Under the Ice!
Located at 1848 metres above sea level, at one of the peaks of the Swiss Alps, there is a beautiful lake called “Lac Lioson”. During the winter months, continuous snowing and the sub-zero temperatures, causes the lake to freeze over. Someone stumbling upon this place, without any prior knowledge, wouldn’t have even noticed the flat plane of snow was in fact a lake during winter!
The lake is accessed via a village in the Swiss Alps, called “Les Mosses”, here a Ski Resort can be found. A small parking at the base of a snow covered mountain, leads to different trails, one of them being to the lake.
I meet a group of experienced divers from different countries early that morning, were we all introduced each ourselves to one another, before then loading up a snowcat. This snow machine was to carry all our dive tanks and heavy dive equipment up the steep mountain slopes, and meet us at the frozen lake.
It’s a strenuous hike up the steep snowy mountain to reach the lake. It’s only about one kilometre away but the snow and ice on the ground and angle of the slopes makes it difficult. It takes us just under an hour to get to the top! We were all given snow rackets and trekking sticks to help with the climb up!
At the top, where the lake is located, there was a large cottage, with the snowcat waiting for us to unload all our equipment.
The lake had already been prepared for us by the dive expedition leaders some days before. This involved breaking the ice in various places, to make entry and exit holes for divers, as well as lay some safety lines below the ice. This was checked when we got there, the holes had a thin layer of ice that had frozen over already from a few days ago, so this had to be broken again.
Equipment setting up and safety briefings took place before we eagerly headed to dive into the icy waters!
When I jumped into the water, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in fact, I was fine, I did not feel cold. I was using a drysuit with 2 thermal layers underneath. The only difference to my usual diving in other places around the world in a drysuit was, that I was using dry gloves with a thermal layer underneath them.
The water temperature was 3’c and the first thing I notice as I descend below the surface is a sharp stabbing pain on my lips! I was fine everywhere else! After a few seconds I start to get a “brain freeze” but this soon fades away as my head gets used to the shock of the freezing water temperature! A nice thick neoprene hood helped with this.
It was an amazing experience to be diving under the sheets of ice! Just above me, there were people standing! My group did a triangular shaped circuit of the guide lines under the ice, before descending to the bottom of the lake, where we found some fresh water fish swimming around.
The dive was a short 20 minutes, enough time for the experience, and generally after this amount of time, your extremities which are less protected by the diving equipment, starts to become quite cold! I noticed my lips had cracked when I came out of the water!
At the cottage, we were treated to some Swiss Cheese Fondue, and then offered a second dive, before heading back down the mountain in sledges! Of course I took the opportunity, and did a second dive. After all, I travelled a long way from Gibraltar to get there!
Overall the whole expedition in itself, not just the diving, was an amazing experience. I hope to do some more cold water diving in the future, perhaps in arctic regions this time!
Below is a link to a small video I put together: