You will remember our feature on British endurance swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Gordon Pugh in the build up to his high altitude swim on Everest. Well, today he completed his goal, and become the first person to complete a long distance swim under the summit of Mount Everest.
Armed with just speedo swiming trunks, cap and gogles, Pugh completed the 1km swim in icy cold 2 degree waters across a glacial lake at an altitude of 5300m in a time of 22 minutes and 51 seconds.
He undertook the record-breaking swim to draw attention to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and the impact of declining water supplies in the region. A shining example of a much better adventure if ever we saw one.
Pugh said: Its one of the hardest swims Ive ever undertaken. When I swam in Antarctica and across the North Pole I swam with speed and aggression but on Mount Everest you cant 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 wouldnt make 1km and Im delighted that Ive 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 (in which case I might die of hypothermia).Even getting to the lake was an ordeal. We have been trekking for two weeks to get to our base camp at Gorak Shep (Place of the Ravens). From there to the glacial lake it was a lengthy scramble over rocks and boulders.All along the Khumbu Glacier Ive seen pools of melted ice. Millions of people rely on this water and preserving this water supply is vital to peace in the region. That is why I was so determined to draw attention to this critical issue by undertaking a Swim for Peace under the summit of Mount Everest.Before I set off for Mount Everest I watched the election debates in Britain with great interest. Climate change and the environment did not feature significantly. I would urge David Cameron and Nick Clegg as well as leaders 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 its 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. I begin my journey back to London today and when I arrive I hope to be able to share my experiences with David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their government and show them the footage of what weve seen. Pugh has spent the past eight months preparing for this swim and set off on his journey on May 5th. Preparations included completing the first ever swim across Lake Imja en route to Mount Everest (altitude 5,010 metres). Lake Imja, which was first seen around 1958, is now over 2 kilometres long, due to the melting of the Imja Glacier.
Want to visit the region(but not swim!)? read our Everest Base Camp page, and then check out the much better options we have dicovered for you in India, Nepal and Mongolia.