We did it!
We made the longest STA freedive at the extreme altitude of around 4720m. With times 2:21(Lidija) and 3:28(Vitomir) they count as WR times. But it didn’t all start all shiny and peachy.
Arriving at Manang made us feel lucky to be alive. Calling the way “road” would be definitely overusing the term, as this would much closer be described as UIAA class II route. We had a good vehicle, and after roughly 9 hours of bruising and motion sickness we first busted a cooler pipe, which we managed to patch ourselves since the driver had no clue what to do(we hired a “very experienced” driver, who confessed to be here only second time). Then, we ran out of water and oil. Quite handy to have along on a 12 hour off road trip. This glues “un” to our drivers experience for good. So we hitched a ride in a Mahindra Bolero death trap to the local village, had a sleep over in a haunted mansion and found a young dealer prodigy to take us to Manang.
All things considered we are happy to have only lost a day in this mess. But this brings up the question of how to arrange our plans with a day lost in the start. The trip left a trace on the team, and the general fatigue and lack of time made us go for plan B instead of Lake Tilicho, which was around 5k meters high and has a 10 hour light walkup. Instead of that, we went for the Ice lake system. It’s accessible within a day, although its one hell of a climb with more than a 1000m vertical gain.
Walkup to the lake is roughly 5 hours on strenuous terrain up to around 4720 meters. Just something you need before the dive. We are lucky that we have quite extensive mountain experience, and we deal with altitude quite well, but still, apnea after getting so tired, on super thin air in freezing conditions is an extreme endeavor. Check out a few figures in previous news. All things considered, we did the initial training, and were somewhere between worried and happy to finally be here and get the chance to actually go for it.
The Himalayan outback with enchanting villages and paths between them is magical. It’s obvious why this is one of the world’s most famous trampling destinations visited by thousands of hikers, followed by thousands of porters and guides. Hopefully our fresh marketing will help this pinnacle of Nepal industry, because not having agency and local staff support almost makes you feel guilty. In the whole package, Manang region is a pearl for itself. Geographically, culturally, politically separated from the rest of Nepal and joined to the Tibetan plateau, it is something worth the trip and coming back, regardless of the record.
The record day came fast. We got some wind in our back. Meaning it was colder. A bit worried with reports we had seen, we decided in cooperation with the doc to limit our apnea to around 3:00. We prepared outside after probably braking the speed record for getting into the suit and “jumped” in to do the static on the first go. With a good suit the cold doesn’t penetrate to the skin and you’re just fine even though its 2 degrees water and there is ice floating around. Vitomir’s 3:28 and Lidija’s 2:21 on the first hold were enough to beat the existing men’s record (2:00) and establish a new for the ladies. Taking in further would definitely bring better times, but getting colder and wasting limited daylight was more important to us. We had a few more test holds with saturation measurement and the results were surprisingly high. We adapted perfectly to the thin air and even after apnea our saturation jumped right back to normal. This opens up a field for our imagination to ponder on what elevation or time would be the limiting factor in this extreme discipline. We shall see. The gauntlet is thrown down.