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Tandem over Ben Nevis


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I was thinking an auction aimed at 'corporate' companies ?

I am fairly sure that The Channel and HP will send it out to their head honchoes.

more money :-)


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Hi Guys.

Ben Nevis spends most of its time in cloud!!! I flew over the peak last year and it wasn't nice, (very rough). My motor wasn't able to climb at that height and was only able to achieve the flight using surrounding terrain and clouds.

Here is an account I wrote about it for Kevin Rymer-Craig who published it on the flyschool web site. Unfortunately the phots are missing here. How can I attach a word document with phots on it to a message on this forum?

Flying in Scotland May 2007

Richard Whitmarsh

Several months ago Martin Hewlett (Quackers) and I planned a flying trip, the main plan being there would be no plans. We would see what the weather was doing, take passports flying kit and van and just go. As it happened, the best weather in Europe was Scotland so Scotland we went.

Arriving at Martins house I had arranged my Berlingo in a well organised fashion allowing plenty of space for both equipment and comfort, Martin soon changed that by filling all the spaces with gadget after gadget. We arrived at the base of Ben Nevis on 8th May 07 after camping out en-route. It was this first morning that I began to realise Martins tendencies, when from one of the many bags he had in the vehicle he revealed his ‘wash bag’. Thankfully we had separate tents.

Midday on day one and the top of Ben Nevis was in cloud, having climbed Ben Nevis three times before I was aware that this was normal. The camp site owner was happy for us to launch from the camp site which we did at 30ft ASL. Like most mountain flying the wind direction was a little fickle, (variable in speed and direction). Martin followed me into the air describing his climb as the most unpleasant he had experienced and landed shortly after. My climb-out was slow at first in the light westerly wind coming up the valley from Loch Eil but when I dropped back onto the ridge of Meall t-Suidhe I was elevated quickly above its 2000 ft peak. This was an easy climb which took me to 5000 ft, Ben Nevis peak is 4406 ft. I dropped back losing height at first to climb the peak and arrived at cloud base on the main ridge, allas the summit would remain unclaimed from me today due to developing cloud cover. I had lost one of my gloves early in the flight and now well above the snow line my hand was telling me it was time to get down. The wind had increased during the flight which made for a lively descent into the field 50yds from my tent and beer. Unfortunately I fell and landed on my belly. Martin will no doubt show you the video of that soon.

That evening I took off again to fly

West into wind and around Loch Eil. The wind speed at 2000 ft ATO was 18 mph at times and was often in rain. Martin had failed his launch and remained at the camp site as I pushed on around the loch making slow progress to be rewarded with a great flight back to the camp site with a ground speed of 45 mph. On returning to Fort William Martin was in the air and we enjoyed some low flying over the shale and forests surrounding Fort William. We landed to be met by a paraglider pilot who owns the camp site on Loch Eil, he then took us for a beer. I had flown over his site; he had never seen a paramotor in this area before and followed me back. And bugger me I landed on my belly again!

Next morning 09 May 07 we were up at 05.30 for an early flight. I was going to fly across Scotland following the lochs from Fort William to Inverness. Martin was going to land and refuel at Fort Augustus, almost half way, and return to base camp to retrieve me. Martin set off ahead of me after I had failed my first launch, fully fuelled, wet wing and nil wind in this vacuum of a valley. At last we were flying together along this spectacular scenery. I had lost sight of Martin but was hoping to catch up with him when suddenly off to my right I could see him several miles south scuttling back low level in the opposite direction, on reaching Loch Lochy I could see why. Landing options were nil. I resigned myself to the fact that if I have an engine out I would crash land in the shortest trees I could find near the road and accept that my motor would be broken. If you are ever flying an adventure like this just except the fact that you may trash your kit in the process.

The leg along Loch Ness had massive areas of no landing options made worse by the steep valley sides. My engine had coughed 3 times during this flight which acted as a timely reminder that these motors do stop and I need to have a ‘crash site’ in mind at all times. I flew along at just under cloud base to optimise height / glide for engine out. I could see in the distance that the sky was bright and clear which offered me comfort which was nice because it got a bit rough under some of those clouds. There were several long stretches where I felt very concerned about landing out. Towards the NE end of Loch Ness I crossed to the South side for better landing options. It appears that when flying in Scotland it is normal to experience some rain, this flight was no different except that I also flew through two snow showers which was a first for me. Towards the NE end of Loch Ness the sky opened and cloud base lifted, goal was almost in view which lifted my spirits, the whole length of Loch Ness flown and not a sign of the monster. Approaching Inverness was amazing, lots of good landing options in/nexto the city, I spiralled down over the golf course for a nice landing and an easy walk to the nearest watering hole whilst waiting my retrieve. GPS info for the flight was 59.3 miles flown at average ground speed of 34.3 mph and max 43mph, 1 hour 43 mins. 10 ltrs fuel at 35-1 mix.

