down from the bowl. Alan had got height above the Northern slope. I should have waited another 10 minutes…..

The others started to fly down. Murray had a few large frontal collapses as he had cut back very low. So the air appeared to be very ‘mixed’. Ian Archer approached the ground and Alan and I shouted up to Ian to look for the power lines close. Ian landed safely.

We saw Nairn who had been high out front of the hill approach well overhead and he appeared to be going up! We saw a significant collapse on one side of his wing and were all concerned as this was a Pilot Under Training (PUT). Alan jumped in his car and headed over to the area where Murray had landed. Nairn landed safely and Alan advised that Murray was in touch with Nairn on the radio and had received instruction, doing a number of 360* in Big Ears to drop below the lift area.

Murray advised me that Ian and Joe had an incident on the slope where Joe’s lines had got snagged and Ian’s reserve had accidentally come out of his harness as he was being ‘helped’ during a ground drag, both had been previously advised to set up for launch clear of the hill top location they actualy used. They opted to drive down in the pick up.

So a number of issues on the last flight down. Perhaps an earlier call to pack up would have been a safer and better bet.

I headed off looking for a Petrol Station. The Braemar Garage closed at 4.00pm and it was 4.05pm! I was committed to running on a very empty tank. I drove in 5th gear and kept my speed to a reasonable 50mph. luckily a garage outside Ballater was open and the tank was filled up again.

A good day was had by all but a few lessons were learned as well.

Take care and fly safe. Always check the forecast for the whole day….



  1. <p>Joe & Ian’s ground handling problems at the end of the day, (a few snapped lines for Joe and a drag with reserve being once dislodged for Ian while being ‘assisted’..) Hi-light again the importance of paying attention (and following!) my advice regarding changing site conditions/ground ‘fixed’ hazards (in this case exposed rocks).</p>

    <p>The only way for the club to maintain its far better safety standards than the BHPA is to avoid the bad habits creeping in, often from ‘first training’ (Unsafe Regresson) amoung members.</p>
    <p>Towards sundown and as FORECAST, by the aviation MET information the wind picked up, so as a result poor practices (layout/pull up to far back on the flattish/rocky hill top) that the pilot was perhaps able to “get away with” in earlier light winds become an EXPECTED safety issue!</p>
    <p>The fact the issues I addressed (several times!) earlier in the day only ‘bore fruit’ in incidents that THIS TIME only resulted in minor incidents is not relevant, as almost any minor incident has the potential to develop into a major ACCIDENT..</p>

    <p>Murray Hay</p>

    <strong>NB. All the MET office aviation infor (TAF’s 214 & 215 etc. were avaliable in the pickup along with the printed location maps….. so NO excuse for members not to be aware of the changing conditions!</strong>

    Comment by Murray Hay — 05/12/2007 @ 03:20 pm

  2. Hi Guys

    My 2p worth was an absolute fantastic fun day. The site was absolutely stunning (the photos don’t do it justice)and we all got plenty of flying time. My first solo flight was going great until I went for an extra beat along the hill. This resulted in a lower than intended landing…. which actually reads …long sodding walk back up the hill!! However I did learn from that and all subsequent flights resulted in intentional higher landings (ie less walking) which I was really chuffed about. Under murray’s watchful eye, my confidence is growing all the time and ground handling is starting to show signs of competence … although a lot more practice is needed. The final flight was originally intended to be down into the northern valley but an increase in wind strength knocked that idea on the head. Murray offered a tandem flight down with the others but I was very aware of the wind strength and my genereal fatigue levels so i decided to call it quits & drive the pick up down instead. With hindsight this was a wise choice following the Nairns exploits :)) It just goes to show, you should always follow your instincts … !!

    As fate would have it this decision meant I was on hand to “assist” Ian with his drag moment. Now I know why we wear helmets!!

    The drive home was another 3 hours in the dark in my open top westfield se7en with no heater …. the suicidal deer had me going but was nothing compared to the black ice moment near kirkmichael …. i was grinning all the way home. Fleece-lined flight suits are just as good in se7ens as they are in flight …… ebay is your friend :))

    Many thanks to Murray & the rest of the guys for their patience with the newbie.

    PS – Come on guys, where’s all the photos :)))

    Comment by Hillclimb — 05/12/2007 @ 05:46 pm

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