After Debbie landed the swim at Ambleside, the team had no time to lose. It was already lunchtime, and we still had to drive us and all of the gear to Snowdonia and swim Bala to complete the 3 Lakes Challenge.
I had a lovely snooze (again) in the back of the van, after a makeshift lunch from whatever snacks were left lying around in the minibus from the previous day.
While the shortest of the 3 Lakes at somewhere around 6 km, Bala was actually logistically the hardest. Boat hire on Awe and Windermere was straightforward, but motorized boat transport on Bala was harder to organize. While it would have been possible to get a permit, the boat would have needed to have been brought in from somewhere else, which would have stretched the budget too far.
In the end, we opted to hire a kayak to accompany the swimmer, with the added safety of a towfloat, to be handed over at the takeovers. As we were swimming down the shore of the lake from one end to the other, each new swimmer would swim out from the bank for the takeover, with the observer staying on the bank. We also lucked out, Graham Killingbeck, Dad of 16-year old Channel Conqueror Hazel happened to be at Bala for the day, and was press-ganged at short notice to kayak. Thank you Graham!!!
As a note to future challengers, this was more than a little stressful at times, and warrants some prior planning for multiple eventualities. We ended up swimming with a stiff wind behind us, meaning we went quite quickly. At times there was a deal of scrambling along the bank through undergrowth and thickets of trees. If we did this again, I think we would bite the bullet and hire a boat.
Helen Liddle started us off with the kayak at the Glan Llyn Outdoor Activity Centre Beach at the south of the Lake. Please note that permission is required to use this start point, so please call ahead. The swim was windy throughout, with white crests for the whole duration of the swim. As Debbie had been the last swimmer in Windermere, and was in for more than 30 minutes, our pre-posted rules stated that the next swimmer in line would start Bala. Helen reported tough conditions getting round the corner and into the lake proper. All subsequent swimmers surfed down the lake with a tasty wind behind……
Sam and Helen G did their 1/2 hour slots, before in the end it fell to me to bring the swim home. We completed in 1 h 43 minutes, with a small 13 minute last leg for me!
The finish point was in front of the Bala Adventure Watersports Centre at the north of the Lake, in very shallow water. All of the others came in off a nearby jetty, and followed me in as I limped over the sharp rocks in to shore.
We had done it!
Under overcast skies, just after 6 PM on the second day, the inaugural 3 Lakes Challenge was completed. It was LOT of fun, and we can recommend it to anyone who fancies a challenge, either as a team, or for anyone strong enough and daft enough, as a solo.
The benchmarks out there are as follows:
For a 5 person relay:
Total time elapsed from start of Awe to end of Bala – 36 hours 23 minutes
Total swim time – 19 hours 23 minutes
Travel time – 17 hours
I think the most meaningful time for people to shoot for is the total swim time, so long as the whole thing is completed within a given 48 hour period. It would be a shame to encourage people to better the time simply by racing the drives between lakes. Safety should always be the most important thing!
Many thanks to the team once again, including Tanja our observer, Roger our tireless driver, and Levi, the bemused, but ever-affable dog.
(Note – An observers report will be filed with WOWSA and MSF)