A break in the weather – Great Shunner Fell

Looking West with the flat top of Ingleborough in the far distance

Route taken:  Hardraw – Pennine Way – Black Hill Moss – Hearne Head- Great Shunner Fell – Stony Hill – Pickersett Edge – Hearne Coal Road- Hardraw.   15.4 Km ( 9.5 miles) – 4.5 hours

The opportunity for a walk in anything other than low cloud and rain has been a rare event during much of November, December and early January, so when the forecast suggested a weekend of fine weather, I  knew I had to grab the opportunity.  Ideally it would have been the whole weekend walking, but I had been away on business for most of the working week and I don’t think it is particularly fair on the family to say – “I have been away for the whole week – I’m off for the weekend – see you !”

Given the shortage of time, I was looking for area within reasonable driving distance of home and which would offer great views, something missing of late in my walks with the dire weather we have had.

Great Shunner Fell at 716m (2350 feet) is the 3rd highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, despite this, it does not feature in the 3 Peaks challenge, it’s place taken by the lower Pen-y-ghent.

I parked up on the roadside of Hardraw village, just outside Hawes, in Wensleydale.  The temperature was around – 5C and clear, but with high cloud moving in.  Within a few metres I was on the Pennine Way heading gradually uphill on a very icy track.

The climbing is relatively easy to the top, with the view opening up more and more each time you stop. In places, slabs are laid down to avoid very boggy conditions, not a problem today as everywhere was frozen sold, but made for lethal walking conditions on the slabs and rocky areas.  Kahtoola microspikes are great for this type of situation.

Looking down from Hearne Head

Unfortunately, the weather was not going to be crystal clear as it had been on Saturday and the sun was blotted out by high cloud. By the time I had reached Hearne Head, a strong cold wind had whipped up and with the temperature below freezing gave quite a wind chill.  I reached the stone shelter at the summit at lunchtime and was glad to have refuge from the biting wind.

Great Shunner Fell summit

In weather like this, taking a leisurely lunch is not a wise option, so after having my fill, I headed off in a South-east direction away from the Pennine Way down Stony Hill and along the ridge of Pickersett Edge.  The frozen ground made for relatively easy going, which normally would be a slog through very boggy ground.  I was heading straight into the biting wind, it was bitter, but I was warm except where the chill wind caught my face.

There is no obvious path over this ground, so one needs to take a bearing or follow to a waypoint, aiming for the start of the Hearne Coal Road.  There is a very well made track, this is not what you are looking for.  This is a road which serves the shooting boxes and ends up on private land – so avoid taking this route.  Eventually I reached some small spoil heaps, the start of the road, although there is no road at all, just a faint path which becomes more distinct the further one walks .   From here I walked back to Hardraw due south along the Hearne Valley, along side the beck  meeting up with the Pennine Way near to Hardraw.

Hearne Valley

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20 Responses to A break in the weather – Great Shunner Fell

  1. Lovely day for it – you got super clear views across to Ingleborough. That summit photo reminded me of doing the Pennine Way, as that bench where your poles are is the very bench I sat on to have my lunch!

  2. backpackbrewer says:

    some cracking shots there Mark. Good point about the microspikes. I mean if the ground is frozen underfoot its hardly crampon time but is a risk even with good grips on your shoes/boots. Not too heavy to keep in the rucksack either……

    • Thanks for the comment Dave. The microspikes are excellent – Have you got a pair? They give great security and I don’t won’t slip over on the ice and break something when I am on my own !!

  3. backpackingbongos says:

    Nice one for grabbing a spell of clear and cold weather in this rather grey winter. The three Peaks would be a bit more challenging if Great Shunner fell had been included. I have a feeling it would be alot less busy! I brought my microspikes at the end of last winter once they were back in stock, not had a chance to get them out of the box yet!

  4. GeoffC says:

    The steely colours make the landscape look as cold as it must have felt, very appropriate for the day.
    That well made track for the shooting boxes – do you mean a track up on Pickersett separate from the Hearne Coal Road?. I was trying to follow the route on MM and got a bit confused: the HCR is a right of way and entirely within Access Land, at its southern end it joins the PW. Hearne Beck does enter private land further south.

  5. Martin Rye says:

    I can almost feel the cold in those photos. I have only been there once. Mist was down as I went over on the Pennine Way. A grab a fine day on the hills well done Mark.

  6. terrybnd says:

    LOL Blimey those pics looked cold mate. Pleased you got out and enjoyed some scenery Mark. Last time I was up that way, I finished off with a few in the Tan Hill (camped on moor nearby). Cracking place that. No doubt you’d have enjoyed being in there at the end of the walk 😉

  7. Jules says:

    Looks great, if cuttingly chilly! And a superb place to be, as well, even in changeable weather.

    As for footwear, I have a pair of Yaktak Pros – a similar thing but using a wire coil as opposed to sharp points like microspikes. I’ve tried them in loose and compacted snow, even in thinly iced conditions and they’ve worked well so far. Not tried them in more heavily iced conditions yet though – am still waiting for the chance!

    On the plus side for Yaktraks – because they have no spikes and aren’t sharp and can very easily be popped into a rucksack “just in case”.

  8. surfnslide says:

    Cracking walk Mark. Great Shunner is one of the few major Pennine peaks I’ve never done.
    Interesting to read about the micro-spikes. I tend to carry crampons in winter conditions but they are overkill on most ocassions and only fit my mountaineering boots or ski-tour boots. I was out in the Black Mountains last year and something to get down the icy path (it was like the cresta run!) would have been well handy

  9. Great photos Mark. Here in Portugal there is not so much rain and snow mostly clear blue skies.

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