Kaluna Freediving under ice - words and pictures behind the scene
Our little Kaluna Freediving "expedition team started early in the morning from Zurich. Before noon, we arrived at our destination "Silsersee"in the beautiful region of Oberengadin around 1800 meters above sea level.
On the first gaze, the surroundings seem to be just perfect: there is a parking lot just next to the lake, the accommodation is only 5 minutes away, diving is allowed, the ice seemed to be thick enough to walk and dive in it, since we already have spotted scuba divers walking around on the ice field. The weather was just perfect. Blue sunny sky and a 360° mountain view. Material check
Ok so far so good. And now what? First thing we did was to check and gather the equipment we needed for breaking through the ice and our freediving gear. Most important items:
- Ice axe and Ice screw
- Snow shovel
- Safety ropes
- Vacuum flask
- Film and camera equipment
- Personal equipment: thick wetsuit, socks, cloves, towels, etc.
Good job everybody, we had everything there we needed!
The perfect dive spot
We had all the equipment. Good. Next we need to find a proper location. We were thinking out loud: It must be somewhere, where the water underneath is not too deep and not too shallow. Between 10 and 20 meters would be a good depth. None of us is an experienced ice diver. We were purely aiming for fun and capturing if possible some beautiful shoots underwater. We also wanted the location not being too exposed to the wind but still sunny in the afternoon. Also wondering what might be a good perspective from the sky, because we had a drone with us. For safety reasons, we needed to consider a long distance between the hole and the hiking/cross country ski trail that is passing by. And a relatively short distance to our parked car for any case of emergency. Theory is clear. We all agreed on what would be the ideal position.
The next challenge was to find a way on the ice. First we followed trail that starts next to the parking. With only a few steps aside the trail, our Photo- and Videographer Len Roth was shocked to sink into the thick snow cover and find slushy ice water underneath! Instantly, his shoes were wet. Obviously, we couldn't just walk somewhere on the ice field with our normal hiking boots. What now? We decided to go back to the parking lot and check out where the scuba divers enter the lake. We found a stainless steel stair leading down to the lake. There were a lot of divers wearing try suits. They were standing in the icy water up until their upper thighs. They were looking at us with an expression of friendly pity. 5 people standing there with one loaded sled. Must have looked weird from their perspective. The water was extremely slushy at the end of the stairs where the lake began, because all scuba divers were entering the lake at this point. We decided to find a better spot to enter the lake. One that is more suitable for freedivers. Right after the parked vehicles, there was a huge snow wall we conquered and formed some stair-like shapes into until the shore began.
We were lucky there was only a little water under the snow cover. What a release. Approximately 100 meters away from shore, our team member Valdy, already in full freediving equipment, started to free the lake surface from snow. It all looked very promising from shore! Not very long after that he quickly came back with a big smile on his face to get the chainsaw. Brummmmmbrummm and off he was. Len had the drone hovering over the lake and followed the action going on from the sky. After the first hole was cut, we discovered another layer of slushy ice water underneath.
Incredibly massive ice layer
Only after that we reached the final 30 cm thick ice layer. By the time we were standing inside of the hole above the 30 cm ice layer. The water almost came up to our waists. The water temperature was around 0-1 degrees. Outside temperature -8. Fortunately, the work of freeing the hole of ice kept us warm. We were facing the next challenge "sawing into the last layer of ice". Valdy got the chainsaw out again. The outside temperature was too cold for the chain to continue working and the blade was way too short to get through the last ice layer. After a few desperate attempts, we gave up. That was it. Wet from the icy water and sweaty from the exhausting work in the ice field we stood there. Ice slush everywhere. No ice-free water in sight. We thought about cancelling. The general mood was somber to sad. Finally, Valdy took the initiative. He made his way over to the scuba divers and asked them for assistance. Stefan, a very nice guy from the diving school Waterworld, came over immediately.
Wearing his dry suit, he crossed the first layer of snow and ice water like a tank. In his hand, he carried a chainsaw with a very long blade. Shortly after he started sawing, it was visibly noticeable that the sawing was causing an effort. Even for him. After 25 strained minutes, the job was done! Finally, we removed large and small pieces of ice outside the hole until it was clear. First of all for safety reasons, so that there would be no ice floes floating around that we could hit our heads on later when diving up or down. And secondly that no ice floes could shut down the hole in the worst case.
A hole in the ice - how beautiful
I felt super warm from all the work and excitement and put my face into the water, leaning above the hole. Wow, how beautiful. Gazing down into the clear blue and greenish darkness. The water looks perfect. Magical. It called out to us. Despite the fact that we have been outside in the cold for hours at that point, one after another went into the mysterious cold. We were not diving for any performance purpose, purely to become very carefully familiar with the cold. First, we only dipped our faces into the ice water for 10-20 seconds to get used to the cold and prevent a sudden breathing reflex before diving under the ice. We enjoyed playing around and observing the magical light spectacle underwater. Where the sun kisses the open water surface and the light breaks down into sun rays, like spotlights chasing the darkness. These beautiful moments underwater were worth all the effort! As my grandma would say: "nothing comes from nothing".
Safety under ice
We safetied each other with a safety rope attached to a octopus belt, the diver was wearing around the waist. The safety diver was outside the water permanently connected with the diver. Making sure the rope is tense at all times, so the safety diver feels the connection. The diver on the other side should also be able to move relatively freely in the water. One pull stands for “I am ok” 2 pulls stand for “bring me back”.
Morning has broken like the first moooooorning
Starting the day with- 23 degree outside temperature. A new ice layer of 5-7 cm had to get removed. Ha! No problem!
In preparation for the first session in the morning in the beautiful and crystal clear cold water, everyone was busy with something else:
- Preperation of camera and filming equipment
- warming up
- refilling gloves or socks with warm water
- Clearing the hole
- Getting the ropes ready for safety purposes.
Saving the best till the end!
Valdy our Kaluna Freediving instructor and super hero showed the team how its been done! #BallsOfIce
On Sunday afternoon, right after our last session in the water, we made sure the hole was secured for the public. The final securing of the hole is just as important as safely sawing though the ice, safely clearing and safely freediving under the ice.
We left that stunning location with many learnings, experiences, great pictures and video material, wonderful moments in mind, happily exhausted and definitely stronger than before.
We don't grow when things are easy we grow when we face challenges.
I am proud of you, proud of us! We are Kaluna 💙!