Graystones – The North Western Fells 1,476′ (40)
Date: 14 April 1986/ 31 March 1997/
From: Broom Fell/Broom Fell/High Arnaside
It may seem odd that I should have climbed so out-of-the-way and undistinguished a fell as Graystones as many as three times when there are much worthier mountains that I only ascended once, but that’s how it sometimes goes. My first two visits were both as the tail-end of a larger, though still modest expedition and the third, aimed at climbing this fell and this fell alone, had more to do with literary exploration than with the promise of a great day’s fell-walking. Those first two visits were the culmination of a walk from the narrow, afforested side-valley of Aiken Beck. The first was as part of a return along the northern ridge, descending from Broom Fell to cross Widow Hause on the fringe of the forests, and then the direct, knee-cracking straight drop alongside the broken wall and fence enclosing Darling How Plantation, requiring a bit of care in several places and producing the heartfelt determination never to do that route uphill. Having safely reached Scawgill Bridge, I diverted along the track towards Spout Force, despite Wainwright’s warnings. Eleven years later, in the end-of-March sunshine of a Bank Holiday Monday, free at last from a job I hated but was tied to, my head full of words I wanted to remember, I extended the route into a circuit of Aiken Back, incorporating Whinlatter at the start of the day. This time it was sunny and optimistic, but as I’d parked at the mouth of the road into Aiken Beck and had to start walking uphill again to get to the car, I forwent a return to Spout Force. My third visit was deliberately to climb Graystones from outside: the book I’d unintentionally started on my last visit to Aiken Beck had spawned a sequel and I was now writing a third in which my character was climbing Graystones from High Arnaside, following in the footsteps of someone from the first book. To write that I had to walk it. A sunny Saturday, hazy, easy grassy slopes. It was a bit overcast, the limited views not seen at their best. Sometimes, trying to get air into my lungs was like trying to breathe through an old, wet sock. I visited Harrot on the way, reached the top by way of Kirk Fell and having absorbed all the research I needed, returned by the same route, there being no other option. If I’d known how few walks were going to be left, I’d have made many more trips like this.