Broken Finger Pot - Paulina and Rosie's day out at the spa
Sunday May 14th 2023
Members present: Paulina Poterlowicz, Rosie Marshall
Rosie: The original plan for Sunday was Curtain pot, however in the event it turned out that we had no friends to cave with, as they all preferred to socialise, work, revise for exams, or play Tears of the Kingdom (the only valid excuse). Since Curtain wouldn’t really be doable on two bags, we discussed options and landed on East Kingsdale, which neither of us had visited since first year. Paulina wanted a ‘pain spa’ to relax her before her first exam on Tuesday (don’t ask me what this means) so we decided on Broken Finger Pot. The night before we’d been watching Eurovision on the other side of York, so early morning found me eating noodles in bed at 1am and wondering if we’d bitten off more than we could chew.
It was a difficult wake up at seven, as you might imagine, and in classic Paulina & Rosie style we still had to finish the descriptions. Paulina had pondered going to the store the day before to print some actual descriptions and acquire the laminator but decided leaving the house was too much work and that writing out multiple pages of descriptions was much easier. I had the (very important) job of taking off freezer bag labels with nail polish. We also needed to pack the rope, which sounds easier than it was, since one of the smaller green ropes was caked in mud and we were barely able to bend it. Paulina had the bright idea of soaking it in a bucket and it was much easier after that. We also had a fairly long discussion about how annoying it would be to use oval bottomed tacklesacks in awkward rifts, but ended up taking one anyway.
Shortly after setting off I started to sew up my undersuit, which had torn on a spike in the kitchen window of Bullpot Farm the previous weekend (long story). Paulina seemed to find this amusing – less so when I lost her needle down the side of the seat and we had to stop at Dobbie’s to retrieve it.
At the Harrogate Sainsbury’s we decided to split up for maximum efficiency and Paulina fuelled up while I got the food. This worked very well until we reached the checkout and realised that although they were letting people in, it was a Sunday and we couldn’t buy anything until 10, another twenty five minutes. Plan foiled, we put the food back and went to the Skipton Tesco instead.
The only task left was for me to part with a considerable amount of money. I had realised in a panic that this was perhaps not a rack friendly cave and since I had forgotten to ask Chris for “his” club simple, it was time to finally buy one. Simple acquired, we headed onto Kingsdale and had a cheerful lunch on the side of the road.
We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, so I’d brought the GPS although I had to anxiously try and get it back to the right setting, as Jean-Luc had messed about with it to no avail in Spain. But we were soon off, having taken everything we needed out of the car…
Paulina: During the drive to Kingsdale all I could think about was the last (and only time) I had been to East Kingsdale. I had met a vicious dog at the Braida Garth farm that bit my knee pad. I had hoped that I would never again meet my nemesis. To be fair, I wasn't wrong. Instead of a scruffy little thing we met an even more vicious cocker spaniel. This thing was out for blood and I am a coward. Rosie too did not seem very happy at the concept of delving deeper into the farm and potentially being met with a very sharp pair of teeth. Instead we tried to walk around the farm from the left hand side. This worked and the farm guardian left us alone. He was however watching and barking the entire time, glaring with his horrid little eyes.
Rosie: Shaken, we charged up the hill, which seemed significantly less steep than in first year. At the top it became clear that we didn’t really know what we were doing. The black book description of the approach was slightly different to Northern Caves and also assumed that you had already been to Growling and knew where it was. Plus, the GPS seemed to say we were going in the wrong direction whatever we did.
Soon we were having Pippikin/Nippikin flashbacks and split up to investigate the fell. We had reached a dry valley with a line of shakeholes but the GPS’s general consensus was to keep going up the next rise, so I headed in that direction and after some aimless wandering found a promising shakehole, with the expected proportions. The CNCC coordinates turned out to be very accurate, would recommend. I scoped out the climb down and cleared the spiders out of the way, rightfully assuming that Paulina would lose her shit if she saw them.
Paulina: We reached the shakehole just after 1pm and as soon as we did i had a sudden and terrifying realisation.
