Start point: Brackenclose car park, Wasdale
Wasdale to Yewbarrow
Overview There is no way up but (straight) up and no corner to be cut.
Classic There is really only one sensible way up, although make sure you know how to get from the road to the path (i.e. knowing where to cross the wall to the stream bed). At around 400m, look to the right of the scree trod to find a grassy ramp. But do not let it take you too off-course; once it ends, head direct to the summit.
Anti-clockwise reflections Much swifter in reverse, but still far from pleasant.
Yewbarrow to Red Pike
Overview An interesting but oft-ignored choice; the gain is on terrain rather than the numbers. A direct line is possible but this is tricky ground to pick across. This is a difficult part of the round, it being the transition which prompted the infamous “Naylor shake”.
Dore Head Head north north east to find a long downward traverse. Cross the various scree runs as tactically as possible until Dore Head col is reached. From there, the path goes steadily - but not always directly - to Red Pike.
Gosforth Crag Moss Many will have looked longingly at the grass of Gosforth Crag Moss and wondered if there is a better way across. It is possible but not obvious to take a more direct way off Yewbarrow’s summit, searching for narrow grassy “lanes” to the valley floor.
There is more than one to choose from – best summarised as going “small” or going “big”. For going small, start the descent on the usual trod but after half way look out for a grassy way down to the valley near Dore Head. Going big involves finding a way straight down to the valley from close to Yewbarrow summit – in good weather, you can look towards Red Pike summit and strike out. As you head onto Gosforth Crag Moss there is a judgment to be made on how much to cut the corner back onto the Red Pike path. If going small, head to the right of Great Knott; if big, try going to the left. If you go big, get in touch.
Making the choice While the Moss will entail more ascent, some will be prepared to take it to lessen the distance and avoid an at-times-uneven traverse to Dore Head. But the classic route requires little thought and the way is clear.
Anti-clockwise reflections In reverse, it's all up for grabs. Going big (see above) presents a doable grassy descent all the way to the valley floor; at the very least, cutting the corner of the path's descent to Dore Head (going small) is surely swifter. At this stage in the round, the legs may happily countenance a direct attack of Yewbarrow via one of its narrow, grassy "chutes".
Red Pike to Pillar
Overview Knowing the lines is helpful but there is no choice. There is nothing substantive to be gained from cutting corners.
Classic To Steeple, no explanation is required (but make sure to know where to cross the wall in poor visibility). For Pillar, while there is only one ridge, there is more than one path across it. Start on the Ennerdale side but move to the Wasdale side for going around Black Crag.
Pillar to Kirk Fell
Overview choice on terrain, but not on distance or ascent. All options are broadly the same route. (An option up Baysoar Slack is yet to be explored.)
Preliminaries Find respite in the one and a half mile descent to Black Sail pass. From here, there are two ways up Kirkfell Crags.
Red gully The left hand gully facing up. An unlikely candidate for ascent given its scree nature but a very credible candidate for an anti-clockwise descent (see below). Towards the end, it may be possible to find a moderately grassy line on the high left-hand side.
Fence posts An interesting scramble that may distract the mind from the inevitable pains of legs.
Making the choice Select the appropriate course firmly on the basis of your personal horse. There is unlikely to be a significant amount of time in it.
Anti-clockwise reflections All routes are viable but the red gully is likely to be swiftest for scree-confident descenders.
Grey Knotts to Honister
Overview A choice of descent ground.
Fence line Follow the fence line and steps to the Honister car park. This is rarely used on clockwise rounds, but it is worth noting there are some grassy passages between the rocks on the right-hand side (particularly after the path takes its first substantive left turn [to head north]).
Grass Cross the stile at the summit but head straight and not right with the fence. A trod on grassy ground soon appears, veering left (and lefter than may feel right). This will eventually lead to the quarry road and then shortly to Honister. A fast way down for those still with legs.
Making the choice Most rounds opt for the grassy trod and it is the faster way down. Pay heed to Billy Bland on his record round: “why I chose to come down the fence line I don’t know”.
Anti-clockwise reflections In reverse, the two options become evenly balanced. Some contenders may prefer to power up the steps and it is the slightly more direct route.
Kirk Fell to Grey Knotts
(via Great Gable, Green Gable and Brandreth)
Overview Follow the shoulders and the ridges.
Classic There are no choices, but it is worth knowing a few lines and variants: (1) passing south of Kirkfell Tarn; (2) negotiating the descent of Great Gable to Windy Gap; (3) from Green Gable to Brandreth, either following the path or keeping to the Ennerdale side; and (4) choosing a side of the fence on the way to Grey Knotts.
leg FOUR summary
Of all the legs, this is the least interesting from a choice perspective (the exception being how to get to Red Pike, which is worthy of thought).