Monday, 27 June 2016

Serres 2016 week 2 day 6

Day  6

The approaching frontal system from the NW had destabilised the air and with a temperature of 33C created a superb mountain soaring day. Starting earlier, Neil M’s first climb in the DG was a steady 4kts to 7000’ over the Aspres ridge and that made the transition to the east much simpler. Good climbs and high cloud bases provided a trouble free run. The flight was terminated with a 90K final glide arriving back with 3000’ over glide on a McCready setting of 3! Peter W and G also enjoyed the conditions and easily avoided landing at Gap.

Hang glider above the runway about to spin!
NO don't do it!

Meanwhile, back at Serres we watched the arrival of a hang glider that Merv successfully predicted that it was about to spin from 30’. 

A classic demonstration of trying to turn into wind too low without sufficient speed that resulted in the hang glider departing and impacting the ground nose first. Fortunately the pilot was uninjured.

After the interlude, Chris H visited the ski stations to the north and circumnavigated the Ecrins. Joining a convergence north of Briancon, setting a personal height record of 13500 and then running south across the Barcelonette valley and back via Sisteron - a final glide of 144k in 72mins.

Not much snow on the lower slopes

but more at the top of Les 2 Alpes


Graeme C and G explored the Vercours towards Grenoble. After an early landing, the DG was packed for its return home and the group enjoyed the evening meal outside the restaurant accompanied by excellent live music. A splendid way to finish the Serres expedition for this year. We all hope that we can repeat the superb experience next year!

Serres 2016 week 2 day 5

Day 5

A slightly hotter today at 31C with a gentle southerly breeze that produced a much better soaring day with a higher cloud base. Its amazing what a difference a gentle breeze makes to the thermals. Chris H and Merv got to 12000 on the Pracheval range despite some gliders in that area not turning tight enough to use the strong lift efficiently. That was easily dealt with as we left them and found our own thermal! On returning Peter W told us that Graeme C and G were at Gap (again?). The expedition appears to be turning into a two centre holiday. Conditions became very tricky below 6000’ which was the Duo’s downfall.
Peter W declined the offer of being transported to Gap and then launched by the tug so Graeme C had a second flight to return home. By the time Neil M and Merv had launched on the DG’s second flight the cloud base had dropped by 3000’ which made us more cautious about going too deep into the mountains to the east.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Serres 2016 week 2 day 4

Day 4

Arriving at the airfield, the usual suspects were already queuing on the runway indicating that the day was expected to be a good one. The predicted cloud bases were 10000' locally rising through 14000 and with a potential of 16000' in the high alps. Klaus was very impressed with the forecasts saying that they were the best he had seen over the last decade and went in to great detail on how to progress beyond the Aosta valley and offering a choice of return options just in case of potential blocking thunderstorms. Peter W and Merv were dispatched third expecting great things but 20 mins later they were back on the ground having apparently released too early. The second flight starting from a greater altitude was much more successful. However, after 2 hours of heat and struggling and the cloudbase was still only 7000' we decided to return to the airfield early. On landing we discovered that Neil M and G had landed at Gap and Chris H was on his way by road for the pilot change and to launch from there. Graeme C and Merv tried to make the best of the conditions but the best cloudbase we could find was 8500. It was hot 30C and a very tricky day, it certainly did not match the forecast!  

Serres 2016 week 2 day 3

Day 3

The day started overcast and briefing described the potential for the day as a 'good training day' not launching before 1330.
Apparently only the Lasham pilots were up for a bit of training as no one else elected to fly. Conditions turned out better than expected and we launched at 12:30  Graeme C and Merv had an exciting time on les Blanches avoiding a multitude of paragliders finally finding an unoccupied thermal on Dormilouse and made our way south sometimes on the eastern side of the ridge to avoid the paragliders. The cloudbase stepped down significantly beyond Trois Eveches so we decided to glide home for a pilot change. The plan for the second flight was changed when the was a distinct change in the conditions was noted, bowls into sun/and wind did not work as expected and any thermals we managed to find were very smooth but were widly spaced. Again there was evidence of wave above the convective layer but we were unable to transition into it, so we explored the west where the conditions were more predictable.

