Environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh tackles a 1km swim at 5300 metres in the shadow of Mount Everest.
Posted: 26 May 2010
Last weekend, environmental campaigner Lewis Gordon Pugh swam 1km across Lake Pumori which sits at around 5,400 metres adjacent to the Khumbu Glacier in the shadow of Mount Everest - one of the hardest swims ever undertaken.
Pugh is an experienced extreme swimmer who, in the past, has swum across an open patch of sea at the North Pole to highlight the problem of melting sea ice in the Arctic and his latest mission is intended to draw attention to the environmental impact of the melting glaciers of the Himalaya.
“These glaciers are not just ice,” says Lewis. “They are a lifeline – they provide water to a fifth of the world’s population. The Hindu Kush Himalayas Region has warmed on average by approximately 1oC and glaciers in the region are melting rapidly. Entire glaciers have disappeared in places. Lake Imja, where I will undertake a number of training swims, has formed due to the melting of the Imja Glacier. We must do all we can to raise awareness of the effects of climate change here.”
Lewis added: “People in Asia and Africa are already living with the realities of climate change. We are living in a global environment. What happens in one part of the world will directly impact other parts. We must stop arguing about whether China, the USA or the EU should act first. Given the urgency every country needs to put in place every solution at its disposal.”
To reach the Lake, Lewis flew into Kathmandu, then hopped a flight to Lukla and from there walked in – kitted out in Berghaus gear – to the Upper Khumbu and the lake in the shadow of Everest Base Camp.
For the swim itself, which took him 22 minutes and 51 seconds with a water temperature of just 2˚C he wore just a pair of Speedo trunks, cap and goggles. Put like that it sounds pretty straightforward, but to put it in perspective, a few days earlier, Lewis experenced what he describes as 'the most frightening day of my swimming career'.
During a test swim in Lake Pumori, the effects of high altitude meant he couldn't breathe properly and, he says, on two occasions almost went under. For the first time ever, he had to swim breast stroke just to survive. The result, for the attempt to swim the length of the lake, was that he resolved to swim very slowly and deliberately in order to breathe properly.
If you've ever been to altitude, you'll know exactly what he's saying and why this is arguably one of the hardest swimming feats ever undertaken.
Lots more at Lewis Gordon Pugh's blog at lewispugh.posterous.com