Adventures are always more rewarding in winter. It’s so much harder to get motivated to do pretty much anything when it’s cold, and almost impossible to do anything that will actually make you significantly colder. From past experience though, we knew that we’d feel a huge sense of accomplishment if we were able to push ourselves and get it done.
The Idea: Swim the width of five lakes in the Lake District
Location: The Lake District – Crummock Water, Buttermere, Lake Bassenthwaite, Ullswater and Blea water
Transport: 2 x cars, 8 x frantically moving limbs
Essential kit: Alpkit Silvertip wetsuits, neoprene hats, gloves and boots, goggles, custom Dryrobes, custom KitBrix bags, 1 x inflatable support SUP
Swimming across every single lake in the Lake District had a good ring to it. Less arbitrary than some of the challenges we’ve undertaken before, it offered an obvious start and end point. It sounded so complete in fact, that we settled on it without stopping to think just how crazy an idea it actually was.
Ignoring that none of us are experienced swimmers, that the lakes in December would be about as cold as they get, and that trying to travel between them all in just one weekend would be a logistical nightmare, we sat back on our chairs in warm offices, shut our eyes, and basked in the glory that would soon be ours.
It wasn’t until the week before the challenge that we gave it any real thought. Doubts started to slip into conversations, and at one point I nearly bailed altogether. Thankfully however, a few last-minute alterations brought the challenge back into the realms of the achievable (i.e. less chance of death) and we all intended to give it our best shot.
Walking down the bank to Crummock water from the car, we wrapped ourselves in as many clothes as possible to stay warm in the bitterly cold, snow-filled air. In that moment, stepping into the lake was the last thing that any of us wanted to do. The scale of the challenge became evident very quickly, as we looked at each other with eyes that cut through the nervous laughs to ask ‘what the hell have we done?’ Backing out wasn’t an option, but we knew it would be sensible to take the challenge one lake at a time.
With the majority of the distance covered, Sunday was more about savouring the moment. Ullswater looked majestic at sunrise and we took our time on the crossing, stopping to jump into the water from a jetty and to get some photos in the perfect light. After breakfast and a shower, we drove towards Blea Water with our soaking gear packed into our bags. We carried them up through the nearby gorge and put them on by the lake, which was by far the most spectacular of the trip; its black water piercing the white mountainscape like an eye’s pupil. There was no way we were going to pass up on the opportunity to swim in this one, despite having to endure the unpleasantness of pulling on frozen wetsuits.