Arriving back at the camp site the usual mid afternoon gusty conditions were evident but one thing that was different was the top of Ben Nevis, it was clear of cloud. As soon as the wind dropped I took off for another attempt at the summit. The wind direction had swung around to the SSE and was a bit stronger at altitude than it had been. Conditions were a bit rough which slightly concerned me, was this thermal activity or rota off the mountain? A bit of both I think. I flew South following the River Nevis in the valley towards the Southern slopes of the Ben in order to avoid lee side rota and make use of the slopes that faced into wind. There were plenty of landing options; I attempted to remain away from the mountain as much as possible just in case I needed to deploy my reserve. I didn’t fancy a mountain reserve landing. It was slow progress with only an 8-10mph ground speed. Martin had taken off just after me but landed again due to the lively conditions. I arrived at the Southern edge of Carn Dearg as the river turns to run East to West, this is a 3000ft hill with a rounded spine that produced an excellent climb rate. Clouds were now forming at the top of Ben Nevis and light was fading. After getting to 5000ft and entering cloud I got a bit disorientated and was blown back towards the mountain and behind the Carn Dearg ridge losing lots of height very quickly, this made me realise that this would not be a simple down wind dash over the peak, and if I wanted to fly well clear of the mountain to avoid lee side rota from the Ben itself I would need more height. I again got to 5000ft by thermaling amongst the clouds, big circles half in the cloud edge and half out. Due to lack of patience and fading light I again decided to make a dash for the summit but lost site of the mountain due to cloud and again became disorientated. I turned into wind to regain my bearings during which time my ground speed was 62mph and I was dropping like a brick, I realised I was down wind of the Carn Dearg ridge again and at this descent rate was going to get drilled in behind it, therefore had to break off and dash for the safety of the valley. It was rough and slow going creeping back to the Southern edge of Carn Dearg, my whole body was tense, I was freezing cold and was tempted to make a turn for home and give up.

I had time enough for one more go at this so I stayed above Carn Dearg ridge and worked every bit of lift available until reaching almost 7000ft then made a dash for the summit. The light was fading and clouds had now covered much of the peak but I could still see the summit, my camera set for ‘auto flash’ was now flashing in the available light.

I flew straight over the top for a surprisingly smooth glide away and down wind towards the camp site. Typically as I drifted towards the valley over Fort William engine on tick-over my descent rate was only 20 FPM, my hands and feet were in pain with the cold and I needed to get down because it would be dark in approx 10 mins. A series of spirals over the water and I was able to set up for a nice landing near my tent. GPS info = 31.6 miles flown, ground speed average 21mph, maximum 70.4 mph. 1 hour 30 mins. What a day, Fort William to Inverness and Ben Nevis.

The weather was due to deteriorate in Scotland so first thing in the morning we headed off towards Newcastle to fly Hadrians wall. The plan was for Martin to fly as much as he wanted whilst I drove to retrieve him. I was keen for him to have a good long flight because up to now he had pissed and shit his pants at every opportunity which for me is really frustrating. We had a day off from flying as we pitched our tents, sorted our kit and went to a pub to plan the flight. The www.xcweather.co.uk was spot on and the morning had dawned a light westerly breeze with few scattered at 3k which meant that we had chosen the correct destination to fly the wall. Martin took off in near perfect conditions immediately heading West with me following in the vehicle with continual radio contact. I drove ahead a few times keeping Martin in sight at all times. When he started moaning about the clouds, bumpy conditions and feeling cold (20 mins into flight) I drove ahead and located a landing field placing a wind sock for him. I attempted to persuade him to carry on, his ground speed was 35mph and he had enough fuel to make goal, only a slight navigation detour due to air space near Carlisle was needed. But the call of the windsock was too much for Martin. He explained that his legs were all tense with the cold and he wanted to land, approx 50 mins, bless him.

By the time I had folded Martins wing, warmed him up and got him comfy again the weather had deteriorated. I took off in moderate rain to continue Westerly into heavy rain. My planned route and any track North of it was in torrential rain, the sky to the South was brighter. Cloud base was now too low to clear the air space East of Carlisle so I followed the railway track which kept me clear of air space and South towards brighter skies, the railway then guided me over Carlisle to pick up Hadrians Wall again before landing at Bowness-on-Solway on the coast West of Carlisle.

I had been flying in continual rain dodging the worst bits and landed as the heavens opened. From the moment I took off I didn’t hear or see Martin, he could hear me on the radio but couldn’t get his ‘over complicated’ Kenwwood radio to work, or was busy on his mobile. When he did find me he was annoyed because I had deviated off route instead of flying into all the torrential rain that he had driven through!! (all the gear and no idea).

That was the end of Scotland 2007 mini trip. For me it was a total of five flights with seven hours flying, 173.7 miles over fantastic terrain during three days of flying. I would recommend Hadrians Wall for a good easy flight / trip. Nice easy fly drive and lots of landing options. Scotland is just amazing to fly. Thanks to Martin for his company and retrieve driving, his wife Tonia has asked me to take him away again but for longer this time.

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Hey Whitters,

Nice write up mate. :D

Wrong time of year for Ben Nevis though :D we should be on / around Ben Nevis on the 6-7 th of August :-) I see you went in May.

Also, to make it clear for all. Although I have been 'caught out' in the rain and snow once or thrice. It is NOT a good idea to take off when it's raining.

Not a dig Richard, just wanted to let people know that the kit is not designed to fly when wet :-)


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