We had left all our crabs and our slings in the car… rookie error. We sat to ponder what exactly we were going to do about this situation. Rosie suggested going back but also stated that it would be an hour round trip at least – not ideal.
With how late it was getting it was unlikely we would reach the bottom of the cave (Black Book states its 7-9 hours) so I instead suggested we do some ~Improv. I counted that we needed about 5 crabs to get down the big pitch. (Earlier I had said we needed 10 but managed to cut down about 5 of those in desperation (don't ask how) and luckily my rescue kit screwgates combined with potentially my long cowtail screwgate did indeed add up to 5. I even had my trusty sling on me! It was going to be fiiiiiiine. I confidently told Rosie I could cut down on even more crabs by just threading through the first pitch since it was a short rope anyway and with this false sense of confidence I entered the cave.
As soon as I got over the spiders in the entrance climb (Rosie got rid of most but they always come back…) and got into the actual cave i realised the situation was…..interesting,
“Ahahah Rosie errrr i think we may have over caved ourselves”
In front of me was a narrow rift which looked impossibly tight. I tried getting my head in it but it wasn't exactly a comfortable fit. Shuffling back to reassess the situation I realised the actual way on was not down the rift but rather in a just maybe slightly wider roof traverse? Bag in front I headed off….
Rosie: I clambered in with some trepidation. Ahead of me Paulina was wriggling around on a very grim looking roof flat out roof traverse. As I was watching the fun, something white appeared in the air below her and fluttered all the way down the rift. Oh right - the descriptions. Very embarrassed at caving Jean-Luc style, she started to assess whether or not she could climb down from where she was. I decided that I could probably just walk down the rift, since it didn’t seem too tight at the bottom (yet).
Descriptions retrieved, I unfortunately had to attach to my own tacklesack (the oval bottomed one: not fun) and start moving. I hated this traverse. The best way to handle the tacklesack was to push it along in front, slightly wedged down the rift. This requires upper body strength that I do not have! To make it worse, one section opened out underneath you - large enough for the tacklesack to swing down and drag my core down, as I was suspended above the drop. I tried to reach down with my hand to shove it into the tighter rift in front of me, but this took a few goes and I slipped down each time.
It did not get better! Just before the pitch, where Paulina was messing around with bolts and rebelays, I encountered the Corner :/. The ledge sloped upwards to the roof, becoming significantly tighter and shoving the bag upwards was a losing game. I had no rush, since Paulina was on the pitch so instead of bothering with this nonsense I curled myself around the tacklesack and despaired.
Paulina- After just about surviving ‘the Corner :/’ I soon spotted the first bolt of the pitch! This was inconspicuously placed in the roof above a lovely (and more importantly slightly wider) hole. I started trying to figure out the best way to rig this with limited hand mobility in the crawl. Fig 8 done – I placed my shiny new cowtails in and started heading further over the pitch head to the next bolt. I soon realised that this cave=pretty tight. Probably not the place to mess around with threading through rope and decided to use a precious crab instead. Once on the pitch I was having a great time! I could actually stretch my legs! I did look back at the pitch head with the thought that this is going to be a nightmare to derig – there's no room to turn around and it's not one you can de-rig whilst on pitch either. Ah well…problem for the future I decided – also the bottom looked spacious and I wanted to be there….
Rosie: Eventually managing to drag myself over to the pitch, I was confronted with a very sudden drop and a rebelay. I couldn’t really put my descender on in the flat out section, so I crabbed myself into the loop and edged out onto the pitch head… This worked much better in theory as the bag was again dragging me down and the ‘footholds’ were widely spaced and unconvincing. I hastily tried to rig my simple, but I’m still not used to them and it wasn’t helped by the tacklesack hauling cord being crossed over the rebelay rope.
The chamber at the bottom was nice though, cosy but also relatively spacious. It had taken us about half an hour to do what the black book said was a five minute crawl. We were both uncomfortably overwarm, wondering if this is how Chris feels all the time…
After some time spent coming to terms with the cave, we moved off to another long rifty section. This was more hands and knees, not flat out but it felt like forever. Throughout the cave so far I had had our bottle of apple Tango in my oversuit, which was becoming intensely annoying and pushing on my already challenged lungs at every squeeze. I soon abandoned this for the way out.
