Date: 19 Jan 2020 Weather: 2’C, sun then cloud
Height gain: 1,273 ft Distance: 5.5 miles
Time taken: 3 hours 20 mins Wainwrights: 118 of 214

Route:  From Embleton Church following footpath up to Embleton High Common then heading diagonally right to the top of Graystones and back the same way.

It was busy in Cockermouth last night – lots of people staying in the Premier Inn and we struggled to find a table in one of the local restaurants last night – good to see it thriving but can we have the nice weather on a weekday soon please!

We were promised wall to wall sunshine this morning and wake up to herringbone clouds high in the sky but good air clarity and frost on the ground.  The higher mountains look like they’ve had a new sprinkling of snow overnight.

We’ve decided to climb Graystones today – we had planned to climb it from the other side at Scawgill Bridge on the same day as Whinlatter back in July but when we arrived we found the route was very vertical on loose slate and we abandoned mission.  Today we’re going to tackle it from Embleton Church – a much more civilised route up but also much further from home.

We umm and ahh about what to do for breakfast – the Premier Inn offering is a bit heavy before walking and the café we liked the look of doesn’t open until 10am.  We end up in a large Starbucks attached to a petrol station very close to the Premier Inn which is a dull but adequate option.  We then head into Cockermouth to pick up food for lunch from Brysons bakery.

Embleton Church is only four miles away on wiggly roads and there’s a big wide area to park outside it.  We’re booted up and ready to go by 10am.  It’s cold and frosty but the wind is light as promised and the sun is out.  There is no-one else around – it’s a great start to a walk.

The track takes us up past some beautiful old houses (great location) and through a farmyard before we’re on a good wide track and on our way to Embleton High Common:


The path climbs at a reasonable gradient and takes us below Ling Fell.  I look back to the village and the frosty fields below us:


I’m enjoying the walk – Starbucks’ pots of berry bircher muesli are obviously good walking food – but S is finding it hard going.  Why can’t we ever both be feeling good on the same walk?!

We follow the track round the bottom of Ling Fell and Graystones comes into view to our right, although partly obscured by the sun behind it:


We cross a small stream and reach the Common and here the nice wide track is left behind.  There is no footpath on the map and no clear routes on the ground and we debate which way to go.  We head right-ish in the direction of Graystones and see a gate in the wall ahead of us which reassures us we’re heading the right way.  We could head towards what looks like a very steep last 400ft or so up the side of the mountain but instead take a wider angle up to a small patch of trees before turning left for a gentler ascent up the ridge.

S says we need to cross the fence and wall ahead of us and although there is no gate or stile we find a spot which is low enough for us to climb over (and as ever we’re grateful for our long legs).  We head more steeply upwards now and I find it odd that there is no sign of any path trodden into the grass.  We reach another wall in front of us and realise that we were on the right side of the previous wall and needn’t have crossed it.  We find a spot where stones have been piled up to get across this new obstacle.

It’s now just 100ft of more steep climbing on grass to reach the top.  Or is it?  S says this isn’t the top and points over to another top which does look a little higher.

I stop here to take a photo as the views that have opened up north-east to Skiddaw and Blencathra are fantastic:


We head over to the other top and yes it is 10ft higher, but it’s not near a wall or fence as AW says it should be.  We head to another high spot which is the same height as our previous spot but can now see something to our left which looks higher.  We head over there and find it is in fact at the same height as the other two tops.

So I’m confident that we’ve been to the top of Graystones but am less confident about which of the spots is was.  Here’s a picture of something that looked sort of summit like:


There are some great views up here, some of them obscured by the low winter sun.  To the south east we can just see the Helvellyn range peeking up in the distance with it’s snow capped tops:


The Grasmoor range is to the south but we can’t make much out in the sun:


We take lots of photos and decide to head down – we’ve spent quite some time visiting several different possible tops and its getting a bit chilly as the wind starts to pick up.

We retrace our steps, but staying on the right side of the various walls and fences this time.  They don’t make it easy – there’s a stile which has mostly fallen apart giving a long drop into marshy ground which leads straight into another wall and fence with no stile – again the long legs come in useful and we manage to find a spot where we can step over it.

The rest of the journey back is trouble free as we bound down the frosty grass and reach the wide track again.  Cloud has quickly bubbled up and covered the sky – for once the best weather of the day was when we were at the top.

As we cross the little stream again we distract a flock of sheep from their lunch but they don’t seem too bothered:


We do, however, decide to follow their lead and perch on the grass verge at the side of the track to enjoy our pasties.  The cakes will be enjoyed later at home with a hot cup of tea.

We get back to the car and have a straightforward and uneventful journey home.  It’s been great to be out in good weather and away from the crowds today.  We plan to do more of these “mini-breaks” when weather windows open up to get through more of these remote and beautiful western fells.

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