Serres 2016 week 2 day 2

Day 2

The mistral had moved on leaving a light and variable wind and a promising forecast. After three gliders had launched onto the home ridge and it appeared a little crowded Neil M and Merv elected to tow to D'Aujour as there were a few small cumulus appearing. After releasing it became evident that perhaps we all had launched a little too early as we slide down the southern face of the Crete de Selles with just enough lift to arrest our descent by working the rocky bowls in the light thermal breezes. Persistence paid off and we climbed away. The glide to Maloup was unusually quiet and smooth when we spotted the gliders from La Motte du Caire also struggling on the ridges well below. Soon we were with them but the competition spurred us on and we managed to out climb the others mainly by turning tighter. Moving on we arrived at much better cumulus but still at ridge top height and managed to connect with the thermal and at last we were getting somewhere. The remainder of the flight was good but the approaching and thickening top cover was becoming evident. The second flights were much easier Chris H and Merv headed south along the Par Cours to Puimoson and timed the return to perfection to avoid being caught by the deteriorating soaring conditions.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Serres 2016 week 2 day 1

Day 1

Most unusually when first arriving at a new gliding site your normally told that you should have been here yesterday (or last week)!

A promising looking sky
But today was a good first day to be here albeit a bit challenging. With a strong north to north westerly blowing, the home ridge was working superbly but clearly there were signs of wave all over the mountains. Chris H and Merv launched at 11 and quickly climbed to 5500 over the home ridge and were soon joined by Greame C and G who decided to move forward to make the transition into wave in the lee of the mountain at Aspres. Merv decided to hold back to see how this brave venture was going to turn out and decided to follow after G reported that they were climbing in weak wave. Not long after leaving the home ridge we were heading for the valley floor at a considerable rate of knots we kept going as long as we dared but no signs improvement forced us to return to the comfort of the home ridge and we were soon back at 5500. This was the pattern for the next 2 hours! It did not seem matter which direction Chris and Merv set off in, the result was almost identical. We were bouncing in the rough air between 5500 and 3500 sometimes feeling uncomfortably too far from the airfield. Eventually, we managed to ride the ridges far enough to the north west to escape the convective layer and finally made the transition into the smooth wave system. We climbed to 12000' before were had to return to start over! At some point during our low level exploits in the turbulent air the under carriage had become unlocked and was hanging down. This was pointed out by another glider cycling his wheel, neither of us had noticed, but we were a little preoccupied with staying airborne at the time.

YO enjoying the ride

Neil M on the second sortie made short work of the transition and finally connected with 10kts+ of lift that took us to the ceiling of FL195 in the lee of Pic de Bure. On the way back, to lose some excess altitude we decided to visit Aspres to discover why it is unlandable in a strong northerly flow. As we approached Aspres the Clearnav was telling us that we required L/D 7 or greater to get back to Serres. Just a few moments later we were descending achieving a L/D of 6 with -20kts showing on the vario so we decided not to linger!

Wave slot extending to NE

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Serres 2016 week 1 Day 6

Day 6

A much brighter day with cumulus appearing before briefing. Matt J and Merv through through a few spots of rain by D'Ajour on their way east and noticed a significant shower to the south of Sisteron. By the time we had reached Dormilouse at the northern end of the Par Cours the few spots of rain had developed into another significant shower and was making its way towards Gap. The other shower had now reached Blayeul on route to the Par Cours. Watching the situation develop we curtailed our run south on the Par Cours and returned the way we had come while watching the Par Cours disappearing in the rain.

                                 Shower to the right                         Shower to the left

Meanwhile Ken S and G didn't have much luck on their first sortie but their second was much more satisfying. The last flights of the week lasted well into the evening with Jon B and Merv riding the thermal breezes low on Pic de Bure until a large cloud shadow turned them off! On the way back Merv spotted a large bird sitting on a ridge that did not seem to be too bothered as the DG passed by it getting closer on every beat. You know your fighting a loosing battle when the birds are sitting on the ground watching you struggle!
The week was finished in the clubhouse with a superb honey roast shoulder of lamb and a trio of musicians who played '30s up beat swing music and accompanied on a couple of sons by the fine voice of Lirson, our multi talented host.