I had already heard about ice diving in this part of Switzerland without ever having had the opportunity to go there.
It was during the publication on the Different Dive Facebook page of an article about ice diving that one of the surfers, Stéphane, announced that he was going to dive at Lioson the following weekend for ice diving.
After a quick chat, we decided on a whim, my partner Didier and myself, to join him and Subsport, the Neuchatel club run by Daniel Germanier for a Swiss version of ice diving.
Initially, I did not intend to write a report of this experience but just share pictures. So I only took a few snapshots.
However, the experience pleased me so much that I can not resist sharing some of these moments with you as explained here.
Where is it ?
Lake Lioson is accessible from Col des Mosses, a small ski resort in Vaud …
… for an announced climb of 1h30 … in the summer.
Arrived the day before, I let myself be tempted by an absolutely divine “raclette” and I became an expert in this field. No doubts, we are in Switzerland 😁
Saturday morning, we find the group of about twenty divers on a snowy parking lot at the top of the station Les Mosses.
There is no access by car to reach this famous place of ice diving in Switzerland. It is a specially equipped snow groomer that will take our precious diving equipment to the altitude lake.
And we put on snowshoes to climb….
The climb to the lake at 1885m altitude can be complicated for those who lack physical fitness or who forget to eat in the morning before starting.
Soon we arrive at Lake Lioson where some divers arrived the day before were ending their morning dive. The view is gorgeous and I can not wait to make this wonderful experience.
It is with pleasure that the climb is rewarded with a meal well deserved and useful to start the first dive of the afternoon.
The weather is overcast, the wind is blowing hard enough and a recent avalanche promises us a reduced visibility under the water.
Time to dive
Daniel briefs us on the special security rules for ice diving:
- Obligation to evolve by small group of 2 or 3 persons
- Setting up a tank with a flash to be switched on by the first group and switched off by the last
- Presence of one or two divers on the surface to ensure the safety and to hold the lanyard (rope held on one side by the person at the surface and on the other by one of the divers of the team)
- Never lose contact with the exit: either via a carabiner attached to the cable stretched between the three holes in the ice, or via the lanyard if we want to discover more. The solution chosen here is that of the lanyard.
And now let’s go
The teams are organized and we do not hurry to jump in the hole to start the dive. Bad luck it is the farthest from the edge, so we will have to walk in the snow.
For our first dive, we will start by ensuring the safety of Stéphane and Christophe. In order not to remove my rig, I sit on the edge.
My partner Didier joins me and we secure the team under water sitting at the edge of the hole (not very clear) leaving a space to pull the divers out of the water when they reach the surface.
Some 20 minutes later, Stéphane surfaces and we hoist him between us on the edge that is … collapsing!
The ice sheet broke under our weight and that of our tanks, we slide like on a toboggan and we find ourselves stuck all four, entangled with each other, Christophe having surfaced also.
At this moment we understand the interest of being equipped at the edge of an ice diving hole and we directly inflate our dry suit to avoid getting cold.
It’s my turn now
Once the first team is out of the water, it’s our turn and we immerse ourselves.
No need to deny it … the water is cold, very cold!
I instantly regret having changed my dive hood and having a just too big one that lets water in by the sides. I concentrate a few seconds while the feeling of extreme cold disappears and I begin the discovery … connoisseurs will spot a detail that does not cheat on my way to dive in cold waters in this photo
Indeed, the avalanche has made the water cloudy and the visibility is not extraordinary but better than in many places where I used to dive.
We explore the area admiring the large moving air zones (made up of the air we throw away) under the surface. But also the rosaries of air bubbles trapped in the ice
In the distance, the exit is already there
It’s time to surface
After 20 minutes, we return to the exit not without admiring the submerged part of the ice.
I have a hard time leaving my position of stranded seal or whale, the choice, when the buddies on the surface helps me out I am laughing so hard to imagine myself in this position.
I tell myself that we should perhaps consult a doctor because doing so much effort in the cold for 20 minutes in a frozen water with such a low visibility … this may not be a sign of good mental health ? But this was a lot of fun !
Men at work 😉
During our dive, with pickaxe, shovel and rakes, Stéphane and Christophe will have transformed this opening
In that one … nice job, isn’t it?
The evening is starting now
All teams give up the second dive of the day because of the weather.
We spend a nice evening discovering the schnaps of the Bernese, talking with the skiers and enjoing a great fondue half and half with our Swiss friends.
The night sets on Lake Lioson.
We collapse in the bed of the dormitory for a short night shared between the rise of those who party late at night and the walk of the “night pee” which starts around 6am.
No matter, I am enthusiastic for the morning dive, only 6 divers will dive. The others have given up on the weather conditions that are not improving (a storm is announced) and, perhaps, the excesses of the day before.
My buddy having preferred to stay on the surface, I will dive with Stéphane and Christophe.
This time we go to the nearest hole and my back says thank you.
The wind has risen and the snow is whipping our faces as we wait to dive.
We are not alone
Fortunately for us, the visibility is much better than the day before and we are greeted by a school of trout (ok, I’m not sure that it was trout, I will go to the diving bio classes one day, promised).
We head to the rocky drop off and admire the different fish (there must be really trout, char, …). When we return to the opening one of them swims near the security tank.
I am about to take pictures with some light games but no luck, my camera is running out of battery (the standard error of the beginner!) While I even reserved this moment to take a lot of shots to share with you. Never mind, I have wonderful memories in mind.
The weather is still a little spoiled and the storm warning is becoming clearer.
Time to go down in the valley
We pack up our equipment without delay, pack our bags, have one last meal together
… and go down the mountain on a sledge, which will make me laugh and give me a lot of adrenaline.
… These Swiss are crazy but they are so cool
My partner and I take advantage of this descent to race and I lose inexorably before heading back to the flat country that is mine.
To sum up my week end of Swiss ice diving :
What I liked
- A very nice scenery outside of the world of Lake Lioson
- A great “total experience” concept combining snowshoeing, ice diving and sledging
- The friendly atmosphere of the group
- Meeting with Stéphane, Christophe, Cédric, Sarah and the others …
- Pressure and hot water in the showers (it feels good)
- The Saturday night fondue … delicious
- Discover the schnaps with the Bernese
- Laughs (the skier-diver was very funny)
What I liked least
- Sleeping in the dormitories
- The local diving shack that could surely be organized differently to optimize the space and make it more confortable
While Switzerland is full of high-altitude lakes, to my knowledge, none are organized for winter diving except for the Lac de Lioson refuge.
I can not hide that I really enjoyed the experience and hope to be part of the adventure next year.
Don’t forget to be happy 🤗