Cold Freeze Winter 2018

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Aldochlay on Loch Lomond looking serene though cold in late March 2018

As the winter settled in Scotland, I took some time to get over the disappointment I felt from the ice km event. I knew that I had to get more cold water swims in all-weather conditions, to prepare me for any future attempts. Luckily, the area around Glasgow is ideal for winter swimming, with plenty of locations to choose from. Our normal swim time is 9am on a Saturday morning, and in mid-winter that is daybreak at these northern altitudes. That means driving to a swim in the dark.

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A light dusting of snow on the lower reaches of Ben Lomond

 

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Luss beach with the pier in the background and Honeymoon Island to its left

In the middle of February the New Cumnock outdoor 25m pool was opened for a night swim. This pool had recently been renovated and the night of the swim had us greeted by a blanket of light snow on arrival in the village, around a one hours drive south of Glasgow. The water was a delightful 12c, and it was good to swim in water that warm under the stars. The best thing was the hot outdoor shower after the swim.

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New Cumnock pool on a cold winter’s evening

At the end of February, we ventured to Loch Lubnaig for what turned out to be the coldest swim of the year. There was ice on the edge of the loch as we shivered in the -2 air, and the water was a brutal 1.7c. I managed a mere fifty metre swim that morning in skins, and it was painful. I am full of admiration for hardy swimmers who brave those conditions.

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Loch Lubnaig with ice at the edge and not much warmer in the water

 

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A dusting of snow down the slopes of Ben Ledi above Loch Lubnaig

The winter of 2018 was proving to be the coldest since my arrival on these shores in 2014. In late February the whole of the UK was tortured by the so called beast from the east. Cold winds blowing in from Siberia hit Glasgow with a big snowstorm that dumped 30cm of snow. Roads were impassable, with drivers caught on the motorways overnight trapped by the ice and snow. The railways shut down, mainly because the train drivers were finding it difficult to report for duty. Schools and offices shut as the city closed, fearing a repeat of the bad storms of 2010 where people had to walk home along the motorways. Glasgow turned into a winter wonderland, and I had the joy of watching people on skis, snowboards, sledges (or Toboggans or sleds) on the streets as the cars slowed to a crawl. It was great to hear children laughing and playing the in the snow. I was amazed that there were virtually no vehicles with snow-chains on their tyres, and I recalled many a time putting them on driving to the Australian ski-fields. They did give extra grip in these conditions.

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The snow piling up in the street in late Feb 2018

 

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No trains today

 

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The cityscape after the snow had fallen

 

 

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A usually busy Sauchiehall Street looking deserted

 

 

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Traffic crawling along Pollokshaws Road as the snow keeps on falling

The good thing about the cold weather was that it dropped the temperature in the lochs. The bad thing was that I could not go for a snow swim as I was unable to get my car out for a few days after the snow stopped falling.

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Still the snow falls

 

 

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Queens Park was busy with snow sports

 

 

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Even the vines caught some snow

 

 

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No chance of enjoying a swim in this pond as it freezes solid

By the time I managed to get back to the lochs for outdoor swims, I had too long a break, with over 4 weeks between dips. When I went back in I could not even put my face in the water and only swam for less than sixty metres. Even though the water that day was only 3c, I knew that if I wanted to get longer in the water I would have to put the wetsuit back on.

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Luss on a foggy morning that we waited to lift before going in

So that is what I did, and it did confuse a few of my fellow skins swimmers to see me decked out in neoprene again. I was back to swimming a mile in the wetsuit, as the water slowly warmed up to 5c at the start of the April, and then to 6c by the middle of the month. I had even managed a swim from Luss to Honeymoon Island and back, which is always a good test of water tolerance.

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Luss on Loch Lomond looking cold with snow on the hills

I was now well on the way to be ready for my summer of swimming ahead.

 

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A swan welcoming committee at Duck Bay on Loch Lomond

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