Monday, 6 June 2011

by the mountains and by the sea

are where you’ll find me.

I’ve wanted to fly to Caernarfon ever since I first started learning to fly – a trip over the mountains and over the sea was always going to be something special. This weekend I found myself with a four-seater aircraft, two keen passengers and 2.5 hours of ‘Pilot-in-Command’ time to make up, so the decision was made to finally make that special journey.

From Shobdon we chose a route over the Cambrian mountains and the wilds of Mid-Wales, across to the coast at Aberystwyth and then up, past Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs and Snowdonia, with miles of deep turquoise sea glistening off our left wingtip until we crossed the Lleyn Peninsula and reached the Menai Strait. We floated down into Caernarfon Airport for a well earned cup of tea and an ice-cream in the sunshine as we contemplated where to choose for our route back.


One of the Elan Valley dams and reservoir in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains

The journey home was to be a near heart-breaker. The mountains are buried deep in my heart and soul, without them I wouldn’t be the same person I am now, and the chance to experience them from such a unique vantage point – at the controls and in command of an aeroplane, with the total freedom of the skies to take me wherever and to whatever perspective I could best dream of, was something truly special.

We climbed out of Caernarfon, over the bay and the crystal sea, circling back across our haven runways and out, up, ever climbing, striving to pull ourselves onwards to be able to reach above Snowdon’s halo.


Looking back and toward our mountains

It was as we were still climbing over Llanberis and Llyn Peris, that I began to become quietly concerned. Snowdon had a layer of cloud providing a ceiling beyond which we could not go, and which wasn’t high enough for us to safely cross her flanks. I began to worry that we would have to head back, missing out the mountain crossing I was craving.

Looking onwards the weather had changed and we no longer had the clarity of vision that we’d been blessed with earlier in the day, and we could no longer cross via our planned route. A diversion was in order as I hoped that my intuition would be right, that we’d get through to be able to safely descend below the gloom. We headed successfully around the murk and over the Carneddau to then follow the A5 past Tryfan and the Glyders, over the base of Ogwen Mountain Rescue and onward to Betwys-y-Coed before heading back onto our planned course across to Bala and Llyn Tegid, then Lake Vyrnwy and on down across Shropshire on our way back home.


Tryfan through the haze


Two of my dreams laid out before me, hand in hand, the mountains as I am in flight


The photograph may not be much, but this is the memory of a distant Snowdon on my wingtip, with Mother Nature’s grace drawing her silhouette before us

We had no real trouble finding our way home, flying over the counties and hills that form my home, back into more familiar territory and a waiting runway. The weather allowed us through, despite having changed from a clear blue sky into an unsettling grey murk beneath which we had to pass before reaching safety on the ground.

All three of us enjoyed the day, both Matt and Phil taking the controls for a while so that I could just enjoy the surroundings, and they could experience a small part of what flying means to me.

I would just like to say a big thank you to Matt for the use of his photographs here, his patience and his enthusiasm. Oh, and thank you to Phil for generally putting up with me.

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