So I've been asked by Tim B to write a storyboard for this flight. I don't normally do this as I use all my brownie points on the flying itself and barely have time to download tracklogs. But it is a great idea to have lots of write-ups of this day to hopefully inspire Bren back to health after all the inspiration he has given us. Plus this was my best UK flight in ahem nearly 25 years flying.
The first significant achievement was getting my kids up, ready and deposited in nursery just in time for Tom picking me up in his fun bus (seems with the right inspiration I could actually make it to work on time) and only forgot my radio.
The consensus was to head to Balquhidder rather than Aberfoyle and around 15 of us trudged up choosing different take-off heights depending on confidence, laziness or glider class.
As we take off and start to climb out, Tim B and Trias zip past - hmm seems like Aberfoyle was a good option. But it's all good at Balquihidder too and I take my second thermal up over the back to cloudbase. Game on!
Up there I ponder options - in the direction I want to head (over a forest with no landing) or cross Glen Ogle and climb again on the other side. Bob looks low in Glen Ogle while Tom and Tony are starting to slowly climb over the trees. I head in their direction but get another climb on the way.
So I get high and chase after them, catching up over Tarmarchan where my vario decides to throw a wobbly and emit random screeches - very unhelpful but luckily I'm high enough not to be decked by a mad vario.
For a change I resist heading into the large roadless bog of Ranoch Mor and follow Tom along the Lawres range until he disappears off the end. I'm left wrestling broken thermals/ varios and eventually end up very low in the valley behind.
Near the foot of a ridge, as I am about to land, a dream low save awaits and after some tree dodging I climb right up to cloudbase in what would definitely make the shortlist for 'Thermal of the year'. Right down below it looks like Graham has joined the ridge low - hopefully he can make it along to that thermal too.
I glide to some tasty looking clouds and climb again. Gliding over Loch Tummel I wish I'd charged my camera - days like this, there is nowhere better than the highlands.
Arriving over the A9 I think about my previous best flight (from a different site) where I landed somewhere near here just when it started to get easier while Brendan was on his way to beat the Scottish record (on a 'sick day' with no suncream on) so resolve to do better this time.
The drift is taking me toward the Cairngorms but after each climb I push back north along the road as the memory of a 5 hour walkout makes the idea of heading in at 5. 30pm less appealing.
But from high it seems like the valleys are like arteries trying to draw me into the heart of the Cairngorms. OK, well lets cut the corner off before Dalwhinnie and just get a little bit of Cairngorm action.
Even at 5, 000ft it seems I'm barely above the terrain but concentrate hard and finally have enough height to make it over and within glide of the road again.
Now it's my GPS' turn to decide it's had enough, declaring low batteries and immediately switching off. I turn it back on and it agrees to continue.
I follow the A9 north in a semi trance and eventually decide the freshening breeze, tiredness and stomach eating itself might mean that the nice green field below before another forested section would be a good spot to land. Plus there's a nice clump of trees for a post flight pee.
After only 5 minutes hitching, a car stops with Adrian already on board and we just have time to grab beer, pie and chips for the train journey home from Aviemore - very civilised! The train even sits delayed on the platform just enough time for Tom and Trias to sprint aboard and avoid a 2 hour wait for the next one. If Carlsberg made paragliding days.. !
Wishing for more days like this and a speedy recovery for Bren to enjoy them too.