A Branstree Round

The recent prolonged monsoon-like weather at last broke briefly this weekend, and even if wall-to-wall sunshine didn’t materialise for the whole day, conditions were certainly good enough to at last attempt a higher and longer round than has been possible for the last few weeks. The chosen outing was one from Graham Dugdale’s excellent (though now, sadly, erstwhile) ‘Walk this way’ column in the Lancaster Guardian.
The ascent was from Mardale Head at the southern end of Haweswater, up the well-graded packhorse ‘road’ to Gatescarth Pass, a place with many fond memories of past ascents from there to Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike, especially in the company of the Longsleddale-based Mercer family! But on this occasion the route was in the opposite direction, up to the rounded summit of Branstree, with glimpses back down to the south into upper Longsleddale on the way. By dropping off the Branstree summit area a little to the west, good views were had of the north flank of Harter Fell and of the western side of Mardale Head, as well as of northern reaches of Haweswater.
The route from Branstree was to Artle Crag for an early lunch stop, and then on, in increasingly overcast weather conditions and rather uninspiring scenery, to Selside Pike. However, from just beyond here some good views were obtained down into the ‘hidden’ jewel of Swindale, from its western ‘rim’. Shortly after this the Old Corpse Road was crossed (Mardale folk were transported by this route for burial in Shap until the 1730s). From here the last summit of the day, Hare Knott, was reached, and then the descent began via a ‘path’ slanting gradually south to the Mardale Head road, and along it to Mardale Head once again (the lakeside path, which I had intended to take at this point, being closed, for reasons best known to United Utilities).
For any readers considering this walk, I would recommend just turning left when the Old Corpse Road is reached, and following it back down to the Mardale Head road, because the scenery and views up to Hare Knott are indifferent, and the descent from there is tedious and confusing. But in other respects, this is a fine round, with the splendid Mardale Head scenery and the beauty of Haweswater much in evidence the whole way.
Highest point (Branstree): 2333 ft./711 m. Distance: 7.5 miles/ 12 km. Ascent: 2085 ft./ 635 m.

Photos per row