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