Two UK scuba divers are set to put their best fin forward for a 24-hour diving and mountaineering fundraiser that will see them dive the UK’s three highest altitude lakes.
Sarah Tingey (27) and Rachael Priest (25), both Divemasters from south-west England, are the first women to tackle the Three Lakes Challenge – a mission that will take them to lakes located in Scotland, England and Wales – all in 24 hours.
The challenge, which was initiated and completed by Monty Halls and Andy Torbet for Help For Heroes in 2007, involves divers hiking to reach each lake with their dive equipment in tow and driving to each location. The two female divers have named their adventure Mission High Water, which will take place in April next year.
“Mission High Water will push me more than anything else I have done before,” explains Sarah, who has been diving for 13 years and is studying for her PhD in Glaciology at the University of Bristol.
“The physical side of it is quite scary, but I think the worst part will be the psychological aspect – particularly the pressure to complete the challenge successfully, safely and raise a good amount of money!”
The pair aim to raise £2,500 for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Service, a cause close to their hearts.
“We are both from the West Country and have seen first-hand the importance of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance,” says Sarah.
“They not only assist outdoors adventurers, but are also so important to rural communities like the ones that Rach and I grew up in. With no funding from the NHS and government they rely on fundraising activities to help them continue.”
Eager to complete the fundraiser within the 24 hour time frame, the duo have set themselves an intense training regime that includes carrying weighted back packs to work, eight-hour walks and diving in Scapa Flow (where Rachel works) to help acclimatise to cooler temperatures.
“To be granted successful completion of the Three Lakes Challenge, we have to carry all of our own gear which will be around 30kg, and be self-sufficient on the mountain and in the water,” says Sarah.
“In the UK we both dive in twinsets with drysuits but I don’t think this would work carting it up to each lake – the Scottish leg is a 1000m climb over 11km each way – so we are going to have to adapt.”
The divers have some tricks up their sleeves to help with the cold temperatures and weighting issues, using a combination of quality gear and the natural environment to their advantage.
“The guys at O’Three were concerned that I would be diving in my very thin eight-year-old 3mm wetsuit. After they heard what we were up to they sponsored Mission High Water, providing us with semi-drys that will keep us warm. We probably won’t be able to carry lead and weight belts up so will need to fill our pockets with rocks so we can be neutrally buoyant!”
Suunto Diving have also gifted two D4i computers to be used in the challenge which will be raffled off after the event.
Rachael, who has been diving since the age of 15 and has just finished a Masters degree in Marine Science, met Sarah at Vobster Quay Inland Diving Centre in Somerset where they became friends. They’ll be preparing for the mission at Vobster Quay to get used to their ultralight kit.
Thrilled about the prospect of spectacular views but hoping for a snow-free trip, Rachael is most apprehensive about the drive.
“I am most excited for the views as spring is a fantastic time of year, and if we are lucky enough to have some good weather, the scenery will be stunning,” she adds. “Hopefully we won’t end up trudging through too much snow. I am most nervous for the driving, but we will try our best to avoid traffic.”
The key to completing the challenge within 24 hours will lie in the first lake Sarah says, “The first Scottish lake will be the most important – if we complete that within the set time the rest should run relatively smoothly.”
Find out more and donate to Mission High Water here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MissionHighWater