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Comfort in the cold

Photographer Mark Griffiths explores the physical and mental benefits of wild swimming

The air temperature is a mere 2°C above freezing. Snow covers a rugged, barren landscape and a strong north-westerly wind causes surface ripples at the lake, which is almost 1,000 feet above sea level. A number of open-water swimmers brazenly walk into the freezing lake, completely disregarding the extremities of this harsh and uninviting environment. Wearing nothing but a lycra swimsuit or shorts, they wade up to their waist through the frigid substances, pushing pieces of ice to the side before diving into the water. The thermometer displays a temperature of a mere 0.9°C above freezing and the wind chill makes it feel more like -10°C. After 25 minutes, the swimmers return to the water’s edge, clambering up the slippery rocks with a noticeably deep-red complexion. Shortly after, they’re in their dry robes (a fleece-lined dressing gown) and the endorphins kick in – there’s a sense of elation and euphoria etched across their faces as they bounce back and forth of each other with verbal banter, and an encouraging appreciation of what they have just accomplished. The smiles and conversations continue for the rest of the day. This is wild swimming.

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