As I walked to the heathery 'launch' that I had discovered last year, I saw a golden eagle in cu at circa 5000ft being mobbed by two buzzards. A rare sighting in Strathglass and auspicious I presumed. That bloody heather, though, those tangles! Finally got the wing up and heather free in the tail end of a thermic cycle. Shot up straight from launch, pitched and shot down again. Couldn't make anything else of it and found myself standing by the carpark very shortly afterwards.
Bugger it. I'll walk back up. Second time round the wind is fresher but the cu are all but gone. I'm wondering if I can just soar the valley wall. I get a better launch and get established in a soaring pattern heading west. Its quite difficult going, hugging the terrain and finding lee behind trees and rock faces as well as thermic bubbles in places. Wing tip brushes the fine twigs at the end of a birch branch at one point. Ups and downs but getting lower. I find a bubble over a steep scree slope just 100 ft above the road and work it for all I'm worth. Kelly Farina's words from last night's reading are ringing in my head - smooth, efficient turns, no pitching, weight shift lots and little brake. Slowly, slowly I gain height, the therm consolidates and then its a two up and heading to base. Except I chicken out! The cloud tops are curled into wavelets and it suddenly gets rougher at about 2000ft. I hit the bar and head into wind down the glen - rapidly losing most of my height. By now the wind had gone W from N and I'm flying straight into it, so I turn and run! Whooohooo - 50kph over the tree tops, only turning in the thermic bubbles. My phone rings in my pocket and I curse not turning it off. Then I see smoke from what looks like the direction of my house. I get totally distracted while contacting Becky, who rings a friend. Our house is not on fire, but for me the flight is lost.
The day is dying and I want to get as far downwind as possible. I see a buzzard struggling below me and fly on thinking about where to land. I turn into wind too low having scraped over the roof of the Struy Inn. I am saved from a downwind landing by a thermic bubble that bounces me 10m over the landing field and allows me to come in nicely.
Becky appears in a car a few minutes later and we head home. Very chuffed with my 1st small XC of the season.