Monday, 31 March 2014

Jaca - Week 4 - Day 1

The day dawned bright and breezy and the team were raring to go. We got the gliders out and DIed before briefing. With a steady east wind we took them down to Runway 09, only to be told at that the wind would shift and we would almost certainly be using 27. Faced with the prospect of moving them to the other end, we decided to wait and see. By launchtime at lunchtime the wind had only shifted 45 degrees and so we launched on 09.

The first two flew around the local hills up to 7000 feet QNH and we landed on 27. The Duo pair added a cautious extra 5 knots to the approach speed and its occupants noticed, as the windsock whizzed by, that there was a significant tail-wind component. The glider stopped conveniently at the far end with at least 10 yards to spare. We launched again on 09.

The second pair flew in slightly better conditions to 7500. The best distance away from the airfield was just to the east of Canfranc. Last landing was 5:45 as the high cover finally won. We all reconvened to the really
excellent El Porton restaurant.


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Jaca - Week 3 - Day 5

The day was late to start and with the wind swinging round to the (unusual) south east, nobody knew what the day will bring, not even the locals, who when asked by our esteem instructors where is the best area to launch, answered "over there to the east...and maybe the bowl to the south....possibly down to the west...or maybe the home hill to the north will trigger something..".

And so it was, a very confusing but very productive day. Mike (Truelove) and John were the first to brave a launch in the Duo and after a high tow and promising start, climbing up to 7000 (heights all QNH) in rotor/thermal/wave (nobody was sure..), fell down to 4000 and soared locally for an hour and a half.

Richard and Bob in the  DG were not so lucky (or smart) and after releasing below 4000 came down within 15 minutes much to the dismay (or delight??) of the rest of the group on the ground.

Ayala and Bob were next in the DG, releasing at 4500 into a gaggle of vultures and straight into good wave (or thermal or rotor, nobody was sure..), climbed up to 7000, running a line east-west, just to the south of the airfield. They then jumped north to the next bar, expecting huge sink but found excellent lift in what looked like a north-south wave said already, it was a very confusing day..

They run that great energy line almost to the snowy peaks, but then on turning back found the line has collapsed and the leg back into wind was more one point low over the valley found a wonderful 10kts climb to put them back on glide home.

Next was Jon with John S, staying for 2 hours mostly in rotor (thermal/wave/ridge) and Richard and Bob in the DG definitely (maybe) finding wave to allow them a run east up wind towards Jaca.

Last flight of the day took off at 16:30 with Mike Truelove and Bob in the DG and together with Mike Rubin and John S in the Duo, were still soaring at 18:30 in complete 8/8 and finding the time for an aerial photo shoot, watch this space.

Dinner was a rustic affair in a tiny bar somewhere in the Echo valley, and was rounded up in a typical gliding tradition with many landout stories (oh and much beer).

Today, Saturday is our last day and the wind is much the same but stronger. Expecting more interesting flights and stories and more arguments over the type of lift we were climbing in.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Jaca - Week 3 - Day 4

Today was forecast to be the best day of the week with some good thermal soaring to be had. We got the gliders ready before briefing and then waited until around 12:30 to start flying. We all flew in the end.

Ayala had fun running a line of thermals at high speed into the mountains to the west and back a couple of times with John.

Mike T had fun rock polishing around the snow line with Bob.

Richard also had fun rock polishing with Bob.

Mike and John had a low save early on in stage 2 followed by a run west towards the Yesa Reservoir and back along a cloud street, then played around at the mountain tops as cloudbase rose to 8500 feet.

Jon B had fun soaring around stages 1 and 2 with Bob.

Tonight's plan is to go to Restaurante El Porton in Jaca town. It looks like we should get more good flying in tomorrow with the weather closing in again at the weekend.

