LESS IS BEST

LESS WEIGHT. MORE COM­FORT.

Trail (UK) - - The Liza Round -

ride; this route def­i­nitely pulls its weight.

There was ac­tu­ally an in­ter­est­ing poo, as well – in case you thought I was mak­ing that bit up. Dis­cov­ered on Whin Ben – a shoul­der be­neath the sky­walk of Gas­gale Crags (Nope? See...) – was an oily grey pel­let, which caught the eye of pho­tog­ra­pher, Tom. “Maybe a pere­grine pel­let. Let’s see…” “No, no, don’t do…” “..hmm, fresh!” “…that. Ugh.” “Aha! Look.” Tom raised the pel­let to eye height to re­veal a find both grue­some and in­for­ma­tive: it was neatly in­laid with the ring from the leg of a car­rier pi­geon.

I didn’t want to imag­ine what that had been like to di­gest, let alone jet­ti­son. But I could fully imag­ine a pere­grine haunt­ing this place. By the time we found the pel­let Liza had al­ready started to re­veal some of its magic. From the road we’d first climbed a steep, grassy nose above a gorge, then out onto a flank where spurs of veg­e­tated, crumbly sed­i­men­tary rock pro­vided some dodgy scram­bling. Depth was al­ready start­ing to as­sert it­self in the val­ley be­neath us – for the western Lakes, this felt Scot­tish-sized.

Whin Ben was a fine place to take in the sur­prise that had just spilled into view – the high, crag-ringed Gas­gale Gill. This deep-cut wa­ter­way is cre­ated by the Liza Beck as it de­scends from the head of the horse­shoe at Coledale Hause. And there are wa­ter­falls up there. The whole lot feels im­pres­sively un­spoiled.

Up and up onto White­side we went. Yet again, here was some­thing un­ex­pected. A won­der­ful sky­walk ridge run­ning level from White­side form­ing the north­ern arm of the horse­shoe – but what was be­neath re­ally caught the eye. De­scend­ing pre­cip­i­tously into the val­ley be­low are a pro­ces­sion of rock spurs. Later on, view­ing it at dis­tance from the other side of the horse­shoe, its form would be­come recog­nis­able as Gas­gale Crags – a kilo­me­tre-long scratch of tongue-and-groove gul­lies and ribs and surely one of the most re­mark­able moun­tain fea­tures in the Lakes. Again, hardly any­one sees it. Again, ev­ery­one re­ally should.

The next sec­tion was magic. Af­ter White­side’s in­aus­pi­cious 707m sum­mit, strid­ing along the ridge that con­tin­ues east you crest a higher, name­less top at 717m be­fore the ridge be­gins to lift and sharpen. Soon we were eye­ing up Hopegill Head, a pyra­mid of north-fac­ing crags and a fine sum­mit. If you’ve spent any time trav­el­ling the A66 be­tween Keswick and Cock­er­mouth and won­dered what the spiky bit is on that im­pres­sive bat­tle­ment of fells to the south, I’d like to in­tro­duce you to Hopegill Head.

We’d fan­cied hav­ing a play on the north ridge of this peak, but spring snow was hang­ing thick and it all looked a bit slippy. Vow­ing to come back in sum­mer, we car­ried on up Sand Hill, the lump that marks the head of the Liza Round.

We were now on shared ter­ri­tory with the Coledale Round. The Hause – an old Cum­brian di­alect word for ‘neck’ or ‘throat,’ ap­pended in the hills to a nar­row pas­sage be­tween moun­tains – is the point where the two routes shake hands and show off their prospects: east down Coledale to­wards Keswick and to those walk­ing the more pop­u­lar route, the only glimpse west. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to look at how val­leys in­ter­con­nect over land passes – and in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing to walk be­tween them over passes like this.

So the prin­ci­pal mo­ti­va­tor for do­ing this horse­shoe, and do­ing it this way round, is you get to climb Gras­moor. You can do it on the Coledale Horse­shoe too, but like Hopegill Head it’s a bit of an op­tional tack-on – one that comes slightly later in the game when you’re start­ing to smell the log fires in the vil­lages be­low and an ex­tra 2km of out-and-back might not be so ap­peal­ing.

But on the Liza Round, Gras­moor is the route. And, you climb it hav­ing looked at it prop­erly.

Gras­moor doesn’t sound promis­ing, I’ll ad­mit. Even its name is lack­lus­tre. But this moun­tain is an ab­so­lute star. For starters, it’s mon­strous: taller than High Street, St Sun­day Crag and The Old Man of Con­is­ton. Yet it sees a frac­tion of the foot­fall.

It’s a com­pli­cated devil, too – to all out­ward ap­pear­ances it’s no more than a burly lump with a flat top. But the nose dives down to Crum­mock Wa­ter and hides an ar­ray of ter­ri­fy­ing gul­lies, tucked into the wrin­kles of the steep­est sum­mit-to-ground drop in the Lakes. And, as you walk along White­side’s ridge watch­ing the moun­tain un­furl, Gras­moor slowly spills its most im­pres­sive se­cret: its north face.

Tom and I had been re­mark­ing on it all morn­ing. It has some amaz­ing rock ar­chi­tec­ture – prin­ci­pally the cupped val­ley walled by Dove Crags, where a lit­tle flat­ten­ing be­neath, high on the north­ern wall of the moun­tain, looked like a great spot for a wild camp. “Great spot for a wild camp.” “You al­ways say that. Do you ever ac­tu­ally go and camp in any of them?” Tom was study­ing the com­pacted snow built into the shadow of the face. The whole sum­mit was shelled with a dome of snow, and the face was im­pres­sively cor­niced. If gully climb­ing was your thing, this was a good day for it.

We ar­rived on the 851m sum­mit of Gras­moor as the light was just start­ing to fade into a soft, cold evening. What a great time to be high in the Lakes on an im­pres­sive hill – unique of char­ac­ter, noble of form, and with a bloody great big drop off the front.

Thank­fully, our route didn’t toy with the drop. Though this was where we did come a lit­tle un­stuck. The sen­si­ble way off would have been to scoot around and down the steep but civilised prow of Lad Hows; but the lure of an early bath and a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of food in a But­ter­mere inn caused us to take a more di­rect route down the scree of Red Gill, so named for its iron-rich rock. I wouldn’t rec­om­mend this; it’s like try­ing to walk down a bro­ken stair­case cov­ered in smashed crock­ery, and at its foot is the wor­ry­ingly named Fall Crag. But we did it with­out too many a yelp and be­fore long were trot­ting eas­ily be­neath the great prow of Gras­moor and back to the car.

So there you go: take a bow, the Liza Round. Some­times it pays to look be­hind the scenes, be­yond the big-name acts – be­cause you might find some­thing spe­cial wait­ing in the wings.

Un­veil­ing the Liza Round's se­crets, be­tween White­side and Hopegill Head. Near the sum­mit of Hopegill Head – the spiky bit be­tween Keswick and Cock­er­mouth.

High on Gras­moor – noth­ing lack­lus­tre about these views.

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