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Blease is a Breeze

It hadn’t happened yet. I had passed my Club Pilot exam in early August a mere 2 years and 3 months after starting and by October I still had not flown for more than 15 minutes. Believe it or not it was due to the weather being too benign.

Anyway it was October 1st and another lifeless day dawned. Clear blue sky and light winds. I had spoken to Bill Scott and he decided we would go to the lakes for some high, nil wind take offs.

Bill had been helping me out with finding sites and had been giving me some coaching. It is a wonderful thing having a mentor that new pilots can turn to.

It turned out that there were four of us going, Bill and myself, Jim Watson and Sean Bloggs who had just completed his Club Pilot down at Northern Paragliding. It was blowing about 7mph at Hartside café so it looked okay for Blease Fell.

We arrived at the car park at about 12:30 pm. It was dead still but the weather was wonderfully warm for the time of year, we looked up at the hill, it didn’t half look high. We all set off together, Sean advised us that he had a kidney complaint and had to climb slowly so would catch us up later. The climb was indeed very steep and after an hour or so Bill and I found ourselves a couple of hundred feet short of the summit on a nice grassy bank with a 10 mph breeze blowing right onto the hill. Jim was still a way back hoping to launch from lower down and there was still no sign of Sean.

After some sandwiches we quickly got set up and Bill took off going up very smoothly, I tried to remember all of my training then set off soon afterwards. We both stayed about 20 to 40 metres ato but couldn’t climb any higher. After about 20 mins we both landed. I had drifted a bit away desperately trying to find some lift so I had a long carry back but Bill had landed right next to Jim who by now had almost caught us up.

By now Graham Thirlwell had joined us as well as a nice chap from the Cumbria club, they were very disappointed as the wind had died. The adrenaline was still flowing through me so I decided to walk to the summit, at least I would have a nice view followed by a long top to bottom. I got to the top, passing Graham who was about to wrap up for the day and set the glider up. I sat for 10 minutes enjoying the view when suddenly Graham appeared rising very smoothly and told me to launch. I took off, went straight up and followed the other two to the long ridge up to Hallsfell Top. After about 15 mins I realised I wasn’t going to go straight down and started to relax. It was wonderful following the other gliders and I was delighted soon after to see Bill Scott join us. I don’t know how he did it but he was consistently the highest and covered the whole mountain, recovering from what I thought to be too low several times.

I was happy to just be in the air and didn’t want to risk losing the lift band. I did not have a vario and found it very difficult to judge whether I was rising or falling (I bought one a couple of weeks later) but I was having the time of my life, even when I was going through the turbulence created by the spineback ridges. That is really scary for the first timer but the excellent training teaches you to expect it and understand what it is.

Everyone started to go down, I looked at my watch, I had been in the air for 1hour 25 minutes. I followed the rest of the gliders down and landed perfectly in a small landing strip. It was difficult to suppress my happiness but unfortunately Sean couldn’t get away for an Alpine launch from lower down and had to walk down the mountain, not having flown at all.

After a quick pint it was a difficult journey home with Sean having had such a bad day and me having had such a good one but I know his turn will come.

Bill Bowman


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