-Mike R

Jaca - Week 3 - Day 3

Wednesday morning and the team got 775 and 776 ready before briefing - the snow had stopped! Ayala, John Simonds, Mike Rubin and Richard decided the conditions were too good to miss and had a snowball fight. After briefing we launched immediately. Mike Truelove and John Simmonds launched first, closely followed by Mike Rubin and Bob Johnson. In flights of about 90 minutes, both found wave to 13,000 feet. next John Bareford joined John Simmonds and Richard joined Bob. Aerotows to about 5,000 feet led to exciting flying in every kind of lift, but to no more than around 6,000 feet. Ayala flew with Bob next, doing much the same. Richard snuck a second flight, this time with John, so John could exact revenge for a snowball in the face by rock polishing and very tight turns. Everyone looking forward to Thursday and forecast high thermals.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Jaca - Week 3 - Day 2

As expected the day proved unflyable but undaunted Bob Johnson and Clive Mansfield arranged an event with Javier and Lola, a local Farming couple who specialise in rare breeds and traditional farming methods. All of the expedition and other lashamites totalling 13 people attended. We started with a Guided tour of the local village Santa Cruz, the associated picture I feel should explained, Clive is mounting Javier who is pretending to be a Donkey showing the function of the raised platform built onto the local houses as an amenity of some luxury. Shame on you who thought it was showing Clives darker side. We all then visited the Donkeys, Mules and Horses who help keep the local landscape under control. The rain started and so we moved on to Javiers Farm where we had coffee and a respite from the rain. This was followed by a visit to his animal pen where goats sheep and chickens were kept. A grand lunch followed with local delicacies such as snails black pudding, potato and Ham soup, and meatball of local lamb and many other dishes. All of us were so full we could not eat another thing. If anyone finds themselves with an unflyable day I would highly recommend arranging a similar trip. All the same we are hoping for a flyable day tomorrow

John Simmonds

Jaca - Week 3 - Day 1

All expedition members arrived safely on Sunday ready for the first day on Monday. After briefing, registration and preparing the gliders we were ready to fly with a forecast of a short window ending in the approach of a cold front with low cloud and rain by early afternoon. With a 8/8ths cloud cover and light wind NW wind we were not expecting much. Short flights of a site check for those new to the venue were planned. Richard Taylor/John Simmonds were first to launch, Ayala Truelove/ Bob Johnson followed immediately. We were pleasantly surprised to find lift over the entrance to the valleys leading up to the mountain tops. Good climbs of 3-4 knots soon took us to cloud base at 6500ft amsl about 4200ft above airfield level. A quick return after some 40mins to collect the next pilot and a quick turn round enabled Mike Rubin/John Simmonds plus Jon Bareford/Bob Johnson to get airborne, but only just as the cloud base was now barely 4500'amsl and it started to rain. Alas Mike Truelove was not able to fly but is now top of the list. Appetites are now whetted and everyone is keen to fly again. The forecast for the week is very different from the first 2 weeks with low pressure and fronts to negotiate. Tuesday looks a none starter so other events are planned. John Simmonds

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Jaca week 2 - Day 6

The day started with a spectacular thunderstorm whilst we were having breakfast. The hailstones turned the street outside white for a while.

Briefing suggested a small weather window later in the day so we headed up the Hecho valley in Merv's car for a coffee and a spot of sightseeing.

By mid afternoon the weather had improved when we returned to the airfield but not enough to tempt us into the air.

The meal at Toya's was excellent as was the singing lead by Toya and accompanied by Fernando on guitar. The Lasham pilots will need to give a better account of themselves next time.

Vultures soaring low over a ridge in the valley. 

The very end of the Hecho valley road.

Spectacular views up the valley. 

Fernando ready with his guitar. 


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Jaca week 2 - Day 5 Photos

Julian gives Merv an impromptu Flamenco lesson after briefing. 

Andy in 775 enjoying a late evening thermal. 

Taking a selfie is harder than you think. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Jaca Week 2 Day 5 Paul's comment

How to sum up 5 days at Jaca? Words like "brilliant", "breathtaking", "amazing" seem inadequate. For me, with about 15 hours accumulated hours prior to the Expedition, it was a completely new experience. New glider, new scenery (and how) - and even a new language to learn ("Viento en cola dos siete" - que?). Several new records for me - altitude (11,300 feet) and time aloft (3 hours). On Wednesday, Merv took me "to the dark side" - a part of Jaca that most people don't get to see. Well into France - just south of Paris, by my reckoning.
Hats off to our intrepid, extremely patient and very experienced instructors Merv and Bob.
My enjoyment was such that I didn't want the experience to end.
Which was why, on the final landing of my last day, I soared aloft again after just touching down ....
Paul H (H159)

Jaca Week 2 Day 5

We had spots of rain on the way to breakfast, Anna at briefing was optimistic that the sun would come out at 12:00 but no one actually believed her. To keep the troops entertained the gliders were DI'ed and parked ready for action. Then, just as forecast, the sky cleared and ragged cumulus appeared towards the mountains. At 14:00 Phil and Bob launched and were soon climbing to 6000' to avoid another 'Spot the Merv' photo from a great height Bob A and Merv decided to follow in his slipstream which worked to good effect.

