A short conversation in early July at Loch Ard with Gillian the Yoga guru swimmer along the lines of how it would be great to swim six or seven lochs in The Trossachs over a weekend during the summer. I thought we could do better than that. So I entered a short comment on our Wild West Swimmers group page about the possibility of swimming ten lochs in a day. I thought we might get at most a dozen interested people. Soon we had up to 50 people keen to do this, so the Ten Lochs Challenge was born.
What was the Ten Lochs Challenge? Well it was the possibility of swimming in ten lochs on a one day, with the ultimate challenge of one km in each loch. It would be possible, but of course a lot depended upon the weather. It would also give me the opportunity to swim a few lochs I had not yet swum in.
George (yes the friend I had swum into the rocks in our pier to pub swim) went for a drive the weekend before the scheduled swim to get timings for the itinerary. We had a great time driving through The Trossachs on a stunning summer day. We came up with this plan for our day on the first Saturday in September:-
First swim – Loch Earn 07.00 – 07.30
Drive to Loch Voil 07.30 – 08.00 (15 min)
Loch Voil swim 08.00 – 08.30
Drive to Loch Lubnaig 08.30 – 09.00 (15 min)
Loch Lubnaig swim 09.00 – 09.30
09.30 – 10.00 Lubnaig – tea /coffee snack & catch time
Drive to Loch Venachar 10.00 – 10.30 (15 min)
Loch Venachar swim 10.30 – 11.00
Drive to Loch Drunkie 11.00 – 11.40
Loch Drunkie swim 11.40 – 12.10
Drive to Loch Achray 12.10 – 12.30
Loch Achray swim 12.30 – 13.00
Drive to Loch Ard 13.00 – 13.45
Loch Ard swim 13.45 – 14.15
Soup sandwiches & chat @ Ard 14.15 – 15.30
Drive to Loch Chon 15.30 – 16.00 (10 mins)
Loch Chon swim 16.00 – 16.30
Drive to Loch Katrine 16.30 – 17.00 (15 mins)
Loch Katrine swim 17.00 – 17.30
Drive to Inversnaid 17.30 – 18.00 (15 mins)
Inversnaid Loch Lomond swim 18.00 -18.30.
The total distance to drive for this would be about 60 miles ( or 100km), pus the distance to the start from Glasgow of another 60 miles, and back to Glasgow from Inversnaid of another 45 miles, a total of 165 miles ( or 260km). So it would be a long day with lots of driving and swimming.
The day started with a 530am pickup from my driver for the day: The Actor. Our drive up through Stirling past the castle and The Wallace Monument as dawn was breaking was magical. The weather forecast was for a sunny day with calm conditions until mid afternoon. As we arrived at Lochearnhead, it as cold, with an air temperature of 6.5c. There was an excited buzz in the carpark as the 30 or so swimmers fell out of their vans and cars to get ready for the day. Some wear wearing the full wetsuit, others in skins (no wetsuit). It was great to so so many eager people with huge smiles on their faces, with a love of open water swimming.
I had decided to try to do the whole day in skins, and to try and get one km in each loch. I knew that the water temperature should not be a problem, as I had been swimming most of the summer in skins. However, the challenge was going to be staying warm and fed between swims.
After the photo shoot was over, we all went into the water. And yes Loch Earn was cold, with the water only 13.8c. But it was stunning, with the mist sitting on the water waiting to wrap the swimmers in their embrace, calm conditions, and the rising sun flooding the loch. I managed to swim just under 1km to start the day.
Back in the car, and the convoy shifted to Loch Voil. Our car went first as I knew where we could access the loch. We planned to enter the River Balvaig, a short 8km long river that connect Loch Voil to Loch Lubnaig. We would enter and then swim 200m upstream into the loch. Now this was the first time I had swum in this loch, and I had been looking forward to it. However, as we arrived, the fog had closed in, and the visibility was down to a few hundred metres. As we entered the river, and made our way through the weeds the fog thickened and visibility dropped to 50m or so. But the water was slightly warmer at 15.4c, a lot warmer than the chilly 7.9c air temperature.
As we made our way into the loch we could hear the shrieks behind us. It was only afterwards that we learnt that a weed monster had appeared to terrorise some of the swimmers. A group of us did make into the loch proper, and it was a different swim in the slowly lifting fog that slowly revealed the beauty of this hidden loch.
Back into the car, keeping warm and dry in my dryrobe. I had swum another 900m in Loch Voil, so was just under my target distance. two lochs down, only eight to go, as we drove down to Loch Lubnaig.
The third loch on our challenge was Loch Lubnaig, which is a loch we often visit during each year, because of its beauty. Today, it was on its very best behaviour with the smooth waters just begging to be swum in. The water here was a pleasant 15.1c, and by now the fog had lifted and the air had warmed up to 10.4c. Out into the water I went, and swum across the loch and back, and then up a short way, getting out after 1100m, which put me back on the schedule. It was then time to refresh with some snacks and warm drinks and chat to the other swimmers, who all had huge smiles.
So three lochs down, and our timetable was working well. Everyone was having fun, the weather was fantastic, and eager for the challenge ahead.
To be continued.