Paulina- Eventually we reached the next pitch which the black book stated was ‘often handlined’ and indeed the single (yet beautiful) stall used to rig was definitely positioned more for a handline than a pitch and my simple got quite jammed trying to get on said pitch eventually with a horrendous screech I was free but it was not over.
As I headed down the pitch I looked down to what looked like a dead end. In fact the rift I was descending was decidedly V shaped and with not much room to breath. With this in mind (and remembering the description) I asked Rosie to wait at the top because whatever was ahead seemed like it would be very committing and not exactly provide many options for turning around. Once at the bottom of the pitch I soon found the tiny hole that was the way on. Sticking my head in, I saw that it did indeed open out enough to allow Rosie to follow.
Rosie: Having seen Paulina agonisingly wriggle down the pitch head, I decided to just use the rope as a handline. In reality this amounted to falling down in slow motion.
The rift at the bottom wasn’t so bad to begin with, but soon reached a section (that we originally thought was the Fatometer) where I struggled to lift up the bag. After many minutes of my increasingly feeble efforts, Paulina suggested that I just take the rope out of the bag, since the likelihood of doing the first big pitch was unlikely. Contorted in a lunge, I took out the short ropes and hand coiled them.
Paulina had now reached the real Fatometer and a lot of interesting panicky noises were happening.
Paulina: I sort of just slid into the first squeeze of the fatometer without really realising what it was. Whilst I lay there at an awkward downwards angle and at a bend quite stuck Rosie and I paused for a chat
“This is quite committing”
“Yep i've just realised that now that i've committed”
Some light effort noises later I was through to the middle ‘break’ bit this pause in the horror does indeed allow just enough room to turn around. Passing this I soon saw the next part of the squeeze.
It was a lollipop shaped squeeze. The thing is I honestly wasn't sure I could fit my head through it nevermind my body! Whilst I was pondering this another lovely occurrence happened. To my right, deep in this cave I found the one thing worse than a squeeze – a cave spider. I'm literally in a squeeze and there's a cave spider, how did it get here and please can it leave. I tried blowing on it to scare it off and eventually he seemed to vanish. I will ask no further questions. Interlude over, I returned to pondering the squeeze. Cautiously I gave it my first attempt. It was going aaaand then it wasn't. I shuffled back out and continued to stare. At this point Rosie came through and too had a look. She also was not convinced at the viability of this squeeze. We had a good chat about the merits of turning around but eventually I decided that would be a bit underwhelming and I should just get over myself. One push later I was through. I looked behind me and was quite unsure if I was going to make it back but best not think about that now – I had other problems.
I was quite literally on the next pitch head – it being immediately after the squeeze. Now this was supposed to be rigged off an obvious natural. But no natural seemed obvious. There were a few sketchy naturals but nothing I would actually want to use. Eventually I decided to use the big sticky outy rock to rig off. Well I say rig – in reality a loop of rope was sitting on a slightly protruding rock with nothing to stop it slipping off. But there were no other options and I was getting down this pitch somehow! On my way down I realised that this pitch is actually very tight.
“Getting off this is going to be Hell”
Rosie: I looked at the Fatometer. The Fatometer looked at me. I looked at the rope in my hand. The pitch looked at me.
“Is it okay if I just throw this rope down!”
“Yep that’s fine!”
“Oh!...That was a direct hit.”
It was my turn to go through the squeeze. It didn’t look awful. In an act of hubris, I deluded myself into thinking that I could just walk through it instead of inserting myself at the “egg level”. This worked fine to begin with, until it tightened just before the pitch head, just as I needed to have the leverage to lift myself up. People do die like this, I thought to myself, thoroughly stuck and suspended over the pitch.
