It hadnt 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 didnt 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 couldnt
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
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 wasnt 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 dont 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 didnt 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 couldnt 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