The annual winter bothy trip was upon us again and the decision of where to go was an easy one for us to make. Mosedale Cottage was last lived in around 1930 and is a remote and small farmstead at the head of the valley Mosedale.
Mosedale Cottage sits at the back of Branstree just above Haweswater in the Lake District. It is easily accessible via a short walk from a number of locations but we had decided on the trek up the Gatescarth Pass from the United Utilities car park at the end of Haweswater Reservoir. Another popular route in starts at Swindale Foot but you need to be aware of where you can and can’t park when taking this route in.
We had talked for ages about going back up to Scotland to some quality winter mountain days but in the run up to our outing it was clear we were going to get all the “winter’ experience we needed on our journey to and from the bothy.
Our GPS route in is shown below and we decided on a slightly different route out due to some blizzard conditions, this gave use the chance to handrail a border fence up and down Branstree via Seaside Brow.
Our route out began at the United utilities car park at Haweswater (NY 468 107) and we ascended a very icy path up the Gatescarth Pass. In summer conditions this is a well defined route up which has been maintained due to it’s use once a month by motorcycles and other vehicles as part of a permit scheme. Luckily for us there was no chance of any traffic (and very little chance of seeing sections of the path) on our ascent.
The path had clearly acted as a run off for water on the hill which had frozen and then been covered by snow so the crampons were quite necessary on sections to maintain a stable footing.
Luckily for us this gave us an opportunity for some classic Stones banter!
May be this is obvious to all but winter navigation is more difficult than summer. Clearly defined features get covered in snow and you become reliant on your contour interpretation and compass when you’re unfamiliar with the area. This is also where lots of unseasoned winter walkers come unstuck as it can be very time consuming, energy sapping and life threatening to make a mistake when your knee deep in snow with limited day light, no phone signal and without a clear idea of where you are. Even with our extensive experience we had to sanity check each other making decisions about directions.
After a short descent we passed a small group of stone sheep pens and turned right to follow the path along Brownhowe Bottom. The usual visible signs of human activity from quarrying were hidden beneath the snow as was the path. As the light began to fade and the snow continued to fall we caught sight of the fence running up to the summit of Branstree. The gate through the fence led us to the final stretch (just under two km) to Mosedale. As we rounded the base of Seaside Brow we could see the welcome sight of Mosedale Cottage Bothy.
The bothy was already occupied by two gentleman (one of whom had brought his son) and they had the multi fuel stove fired up which was fantastic after our snowy trek in. The bothy contains a living area with multi-fuel stove, three other rooms used for sleeping in and an outdoor composting toilet which is a feast for every sense. There are some other outbuildings which are locked but there is plenty of room inside.
At the time of our visit the main living area was warm and comfortable. It was furnished with a table, chairs and a couple of sofas. The bothy is maintained by the mountain bothy association and is well looked after but as with any bothy it’s condition relies on appropriate use by those who choose to stay there and we found litter which had not been removed by previous visitors which is disappointing. Despite that we had a very comfortable evening in the living area with a feast of a meal from Stones and some whisky (for medicinal purposes). The comfort was short lived as when we ventured to bed in the small bedroom it was … well … bloody freezing! Of course this is not unexpected in December, in a stone built bothy but nevertheless it was a particularly cold evening so if you intend to visit at this time of the year makes sure you’re equipped with a four season sleeping bag and a comfortable sleeping mat!
After a night of very low temperatures we awoke to a fresh dusting of snow and the start of a blizzard. With breakfast consumed we set back out into the harsh conditions.
We decided to use a navigation technique called hand railing to find our way back down to the Gatescarth Pass as conditions were worsening by using the fence as an aid to our route. We ascended through driving snow into some glorious blue sky on top of Branstree.
The stay at Mosedale Cottage Bothy was a superb one and it was good to meet some interesting people and hear about some of their adventures in the process. If you’re going in winter make sure you are well equipped and take some fuel for the fire. This is a popular bothy so you may not get it to yourself but it is big enough to accommodate plenty of visitors and its a beautiful spot for a free visit!