Paulina: Once we reached the bottom of the pitch it was only a short flat out crawl to the next one. This pitch started (quite miraculously) of some tat! A loop of rope beautifully placed. Or so I thought till I looked closer. I realised that the rope was actually about a metre or so away and down from the little flat out window I was looking onto the pitch head through. I managed to rig it fine but I needed to dive head first onto the pitch to fit which is also fine except. I couldn't actually see what the tat was attached to. Well the black book did describe getting onto this pitch as requiring “unorthodox” manoeuvring and I was a bit too stuck in this crawl to turn back so I dived for the pitch trying to gently lower myself and find some footholds. Fortunately the tat was fine and i was soon on my way down
Next we approached some more – you guessed it, rifty streamway crawling and squeezes! At some point at the bottom of the pitch Rosie and I swapped orders and she took the lead. After spending some time trying to figure out if she should go over or under a blocky squeeze she decided on underneath. Following this she quickly slid through another C shaped squeeze telling me:
“Don't worry about this one, it looks worse than it is!”
Imbued with confidence I too tried to slide through, Rosie at this point had gone a little more ahead leaving me to ponder the fact that this squeeze was just as bad as it looked but eventually got through.
After this we reached a very nice, beautiful amazing roomy traverse, it led us to an even more amazing beautiful roomy pitch head with gorgeously spaced Y hangs and a beautiful descent. Because of course only half of this cave is horrific, the last two long pitches (quick succession and leading to only a short series of ducks) are actually quite nice. Lovely even. Alas we had neither the time nor rope for this. No nice pretty pitches for us.
Instead we munched on our off brand twix (mine being more of an off brand mush from the amount i bashed them in this cave) and pondered if we could actually get out.
On our way out we soon reached the crawl Rosie had earlier claimed wasn't so bad. Unfortunately I had all my rescue kit, foot jammer, simple and hand jammer on one side of my harness so had to back out of the crawl on the way out to remove them. Rosie however was behind and didn't have much room to manoeuvre so instead she assumed ~the birthing position~ I turned around to see her legs in the air squatting sideways. And absolutely burst out laughing which wasn't helping me get through the squeeze.
“I'm actually going to piss myself of laughter”
“Please don't piss yourself, that's the only thing that could make this worse!”
Rosie: I’d been a bit worried about the derig and getting off pitch heads. The derigging itself was surprisingly simple. The reason it was simple, however, was that the only way to do it was to take off all your protection before climbing out of the pitch.
If Paulina had been making interesting noises at the Fatometer before, it was now entirely unclear if she was hysterically laughing, crying, having a panic attack, or angrily berating herself. For instance:
“This is fine this is fine this is all fine this is just FINE I’m fine this is absolutely fine.”
(Not sure how to respond, I think I said, “Yes, it is going to be fine.” Reassuring.)
“I got through this before, I can fucking get out of it!!”
(Always a notable day when Paulina swears.)
“Oh get over yourself, you’re literally being stupid, just stop being so dramatic and GET THROUGH IT.”
(I also wasn’t sure what to say to this. I think I said, “Yes, you can get through it!” Reassuring.)
Paulina’s journey of self discovery over, it was my turn. The first point of call was the fourth rope, which I couldn’t really put anywhere whilst I derigged the third pitch and which I didn’t want to drag through the Fatometer, having cleverly worked out that I might want two hands for that.
The intelligent decision, I thought, must be to throw the rope through the Fatometer. After all, it had worked before.
We both watched as the coil arched through the air, only to land in the exact middle of the traverse, the tightest point, which couldn’t be reached by either side.
“Don’t worry about that,” I said confidently, “I’ll kick it as I go through.”
Perhaps taking me too much at my word, Paulina announced, “Okay, I’ll get out of your way!”
She was nowhere near me but fucked off anyway. Abandoned, I threw her SRT gear through the rift, slid the pitch rope too easily off the rock, dragged myself through the squeeze, kicked the coil perhaps three centimetres towards the other side, dismounted the Fatometer, strained to reach the coil at floor level, collected my two loose ropes, brute forced myself over to the tacklesack, and hunched over it, angrily packing rope.
