If you want to beat a world record set by Lewis Pugh then you know you are going to have to endure some pretty extreme conditions. In 2010, Pugh swam in a lake on Mount Everest to set the record for the world's highest swim. To attempt the new world record, the aptly named Madswimmers travelled from their native South Africa to the border of Chile and Argentina where they hiked for eight days into the Andes.
The original plan to swim on Mout Ojos at 6400m above sea level was foiled when the pool was so solidly frozen that the ice was too thick for their chainsaws. Plan B saw the team hike to nearby Mt Tres Cruces. On 5 December, after a six-hour climb up to the crater of the volcano, they reached the frozen pool. The Madswimmers had to revert to hours of hacking with pickaxes to cut a channel in the ice as their chainsaws were too weak to deal with the 30cm ice.
Jean Craven, Herman van der Westhuizen and Chris Marthinusen completed the 5-minute swim in average water temperature of 0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius in Speedos, and Evan Feldman and Milton Brest in wetsuits. Robert Graaff and Juandre Human were unable to partake in the final swim due to medical constraints. The new world record was set at 5909m above sea level, 700m higher than Pugh's Everest swim.
The swimmers were supported by Dr Sean Gottschalk and Darryl Wood, specialists in altitude acclimitisation and hypothermia, tour guide Sean Disney of Adventure Dynamics International, four support climbers and Charl Rorich, the cameraman who provided the proof of their swim.
The record attempt has earned the Madswimmers a nomination for a WOWSA Award.