Who says that I can't have a "spot the Merv" competition!
(P.S. this one is more tricky - don't look down!)

Although the cloudbase was only 7500' the conditions on the Spanish side were indeed better than the French side so the conditions had actually returned to normal and were much better than anticipated. The cumulus over stage 3 was tending to join forces but it was possible to climb well above cloudbase. The conditions were looking like the day was over but the second sorties were much easier than expected, it's surprising just how quickly the conditions can change here. The southerly wind enabled some ridge running which was a new experience for Paul and Andy. Another great days flying was had by all. Tomorrow looks like winter is returning but it has not been written off just yet!

Jaca Week 2 - Day 4 (Supplemental)

Once he had stopped shaking, Bob A. was able to download the following photos which sum up his day 4 experience.

Was this taken by Bob A and Merv in 776? ...

 ... or did they go for a walk instead?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Jaca Week 2 Day 4

Today was billed as the day of the week and the gliders were on the parking before the briefing just as the first signs of cumulus were appearing. Gonzalo and Bob towed to the fire break and were soon followed by Paul and Merv. Although starting an hour earlier the first thermals were stronger and easier than previous days and we were soon heading for stage 3 at a more comfortable height just for a change. Cloud base was only 7500' but Bob managed to climb to 8500' at Colorada and continued to the east. As Paul approached Colorada, Merv decided to venture towards some nice looking cumulus to the north of Panticosa for a change and was rewarded by good climbs to cloudbase at 11300'. Today was one of those unusual days where the conditions on the French side were much better than the Spanish.
Unusual view of the Biescas Valley from the north looking south.
As Gonzalo and Bob returned for a crew change, 776 circum-navigated the Aragon valley taking in Ordesa and Oriel on the way. Shortly after launching Andy and Bob were enjoying cruising along the convergence at stage three, however forty minutes later was a completely different experience for Bob A and Merv who had climbed well off tow then conditions changed. The sun was still shining with plenty of blue sky above but it started raining heavily which did not help our situation. The forecast showers were starting to appear and the sun was obscured by the cloud tops that were spreading in the local area. Bob A and Merv perservered but were unsucessful in being able to soar away to the better conditions. Meanwhile Andy returned the longest flight time of the week of just short of 3.5 hours.
With the cold front on its way, tomorrow and Saturday's conditions will depend on the timing but we are hopeful that there is still more flying to be had.

Jaca Week 2 - Day 4 Photos

Gonzalo in 775 studies the route ahead

Ordesa gorge ahead after a quick run down the convergence

Day 2 of the "Spot the Merv" competition

Andy in 775 climbing next to the convergence line.

775 playing above a forming cloud.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Jaca week 2 - Day 3 Photos

Today's entertainment was provided by Julian's attempts to inflate the tyre on the dolly for E6.
540 sharing a thermal with 775 on the way to stage 3.

Bob A. looking out over the Ordessa gorge from 9,000' in 775.

776 low down on the approach to stage 3.

And now looking even lower....

Looking west along the convergence. 


Jaca week 2 - Day 3

As forecast Wednesday turned out to be the best day so far, with more cumulus and a convergence line setting up to the south of the main ridge at over 9,000'.

Merv and Gonzalo went first in 776 closely followed by the two Bobs in 775. Despite the generally stronger conditions, getting established on the stage 1 fire-break proved more difficult, with 775 on the point of running for home before connecting with a strong thermal that put them in a more comfortable position.

Once above the 3rd stage there was an easy run down to the Ordessa gorge and back under the convergence line for both gliders.

After a quick turnaround Bob and Andy took off first in 775 with Merv and Phil shortly after in 776. Having repeated his mistake of having a low scrape before climbing away on the fire-break Bob captured the photographic evidence of 776 inspecting the lower slopes of stage 3.

775 repeated the trip east towards Ordessa and then beat a hasty retreat as the conditions began to soften. 776 recovered from their challenging position and returned having had a good flight at significantly higher altitudes.

