The day before, Jake Herbert and I had shared a bus ride from a remote, but beautiful Dales village; lounged by a hot roadside awaiting a lift, bemusing over how 6000' and all going so well gets reduced to this so abruptly. We reckoned that maybe tomorrow would be the same hot, blue, but probably blown out. This was the time to put money on Jake… I could have made a fortune. Just 24hrs later he had flown over 160k up the spine of England, crossed the dreaded Cheviots, rounded Newcastle airspace and made it part way up the east coast to the North Sea. My effort was a far less ambitious affair - in deference to my age I now only fly to bus stops, train stations and waiting lifts.
Sunday split between the optimists - 'it looks doable'; the pessimists - 'blown out' and those in the middle who took their lead from the last person they spoke to. As I spoke to Chris Kay last, he was of the, give it a go clan… Although I admit to taking the first walk up the 'new' hill minus a sack. Such was the strength of my optimism - what the hell. Nice day for a walk and I 'won' a classy dog lead.
Chris knows, and has flown every obscure bump and hump known to man - but not the paragliding species. So… He took me to ------- --- probably one of the best sites for this direction in the UK for reasons I won't go into. A real, smack you in the face, gem, and only 10 minutes drive from home - you tend to miss what's under your nose. Rushing down for my wing the Cavmeister rang and was persauded too - he's still recovering from a long bike ride last year and tree planting, but seemed keen to rediscover his Zeno touch.
As with the previous day the thermals kicked at 1pm, this Easter you could set your watch by them. Chris, Cav and I climbed away together until it broke up at 3500'… Not high for these parts and enough to leave you anxious. Cav then hared off as usual, no radio, no plan we knew of beyond Edinburgh someplace. So… That left Chris and I, each thinking the other knew best. By Ribblehead I was VERY low and reading numberplates, Chris meanwhile was circling high overhead - what an absolute… STAR. Then I discovered God. I eeked my way out of hell and slowly rose onto the moors, first below, then level, until finally we were reunited high above. I will not take liberties again Lord… Now we stick together ya bugger!
Then - a most odd sight. Close terrain hugging was Cav, his shadow skirting along way BELOW our usual take offs on Dodd and Brant. At one point he crossed the Settle to Carlisle railway just high enough to allow a train to pass. Then on he drifted into the wild and afforested area between Dentdale and Garsdale. It seemed fortunate some trees had been cut to allow him passage through the col. I was now heading for the lower slopes of Baugh Fell and a bit desperate too - Cav was a lot lower. Well, if he can get up from there, and he usually does… I have a chance. Again, I clawed my way up the slopes on a weak thermal until over the tops and heading for the back of Swarth. Renunited again with Chris we conveniently stumbled into the best climb of the day. At approaching 5500' the temp felt so wonderfully comfortable - rare you can say that in our neck of the woods. Unphased as ever, a grounded Cav settled for a pint at the Moorcock.
High over Wild Boar I threw a spanner, actually several, in the works. Chris said - Where to next? Now, the sensible option was east - back onto the main Pennines moors. Unfortunately I'd plugged in a goal due north at Brough - wrong place and nowhere near enough for the day. The second error was it was bang up against Warcop D area. BUT… The real biggie cockup was not checking Warcop for transit… It's open about 30 days of the year and Easter Day just had to be one - yeh? I always want my cake and. So I opted to clip the goal then head east and not take the chance. I admit to bucket loads of optimism at 5000'. Getting onto the very end of the Cross fell range was easy and would have given a fairly straightforward semi ridge run for the next 40k - I know it pretty well, the wind was spot on and it's been a long held dream - the full ridge. It'll have to wait.
So… We clipped the goal and headed back NE up rising ground and in gently rising air that didn't seem to want to actually lift off. A long limestone crag line had to… But it didn't and I'm told old to be marching back across huge moors. So we landed. Happy enough until the 'what if's' started. Five minutes walk and a car picked us both up, lovely couple who just happened to live very close to me and took us both back to my house. I think my wife thought it a bit weird my being back before the usual 9 or 10pm, or the usual pleading cry for a lift.
Time for a pint (Gamecock Viv… ) where we chanced to meet up with both Whittall brothers, Robbie and Matt, plus Deano and Rob Lund. Made my day… Several layers of icing and a darned fun adventure for guy with a bus pass.