A little to the north and east of the market town of Skipton lie three tops, Cracoe Fell, Thorpe Fell Top and Sharp Haw. Of the three the last named is the most straightforward in every sense of the word. It is a delightful little hill close to the road, the sort of thing you keep up your sleeve for a short winter’s day or a quick up and downer on some cross country meander to a more ambitious destination. The easiest approach is to drive along the B6265 towards Grassington and after passing the Craven Heifer Hotel take the first left up the ominously named Bog Lane. There is in fact nothing to fear and at the sharp left hander there is space for three or four neatly parked cars.
The route could not be easier. Follow the track leading to Crag Wood and when it starts to bend to the left, fork right onto a path that leads directly to the top. The day of our own ascent fully vindicated the adage about English climatic conditions - “If you don’t like the weather just wait half an hour”. No sooner had we left the car than the rain, that had been threatening all morning, began to fall. After ten very wet minutes the temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to hail, the stinging variety that reduces all movement to a head-down trudge. Then as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The wind dropped and the curtain of swirling greyness began to lift. By the time we reached the Trig Point the clouds had started to break up and the sun began a valiant struggle to dominate proceedings. And dominate them it did, to such an extent that first cagoules and then fleeces were stuffed into rucksacks.
The views from Sharp Haw are extensive including to the north and a little east, the mass that is bookended by the summits of Cracoe Fell and Thorpe Fell Top. These are tantalisingly near but before you rush off to claim another Marilyn tick, a little care has to be taken. According to Dawson’s “The Relative Hills of Britain”, the second named is the Marilyn. Access to this prize is relatively straightforward. Good paths and tracks lead to within half a mile or so of the top, followed by a bit of heather-bashing with the usual mantraps of hidden holes, boulders and bogs. Once more you will be rewarded with fine views, particularly to the north, but before you start anticipating too many self-congratulatory beers, you should be warned of Dawson’s regular updates to his list which is only available to members of the Relative Hills Society. According to one of these a further survey indicates Cracoe Fell to have acquired six feet or so and is therefore the true summit. But what goes up can equally go down (as we have already seen with Lovely Seat yo-yoing its way around Dawson’s Tables) so to be on the safe side it’s probably best to do both. You can of course plough on across the plateau to make doubly sure or you can put it down to experience and approach from the south on another occasion.
The whole affair is reminiscent of those twin peaks in the Monadh Liath. Gairbeinn and Corrieyairack Hill had a 500 foot drop on all sides except for the gap in between them. As both were thought to be the same height (896m) so each was and, simultaneously, was not, eligible to be included in the sub-Munro list compiled by J. Rooke Corbett. After some debate, the powers-that-be decided the simplest solution was to include both. This caused even more lively debate in Scottish mountaineering circles until a further O.S.survey spoilt the fun by declaring Gairbeinn the higher.
Although as I’ve already mentioned, Sharp Haw presents little in the way of navigational difficulty, the etymology of its name is not so straightforward. The hill’s shapely appearance seems to explain the first part, but the meaning of “Haw” is less clear. There seems to be two possibilities. Either it derives from haga meaning “ hedge” or “enclosure” or possibly from the Old English hawian meaning “view”. The latter on a clear day is certainly exceptional and therefore gets my vote.