Tomorrow is predicted to be the best day of the week...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Jaca Week 2 Day 2

The day started with a practice aerotow for Andy before the local thermals started to mix the air up just as the first cumulus of the week were forming in the distant mountains to the east. Andy was then re-launched just after 13:15 closely followed by Phil in the Duo.
Sharing the first thermal
After sharing the first thermal on stage one for some time 775 headed for stage 2 where they maintained a constant height for an impressive 1:20 before climbing away.  Meanwhile, 776 went to the firebreak climbed away and visited Ordesa with a cloud base of 9000'. The second sorties were complete role reversals, where Bob Akehurst and Merv hovered between 1400-1900 above site for an even more impressive 2:20 while entertaining the remainder of the crew at the airfield as the Duo piloted by Paul and Bob soared away to stage 3.
It was rumoured that E6 took a mega tow but even they still managed to return to site before Bob A and Merv who were last to land eventually. More instability and northerly flow is forecast for tomorrow with Thursday currently being billed as the day of the week. More adventures tomorrow.

Jaca week 2 - Day 2 Photos

Andy and Merv ready for their first sortie.

And off they go. (A touch more right rudder please...)

Phil finally gets to stage 3 after 80 minutes on stage 1.

Not quite sure what they were doing here.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Jaca Week2 Day 1 Photos

776 getting ready to launch

E6 pilots encouraging 775 to launch

Paul enjoying the view from high above stage 1

Phil not so high in the same place 3 hours later

Jaca Week 2 Day 1 (another true story)

The first flight of the week was made by Gonzalo Villar with Merv in 776 in some initallly very tricky conditions that were hightlighted by JAB's relight! Having been overtaken by Paul Hicks and Bob Thirkell in the 775 who managed to get to the high peaks first by hanging onto JAB's tail feathers, Gonzalo followed soon after eventually reaching 8,500' Merv made an optimistic second sortie with Andy Hockin to introduce him to a host of new experiences in one go:- country, aircraft type, terrain and instructor! Unfortunately it was just as the conditions were fading away and the thermal was lost making it a short intro of 32 mins. However, Bob and Phil Holland managed to stay airborne for 1:17 with a creditworthy performance at that time in the evening - well done. Bob Akehurst volunteered to be the fifth man and spent the afternoon unsucessfully trying to buy a sim card for his phone and so didn't fly but he has his place reserved for first slot tomorrow. Everyone finished the day with big smiles on their faces and are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.

Jaca Week 2 - Day 1 (Official version)

Its with some relief that I can report that the spell of good weather enjoyed by the first week of the expedition looks set to continue with the dominant high pressure giving us warm sunny weather for the next few days at least.

Today's forecast was for blue thermals initially to 6,000' and rising to over 8,000' later on. Our hopes of a 1pm start were over optimistic as even the local DCFI found himself back on the ground fairly quickly after his first launch.

Merv was first to go in 776 with Gonzalo and after a close inspection of stages 1 and 2 made it to the main ridge to venture a little way to the east before returning for the second sortie.

Bob and Paul launched next in 775 and in improving conditions used the "fire break" route to the main ridge which proved the quicker route. The views today were spectacular and hopefully some photos will follow shortly.

The second sorties proved less successful as it was getting close to 5pm before the last glider was launched. It still gave Phil and Andy a taste of what gliding in the mountains is like. We are hoping for a better day tomorrow and to explore a little further afield.


P.S. Merv is threatening to post his own account of today's events....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Hi Folks.  Day 3 of week 1 is now underway. Generally high pressure, anticyclonic weather so far. Day 1 (Monday) got a bit difficult later on as there was a lot of haze later on which blocked the sun, so the last two flights were quite short and only scraped up to about 5000 ft.  Tuesday was very good with cumulus later on and everybody had good flights up to the mountain tops, which are still snow covered.  Morag will be cooking for the whole group this evening.

Derek C

Jaca Week 1 Monday and Tuesday

With the high pressure dominating, the weather is hot and sunny with little wind. Monday was blue with a late start. However, the whole group managed local flights varing in duration between 50 mins to 2.25 hours. Another fine day day on Tuesday, with a little cumulus at 10000' the four who flew all had 2 hour flights on our usual out and return route to Ordessa. All together not a bad start to the week.