Just back from Knockengorroch music festival and trying to piece my head back together, I didn't even think about the weather until the sun came out at 5pm on Tues evening. Shit, I realised – tomorrow's on. I need the day off!
Thankfully we didn't need to go far to hit the red zone and with Tony doing a grand job of herding us together I headed up to Balquhidder in the morning from Glasgow. There was an impressive number of pilots out to play; myself and Graham S arriving just behind them and following them up the hill. It didn't take long to catch up with the pro's setting up at the bottom of the steep section. Not normally one to shirk a hike, I bought into their assured confidence – with 5 of us trying surely it would work!
Once the clouds had cleared, it duly did and everyone was soon off the hill and starting to climb out. I found a good climb on my own and was off, surprisingly one of the first few, with only Matt visibly ahead. With nice clouds and decent climbs I cruised over Lochearnhead and onto towards the Tarmachan ridge. There was a strange looking white glider ahead I didn't recognise, flying decisively and efficiently and with no pod – an unusual site in the Scottish skies! (Trias it turns out – on his annual outing).
Our paths diverged on Tarmachan – me preferring to follow the terrain onto Ben Lawers, Trias just going with the clouds and taking the direct line NE. Matt joined me on Lawers and after a bit of work we were both heading over the back into Glen Lyon. I got a bit low on the transition and found myself scratching above the treeline. Again I thought? As I pondered my ongoing habit of breaking flights up after 10km. The day was on though and I soon found something that pinged me out and I was back on track and heading to Scheihallion.
Progress slowed after Scheihallion as I worked my out across the flats, with a few blue holes to navigate. Felt like a bit of convergence going on. The pull of the boonies once again drew me in towards the Cairngorms but as I neared the hills I found it windy and pretty rough. The line wasn't going to let me into the big hills so I skirted along the western edge, getting quite low as I popped out near Feshiebridge. I retreated to the nearest hill, but a run along Geal Charn revealed nothing so back into the valley I went. I was low enough to be considering my landing options (lots of trees around) but covering good ground with the wind I kept working the little bits of lift and soon had a safety margin again. I realised where I was - Aviemore just ahead! I spotted a glider high in front (Trias maybe) but lower down the climbs were broken and hard to core. I didn't have the patience to properly work them so drifted with the wind turning in the stronger bits.
Above Aviemore I was struck by the absurdity of actually being able to fly where you intend to go. Planning a 100km route through the air... And actually doing it? It was all a bit much.
The sky still looked good, with great looking clouds stretching off to the east one transition away. Perhaps it was a sub-conscious apprehension of trying to get back from Aberdeenshire again, but I stayed west of Aviemore and stuck to the lesser clouds in front. I was content with my flight but not being able to give it up entirely (and go and land in Aviemore) I took a carefree glide towards some clouds over a wee forested hill. No low save this time though and I landed in a nice soft grassy field, not far from Carrbridge.
My hitch into Aviemore scooped up Tim Jackson on the way and an hour later as we sat on our train back south - delayed by 6 minutes - in dived Tom and Trias!
The last time I flew a 100k, Bren was the first to congratulate me. I'm sure he would have been the first here too. C'mon Bren - time to wake up!