The tall tales of North Hill pilots who go looking for atmospheric adventure, inspired by the possibility of "Off the clock epicness", driven by the desire to expand their horizons and the need for fun filled flying. Oh! and don't forget the footage!
Monday, 24 June 2013
La Motte du Caire June 23rd 2013
At precisely on one of the longest days of the year the sun clears the
mountain and strikes our tent. Soon it is too hot to stay in bed so the morning
ritual begins; a wash and shave followed by tea and discussion of the day’s
plans in the shade of a tree.
Yesterday (Sunday 23rd)
we decided to have a lazy morning after the extended flights of the day before;
8hrs for Matt and 5hrs for JB and me, whose buttocks are not so resilient. Launching
later in the afternoon when the wind was expected to turn to the NW should make
getting away easier and open up the opportunity for some late evening wave
So it was to be; although
getting away was still challenging for all, with the exception of JB who for the first
time this visit launched straight into a thermal. Rather like banging your head
against a brick wall there is a certain satisfaction, after it’s over, from
climbing away from the rocky lower slopes. This completed, I set off for the
Parcour where Matt and JB along with David from Nympsfield were already playing.
My usual cautious approach
(take every climb you can) meant I was once again playing catch up. Whilst the
main gaggle took a tortuous route toward a small hill (5,600ft) out in the valley
to the north of Gap airfield I took a more direct route from the Northern end
of the Parcour arriving several thousand
feet above them. Whilst they climbed back up from the “weeds” I investigated
the edge of the large black cloud which had formed above us which had a
whispery edge indicative of some wave action. Whilst this excursion gave
tantalising hints of zero lift I failed to get a climb and losing a lot of
height by pushing forward. I scampered back to the hills to the east of Gap for
a top up.
Meanwhile the gaggle had
contacted the wave a little further north of my search area. To be fair there
were three of them plus an unidentified Frenchman in the search. Here the Flarm
traces on the PDA are a great help as the relative positions and climb rates of
gliders in the area are shown on the screen.
Whilst I could hear the
“director” above me shepherding his cast for the next ‘epic’ video, I found a
small but strong patch of wave in the lee of a sharp ridge and using a
technique I had learnt from Brian Spreckly, many years ago in Spain, managed to
climb up to join the boys. The technique known as “knitting” is useful when the
wave is very narrow. It involves flying slowly straight into wind until the
lift drops away then turning sharply allowing the wind to push you back and
repeating the process. On this occasion this was shown
to work spectacularly when subsequently viewing the 3D SeeYou trace.
By now, filming over, and
beginning to feel the effects of altitude the pack dispersed to explore the
area. Further areas of wave were found including one above a spectacular ridge
with the cloud cap below streaming over and down like a giant waterfall only to
melt away as if being eaten by acid.
Acid etched clouds
Pushing forward from this bar, through
horrendous sink, I bottled it and retreated to know territory. Matt continued
to the next bar, lying NW of the Pic du Bure, recording some amazing footage as
he swooped down over the clouds. Meanwhile I found a more sedate climb to take
me right over the top of the Pic and take in the spectacular views in the clear
air. We left there (35km from La Motte) with sufficient height to allow a
required glide angle of 10:1. Flying at
75knots, the return was speckled with good air and lift as is often the case at
the end of a flight and I was using the airbrakes to arrive back 6,000ft above
the field! So it was a quick tour of the local ridges before returning to La
Motte for a cool beer and the excited chatter of Matt, JB and David.