I don’t know if Coldplay had just gone ice hole swimming or if they just stood up too quickly. At any rate, that’s how I would express the feeling of ice hole swimming to someone who has never done it… A sudden rush of blood to the head.
Yesterday about 40 – 50 exchange students nervously traipsed down to the “beach” to swim in the subzero water.
The temperature was about -12’C and there was a freezing mist hanging in the air. Freezing mist covers everything in snowy icicly stuff. Its different to snow because snow falls like rain and builds up on the tops of surfaces. Freezing mist just envelops everything. EVERYTHING. Anyone who had some hair sticking out, got that covered in a fine layer of ice. The effect was quite beautiful and disturbing at the same time. Beautiful: because, well, it just looks beautiful. Disturbing: because it makes everything look a little bit kitsch in a christmas-decorations-in-a-shopping-centre kind of way.
We arrived at the spot. It is a little wooden jetty that goes out from the shore. Under the jetty are jets that go on from time to time. These jets are not like the water jets in Ais-Ais (Namibia) that I have seen before. No, No. These jets are to keep the water next to the jetty moving so as to stop the water from freezing over. How clever.
Next to the jetty are heated changing rooms. That’s where you get into your cozzie like you would for normal river swimming. The only difference is that you also need to wear a warm hat and socks. A hat, so that you don’t completely freeze and socks so that when you walk on the snow, you don’t get frostbite as quickly as you would be if you didn’t have socks on.
Stepping out from the heated changing rooms into the -12’C in just a bikini (oh, and socks and a beanie) was probably the hardest part. Going down the ice encrusted steps into the water was probably the scariest part and getting into the water was probably the most surprising.
The water is -1’C and the air temperature is -12’C so, the water’s actually relatively warm and when you get in you feel almost happy because your body thinks “YAY! I’m warm!” It takes all of about 1.5 seconds to realise that while it is warmer than the air, it’s still -1’C and if you want to stay alive, you need to get out of there quick-sticks. That, for me, was when the squealing started.
For more photos of the action taken by our amazing documentor, click here.
Then, there is nothing more for you to do than to run (in your wet socks) back to the change rooms to get into your warmest clothes. But that’s when something amazing starts to happen… Your skin goes bright red and you start laughing. Its euphoric. You feel the best you have all day. I’m not sure if it’s because you have diced death and won, or the adrenalin or endorphin release or facing a fear or just latent crazies coming out but you really feel amazing.
Then you get dressed, chat to people outside and say, “Actually, I think I will do that next week again”.
sidebar: While we were psyching ourselves up and thinking we were amazing for swimming, every now and then a granny would come along in her costume, quietly slip into the water, swim around and get out without much of a fuss. These ladies are hardcore.