Lake Issyk Kul, July 2016
(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