The Whisky Trail.
Those who have toasted their way round the Speyside whisky trail may well know that the approach to Dufftown from Glenlivet is along a shallow glen, they may well know that the approach is guarded by high voltage electricity pylons. They might even be able to remember the Dufftown Distillery in the gully under the electricity cables, the graveyard in the same gully followed by the Mortlach Distillery. The town rises up from there with the remaining five distilleries north of the town. Cool kind of place to drop a goal pin.
Epic conditions, great goal setting, outrageous luck and a free flying playground hard to match.
Not a bad plan "B"
Plan "A". If I tell you that the forecast was for light southwesterly met. Wind, you should know that I was heading for Aberfoyle. Quite a few other pilots heading there also. Early start and immediately turmoil. The Forth valley totally clagged in. Would it clear early or late. Pity to waste a day with so much promise, sitting in cloud.
Plan "B" Balquidder, 10k further north and with a significantly higher launch.
You get a breathtaking view from the top of Auchtubhmore Hill. Breathtaking, sweatfest of a climb it is too. Sole destroying, according to Tim B and his blistered feet.
We have a top team assembled at launch. Pablo Howson, Conor, Lambert, Martin, Tim B, Tim J, Jules and Ray. Surely a team to gaggle its way north to Aviemore and beyond.
It's all about the adventure, but when Jules shared his declared goal with the group, I thought, why not. Dufftown 140k. I've never been to the centre of the Malt Whisky universe, what a way to get there.
We have a regulation launch and disorderly climbout, but all is good. We are off and for once, it's a proper gaggle.
Into Glen Dochart and like a siren has gone off, it's "scramble! " Our short lived gaggle explodes in all directions. Ah the joys of terrain avoidance in the Scottish highlands. Jules, Martin, Tim B and I reassemble at Killin on the slopes leading up to Tarmachan. Martin leads us out and we're off to Ben Lawers. Martin leaves us here and eventually explores the Tummel valley on his own. We glide on and take a climb at Ben Ghlas. The assembled Aberdeen team in the process of launching below. Good flights to Braemar and beyond for them.
We top out and glide into Glen Lyon. Ahead I see Pablo and Conor climbout on the north side of the Glen. I get a slow climb here and Tim B climbs over me heading for Schiehallion to join the others. Jules takes a line to the west of us and disappears.
Now as ground features go Schiehallion is a classic. However, it has proved to be unreliable for me in previous flights. Today, not so much. I'm soon joining Tim B and doing a Coronation Exit. As we both pull them in and King Charles it out of the cloud on half bar.
On to the A9 and I gaggle up with Pablo and Tim B again. Fast so far, we are at the Cairngorms way earlier than I expected. Just as well because the climbout was disorganised and bitty. Nobody keen to expose themselves to the wilderness too soon. Might have been good to cross in a gaggle you think. Tim takes the tiger line and Pablo and I take pussy cat lines closer to the A9.
Now heading for Glen Feshie, alone, enjoying the day and feeling philosophical. For the second time this year I'm looking down at the polar bear and tiger enclosures of the Scottish Wildlife Park. Wonder what would happen if they escape, I muse. I'll be safe up here. Funny how secure you can feel hanging by dental floss under some plastic sheeting.
We're all cuddling tigers, are we not. Hang on tight and keep away from the sharp bits.
Sailplane ahead climbing at a similar pace. Almost at base, time for another coronation exit. Make my self super visible. I glide on, Aviemore to the west, ski resort to the east and now heading for the hills north of Loch Morlich. Quite a fast 100k looks to be achievable, but I'm not finding anything very strong and have just noticed that the sky behind me is a complete veil of cirrus. The track I've flown is entirely in shade.
I still have altitude but suddenly I feel very low, as I spot Tim joining me, a good thousand feet above. Great to see him, would be nice to stick with him as we bimble past the ton.
10k further on and I've failed to hook up with him. Would have been fantastic to make goal together but the shade is catching me up and I can see the sea breeze front getting ever closer. Still it's been a grand day out.
Staying on track and with a decent line of cloud still forming, I plough on towards Glenlivet. PB possible I'm thinking as I settle into a solid climb. Sadly not to base, but cirrus and seabreeze waits for no man. Conflicted between speeding up and slowing down I bimble on. Neversaydie. Dufftown in sight and having to bar it to progress into the north breeze. But, I'm not losing much altitude as I progress, I begin to entertain the notion of making goal.
Cool place to drop a goal pin. Did I mention the power lines and gully strewn with distilleries and dead people.
Well I made it, didn't even have to fly under the power lines. Jules had already overflown goal, oblivious to my interesting cylinder entry. He landed as intended, north of the town. The luxury of altitude is not to be underestimated.
I met up with Tim and our retrieve was via Elgin. Sharing a Weatherspoon's with the brightly coloured Eurovision party goers of the town. Always end your day with a contrast!
Memorable nonetheless. For those who flew the 2016 North South Cup. I landed in a Eurovision party in the Pennines. Some went to Skipton. The moral of the story is, always take your paraglider to launch on Eurovision day. 😁