Tal y Bont to Builth Wells Paragliding on the 2018 BCC

It’s a killer climbing up Tal y Bont, but the prospect of my first Welsh XC of 2018 made it worth that on top of the four hour drive to get there.
The climb was harder than I remember it from 2016, or maybe I’m les fit and older, so it was not a good experience carrying 16kg of kit. This was going to be my fourth climb up there, with the previous three resulting only in flights down. This day looked better already though, with some already soaring and then thermalling high, whilst the BCC team captains were briefed. Unfortunately it died off to nothing when we were all ready, and so we just watched the early free fliers sky out and head over the back. Some intrepid souls had a few more tries and whilst a couple got up, others bottom landed, then having to pack and climb back up. I waited, lunched, watched and chatted.
Peter Lake was the first to go when it started to come onto the south face. He’d been waiting for ages and was off in a flash. He turned along the ridge and went on a death glide in hope of a thermal. He found one. He worked it and got high, whilst the melee of remaining pilots jostled for position as the wind had died again. I set up in the West face for a forward launch, but then moved to the edge of the South face as it started again. I was off quickly when the opportunity arose and into the bowl to the east to join a gaggle in a promising thermal.
No video of my climb out, as I was focussed on getting off and then up, but I climbed to about 4600’ or about 2000’ above the mountain. I didn’t realise Brecon was so close, but the glide to the river Wye still took a while and saw me low and needing a thermal. However some birds showed the way and I had the strongest climb of my flight there, averaging 3.6 m/s at one point. I ambled along at around 4000’ for a while until getting low at the 20k mark, but again found a climb being marked by a Gin and a Sigma 10. They went NE and got drilled, so I hung back to see the outcome. The climb they got over the back of Hundred House didn’t look inspiring, so I headed for the river and Builth Wells. Bad call. I should have stuck to the high ground and used other pilots to mark thermals. I did pick up a small punchy one at 30k but lost it at a couple of grand. I wasn’t that sorry to see it go, but again wasted a chance to pick something off the high ground to the East and Hundred House. I instead headed for the into wind quarries at Builth which didn’t work at all, so it was landing time for me.
After chatting with some caravaners Evan kindly offered to pick Steve Watkins’s and I up and drive us back to TYB. His car broken down though, so we abandoned him some hours later in favour of Steve’s champion mum. I finally got back to Sussex and bed at 01:15. A long but rewarding day out with the SWWSC.

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