Saturday 21 October 2017

Briton completes Everest lake swim

Lewis Pugh who completed his swim in icy cold waters across a lake adjacent to the Khumbu Glacier
Lewis Pugh who completed his swim in icy cold waters across a lake adjacent to the Khumbu Glacier

A British environmental campaigner has become the first person to complete a long distance swim on Mount Everest.

Lewis Gordon Pugh, 40, swam 1km across a glacial lake on the slopes of the world's highest mountain wearing only Speedos, goggles and a swimming hat.

The adventurer, who uses his record-breaking endurance swims to raise awareness of climate change, hopes his latest feat will draw attention to the melting of Himalayan glaciers and the resulting dwindling water supplies in the region.

Dubbed the "human polar bear" for his ability to survive extreme cold, Mr Pugh plunged into Pumori Lake near the Khumbu Glacier, at an altitude of 5,300 metres, and completed the swim in 22 minutes and 51 seconds.

Mr Pugh, who swam in Antarctica and across the North Pole to draw attention to melting sea ice, not only had to contend with water temperatures of 2C for his latest challenge, he also battled altitude sickness.

He said: "It's one of the hardest swims I've ever undertaken. When I swam in Antarctica and across the North Pole I swam with speed and aggression but on Mount Everest you can't use the same tactics. Because of the altitude you need to swim very slowly and deliberately.

"Swimming 20 metres at full speed in the test swim, I felt I was going to drown. I was gasping for air and if I had swum any faster I would have gone under. I was deeply concerned that I wouldn't make 1km and I'm delighted that I've finally achieved it.

"I learned that I had to respect this unique terrain and swim as slowly as possible - I had to swim breast stroke so that I could breathe more efficiently. I had to find a delicate balance between going too fast, in which case I might drown due to hyperventilation, and going too slowly (and risk dying of hypothermia)."

Calling on governments around the world to make tackling climate change a priority, Mr Pugh said he had been disappointed that the issue did not feature significantly in the general election.

He said: "I would urge leaders both in Britain and worldwide to put climate change at the very top of their agendas. I have seen glaciers in the Arctic, the Alps, Central Africa, Antarctica and the Himalayas - and it's the same story everywhere. Most glaciers are melting away. The glaciers in the Himalayas are not just ice. They are a lifeline - they provide water to approximately two billion people."

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