Yorkshire Dales Walks
Great Shunner Fell via Fossdale
Date: 20th Sept 2011
Distance: 9.6 miles
Ascent: 1914 feet
Time: 5 hours 20 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD866911
An ascent of Great Shunner Fell via and extended climb via the valley of Fossdale returniing via the Hearne Coal Road.
Route Summary: Hardraw - Simonstone - Sowry Head - Fossdale Gill - Great Shunner Fell - Stony Hill - Pickersett Nab - Hearne Coal Road - Pennine Way - Hardraw
1. Looking over Hardraw towards Widdale Fell
2. One of the small waterfalls above Hardraw Force
3. Fossdale Beck above Clough Wood
4. The remains of an old lead mine above Fossdale Beck
5. Fossdale Beck
6. One of the many waterfalls in the upper part of Fossdale Gill
7. Looking back down the length of Fossdale
8. Lovely Seat
9. Approaching Great Shunner Fell
10. The summit of Great Shunner Fell
11. High Seat from Great Shunner Fell
12. On the top of Great Shunner Fell
13. There were the remains of a number of cairns on Stony Hill
14. The small tarn that is the source of Fossdale Beck
15. Hearne Beck
16. Looking across Hearne Beck to Pickersett Nab
Walk Detail: Just three months after my last visit to Great Shunner Fell I was back, this time tackling the fell via the valley of Fossdale. Fossdale means 'waterfall valley' and, as I discovered on this walk, the valley is well named and doesn't just refer to the dramatic moment when Fossdale Beck plunges over the near 90ft high limestone cliff to form Hardraw Force.
Starting from Hardraw I climbed some field side paths to the Simonstone Hotel before descending briefly to join the wooded banks of Fossdale Beck just above Hardraw Force. Above the main fall and free to view (Hardraw Force itself can only be viewed upon payment of a small charge at the Green Dragon Inn, Hardraw) were a series of lovely, smaller waterfalls.
After an all too brief stretch along the beck side the lack of public footpaths in to Fossdale forced me up on to the Buttertubs road. Upon reaching Sowry Head I was finally able to enter access land and drop back down to Fossdale Beck. The following two mile walk along Fossdale Gill and up to Great Shunner Fell was almost entirely pathless but hugely enjoyable.
For the most part I was able to walk right alongside the stream but as the valley began to narrow and steepen I was forced up the slopes just before reaching a limestone ravine. By carefully descending a short way again I was able to see a quite delightful series of waterfalls.
Eventually I followed the stream right up on to the moor until I came to a rather sorry looking wall and then a fence which I followed up on to the summit of Great Shunner Fell. The third highest fell in the Dales, Great Shunner Fell may not have the dramatic profile of an Ingleborough or a Pen-y-Ghent but it does command excellent long distance views.
When I was last on Great Shunner Fell the view had been restricted by hill fog, this time I was able to see for miles in all directions. In addition to most of the 2000ft Dales summits I could see the high moors of the North Pennines and even the silhouette of Blencathra in the northern Lake District. As with my previous visit the only people I saw on the summit were a couple of Pennine Wayfarers.
From Great Shunner Fell I retraced my steps a short distance before heading for the obvious rash of stones that is Stony Hill. From there I passed a couple of small tarns and then made for the prominent cairn on Pickersett Edge which now overlooks a truly horrendous looking shooting track - a real scar on the landscape.
The bridleway marked as the 'Hearne Coal Road' proved to be quite difficult to find and I didn't manage to locate it until I'd forded Hearne Beck. In these upper stages the Hearne Coal Road in fact resembles nothing more than a very thin and soggy trod through an exceptionally reedy area. Without the benefit of occasional posts it would have been very hard to keep relocating the line of the path.
Eventually a proper track materialised and I was able to follow this until it reached the Pennine Way from whence it was an easy descent back into Hardraw. This was a walk of contrasts, I loved the walk up via Fossdale Gill but the return via the Hearne Coal Road was an unexpectedly soggy affair.