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A step-by-step guide to ice bathing

Immortal North, a new Radio 3 documentary, is a practical guide for dreamers – to life extension, survival and immortality in the far North. As part of the documentary, presenter Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough went ice bathing high in the mountains north of Oslo. Here she shares her experience, step by step. Obviously we wouldn’t advise anyone to actually try this in a million years…

Step 1

Get in the Zone – contemplate the lake into which you are about to jump.

Although I’m smiling in this photo I am getting more terrified with each passing second.

It’s a cold Norwegian winter day, and I’m about to walk across this frozen lake and climb in through an ice hole.

Step 2

Get your sauna tent ready.

You’ll need to warm up immediately after your dip, to avoid freezing.

The tent, ice picks and saws were brought along by the Norwegian Ice Bathing Club, formed in 1994. As they hammered the pegs into the water, singing Norwegian songs about snow and cold, there was an almighty cracking sound and a huge cartoon crack spread across the ice. We grabbed the tent and ran for the jetty. Lesson learned.

Step 3

Cut the hole.

Cutting the ice was a tough job. Even as the hole was being made with a big saw, it was starting to freeze over again.

The saw leaves a jagged edge on the ice, so you have to watch not to cut yourself as you get in. I hadn’t thought about that and ended up with lots of tiny cuts all over.

You also need to be careful how you enter the water: don’t jump, you could bob under the ice and find yourself trapped. You need to slide slowly in, and keep breathing!

By the way the orange dot in the photo is a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water.

Step 4

Find yourself a bathing buddy.

This is me just after I’ve slid in. What I’m screaming is basically unprintable.

The blue thing behind me is to stop getting cut by the ice. On my left, just getting in, is Ingrid who became my new best friend. You need experienced friends if you want to do this – don’t do it alone. Ingrid said first-timers often panic when the shock of the cold hits them - they might stop breathing and need to be pulled out.

That didn’t help my nerves but by the end we were on hugging terms. Trygve Bauge is already in the water, somehow looking relaxed. He says he holds a world ice bathing record: 1 hour, 5 minutes and 51 seconds.

Step 5

Sing!

Distract yourself from the mind-numbing cold by singing. Or screaming. Or laughing hysterically. There are lots of Norwegian songs about snow and ice which did the job for me. It was ridiculously cold – the water thermometer was freezing up.

The fluffy microphone belongs to my producer who was recording the whole thing for our Radio 3 Sunday Feature: Immortal North.

Step 6

Become a Norwegian polar bear.

Here is Trygve Bauge holding on to my hand; I’m holding my nose with the other hand.

If you can keep your head under the water for 5 seconds and stay in the water for 30 seconds the club give you the accolade of being a Norwegian polar bear.

Step 7

Get out quick.

I was in the ice for one minute and started losing track of time. All you can feel is the ice and your brain starts behaving strangely.

This is my producer literally grabbing me and dragging me to the sauna.

Step 8

Warm up.

Wring your wet socks out onto the sauna stove and you get nicely warmed up again. Don’t warm up too quickly; your hands hurt, your whole body tingles. But at least it’s over!

Step 9

Get the tee.

After successfully completing the ice bathing challenge I was presented with my t-shirt.

What you can’t see in this photo is that I’m soaking wet and still couldn’t stop shaking from the physical reaction to the cold.

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