Old Ing to Birkwith.
With the luxury of a bargain semi-dry suit, I approached this trip with less anxiety about swimming in the Birkwith canal and made sure I was not over-weighted this time too. After a fine trip down Fossil with the bang boys the previous day, I fancied a late start and met Simon in Penyghent café at noon, where I noticed that the beck was running pretty nicely in the village and when we kitted up and made our way along the Old Ing streamway, we found that the water was even higher than on our previous visit. A big foaming pool greeted us at the sump and I went through first, continuing on through the arch of the second sump to wait for Simon in the canal beyond.
The descent to the waterfall chamber was a bit tricky in the torrent, but a piece of rope proved to be handy for Simon’s big bottles and we again kitted up for the canal and longer, deeper sump beyond. Again feeling my ears as I worked my jaw to equalise on the descent, the arches were passed and the slow rise to the canal beyond was a pleasure.
Picking up our fins at the bottom of the Dismal Hill shaft, we worked our way along the streamway, me in my battered workboots and Simon in his rather tatty pool boots, causing him to curse as he bashed his feet, until deeper water led us to the line where we geared up for the dive. Going first into the sump, without 3 or 4 feet of visibility, I could feel the depth on my ears, until a levelling brought the constriction into view. Passing through this elongated slot on my side, I continued to fin beyond until a branch in the line going up was met. I followed the newer, blue line that we had seen from the Birkwith side, gaining the surface after a section of steep ascent.
Not wishing to get too cold in the canal, I left Simon a message in the mud on the wall and swam out, reaching the ledge at the end of the canal just as Simon surfaced. With water levels being high, the ledge was under about 4 inches of water, but the trip to the exit was soon done and we enjoyed a lie down out of the wind, pausing to admire the fine orchids too. A quick detour to get the rope from the shaft and we were back at the cars – a nice smooth trip in here at last and I could still feel my extremities!