Yorkshire Dales Walks
Great Shunner Fell & Little Fell
Date: 4th June 2011
Distance: 10.8 miles
Ascent: 1878 feet
Time: 5 hours 10 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD830937
An ascent of Great Shunner Fell, the third highest hill in Yorkshire, starting from the small valley of Cotterdale.
Route Summary: Cotterdale - Cotterdale Woods - Jinglemea Bog - Broadmea Crag - Great Shunner Fell - Knoutberry Currack - Little Fell - Cotter End Tarn - Cotter Clints - Cotterdale
2. East Gill
3. Looking across Cotterdale to Cotter End from the plantation
4. Broadmea Crag
5. Looking down into Cotterdale from Broadmea Crag
6. Long Gill Beacon looking to Little Fell
7. The trig point on Great Shunner Fell is built into the cross shelter
8. By Knoutberry Currack on the oddly named Market Place
9. The small cairn marking the top of Little Fell
10. Cotter End Tarn
11. Cotter End
12. Looking down to the River Ure from Cotter Clints
14. Cotterdale Beck
Walk Detail: I set off from home with glorious blue sky overhead but before I'd even got to Ripon the sky had become overcast. By the time I'd driven through Middleham it was looking very grim indeed and the cloud was already covering Pen Hill. It was with some relief therefore that when I reached the upper end of Wensleydale there was a nice patch of blue sky forming right over Cotterdale - the starting point for my first visit to Great Shunner Fell for nearly six years.
The climb out of the valley was via the bridleway that climbs up to Jinglemea Bog through the plantations of Cotterdale Woods. As many of the trees had been felled the views were wider than expected.
Upon exiting the plantation it was then a nice walk north along the increasingly faint bridleway with good views across the upper reaches of Cotterdale towards Little Fell. At this point the early morning cloud was clearing off the top of High Seat, Baugh Fell, Dodd Fell and Great Knoutberry Hill.
At the point where the bridleway disappeared into the moist environs of Jinglemea Bog I climbed up to the very modest Jinglemea Crag before heading north to the slightly more impressive Broadmea Crag. Just above Broadmea Crag was Long Gill Beacon, one of a number of finely constructed beacons to be found on the slopes of Great Shunner Fell.
From Long Gill Beacon it was then a fairly easy walk north east to pick up a slabbed section of the Pennine Way which I then followed to the summit. My arrival at the summit coincided with another change in the weather, this time for the worse. Within minutes the fell was swallowed by hill fog which was blown eerily over the summit plateau by the strong winds.
Taking advantage of the large cross shelter on the summit I ate an early lunch and chatted to a couple of Pennine Wayfarers before heading off into the fog to follow the fence westwards over the strangely named Market Place and on to West Gill Head.
I'd been particularly looking forward to revisiting the summit of Little Fell. My only previous visit was seven years ago at the tail end of a walk in which Matt and I had endured atrocious weather on High Seat. It was unfortunate then that the cloud had now well and truly enveloped the hills and so my knowledge of Little Fell is no better for having walked right over it again.
From Little Fell I headed south all the way to Cotter End Tarn. For most of the way I followed a fairly wide grassy track which is unmarked on the map. The existence of this track was quite fortuitous as otherwise navigation would have been difficult given the poor visibility and in an area with few landmarks, walls or fences.
From Cotter End Tarn I continued south to the High Way and the limestone edge of Cotter Clints. At this point I finally emerged from under the cloud. I was so excited at the prospect of having my first view for several miles that I managed to walk into a clump of nettles. Not a good idea when you are wearing shorts. A gentle descent brought me back down into Cotterdale and a lovely little section along Cotterdale Beck and then East Gill where I paused for a while to enjoy the sight of three dippers swooping up and down above the stream.
While I was disappointed with how the weather had turned out there is still nothing quite like being on your own up on the fells in fog and hearing the atmospheric call of the curlew before its silhouette appears briefly before disappearing again into the murk.
It was also nice to finally set foot in Cotterdale, both the hamlet and the valley of the same name were attractive, and I'd definitely like to go back again. Perhaps next time I'll explore the numerous waterfalls of West Gill on my way to making another attempt at Little Fell.