jendutjendut Charter Member
edited May 2013 in General Discussion
Hello Out There- I am wondering whether anyone from sea level can tell me about swimming in Lake Tahoe- excuse my ignorance, but is altitude a factor at all there? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!


  • JonMLJonML Member
    Lake Tahoe is over 6,000 feet (1900 meters) above sea level. You'll feel that, no question. Any chance you can get there a week early to acclimate? You could also buy one of these products: http://www.hypoxico.com/
  • JoeBJoeB Member
    I have not seen much written up about this but several of us in Colorado have noticed that the water feels colder at altitude. As a caveat, we train at roughly 5,000 feet and notice this when we have done swims at 8,000-9,000 feet. We do not have a big sample size of people and it seems as if some people are more sensitive then others. Personally, I found that my body reacted as if I was in water about 2-3F colder when I swam at 9,000 feet versus 5,000 feet. When I went down to sea level, I did not see an advantage (ie the water did not feel warmer). Does anyone else have any data on how the perceived water temperate is with altitude?
  • oxooxo Guest
    edited May 2013
    I'm not able to perceive water temperature very accurately, @JoeB, so before all swims I measure the water temperature with a couple thermometers -- even if I had swam it the day before. As for altitude, @jendut, people respond differently, so 'altitude as an issue' is mostly 'your mileage may vary'. My own story: I live at 200', essentially at sea level. From a trail head at 6800', I occasionally hike in about 2 miles to 8100' to swim a small glacial lake that has ice sheets several feet thick and mini-bergs from the glacier floating about, water temp is in the 30's F. The tarn remains frozen over some summers. For my very first swim there, I made the 4 hr drive from home at sea level to the trailhead at 6800', arriving around 10pm, slept out, then hiked in the next morning for a swim. No problems. Slept that night at 3900', then drove back up to the TH the next morning for another hike/swim. Again no issues with that swim either. Ever since, I haven't considered altitude to be a risk factor for me for lakes below 8000'. I'm unable to figure out how this might apply to a Tahoe swim, other than another data point for altitude and cold water.

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    I live in Colorado with @JoeB. I second the fact that fresh water at altitude feels a few degrees colder than salt water at sea level. No idea why, but I'm sure I've read somewhere that others experience the same. So, if you train at sea level, be sure you're ready for that effect.

    I have a few theories on altitude training as well. First, I think the more fit you are, the fewer the noticeable effects of altitude. However, you will likely feel a shortness of breath and possibly tire sooner at 6000 feet than you will at sea level. I know NFL teams either come to Denver several days before they play us, or fly in at the last minute in order to lessen the altitude effect.

    If you're not sure what the altitude will do to you, I really recommend finding a high lake for a training swim before you get out to Tahoe. We always welcome fellow swimmers out here! Our lakes are all around 60 degrees in Denver right now. Perfect swimming!
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    Thanks for the thoughts and help (and the invite)! I live in Massachusetts, so chances of my finding a "high lake" are slim. My neighbor happens to have one of those altitude training tents to sleep in (she was preparing for a huge hike) so I might experiment with that prior (can't hurt, I guess). Interesting about the cold sensation- sounds like the "'feel" difference between salt and fresh water which are the same number on the thermometer. Our lakes are low/mid 60s now (which is nice) but by August will be quite warm, so that is a good piece of info to put in the back of my mind. Any more thoughts/theories are welcome...
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    Thanks for asking the question. I'm swimming Lake Tahoe in August. Had heard about the idea of arriving early to acclimate or planning my arrival close to the start. Not sure what I'm going to do just yet. When are you swimming there jendut?
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    I am hoping to do the 15th or so- I am waiting to make sure Jamie can swing that date before I finalize things. I just spoke with him and should hear back soon! I am at jspendutton@gmail.com btw- when are you swimming it?
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    I'm scheduled for before camp. Giving me a few days to recover so I won't be a vegetable on the couch all weekend. Thinking the 5th? Shooting you an e-mail so we can connect and compare notes:-)
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    bumping this back up as I'm looking at some high-elevation places here to swim in and I'm very interested in ways to train for those types of swims without sleeping in a tent or living at the elevation for a month.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    IronMike said:

    bumping this back up as I'm looking at some high-elevation places here to swim in and I'm very interested in ways to train for those types of swims without sleeping in a tent or living at the elevation for a month.

    Breathe through a straw. ;-)
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