Madswimmer World Record Swim Speaks Of Climate Change

“The Sky is the Limit” Madswimmer Team triumphantly returned to a camp in Kagkot in the Himalayas on Sunday afternoon, the 12 of May, marking their reconnection with civilization and their first steps on solid ground after a grueling fifteen-day ascent on the icy slopes of Mt. Putha Hiunchuli in the Himalayas. Their mission was to complete the highest altitude swim ever recorded.

On the morning of May 10th, at an altitude of 6,405 meters, the team achieved their ambitious goal. They surpassed the previous record of 6,370 meters set by Australian Dan Bull in the Andes Mountains in South America, thus shifting the highest swim record to a new continent under challenging conditions— a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

Jean Craven, expedition leader and founder of Madswimmer, noted that the trek to the swim site was the most arduous part of the journey. Following three flights and a nerve-wracking 17-hour Jeep ride along steep cliffs, the team embarked on a 138km uphill trek that lasted 15 days. With the aid of eighteen sherpas and a caravan of 35 donkeys and yaks, they transported over a ton of equipment and supplies essential for their survival. They faced harsh icy conditions, battling wind and snow, and navigated treacherously near crevasses that threatened to collapse beneath them.

Describing the swim, Jean recounted, “The last accessible liquid (swimming) water was found at 4,900 meters. To achieve a world record, we needed to venture higher and create a suitable swimming environment at 6,405 meters. We carved out a swimming hole in the ice and melted ice in large drums that preserved the liquid water overnight. The swimming hole was covered under a tent canvas to prevent refreezing at night. The next morning, we removed the canvas, filled the ice hole with the liquid water we preserved, and took turns swimming in it for about three minutes each, wearing Speedos only. The water was chillingly cold at 3.7 degrees Celsius, with the outside temperature at minus six.”

The expedition was conducted with a commitment to environmental stewardship. After their historic swim, the water was carefully returned to the mountain, where it refroze.

Dr. Chiara Baard, the team doctor, diligently monitored the members’ vital signs and general health throughout. Oxygen levels were measured in the morning and again at night and it was interesting observing how sleep aided their acclimatization overnight. Despite most team members lacking experience in high-altitude climbing, none suffered severe shortness of breath or other altitude symptoms. Three members took medication to facilitate acclimatization, which was discontinued as they began their descent. Post-swim, everyone was warmed in heated tents, dressed in warm clothes covered with hot water bottles, ensuring their bodies recovered well from the extreme cold.

The team emphasized that their expedition aimed to witness and document the impacts of climate change. They encountered alarming signs, like running water appearing nearly 5,000 meters above sea level. The solid ice is crucial for binding the soil in these frigid zones. The melting of it threatens devastating land and mudslides that could obliterate communities. With global awareness campaigns initiated by Nepalese tourism and the vivid documentation by Madswimmer, the team hopes to spark meaningful discussions and highlight the urgent need to address climate change.

Madswimmer is collecting
funds for the following charities:
Red Cross Children’s Hospital Cape Town

Adolescent Oncology Unit, Universitas Academic Annex Hospital, Bloemfontein

Putha Village Porter Shelter Project & Down Jacket Sponsorship

Jean Craven, Madswimmer founder and expedition leader
Vanes-Marie Du Toit
Neo Mokuene
Deniz Kayadelen
Thufayl Ali (Cameraman)
Chiara Baard (Team Doctor)
Sean Disney (Himalaya Tourleader)


Nicolene Steynberg (Madswimmer Support)
C: +27 83 607 0603