Swim Report – January 16, 2011 – Montrose adventure and a new Ice Monster!

I knew this morning was going to be cold, but I never imagined that I would actually be warming up by getting in the 32F (0C) water…

Nick, Matt, and I met out at L1 this morning to check on the swimmability of that site. And while the slight swells had cleared the area of ice, L1 was an unmitigated disaster. The rungs leading down into the lake were completely encased in ice several inches thick. So even if we could leap out over them, it would be impossible to get back out at that location.

In fact, the entire side wall all the way to Oak Street Beach was shellacked in ice leaving no way out other than the beach 1/2 mile away. So essentially, our coveted swim site had become the ice equivalent of a pitcher plant – with us being the hapless insects were we to be so foolish to attempt it:

After a short deliberation, we decided to check out Montrose Beach with Promontory Point as Plan C. Fortunately, we lucked out at Montrose!

Dave had previously scouted out the north south wall up there, and it had looked swimmable a short while ago. When we got up there and checked out the safety ladders all along the wall, everything looked great. There were a few patches of thin ice meandering around the basin, but the swells seemed to have pushed out most of the troublesome patches. So we suited up and scampered down the ladder.

I won’t candy coat it for you. The initial immersion was pretty freakin’ intense! Not only was the lake temperature at the transition point between liquid and freezing, but the air temperature remained an intransigent 11F (-11.7C) throughout the swim.

We took off eastward towards the end of the peninsula and turned around after about 1/3 mile. We stayed within 10 meters of the wall just in case we needed to bail out early, but fortunately the water conditions were rather tame. I say “rather” because even though the swells were lighter than at L1, we still had some unique challenges during the swim.

Because the water was at the borderline between liquid and solid, we were swimming in what was essentially a colloidal mixture of water and ice crystals. In this environment, the ice will automatically begin forming on any surface area with which it comes into contact. And in our case, WE were this surface area!

Several times during the swim, we noticed that the ice crystals were clinging to and accumulating on some of the less smooth surfaces of our swim gear such as our gloves, hoods, and booties. So basically we were being slowly but methodically encased in ice throughout the swim. Fortunately, we moved much quicker than the ice could form, so it was more of a novelty than a nuisance.

We exited after around 25 minutes and began the painful ritual of getting out of our swim gear and into our civilian clothes. Unlike many of the more established swim clubs throughout the U.S., we do not have heated changing rooms or hot showers to greet us post-swim. So our “locker room” consisted of an open air 11F parking lot with occasional forays into a heated car to thaw out our hands.

It’s not the most pleasant of arrangements, but it sure builds character! (P.S. Congrats to Matt, current Lake Monster and new Ice Monster #7)

Big John in winter

South wall at Montrose Beach

Today’s unexpurgated video

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