Cherry Tree Hole (or: N’owt Sleets Beck)

Sam Lieberman, Tim Eastwood, Carmel Ramwell, Dave Thompson

7th Aug 2010

We met up in Bernies on yet another spanking British summer’s day. After the customary period of witty banter and abuse from the staff, we assessed the weather conditions with expert eyes and decided that the scheduled Out Sleets Beck trip would be cancelled, and held instead, in a less treacherous (and damp) location. At this point half the assembled team then defected for greater things, whilst the remainder of us consolidated cars and set off for Cherry Tree Hole, having been carefully selected as a saner option.

Going via Stainforth and Pen-y-Ghent Gill to check for keenies, we couldn’t help but notice the water being forced out of crevices and tumbling down all over the hillsides. Thus, vindicated in our decision (and finding no one waiting) we took the shortcut across to the Langcliffe road and parked up at the Pennine way junction, up the Hill from Darnbrook house.

Getting changed was a pleasure, for despite the miserable weather overnight, the sun chose to shine down on the affair. For entertainment we had a helicopter scooting back and forth at a high rate of knots carrying huge buckets full of gravel swinging alarmingly on the end of a wire, presumably for mending the track up the hill. Despite asking nicely, we failed to get a lift in the chopper and so set of up the hill on shanks’s pony.

Once up on the moor there was the obligatory faffing about trying to find the entrance, though on this occasion the search was mercifully swift (I have spent several hours wading round in snow before, failing to find Cherry Tree Hole) A hand line was rigged down the surface pot and we were soon assembled at the top of the new(ish) entrance pitch where plenty of sturdy scaffolding belays were put to good use in the rigging.

All down safely, we followed our noses finding Crossover Passage without much trouble. Just starting down this passage, I failed to stand up quickly enough at one point and was rewarded with a fine view of some helictites tucked in an undercut in the wall - I wonder how many other people have blundered straight past these without noticing
natures little glories. After a series of ups and downs through boulder obstacles we soon arrived at the main streamway, upstream or downstream?... So many choices! We decided to go upstream first, a fun, splashy though short lived escapade as we arrived at a tall cascade that on drier days would have been a doddle but none of us fancied a soaking climb up a waterfall today!

After a bit of ferreting up a couple of little side passages we set off down to the main junction again and then headed downstream (South Stream Passage) Arriving in a large breakdown chamber we set to, finding the route up, over and through the boulders to take us along Large Chamber eventually reaching a large funnel shaped breakdown area with a dodgy looking hole through boulders at the bottom. Of course, this turned out to be the way on to the 2nd pitch and view down to the sump. Easy-peasy, a 100% efficient trip, all we had to do was retrace our steps back to the main junction and head out for afternoon tea and crumpets, it was not to be so...

We set off back, and whilst waiting to negotiate a boulder obstacle I spotted a (well worn) squeeze up. “I wonder where that goes?” I thought, and set off up like the proverbial ferret up a trouser leg. It popped out into a well decorated upper level (Spiral chamber?) I shouted back to Tim who shouted back to the others that we were just looking at something, and then he followed me up. The chamber was indeed quite pretty and worth visiting and led on to a slightly hairy roof level traverse which then dropped down a climb after 30m or so to rejoin the other route back to South Stream Passage. Thinking the others MUST be some way ahead by now we forged on expecting to find them waiting back at main junction... But no sign???? We thought, well, it’s not far back to the entrance they’ll have just shot straight back there... We thrutched and squeezed and stooped and walked our way back up Crossover passage, but it became increasingly obvious that Carmel and Dave weren’t in front of us. Just to be sure, Tim carried on, whilst I headed back to the Main Junction. Still no sign??? I left the bits of kit I had at the junction and scooted back up Crossover passage to update Tim on the situation. Tim confirmed that they definitely weren’t back at the pitch so down Crossover passage I went for the third time (getting quite sweaty now!). Sitting at the junction for a cool down, Tim joined me and suggested they might have gone upstream again? We didn’t really believe that’s where they’d gone but had a look anyway, and arriving back at the junction with half the party missing still there was only one option left now - back downstream. We’d barely entered Large chamber when voices were heard coming towards us. It turns out that they’d stopped and waited as Tim & I had walked over their heads and carried on. When we didn’t appear, they’d turned back in the assumption we’d got lost or turned around somehow and so gone all the way back down to the bottom looking for us!!!

So, whilst both parties had known at all times precisely where they were, we were all, relatively speaking, lost!

Anyway, reunited, we set off back. I pointed out the helictites to folk as we came through, and despite this being my 6th transit past them they were still worth a good gander. Whilst the first people headed up the pitch, some went to look at the short North Stream Passage.

All was quiet as we came out, with helicopter up, up and away to wherever helicopters go. We de-rigged and plodded back down the hill in the afternoon sun then a grade ‘A’ change before setting off home.

All in all a fine jolly with just a hint of epic.

Sam Lieberman.


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