British long distance swimmer Lewis Pugh has traveled to Nepal, where he is preparing to make the highest altitude swim ever, as he works to raise awareness of global climate change and the effects it is having on glaciers in the Himalaya. The long time environmental activist will make his historic swim, which has been called the hardest ever by some, in an icy glacial lake in the shadow of Mt. Everest.
Widely considered to be the finest cold water swimmer in the world, Pugh has gone for long distance swims in icy conditions before. In 2007 he became the first person to swim across the North Pole and back in 2005 he went for a 1km dip off of the Antarctic Peninsula. He also swam across the English Channel, as well around the North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe, and Cape Horn at the tip of South America. Pugh is the only person to have taken a long distance swim, meaning 1km or more, in all five of the Earth’s oceans, and he does it just wearing a Speedo, goggles, and swim cap, even in the cold water swims.
Pugh is currently in Gorak Shep, a high mountain village located at 17,000 feet, that is the last stop before Everest Base Camp. He is spending his time acclimatizing and taking a few practice swims in the nearby Lake Pumori, which sits at 17,700 feet, where he’ll attempt the official swim too. That swim will be at least 1km in length as well.
In the most recent updates to his blog, Lewis has commented on his first test swim, calling it the most frightening day of his career. He went for a 300 meter swim, and discovered that he was having a tough time breathing and that his stamina was lacking at such a high altitude. Even on that short swim, he feared for his own life on more than one occasion. For a man who is use to feeling ultra fit, it was a scary situation.
The plan was to make the swim yesterday, but another update indicated that Lewis is suffering from altitude sickness, and has delayed the attempt for now. Forecasts indicate that the weather in the region will take a turn for the worse in a few days time as well, ushering in the monsoon season, and effectively shutting the door on these kinds of activities. Stay tuned to see if Lewis can complete his swim before that happens.