RAC­ING THE CLOCK

FE­MALE DIVE­MAS­TERS TACKLE THE U.K.’S GRU­EL­ING THREE LAKES CHAL­LENGE

Scuba Diving - - Currents - BY MELISSA SMITH

The tag line for NBC’S de­mand­ing ob­sta­cle course Spar­tan: The Ul­ti­mate Team Chal­lenge is “no one tri­umphs alone.”

You don’t have to un­der­score the im­por­tance of that slo­gan to dive­mas­ters Sarah Tingey and Rachael Priest, who plan to dive the three high­est-al­ti­tude lakes in the U.K. within 24 hours, the first women to at­tempt the daunt­ing Three Lakes Chal­lenge, com­pleted in 2007 by Andy Tor­bet and Monty Halls. In late April, Tingey, who is 27, and Priest, 25, will travel from Scotland to Eng­land to Wales, hik­ing, driv­ing and div­ing to achieve their goal.

The team­mates will hike up a moun­tain to the first lake, get kit­ted up, dive for at least 20 min­utes, de-kit, hike down, drive to the next lo­ca­tion, and re­peat twice more — all in one day’s time. They have dubbed their ven­ture Mis­sion High Wa­ter.

While the women are pre­oc­cu­pied with han­dling the lo­gis­tics, they are also tar­get­ing a greater ob­jec­tive: rais­ing funds for Dorset and Som­er­set Air Am­bu­lance Ser­vice. In the English coun­try­side, where trans­porta­tion is lim­ited, the women con­sider them­selves lucky to have air­lift ser­vices. DSAA not only helps in­jured divers and hik­ers, but also ev­ery­day lo­cal peo­ple, from in­fants to the el­derly.

“We would be lost with­out these ser­vices,” says Tingey. “Through our work in the div­ing in­dus­try and liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, we have ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand the im­por­tance of rapid emer­gency med­i­cal care. When time is crit­i­cal, a he­li­copter can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death.”

With no gov­ern­ment fund­ing, DSAA re­lies solely on do­na­tions. A sin­gle lift costs nearly $3,300. Through their chal­lenge, the women hope to raise funds for at least one air ser­vice.

The duo is train­ing hard, walk­ing up to 10 hours a day — along with in­cre­men­tal cold-wa­ter swims — lug­ging weighted back­packs to pre­pare for ar­du­ous moun­tain hik­ing. Used to div­ing in dry­suits with twin­set tanks, they’ll ad­just their gear to make the treks eas­ier. To com­plete the Three Lakes Chal­lenge suc­cess­fully, the women must be self-suf­fi­cient while hik­ing and div­ing.

But what they’re most con­cerned about is what they can’t con­trol — weather and traf­fic.

“Hope­fully we won’t end up trudg­ing through too much snow,” says Priest. “But I am most ner­vous for the driv­ing. We’ll try to avoid traf­fic, but I don’t want it to be too hor­ren­dous that it stops us from achiev­ing our goal.”

If all goes well, the team is ex­cited for the ad­ven­ture’s scenery and, of course, the fin­ish line.

“The sun­rise as we come up from our first dive and de­scend down the moun­tain could be quite stun­ning,” says Tingey. “And the cel­e­bra­tory choco­late bar and cup of tea at the end will be a mo­ment I’ll cher­ish for­ever.”

Tingey (left) and Priest

Coire an Lochain, Scotland Red Tarn, Eng­land Ffyn­non Lloer, Wales

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