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 soaring.
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.