The swim is from Ashness landing [GR269204] to Low Brandelhow landing [GR252207] more or less directly opposite, at the foot of Catbells. This is wild swimming at its best. If you go early and get a nice day you may have the whole lake to yourself and feel like you are swimming in Paradise. This is really your warm up. Relax, go steady and soak up the ambience. Rushing now will gain little or nothing.
Of course it could be raining and you may barely be able to see the other side. The Lake District is after all very green and full of lakes for a reason. If it is windy and you can see white horses in the middle I can advise from experience it will be like swimming in a washing machine….. “character building”.
In terms of sighting, the landing is just to the right of the scar running down the otherwise green flank of Catbells. Once you are past halfway you can sight on the landing. You merely have to touch the landing and turn around. No need to exit the water. On the return there is a white house on the fell side approximately above Ashness landing.
As I will stress throughout this guide, a large part of this challenge is about self- reliance and accepting total responsibility for your welfare. There are no race organisers and no marshalls. It is you against nature and you will disrespect this fact at your peril. You should not be troubling the emergency services at any stage because of your own incompetence or lack of preparation.
Starting early gives you two advantages. Firstly it is much more likely to be calm water at that time of day. Secondly you will avoid lake traffic. After 9.30 am this is likely to include launches that travel quite fast and operate commercially on the lake, public hire motor boats and rowing boats, sailing boats, kayaks and canoes. For your safety wear a bright hat – yellow shows well. Also whatever your competence as a swimmer you are strongly recommended to have a canoe/kayak escort. The weather can turn sharply and viciously in the lakes and even a strong swimmer can get cold and become disorientated if they can’t see either side in a torrential downpour. Also an escort can guide you across so you can relax and enjoy the swim - assuming they can paddle straight!
If you do go after the launches have started running please consult their timetable and aim to swim in a time window that avoids meeting them. They do stick pretty accurately to their times and routes. Their times can be checked at http://www.keswick-launch.co.uk/. There is also a useful map of the lake including all the landings on this site.
There are other factors to consider regarding start time that are discussed under schedules. As with most legs of this challenge, it would be wise to “recce” the swim prior to doing the full challenge.