Photos of Herman van der Westhuizen serving as a second during a training swim on Mount Muelas Muertes with Jean Craven and Chris Marthinusen in the water, courtesy of Nicolene Steynberg about the Madswimmers The Big Swim on Mt Ojos del Salado in Argentina.

The advantage of doing high-altitude swimming up on a volcano is the availability of a 30ºC (86ºF) thermal bath right next to the 8ºC (46ºF) lake.

Herman van der Westhuizen, Jean Craven and Chris Marthinusen completed training swims and watched over each other at 5,100 meters.

They are part of the Madswimmer expedition of 7 South African high-altitude swimmers, 2 medics, 4 support climbers, a tour guide and a cameraman were rising to the challenge – steadily towards the world’s highest altitude swim on Mt Ojos del Salado in the Andes Mountain.

But whether winter swimmers are at sea level or thousands of meters above the ocean, they all knew the importance of seconds.

Ice swimmer Nuala Moore explains, “The concept of team has always been of colossal significance in distance swimming, but its significance in ice is more a life-support mechanism and a bridge between the swimmer and the event.

It is unrealistic for ice swimmers to exit the water in a capacity to manage their own recovery in distances over 450m. We should not expect them to. Along with mountain climbing, ice swimming is a sport where the return leg from the swim, or the descent from the summit, is as important to manage as the swim or climb itself.

It’s not about getting to 1000m; it’s about getting back from it. That achievement requires team. Over the last two years, we have discovered the key to success is team. Not just people watching, but a team watching who know how to push and how to stop, how to manage the recovery, how to make sense of the swim, and mostly how not to be afraid.

A good teammate will mostly accept your journey and try to support you through it and not to be thwarted by their fears.

Their responsibility at the event is to liaise between the event organiser/referee and the swimmer. The team member is there for both sides: what they contribute to the event and what they contribute to the swimmer. They are invaluable
.”



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