On the Friday I managed to get an hour in at Edenfield after work, conditions where lovely and with few there I was able to do some well needed practice on my thermaling. Mark Wilson was there talking about the coming Sunday how it was set to be one of the best XC days for years, and Parlic was the place to be. By the end of our chat I was well fired up for a well over due crack at a decent XC, which up to now had been mostly extended ridge runs, or XC’s abroad.
Saturday was spent looking over maps and sketching out my intended route following a NE track to the Dales. Could this be the day! As it turned out most of the lads headed down to Eym Edge in Derbyshire chasing big distances, which was better for me as it took a bit of pressure off Parlic’s small south face. With the day forecasted to get stronger Andy Archer and I arranged to meet at 9am to make the most of the day. Sat on top of the south face with not a cloud in the sky the day was lovely and peaceful, giving me time to collect my thoughts and fine tune my kit. After an hour things started to slowly get going, some had walk around to Fare Snape and were already playing in the thermals, but I decided to stick it out and try to drop back onto there. It wasn’t that long before we were picking up thermals and lads started skirting around to Fare Snape with some landing low down and carrying up. I was pleased to pick up a good thermal and managed to fly across high enough to save the hard slog up. I was on my way “nearly “. Settled in I worked the thermals pushing forward gaining high and being careful not to get blown back. It wasn’t going to be the usual potter up and down the ridge day as the clouds where building nicely and I was ready for the off. By now there were around 15 pilots in the air, some of whom I knew were planning to go over the back including my mate Andy. Not wanting to rush it I explored the area out front trying to pick up something to give me enough height to brake free. Looking back I saw a gaggle climbing out so I tagged on and followed like a lamb to the slaughter, big mistake as they where a good deal higher than me and as a result I dropped out the back and hit big sink. My heart sank as the gaggle disappeared in to the distance, with me plummeting to the ground trying to pick a dry patch to land on. Thwarted yet again! But I wasn’t on my own as Andy Mc (feeling well dejected) was there to keep me company, like two children, not being able to play out with the big boys.
The walk back was farther than expected and I regretted not packing my glider up as we eventually reached Fare Snape wet through with sweat. Andy wasn’t happy with his harness so opted out of another flight, but I was determined to give it a go.
Setting out my glider I noticed that the clouds had closed in and the wind seemed quite strong. I would have to pick my moment, before climbing back up to join the remaining pilots. This time I decided to play my own game and not follow the gaggle, which seemed to take the pressure off me, and when I hit 4 Grand I would drift with the thermal. It was now 1.30pm and the sky started to brake up again with some nice thermals coming through and before I knew it the vario was reading 3200 and I was at the point of no return. Soaking up the sound of steady bleeps I committed myself and broke free drifting for a while in no mans land before the elastic band snapped and I was pulling away. After a while I noticed that two other pilots had join me, or had I’d join them it didn’t matter as the numbers kept clocking up. At 5200 it was the highest I’d got to on a Pennine site and was a great feeling sharing the moment with my unknown companions. This was it “to infinity and beyond” I was finally on my way all my preparation had paid off. By now Parlic was a distant memory as I crept over the green planet below, is it always this easy to stay up? I think not as it was a particularly good day with lots of lift around. The other pilots who had climbed out with me now pushed on in front leaving me to savour the moment.
Topping up as I crossed over the Trough of Boland the km kept coming, carrying me towards the Settle Carlisle Railway (My target for the day). The views over the Dales where magnificent, Pen y Gent and Inglebourgh stood out like sentinels on guard. Places I had been to many times walking and cycling now seem tantalisingly close. Then the moment was shattered by the drone on my verio as I hit sink, with nothing to lose I set sail in search of lift. It was a real buzz gliding towards Penygent and by the time I got there I was getting low and in desperate need of a top up. Back to ridge soaring I worked the West face in the afternoon sun, my body starting to thaw, I hadn’t realised how cold I’d got. Then eventually I climbed out again and spiralled out over Buckden Pike, keeping the dream alive. Now I was in unknown territory but with 3 Grand still under my belt I had plenty to play with so I enjoyed the ride. Following the road over passed Cray, (where previously the week before we had gone to pick the lads up) I was tempted to pop in for another pint, but instead carried on down into the open valleys beyond. By now it was 4ish and I was getting home sick, as thoughts moved to how to get back. Still following the valley road I enjoyed the settled afternoon air and I relaxed soaking it all up. As I wasn't sure how much farther I could fly before reaching air space I started to plan my final leg. Passing a few small villages I headed towards a larger town and possible bus link back home. Still at 1500 feet I started burning my height off and watch the children playing foot ball down below, my proposed landing site. As I came in to land the kids came rushing over asking all sorts of question, which reminded me of pilots landing in isolated villages with all the villagers coming out to greet them. “Where am I” I quizzed, Layburn they replied puzzled that I hadn’t got a clue where I was.
Now the real adventure starts how the hell to get home! That ended up an unbelievable easy journey. Short walk in to town (via the loo's as I hadn't been since taking off), to look for a bus. While waiting I decided to hitch and only waited 10min's before a car pulled up, I was gob smacked to see Dean from Active Edge with his girlfriend beckoning me to get in. Turned out he had taken off from Wind Bank near Kilnsley, exactly where I wanted to get to, and probably what would have been the hardest leg to hitchhike. Not only did I get a lift over but had a good chat tapping in to his wealth of knowledge. In the end Dean thoughtfully dropped me off at Skipton railway station, which I was very grateful for (I owe you one for that Dean) Checking the timetable, all that was available was Leeds, Bradford or Lancaster none of which suited me.
Time to get my thumb back out and take my chances via road again.
Lucky brake No 2 as it wasn't long before a Burnley bus came along, I couldn't believe my eyes and I nearly jumped out in front of it. I don't know who was the most surprised the driver or me; fortunately he pulled up and let me on. By now I was getting a bit jaded and was glad to relax and enjoy the ride, making a few calls to try and get some one to pick me up. As I disembarked the bus at Burnley two of my mates where waiting for me, which was a welcome sight. By now it was 8pm and I was feeling hungry as I had not eaten much all day, so was ready for some food. Over supper we chatted about my day, neither they nor I could imagine how I managed to cover that distance. Good job I’d let my wife know that I would be late back as I rolled in at 10pm, well knackered but dead chuffed.
My first proper XC and 68km at that taking over 3 hours, it had been well over due but worth the wait!