Richard’s Wainwright Compleation – Branstree & Selside Pike

31 10 2018

Tue 31 July 2018
This was my last hillwalk prior to my hip replacement operation in August. I wasn’t sure I’d make it round but we’d joined up with friend and fellow blogger Simon H so at least Richard wouldn’t be on his own for his Wainwright compleation if I had to turn back. I fully expected to…

Click on photos for full size/resolution. Richard’s digi-photos marked. Some photos from a sunnier day…

We drove my knackered old Sunny, with it’s tired suspension creaking all the way, down the old road alongside Haweswater – there was a regular cracking noise but I don’t get it on the main roads so I tried not to worry about it. The garage reckons it’s sound enough anyway…

We reached the end of the road without the car breaking in half and I parked up in one of the last spots in the actual carpark at the roadend with a sigh of relief. Had I known that Simon, who was also driving down to meet us, lived around 5 miles from my house, I’d have suggested we all join up and use his more sound vehicle! We could have walked to the main road to meet him anyway…

We were an hour early precisely because we knew the carpark would be full up but we could see the roadend was pretty roomy and there had been lots of other pull-ins on the way down. We sat in the car as, despite it being sunny at home (about 30 miles away), it was out of the sun down here and with a bitterly cold wind. Watching people ‘park’ is pretty interesting anyway, especially in tight spaces. There were a couple having breakfast who’d obviously slept in their vehicle down there – I was pretty jealous…

Simon duly arrived and found a space to squash into. We were already booted up so we were all off down the road in a few minutes. It’s a mile down the road to the start of the Old Corpse Road which heads over to Swindale – we were going to start off on that track as it gains height superbly on a great track and is full of interest. Walking down the road was my worst part of the day and I had to stick to the softer verges as much as possible as the road was hurting my hip badly…

As we set off along the road from the carpark, I could see, just over a mile away at the start of our track, a red van. I assured the others it was an ice cream van but they laughed and wouldn’t believe me – they just thought I was imagining it because I’m such a food-a-holic!


Looking back to Mardale Head


Haweswater from the road on a better day

The level of Haweswater at the end of our three-month drought surprisingly wasn’t as low as we’ve seen it. Here are some photos from a previous drought year – it was either 1996 or 2000. Then it was so low we could walk right across on the old lanes from the drowned village of Mardale Green.


Walking across the lake bed on the old lanes


This should all be lake…

We reached the foot of the Corpse Road and I pointed out to the guys that it was indeed an ice cream van. I hoped it would stay till we’d finished our walk…

The ascent up the Corpse Road went okay but I noticed my new method of ascending was to put my good leg forward as normal but, when it was my bad leg’s turn, just put it level with my good leg and push backwards from there. It couldn’t be used uphill ahead of my good leg as the required muscle down the front of the groin had long since given up and was totally atrophied down my leg in a sad-looking zig zag. Luckily my rear leg muscles were still great for pushing upwards.

(Richard’s photos from the day for a while…)


Simon in the lead…

We reached the top of the path after detours to admire the old buildings there (peat huts?) and also the lovely waterfalls in the adjacent gill of Rowantreethwaite Beck.


My photo of the upper waterfall then Richard’s photos again for a while…

The path continued on between Woof Crag (which I bobbed up when I was doing my Wainwrights – the last time I was actually up here and years ago now) and Selside Pike. I was eyeing the Pike for routes up the side as I didn’t remember any kind of path.

We eventually decided we’d gained all the height we could on the track and Selside Pike was only across a short section of fairly-dry bog so we just headed across to it. The ground was rough and tufty and my leg gave up again across here and I got very left behind! The lads waited for me… at least I’d nearly made it to my first peak and couldn’t see anything would stop me now from at least bagging that one. Richard’s completion peak was to be Branstree though, the second peak.

From here, we forged our own routes up the rough side of the fell to the ridgeline where we found… a path! It had gone a little further than where we turned off and then a branch had indeed come up our hill. As I walk much better on paths now than rough ground, it’s a shame we didn’t know…

It was a long but easy plod up the rest of the path to the summit, me going well again now. It was cold and windy up there so we didn’t stop but just paused to see the ongoing route and then continued straight on. There are two choices here – either over the intervening peak, which, with better legs I’d have done and did do last time as it has an interesting water board pillar on it and a small tarn. There is also a good path under the peak which we decided to take – at least this one was out of the cruel wind.

I found it a pretty easy march to Branstree and was delighted that the path went via Artle Crag Pike where there are interesting vertically-bedded and split rocks…


Artle Crag Pike looking to Selside Pike – my photo

We had a little break here – mainly for Simon to pile on much more gear as he was probably starting to freeze. I put my gloves and buff on here too and Richard put on his windproof outer. We were all trying to hide behind the beautifully built cairn here (Richard’s photo on the day).

