swimming an ice mile

Mar 11, 2021 | Swimming

I love the Tough Girl podcast for many reasons. My favorite, though, is that it introduces me to challenges that women are taking on that are so far outside what I do that I can’t help but digging in to what they are all about. Sarah Williams, the creator of Tough Girl podcast, does a wonderful job of drawing the stories out of her guests. I recently listened to her interview with Cath Pendleton, the first woman from UK to swim an ICE mile, and I was enthralled by the story. I would love watch the BBC documentary about her attempt, but it is only available in the UK at this time. 

 When I think about the adventures that seem so far beyond what I can currently do, few offer up quite as much dread as the ice of swimming an ice mile. The challenge, which has its very own society, involves swimming one mile in water less than 41F (or 5C) for the full ICE status. 406 swimmers hold this distinction within the society. A second option, for the COLD status, is to swim 1K in that temperature, with 402 already making it that far.  For those to whom this challenge makes the heart flutter a bit, there are organized swims and even bigger challenges available, like the Ice Sevens – swimming an ICE mile on every continent. (Jaimie Monahan of the United States was the first person to complete this challenge.) It is very important to have a support for your swim as the danger of hypothermia is very real.

But I’ll be honest. Swimming a full mile in water that cold does not get my heart racing the way that it needs to for enduring the ice water training and cold shocks I would need to take this on. Yet the idea of “wild swimming” as they call it in the UK (calling it “open water swimming” is just not as cool – let’s be honest) has that visceral appeal that I can’t explain.

Oregon is full of crystalline lakes that would provide wonderful opportunities for wild swimming that would push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to move past the anxious feelings that arise for me when swimming in unknown water. A wild swim longer than I have ever done or a crossing of a lake I love would be two possible adventures to explore. For now, I’ll keep it to warmer waters, but perhaps I’ll challenge myself to dip into cold lakes more often.

 Whew. I jumped into Funtensee, known as the coldest alpine lake in Bavaria, and I could barely dip my head under before scrambling for the shore.   

Thinking Beyond The Ice Mile 

  • What adventures does the idea of swimming an ice mile spark for you? How could you take that energy and turn it into a wild swimming adventure?


About The Author

About The Author

Teri Smith is starting her third act as a photographer, writer and adventure seeker in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more here.