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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mount Everest vs. English Channel - Which Is More Difficult?

The English Channel is called the Mount Everest of swimming, but Everest is not called the English Channel of climbing. Why is that?

Mount Everest is the well-known standard of bigness in the world. To scale the summit is to achieve a unique position in society: getting to the top has all kinds of nuances and implications.

While the English Channel is the globally-known standard for marathon swimming, getting across simply does not have the same level of profound nuances and implications for most people.

Getting to the top implies overcoming obstacles that stand greater than us. It implies a hard-fought success after a series of literally and figuratively difficult challenges. In contrast, getting across somehow seems easier requiring somewhat less courage than getting to the top. Moving horizontally seems logical and methodical, while moving vertically seems daunting and formidable.

Plus one can forever argue which is more difficult, Mount Everest or the English Channel, but mankind is clearly a land-based species whose bodies evolved to walk, run and climb rather than kick, pull and swim.

Walking and climbing is a natural act, while swimming is a learned activity. So from a purely primitive perspective, the act of walking even up to Mount Everest is fundamentally an activity suited for man while swimming non-stop even 1 kilometer is an action incomprehensible to 99% of humanity.

So which is more difficult? Everest or the English Channel?

There are several ways to formulate the debate.

One perspective is simply historical and data-driven. Swimming from England to France across the English Channel predates climbing Mount Everest by 78 years. Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel in 1875 versus Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953. On the women's side of the equation, the first woman to swim the Channel (Gertrude Ederle in 1926) predated the first woman to scale Everest (Junko Tabei in 1975) by 49 years. Yet despite the swimming head starts by decades, there have been only 811 individuals who have successfully crossed the English Channel while over 3,100 people have submitted Everest. That is, an average of 5.9 individuals per year have swum the 21-mile Channel while 53.4 individuals per year have climbed the 8,848m high Everest. Everest has a nearly 10x as many people succeeding every year on average over the Channel. This alone would indicate the relative level of difficulty, especially since the cost of mounting an Everest expedition is easily more than 10x the cost of a typical Channel crossing.

Of course, both feats require sufficient financing, adequate preparation, ample physical stamina, formidable mental strength, and an abundance of time. Preparation, physical stamina, mental fortitude, and time are probably a wash. That is, it would be difficult to assess which requires more of each for the average person who attempts either feat. Even if we ask the few number of individuals who have attempted both the English Channel and climbed Mount Everest (e.g., Khoo Swee Chiow), each of these individuals have their own particular strengths and weaknesses.

While the average English Channel crossing takes only 13 hours 19 minutes, the range of time to climb Everest is 6 - 9 weeks. Does the longer time means Mount Everest is harder - or easier? Either is debatable.

Certainly risks are greater on the Mount Everest side if we consider the number of injuries and deaths that occur on the mountain. Both injuries and deaths are significantly more prevalent when comparing climbers vs. swimmers. So if risk is one element of difficulty, climbers easily win this debate.

Regarding the solitary nature of both endeavors, it is clear that both climbers and swimmers are aided both directly and indirectly by others. While the swimmer has an escort pilot and crew alongside of them, the crew is present for safety and navigation. They are indispensable, but no one is aiding the swimmer go from shore to shore. Every stroke is done alone. While the climber is also committing a solitary act of carrying his or her own body up the slopes, they are also aided by sherpas carrying their gear and an entire series of ropes, ladders, all kinds of gear and equipment including oxygen tanks. In terms of support, it would seem that the level of difficulty faced by swimmers outweighs that of climbers.

And there are many other issues that seem to indicate swimmers have the harder road to hoe.

Regarding the most common ailments faced by the athletes - altitude sickness on the part of climbers versus seasickness on the part of swimmers, there are more solutions available to combat altitude sickness than there is seasickness. Climbers can ascend more slowly, they can take the drug acetzolamide, dexamethasone, Nifedipine or sumatriptan, or undergo oxygen enrichment. Swimmers simply suffer, not only in the water swimming over to France, but also on the way back across the Channel in the boat. Medicine and oxygen seem to fall on the side of climbers over swimmers regarding ailments.

Although fate and good luck play an important role for both climbers and swimmers, if weather or conditions worsen on a climb, time is on the side of the climber. They can wait it out (to a certain extent). Conversely, if conditions turn for the worse in a Channel swim, the swimmer either stops or is pulled out by the pilot for safety reasons. Swimmers most definitely face a much smaller window of opportunity - sometimes measured in minutes - when tides turn or winds pick up.

Hypothermia is an issue for both climbers and swimmers, but swimmers are unclothed and exposed to the elements unlike any other endurance athlete. The mere nakedness of the swimmer seems to tip the hat of difficulty in their direction.

Both the English Channel and Mount Everest are beasts. They are just all-around butt-kicking challenges. But beasts and creatures do not hamper, sting, or bite humans above a certain altitude while jellyfish and sharks are an ever-present reality for swimmers whether or not they physically encounter them. Tentacles and teeth are two issues climbers do not face - and I do not believe there is an equivalent on Mount Everest.

Mountaineers can talk and tweet and take pictures while climbing. They can see, hear, write and commiserate with their fellow climbers. They can rest and sleep as required. Conversely, swimmers are alone in their own minds. Their visual, auditory, and verbal abilities are hampered until the swim is over. They cannot sleep and resting still requires them to tread and stay afloat in cold water. The normal human functions of communications - so vital for climbers - is out of the question for swimmers.

But talk to the men and women in the streets - at least in Great Britain - and most of them believe that climbing Mount Everest is more difficult than swimming across the English Channel (see results of the poll by Bonnie Gardiner here).

But in either case, people most definitely derive a great satisfaction from these experiences rather than a purchase decision regarding possessions. In other words, both are priceless.

Upper photo shows English Channel swimmer Antonio Argüelles of Mexico who is planning to climb Mount Everest.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

5 comments:

  1. "An average of 5.9 individuals per year have swum the 21-mile Channel while 53.4 individuals per year have climbed the 8,848m high Everest. Everest has a nearly 10x success rate over the Channel."

    No. Just no. A 'success rate' is not a measure of the number of people who succeeded - it is the number who succeeded divided by the number who try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No a 'success rate' is the number of people who have succeeded divided by the number of person years. What you describe is the probability of success which is not a rate.

      Delete
    2. charlesbear is definitely right shutup chris

      Delete
  2. Here's an article about what the British public thought was more difficult:

    http://yougov.co.uk/news/2012/05/02/mt-everest-vs-english-channel/

    ReplyDelete
  3. is this a joke? everest is so much harder

    ReplyDelete

Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda


Friday, 19 September

5:30

PM


Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)


Saturday, 20 September

9:00

AM


Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

10:00

AM


Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming

10:20

AM


Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport

10:30

AM


Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water

10:50

AM


Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming

11:10

AM


Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry

11:30

AM


Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)

12:30

PM


Coffee and Break

1:00

PM


World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]


2:30

PM


Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]

2:50

PM


Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers

3:10

PM


Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]

3:30

PM


Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]

3:50

PM


Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]

5:00

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]

6:30

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

6:45

PM


Dinner

7:30

PM


International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer


Sunday, 21 September

9:00

AM


Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

10:00

AM


Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC

10:20

AM


Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]

10:40

AM


Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World

11:00

AM


Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
[film]

11:20

AM


Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming

12:00

PM


Survey distribution and group photo-taking

2:00

PM


Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute






CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."


Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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