Swimming at 10,000 feet

It was September, there was already snow on the ground, and during the previous night I had experienced moments where I was absolutely sure that I wouldn’t make it to sunrise without a serious case of frostbite (or, more dramatically, dying of hypothermia). It was not ideal weather for stripping down and taking a refreshing dip in the lake.

Not for me, at least. Wrapped in a several layers of flannels and sweaters, I sat on the rocky shore and watched the rest of my group plunge into the clear, shallow waters of Song-Kul. (What is it about large bodies of water that always tempt us to climb in?)

I wasn’t fully participating in this moment, I was too busy laughing at the various shocked and pained expressions everybody made as they attempted to fully submerge themselves, so I interviewed one of the swimmers (my husband, Farrell) about his experience.

Kirstin: Obvious question first, was it cold?

Farrell: From what little I could feel, it seems like yes, it was cold.

K: Why did you do it?

F: Peer pressure. (Seriously?) I went to Song Kul once before and two of my closest male friends were there and had no intention of going in, so I said “fuck it” and sat on the beach with them. But this time, if the wacko dude was gonna do it, there was no way I wasn’t going to. (There was a Couchsurfer staying at a nearby camp who knew some people in our group and joined us at the beach. Umm… let’s just say he had an eccentric personality.)

K: Are you glad that you did it?

F: Definitely.

K: Do you think you would’ve regretted visiting the lake without swimming in it?

F: I wouldn’t have regretted it, it’s gorgeous up there.

K: So you wouldn’t say swimming in the lake isn’t a ‘must do’ activity?

F: No, but it’s nice.

K: Do you think you could have prepared yourself better (mentally or physically) for swimming in a high-altitude lake, and if so, how?

F: I really wish I had sandals or shoes of some sort, because those rocks were brutal.

K: Would you do it again?

F: Yeah. Now that I’ve done it, I realize it’s not so horrible. It only took me five-minutes after I got out and dried off to warm back up. It was refreshing.

Words of wisdom. Swimming in a freezing cold lake isn’t a necessary activity to partake in unless you need to one-up somebody else in your travel group, but it’s not so bad, especially if there is an abundance of sunshine (in Kyrgyzstan, there always is).

2 replies on “Swimming at 10,000 feet”

  1. Hmm. People also go into Lake Baikal which is apparently 10C at the warmest, but at least there’s a ‘local legend’ that doing so adds more years to your life!! 😉

    1. Dang 10C!!! I couldn’t do it. Maybe it adds years to your life because of the time it takes for your body to resume its normal functions after being shocked by the water?

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