Three Lakes, Two Kilts, One Brown Trout - and a New Challenge Record
Last weekend's Three Lakes Challenge attempt, by a team from Burghead Sub-Aqua Club (Burgsac), was a great success. The time of 20 hours and 36 minutes set by Kenny Munro, Matt Buckley and Rob Pozzi beat the previous record held by celebrity explorers Monty Halls and Andy Torbet by more than 2 and a half hours.
The Three Lakes Challenge involves diving the three highest lakes in the UK within a 24 hour period. Challengers must carry a complete set of dive gear, without assistance, to and from each of the lakes before making the dive – hiking a total of 36km with a full set of dive gear over steep and wild terrain.
The team began at 3:30pm on Friday, 26 July at the highest lake in the challenge, Loch Coire an Lochan, which lies 996m up the northwestern slope of Breariach in the Cairngorms, the UK's third-highest peak. Reaching the loch involves a 13km trek up the steeply-sloped mountain, much of which is across rocks and gorse with no path to aid progress. The team used pony bottles for air instead of standard scuba tanks – which would have been a near-impossible task to transport to the lakes – but each diver still carried over 20kg of dive gear in their rucksacks.
The round trip and dive at Loch Coire an Lochan took a total of 6 hours and 48 minutes, after which the team drove the 238 miles to Red Tarn, courtesy of 'designated driver' Alan Gibson, who had originally planned to take part in the challenge but was unable to do so due to work commitments during the training period.
At 718m up the western side of Helvellyn, the third-highest mountain in England, Red Tarn is accessible via a 3.5km-long path, described as 'horrendously steep' by the team, who said they were 'glad it was dark while they were climbing,' so that they couldn't see the 'daunting' peak in front of them. In total, the hike and dive at Red Tarn took 3 hours 10 minutes, after which the team drove 172 miles to Ffynnon Lloer, located at an altitude of 650m within the Carneddau mountain range of Snowdonia, North Wales.
Ffynnon Lloer is accessible by a narrow trail which follows a steep incline from the road below. It took just under two hours to complete the final challenge, and it was here that the team encountered the only wildlife of all three dives - a solitary brown trout, whose presence in a small lake, 650m above sea level, remains unexplained.
DIVE caught up with Kenny, Matt and Rob, as they veritably bounded down the mountainside, completing the Three Lakes Challenge at 12:06pm, 2 hours and 34 minutes under the time set by Monty Halls and Andy Torbet.
Diving-wise, the team spent around 10 minutes under the water at each location, diving in wetsuits and hoods, and weighting themselves with rocks found at the side of each lake. Visibility was reportedly excellent for the most part, but with nothing much to see apart from each other (and the trout).
As to why the team decided to take on such a demanding challenge, Kenny explained that he sets himself a new challenge every year – from running marathons to extended triathlons – and wanted to do something extraordinary to celebrate the Burghead Sub-Aqua Club's 25th anniversary. Completing the Three Lakes Challenge was no mean feat – seven participants originally signed up to the challenge, whittled down to three as the months of arduous training began to take its toll.
'I was over the moon that we completed the challenge, to within 12 minutes [of the planned time],' said Kenny. 'I was asked what made me think we could save over 2 hours on a Marine and Para's time (Monty Halls is a former Royal Marine and Andy Torbet a former Paratrooper), and my only reply was: "we have planned exactly what we need to do, all we need to do is follow the plan!"'
The team set up a campaign to raise money for charity, with proceeds to be split equally between the RNLI (The Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and a replacement dive boat for the Burgsac club. There is still a month to go for the fundraiser, and donations can be made through the team's JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kenny-munro-1.