At the end of my first week of being Meet Director for a "normal" paragliding comp, I was looking forward to the excellent forecast for Saturday. We'd achieved four validated tasks in the comp, and it was a fairly stressful week, often tasking in strong winds - the guys had flown really well, but I was tired and definitely needed a free flying day.
None of our normal local gang was available, so I posted on Telegram to see if anyone fancied coming to join at Magic, and Andy Brown, Remi Pickett and a couple of others were also heading up from Devon.
Magic is a cracking site, but when it's due SE and strong, that's pretty much the worst wind direction - it's not really on either the Darren or the east face and can be a little bumpy, and so it was.
I deliberately didn't set a goal as I was keen to follow the convergence line rather than force something, and fancied recceing the line as I flew it, for practice as much as anything.
Anyway, Remi et al were flying on the east side (it looked a bit cross but they were doing ok) while we got set up near the Darren and it seemed good, birds soaring in front, climbing, wind kind of on, a bit off to the left. We launched and it was soarable but thermals ragged and wind occasionally 37kph on my instrument. No chance of getting away safely so I slope landed and we walked to the east side. Meanwhile, the Devon lads were off on an epic - well done to Andy for a massive PB goal flight and Remi for running out of land having crossed Snowdonia.
We launched again and it was still quite hard to get away, all the clouds were streeting to the east of take off and it was blue to the west and south - I thought that maybe the sea air was HERE, in Crickhowell! Anyway, I took a crappy climb which I fell out of and then landed in strong wind at Pen Twyn Glas. A lovely 5km hike back over Pen Allt Mawr and Pen Cerrig Calch sw me back on take off with Julie still ridge soaring at 4pm. I had a little word with myself that the sky was looking even better with a conv line almost overhead now and Cu forming where I could actually get to them. It still didn't work, so I rolled the dice on flying over table mountain, or maybe flying down to go home. And that's where it happened, I pinged out to 5000ft at 1640, surrounded by sailplanes who no doubt had been to Snowdon 3 or 4 times already. I headed off downwind and by now I just had blue to my left, a lovely sky to the right and the mother of cloud streets in front of me! I followed it and climbed occasionally when below 4000ft but it was really rather easy. I was keen to fly fast, as I really wanted 100km from this effort before it got dark - so I only stopped for strong lift and pushed on whenever I could. I had a rough idea of Machynnleth as a goal but hadn't checked train times. Once past Llangurig, I couldn't really follow the road so went deep into the boonies where of course the day started to slow down a bit and I got a little stuck. Not terribly stuck, but it felt quite scary being lowish in weak lift with no chance of getting home and no food or bivi kit! Back up near the clouds, I put a waypoint on Machynnleth and it was 25km away, 20:1 required. Rolled the dice on a ridiculous glide above 200ft terrain to the east of Nant y Moch Reservoir with some odd tracks and no paths off the hill. A terrible crosswind glide short of the cloud I needed and I ended up ridge soaring a tiny little lump on the edge of a 1000ft north facing cliff, I was loosing height the whole time. Decision time… Top land and assess if there is a lot of wind, then maybe fly again? Top land and walk off? Crack on, wind probably less than 15kph so lee side should be negligible? I cracked on, diving over the cliff, initially silent it did get a little bumpy but then I spotted a NW facing hill that was getting haylage cut and a fire in the corner, dived into another lee side, even lower and it worked and got me back to near base. 6:1 required! Facebook live time with accidental psychedelic bubble theme and a bit of telegram voice messaging and I had the info I needed, it was time to land as I had 30 mins until the last train of the night back to Abergavenny. The sea air had made it a little way down the Dyfi estruary and as I descended into it had a few bumps before it settled into a smooth SW wind. Landed, packed up and legged it to the train and I even made it back before midnight. Thanks for the help on facebook live from those who recommeded landing in Machynnleth rather than Barmouth or Aberdyfi as I wouldn't have got home! Wouldn't it be great to do that trip with a northerly forecast the next day and fly home! A couple of lessons and points from the flight 1. Never give up, this time of year we can fly XC very late in the day. 2. Lightweight kit is amazing, I'd never have been able to do the hikes to get back to take off without it. It allows you to roll the dice with much less of an issue if you need to land out and makes flying so much more adventurous. Thanks to Supair for making such an awesome wing and harness. 3. XC Track is amazing and the ability to have your phone in front of you and quickly tap out of the app and get on social media for a laugh or for a serious question is really handy! 4. Flying across Wales is always a treat. To do it at that time of of the day was incredible!