Great Shunner Fell From Hawes and Hardraw

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Route Summary:

Distance
Ascent
Time
18 km 523 m

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

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Great Shunner Fell From Hawes and Hardraw Details

Follow the Pennine Way to the summit of the highest of the Wensleydale fells. Steady, good walking all the way with a few ‘wet’ sections. It’s certainly doable on a mountain bike, but the two I talked to near the summit thought it was a fair old challenge!

The Route

This is a very steady walk along the Pennine Way, starting either in Hardraw or Hawes, and ending in either as well. Once you find the Pennine Way National Trail acorn waypost, you’re sorted.

On entering the village of Hardraw from the west, the spot is obvious (spot the signpost!) and if you reach the bridge you’ve gone too far.

The trail is wide and enclosed on both sides by high walls. This section is known as the Hearne Coal Road, as there was mining activity in these hills at one point.

Great Shunner Fell From Hawes and Hardraw

You soon leave the coal road as it heads off into the valley (and offers an alternative return route) and the Pennine Way heads on upwards, steadily and surely. If you’re used to hill walking then I think you’ll only notice the ascent at a few spots, with this next leg being the only prolonged uphill of the day.

You’ll pass an old quarry, and the track zig zags to take on the final steepish section before you reach Hearne Top and you feel that you’re properly on the hill now. There’s also the ubiquitous signposting here that point on to Cotterdale – which would make an alternative ascent.

The terrain now becomes boggier and there’s plenty of peat hags, though the flagstone path from here to the summit is surprisingly good. Only in one place has it started to sink substantially, and even there you should keep on the path and just pick your footing carefully. The water or mud is never any deeper than your bootlaces, though I did wonder if some prankster had removed one of these flagstones in the middle of the wet bit as my foot went in much deeper. A further prod with my foot found much firmer footing, and it was fine. Walking poles might be useful here too. Trying to walk around it seemed to find more problems than it avoided.

Great Shunner Fell From Hawes and Hardraw

What you may have noticed, if you’re lucky enough to have such glorious late November weather as I did, is what’s possibly the summit in the distance with a boulder or something similar on the skyline. Well the good news is that is the summit and the dark feature is the summit shelter. The bad news is that it’ll feel like it’s never getting any closer. It’s an honest mountain, I’ll give it that.

The best advice, especially if you’re alone, is head down and get on with it. Other than that, it’ll make a great walk for a chat.

After what you hope is the final bit of bog, the path becomes steep and this welcome bit of uphill brings you up onto the summit plateau. There’s still some bogs on here, and the flagstones lead you reassuringly across these, holding your hand at the loose ones and pour you a warm mug of tomato soup at the summit. Well, not quite, but you get what I mean. I bumped into a couple of mountain bikers at this point, actually a pair of rather concerned mountain bikers as the path was rather more than they’d expected. I told them that they’ve got a bit of a challenge ahead but that it would get easier!

Great Shunner Fell From Hawes and Hardraw

The summit is a cross shaped wind shelter complete with wooden seats and is a fine viewpoint. I could see numerous peaks, but I’m ashamed to say I could name barely any. I think I’ll have to invest in the Harvey Mountain map for the area as I think they’re the best maps for getting the lay of a whole region. If you can’t see anything, then you can play hunt the trig point on the summit (or look at the image)

While it lacked the ruggedness of my usual Snowdonia, the view had an altogether different appeal. It is vast and open, and felt quite remote. I’d seen only a few people and while there was some nuisance traffic noise on the way up it was largely quiet on the summit. Making the most of the peace, I could have stayed up there for a good hour or so and would have had I not been overwhelmed by a huge group who arrived from the opposite direction only minutes after me. I’d broken golden rule number 2,

Never arrive on a summit on or around lunchtime.

and of course subsection 2b –

This is especially true on a weekend.

So off I toddled, back the way I came, back to Hardraw. The Green Dragon pub is highly recommended and is full of character and, more importantly, beer.

You can easily extend the route to Hawes by following the Pennine Way, though there does appear to be a more direct footpath that’s not marked on the maps that avoids the short bit of road that the Pennine Way follows. I’d also have preferred to have extended the route across to another mountain, such as Lovely Seat, but decided that time was slightly against me, especially if I found that the going was rather boggy. With names like Shunner Fell Hags and Grimy Gutter Hags, that was a distinct possibility. The only escape route would have been the Butter Tubs road, and that would have been a disappointing end to a walk.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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