Paulina: To provide some context whilst discovering my inner self on the fatometer i also decided my SRT kit needed to be stripped. I took off my descender+rescue kit bundle and left it on the pitch head for Rosie. Now of course I couldn't get off the pitch head as that was the entire squeeze issue so I was left awkwardly trying to take off the rest of my SRT kit just on the pitch head, drop fully in sight below. This done I needed to put it back on so I decided to head to the next pitch – the only place big enough for this to occur.
The handline pitch on the way up was relatively uneventful save for some sketchy rope rub. The de-rig also seemed drama free.
Next we were back to the long traverse section. I had decided this would be shorter on the way – mostly because I wanted it to be but also because it seemed to be heading downhill slightly on the way back? The journey back was indeed quite quick and Rosie and I passed the time by discussing the difficult merits of rescuing someone from this cave – after all both northern caves and the black book said rescue from this cave would be impossible. We settled on the vast quantity of rifty traverses probably causing one of the many big issues as getting someone who was wedged back up would be…well impossible.
“They would try to rescue us but it would be a national event type thing, I don't want to be a national event…..”
Just as I settled into a nice traversing pattern we reached an awkward no foothold/handhold section. Lovely. This was probably the closest I came to sliding down the rift….
We eventually got back to the first chamber where we once again stopped for a snack to get some energy back. I wasn't exhausted but I was a bit worn, I could tell my movements were all a little rough and the worst part was yet to come. Whilst we sat there we pondered the fact that we where *technically* only 5 minutes from the entrance….according to the description anyway. Unfortunately neither of us could delude ourselves into believing this.
Rosie: I entertained myself while waiting at the bottom by watching Paulina wriggle about at the roof level and insist that the pitch head was fine. I did not think it was fine. I had a grudge against this pitch and I was determined to continue loathing it however “fine” it might turn out to be. Paulina quickly seemed to tune into my mood and the ambient Paulina cave noises turned into cries of pain. Once again I was left wondering if Paulina was on the verge of death or vastly exaggerating her “knee injury” sustained on the Ingleton waterfall walk. (It’s hard to tell.)
The pitch wasn’t so hard to derig at first and I sat at the rebelay packing rope, still without a real plan on the next section. Paulina’s cries of pain had now turned to cries of joy as she reached sunlight.
“Can you not sound so happy while I’m still sat at the pitch derigging?” I snapped, pushed beyond human endurance.
Well, there was only one thing for it. I took off my chest jammer, wormed my way into the crawl, and paused. How was I going to derig the last bolt? I craned my neck to look around. I wasn’t turning around. I had had enough of this pitch.
Naturally, I reached back with both hands, as if being arrested, and flailed at the knot until it had come undone. Excellent. What next? Oh, my hand jammer was still in the rope. Which was now below me in the rift, slack, and facing the wrong way downwards. I had only one hand free…
I don’t want to big myself up, but I don’t think anyone has taken out a hand jammer at quite this angle before.
This accomplished, I had only to pack the rope. I hit out at the bag in front of me until it moved a couple of inches up the rift and reached… the Corner :/ – well I wasn’t packing at the Corner :/ – I complained about this to Paulina (no doubt lounging around in the sun) and we hit on the genius plan of just not packing the rope.
To be fair, this crawl was much easier on the way out. I found some success with a “blind hope” kind of method: my left leg high up on the left ledge, my right leg hugging the left wall in the rift, my right hand dragging myself along, and my body crammed in wherever I could fit it.
Naturally, the pitch rope (dangling down from the bag) decided to get caught just before the entrance, but without too much hassle it came free and I was out into the daylight.
Happy, feeling fondly towards the cave, and rejuvenated from the pain spa, we ambled down the hill, discussing how immoral it would be to “take” anyone to Broken Finger. Though it was definitely worth it. And we’re definitely going back on three bags to make it to the good pitches. Yeah.
What we managed took us five hours and we were back to York at the reasonable time of 9pm, just as Amber’s brownies went into the oven. :)