21st January 2007

A taste of winter on Branstree and Selside Pike


Walk Overview
Time 11.25 to 14.40
Duration 3 hr 15 min
Distance 5.5 mile
Ascent 1801 ft
Walking with Andrew and Anne Leaney
Mardale Head - Gatescarth Pass - Branstree - Branstree Tarn - Selside Pike - Old Corpse Road - Haweswater - Mardale Head
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Mardale Head, Haweswater

Although I've listed this one as being a car park, the truth of the matter is, if you don't get here early you'll end up having to park along the roadside. At times the line of cars can stretch back along the road for quite someway, but this doesn't really matter. Simply park up at the end of the line and away you go.

Parking is free and despite its popularity there are no facilities at all.


Route Map

It was a treat to see some snow on the fells this morning, so much so, that on route, we changed out original plan of walking on the Pennines for a walk from Mardale Head. This photo of the fells on the Western side of Haweswater was taken from the roadside on the drive to Mardale Head.

The view back down Gatescarth Pass, with the end of Haweswater just visible to the left of the trees.

Not everybody's idea of fun I know, but today's walk was made more enjoyable for me by the succession of snow and hail showers which were moving across the area. We could see the first one approaching us as we passed the crags below Harter Fell.

An enjoyable route without a doubt, but never ending would still be a fitting description of the ascent from Gatescarth Pass to Branstree summit. For the weary fellwalker trying to catch their breath, looking behind offers a little relief with some fine views towards Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike; the view straight ahead however, remains as shown in this picture for much of the way. You wouldn't be considered foolish if you admitted to having the sensation of walking around a giant globe where you'd eventually walk back to the place you started from.

(trying to catch my breath) Looking back to see the next band of black cloud heading our way.

The actual summit of Branstree is (just) to the left of this picture.

The lower of the two large cairns on Artlecrag Pike.

Rather than follow the "obvious" route from Artlecrag Pike to Selside Pike, we headed across the open fellside towards the observation tower, Branstree Tarn and High Howes, before rejoining the path near the col at the delightfully named Captain Whelter Bog. My favourite terrain in my favourite conditions; just fantastic.

Icicles seen along the route to Branstree Tarn.

The smaller of the two Branstree tarns with the observation tower behind and Artlecrag Pike on the skyline.

Selside Pike ahead of us. Thankfully the ground was frozen, which made the short section through Captain Whelter Bog much easier than it would normally have been after the amount of rain we've had recently.

And looking back down the path we used on our ascent of Selside Pike.

The summit shelter on Selside Pike.

On the walk between Selside Pike and the Old Corpse Road it's well worth leaving the main path a couple of times and walking alongside the edge of the ridge to get some great views into the remote valley if Swindale.

Looking along the Old Corpse Road in the direction of Haweswater. When the different types of terrain offered by the Lake District enter a conversation, the type shown in this picture is quite often described as being dull and unexciting. A place you can't avoid walking through if you want get to the "good spots". This opinion is usually expressed prior to a comparison with such places as Bow Fell or Great Gable. A bit like comparing a ham sandwich with a mixed grill; admittedly they both contain meat, but they're rarely set against each other for the purpose of debate. Although the underlying theme is almost the same they both offer something quite different and as a result are seen as being "very tasty" in their own individual way. So here it is; the ham sandwich of the Lake District. No more and no less beautiful / exciting then the mixed gills of Bow Fell or Great Gable.

One of the ruins found next to the Corpse Road, on the descent to Haweswater.

Sunlight catching some of the trees and dead bracken on the slopes between the road and the shore line.

The shore path we followed back to Mardale Head is quite narrow and when wet can be quite slippery. The chance to see this lovely old packhorse bridge over Rowentreethwaite Beck at close quarters just about makes up for having to pay close attention to where your putting your feet further along the path.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks