B0608 The Corpse Road and beyond.

Thursday 20th April 2006

The weather forecast had prepared us for rain or at least showers and consequently we (or at lest one of us) were perhaps a little overdressed for a day that threatened sunshine more than it threatened rain.

We (Bryan, Tony, Stan & I) parked at Mardale Head and walked back along Haweswater to pick up the Old Corpse Road over which the poor ponies used to carry the newly departed for burial at Shap.  You had to feel sorry for them as they picked their way up the steep climb to Mardale Common.  Would they be allowed to stop regularly to enjoy the scenery as we did?

Three bodies on the Corpse Road


Turning right up Selside End we were soon enjoying fine views down Swindale (although Stan was moaning that that would have been his preferred way up!).  We decided to take team picture and lunch at the shelter on Selside Pike- we were only doing that peak and Branstree so a one stop strategy seemed appropriate. 

Selside Pike Summit

The halo round the sun

Meanwhile however there was a very strange atmospheric apparition- there was a huge but faint halo around the sun- quite some distance away from it but perfectly formed.  Or at least that is what I could see.  The others saw nothing but rather than accuse me of having taken banned substances, they were kind enough to suggest it was something to do with my photochromic lenses.  However I have the photographic evidence- see the photo and judge for yourself!

After lunch we had a change of plan and, as the weather was holding up fair and almost sunny, we decided to include an extension to Harter Fell. 

Once past Captain Whelter Bog (who was Captain Whelter and what happened to him in the bog??) there was an unusual structure off to the left.  Was it a chimney (per Bryan) or a survey point (per Stan)?  Stan set off to investigate whilst we continued up what we thought was Branstree.  Once reunited at the cairn Stan confirmed it was a survey point that had been spotted- built by the Manchester waterworks surveyors.  We then realised we were not actually at the summit of Branstree but rather at Artle Crag Pike- although from where we were it looked neither like a crag nor a pike and possibly not even an Artle.  The real summit of Branstree, a little further on, is also a bit of a nothing other than a ring on the ground for some surveyors' trigonometrical equipment but provided a panoramic view of the length of the High Street range- to complete the length of which is Stan's challenge to the Boot Boys (see BB0617).

Descending down to Gatescarth Pass I have to confess that I had to call a halt due to lack of proper preparation before setting off.  Two toenails required surgery as they were interfering with the proper function of feet- i.e. they were cutting in and hurting me.  I did think about saving them for Peter McLaren who has an unusual but non-the-less interesting use for such things but decided to throw them away, a fact that will bring relief to his missus!

Now it was time for our extension and a period of madness.  I am not sure if it was Stan's tales of racing across the hills, determined that Chris Brasher should not beat him, or if it was my failure quite to catch the group of youths that I chased up Levers Hause last week but when I saw a couple halfway up the track up Little Harter Fell I decided they had to be caught before the top.  This time success- it was like winning a climb in the Tour de France as they moved over and applauded me through!

I waited for the others, enjoying some shelter and the splendid views down Haweswater with the Corpse Road just about visible opposite the Rigg.  When they arrived there was a debate about having a second stop but the consensus was not to have the second stop until we had finished the climbing.

So when we reached the cairn with the tangled metal at the top of Harter Fell it was then agreed to drop down a little and have the break.

Haweswater from Little Harter Fell

We set off sooner than we might otherwise as it looked as if the weather might start to close in.  Unfortunately it turned out that we had got the wrong cairn and we had not yet reached the absolute top.  This was put right and we headed down towards the Nan Bield Pass with good views in both directions, including the extreme route that Bryan led us up from Kentmere last year.  All I can say is that it was a good job it was misty when we went up it!

Down Nan Bield, past Small Water (which, Graham, looked very inviting) and back to Mardale Head where we agreed with Wainwright that it would have been a far more sensible place for the Haweswater Hotel to be located.

A good excursion and it almost felt like spring! 

 Don, 20th April 2006



8.2 miles

Height climbed:
2,835 feet

Map reference:
See Map

Selside Pike, Branstree and Harter Fell



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  • BB0631  Coppermines
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  • BB0629  Stone Arthur and a Mystery Plume
  • BB0628  Knocking off Wainwrights.  Oh! Plus Skiddaw!
  • BB0627  Blencathra and the Mungrisdale Round
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  • BB0625  Les Garçons de la Botte
  • BB0624  The Crookdale Horseshoe and then some
  • BB0623  Selside Pike revisited
  • BB0622  Round the Dunny!
  • BB0621  The Malham Experience
  • BB0620  Newlands Horseshoe
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  • BB0618  Kentmere Horseshoe
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  • BB0616 Thornthwaite Beacon
  • BB0615  Fairfield Horseshoe
  • BB0614  High Street Racecourse
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  • BB0612  Well, Well, Well, Wansfell and Troutbeck Tongue      
  • BB0611  Carlin Gill
  • BB0610  Whitbarrow, Yewbarrow and a history lesson
  • BB0609  Clough Head and Great Dodd
  • BB0608  The Corpse Road and beyond
  • BB0607  Grim Fell!
  • BB0606  A Bit on the Side.....
  • BB0605  Angle Tarn with Surprises! 
  • BB0604  Hart Cragg via Dovedale
  • BB0603  Islands in the Sky with Brocken Spectres
    (or High Street via Gardiner's Grind)
  • BB0602  Holme Fell, Black Fell and Electric  Eyes
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