The tops were starting to cloud up now and I found I was having trouble recognising the surrounding peaks for quite a few minutes as I haven’t been down Haweswater for years now. I used to pop down in a evening and do a quick round of all the peaks of Mardale Head from Gatesgarth to Rough Crag in my much-missed younger, fitter days…

We were soon at the summit area of Branstree… I say summit area as there isn’t really a cairn, just a junction of paths by a wall corner. We milled around trying to visit all the points around which we thought might be highest and then, as it was even colder up here, set off for a quick descent. We hadn’t had a break yet but were hoping to get one somewhere down the Gatesgarth Pass out of the wind!

As we started to descend the lovely, soft, springy ground, I started to go really well – so well that Simon commented on it. Pre hip-op, descending had become way easier than ascending. We were very soon down on the pass where, unfortunately, the wind was blasting through. We continued on down in the hope that we’d eventually drop out of the wind. We found a sheltered spot by the beck on a steeper section of the pass and sat for a coffee and some flapjack.

As we set off again, we noticed we were being helped very much on our way by the wind. So much so that, when I went off the route to take a photo of Mardale Head, I looked round and saw the guys being blown quickly down the track. I went pretty well until just before the bottom of the pass where my bad leg declared it had now had enough and seized solid.

I limped back the quarter of a mile to the car… I’d done it! 🙂 And Richard has now done his Wainwrights 🙂 Shame we couldn’t celebrate on Branstree summit but it was way too cold and bleak! We did, however, both celebrate with a lovely soft ice-cream (my favourite kind) from the ice cream van 🙂

Stats: 5.5 miles, 1676 feet of ascent

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18 responses

9 11 2018
Mark

Congratulations to Richard.👏🏻 Like others have said it’s an underrated area of the Lakes yet comparatively easy to get to. I remember walking the old lanes of Mardale Green twice in the 1970s. We had proper droughts back then……….

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9 11 2018
mountaincoward

It is lovely down there. The droughts I remember were: 1976 (but I was in the Army in the Outer Hebrides), 1996 & 2000. This year’s was a drought but didn’t seem to have had much effect on the water levels in Haweswater for some reason…

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8 11 2018
tessapark1969

Congrats to Richard! Some great pics too.

I’ve still no idea if I will finish the lot but what’s left will likely be my finish if I do, though I’ve a notion to finish on Barf due to the name.

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9 11 2018
mountaincoward

I wonder if Barf meant that in Wainwright’s days? The Wainwrights are an easy and pleasant round – I think every hillwalker should aim to do them all.

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4 11 2018
Blue Sky Scotland

A great area well captured in the photos. Congratulations to Richard for getting his W’s done and you for finishing the walk. Germany has also been severely affected by drought this year- so much so that shipping up and down the major rivers running inland has been reduced to a large extent.

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4 11 2018
mountaincoward

It is a lovely area – these are possibly the least exciting hills in the Haweswater area – a fact we all commented on and regretted. But Richard did his Wainwrights how I did my Munros – not saving a particular hill till last but, rather, seeing what was left!

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4 11 2018
mountaincoward

Hmmm – trying to comment on your latest post and it won’t let me! It says I have to have a Google signin! 😦

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6 11 2018
Blue Sky Scotland

I’ll change that back now Carol, only put it on to cut out spam comments.

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8 11 2018
mountaincoward

well i can’t remember what I was going to say now!

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1 11 2018
John Bainbridge

A quieter area than some too

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2 11 2018
mountaincoward

Surprisingly, it wasn’t at all quiet that day – there were loads of folk on those two. Just thing what the more popular peaks would have been like!

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3 11 2018
John Bainbridge

Mind, we mostly walk on weekdays.

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3 11 2018
mountaincoward

well I try to as otherwise parking is usually ridiculous! This was pretty busy for a Tuesday

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4 11 2018
John Bainbridge

Certainly you have to get there early to grab a space at the top of Haweswater.

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4 11 2018
mountaincoward

There’s a lot of pullins now all the way from the start of the Old Corpse Road to the roadend – including a huge old quarry hole

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31 10 2018
Paul Shorrock

One of my favourite parts of the Lake District. I was in Penrith MRT from 1981 to 1998 and Mardale was a regular feature of training and callouts.
One Halloween night the team conducted a large scale search there – I was working a search dog at the time and my task was to search the Corpse Road! Good job I’m not superstitious! It was a lovely night walk, just me and t’dog. Happy days.

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31 10 2018
Jim R

Nice photos of your adventure. We just returned from a great trip last Friday to Peru. Hiking around Machu Picchu and other sites was fabulous and more beautiful than I expected. There will be some pics and blog posts coming.

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2 11 2018
mountaincoward

I’d love to go up that peak behind Machu Picchu – there’s a track up one side and down the other but massive exposure!

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