Lake Issyk Kul, July 2016

IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
edited May 2016 in Event Announcements

(This will sound familiar to some of you, but there are some changes!)

Ladies and gents, I hereby announce my attempt at swimming across lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, sometime between 6-8 July.

Lake Issyk Kul is the second largest alpine lake (defined as a lake at an elevation of 5000 feet or higher) in the world. The lake is approximately 103 miles long by 36 miles wide, and sits at 5,253 feet elevation.

Now before you get impressed: I'm not swimming the length or width of the lake. No no no. I really should post this in the thread "Non-superhuman marathon swimmers." I am swimming a short, 8 mile section at the western end. I'll swim either to or from the village of Toru-Aygyr, depending upon current. Unlike last year, I've got a three-day window this year. The boat captain agreed to make his boat available each of those days. Each morning we'll wake up, look at the weather and the lake conditions, and make the decision then.

There is a reason for my choice of crossing. The Kyrgyz have a myth about a famous horse who crossed the lake at that end. The story is too long to tell here, but if you're interested, I retold the myth at my blog here. Anyway, I thought the distance would be a nice challenge for me at this point in my training (swimming on tethers in a 12m long pool!) and it would mean a lot to the Kyrgyz volunteers I've gathered.

The logistics for this thing last year were difficult, but with the help of my crew from last year, it looks a bit easier now. I'll be using the same boat captain as last year. He was terribly excited to hear that I'm trying again. Hell, at the end of my DNF last year, he looked me in the eyes, and told me "Mike, we expect to see you succeed next year. But please, choose a better month." I also got a strong tentative "Yes" from the only guy who has crossed the lake (Akhmed Anarbayev) to be my official observer.
(Last year he had to bow out at the last minute as he had to be in Bishkek on my crossing day for family business.)

In addition to my crew from last year, I will be adding a Peace Corps Volunteer who just happens to be a graduated collegiate swimmer from Florida International. She's currently teaching English in a village on the southern shore of Issyk Kul and she's also fallen in love with this beautiful lake. She intends on doing this same crossing in August this year, so she'll be on the boat to learn about the process and meet the people she'd need in her attempt. Bonus: she speaks Kyrgyz!

So, bottom line: I will follow MSF rules. Last year I had one caveat: I wore water shoes from the kayak to the beach, at which point I took them off and gave them to the paddler. This year I'll try to do all the shore walking on my bare feet.

I bought a Spot Gen, and I'll activate it closer to the start. I'll post here a link to it. We learned last year that all we could get from the villages around the lake was 3G and on the lake 2G. My son was able to update some via his phone last year, but it was extremely slow, so I'm guessing the Spot Gen will be the best way to follow, if you so choose. Also, once the observer is done with the notes and I get them translated, I'll upload both the Russian and English versions on here for everyone to see. (I'm creating a Russian version of the MSF Observer Log, which I'll also make available in case anyone else attempts to do a crossing in a Russophone country!)

This year I have a little extra impetus to get my a$$ across the lake: The ambassador has been telling every local official she's met here that she's got "an American who wants to swim across this beautiful lake." The governor of Issyk Kul province even offered to provide a dump truck full of lake water to fill the ambassador's pool so I could get used to the water. :O

We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams



  • JaimieJaimie NYCMem​ber

    Looks like an amazing swim and I love the horse story! Much respect - a bunch of us did a swim in Lake Titicaca and the altitude is no joke. How does that altitude compare with where you live?

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited July 2016

    OK, leaving for the lake on 5 July, hoping weather will be good for a 6 July swim.

    My track page is:

    As we learned last year, hard to update folks in the middle of the lake with only 2G, so there won't be FB updates this year.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    jmm234 said:
    ...a bunch of us did a swim in Lake Titicaca and the altitude is no joke. How does that altitude compare with where you live?

    Sorry @jmm234 I thought I'd already answered you.

    Bishkek is at about 2600 feet whereas the lake is at 5270 feet. Slow and steady...

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member

    I'll definitely be following your swim and cheering you on. This is gonna be great.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Thanks @NoelFigart!!

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member

    Go Mike! You can do it! I'll watch the tracker!

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited July 2016

    Let's wish our friend @IronMike a successful crossing.... looks like he is about to begin.

    Swim, @IronMike, swim!

  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USSenior Member

    @evmo...this tracker you designed will be the death of me...all these wonderful swims that I absolutely must watch!!!

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited July 2016

    Woot! Go @IronMike, go! :-)

    Edit: and now congrats!! :)

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member


  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USSenior Member

    Yay @IronMike! Way too go!

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesSenior Member

    Congrats, @IronMike! You got it done!

  • JaimieJaimie NYCMem​ber


  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    Wow. Nice swim Iron Mike. Straight as an arrow.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Thanks everyone! Internet is crap here, so more pictures and a blog entry later after I return to Bishkek and the land of 4G. And huge thanks to @evmo for that wonderful app. So easy.

    (@curly, nice and straight due to a wonderful boat captain!)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaSenior Member

    Congratulations IronMike! Can't wait to read about this swim on your blog.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin

    Thank you Mike for choosing to document your Lake Issyk Kul swim through MSF. Never too late!

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Thanks @evmo for the push and thanks to the volunteers who had to wade through my narrative! And most importantly, thanks to my wonderful crew on that beautiful July day. Damn, I miss that lake.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

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