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Ice Freediving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Dairyland diver
Apr 7, 2001
This is actually morer of a question for Eric and some of the other Canadians.
I am going to try ice freediving for the first time this weekend.
I have taught ice diving for a number of years and we have a series of saftey lines, divers and procedures for it. I feel very comfortable under the ice on scuba because we have so many safety protocals. I am a little bit more hesitant aboujt doing it while freediving.
How do you set up your lines, safety divers, harnesses, ect. ect. for ice freediving?
Do you just follow one line up and down like a constant ballast dive? Or, do you wear a harness+line and swim around where ever you want?
I have been thinking about doing it both ways. The harness idea might be better for taking pictures because I could concentrate on the camera more and dying less.:D
I would appreciate any suggestions you might have on this topic.



We do it here mostly like summer, but with few exceptions.
We have one line down. But we have extra 1m piece of rope. Everytime diver goes down, he attaches himself to the line with that piece of rope.

Then you just dive down and enjoy.

There must be also a "safety switch" if that rope sticks somewhere somehow. With that safety switch you must be able to release yourself quickly from the rope. You can buy those "release swithes" from stores that sell all king of boat and sailing things.

This was introduced to us by Jean Michel Pradon at ibiza. Thank you for that ;)

Thanks for the information.
I had thought about that option too. I could drop a weighted line down the hole and tie it off on the surface. I would just wear my standard ice harness. The harness has a 1-2 meter line on it that is tied into a carabiner. I could always unclip if I needed to.
This way I could just work my way up and down the rope with some sense of security.

Hi Jon, here's my two bits.
I would forget about a harness system. I know that AIDA has been talking about this kind of thing with a guy at the surface with a reel, which MIGHT work in up-down constant ballast training, but i think that the risk of entanglement is too high.
Now, this will depend on the visibility, but all you should really need to do is throw a weighted line in at one corner of the hole and tie it off at the surface to something. Breath up on the ice, then slide in like a seal, follow the line down. When you get where you want to be, either the bottom or somewhere on the line, then have a look up. You'll know from scuba diving before that the hole might be indistinguishable from the surrounding ice if it's been cleared properly, but the line should be highly visible. For those that don't know, lakes usually have their best visibility when they're frozen, so you should be able to slowly venture away from the line, looking back every few feet
The danger is not when you're deep: at depth you can see the hole's area and the line. The danger is when you are right up against the ice....at this vantage point, it's easy to lose sight of the hole. Just make sure you can see that descending line, and you will always make it back to the hole.
Have fun my friend, just don't let your wife, girlfriend, or really anybody see you take those wetsuit bottoms off:(
Erik Y.
Thanks Eric.
THe visibilty will depend on when I can get a chance at the hole. We have about 16 people that were running through ice diving class this weekend.
I think that your way sounds the easiest. I was a little bit worried about getting the carabiner kinked in the line on the way up. Do you think I should strap on a spare-air while I try it? I am going to send a fellow instructor down on scuba for my first couple of attempts.
I haven't done an ice dive in a wet suit for about 18 years. At least I will have a freediving wetsuit this time! I am hoping that will make all of the difference. Too bad I can't squeeze any argon in there:D

Thanks Antti,

I used your harness system and it worked out great. I started with a diver on the bottom. I just clipped into his line and followed it up and down a few times. Once he, and I, figured out that it was really pretty simple, meaning I wasn't going to die, I went on my own.
I did like you said and dropped a line straight down one corner of the hole with a weight belt on it. I tied the other end off on the surface and just clipped in and dove at my leisure. Or, at least as leisurely as three scuba divers and a freediver can fit in a hole in the ice.:duh
Things got easier when the other divers would clear out and go off on their training dive. I even got to shoot off a couple of rolls of film. I have an Esclapez 5.5mm suit that kept me warm all day- I did get out for lunch.
THe only thing that got cold were my fingers. I have a pair of 3mm Picasso gloves that didn't quite do the trick. I had a pair of their three fingered mitts, but they were shaped funny in the index finger and would cut off circulation. Does anyone have any other suggestions on good freediving gloves?

warmer hands

Hi Jon,

Likely anything a bit thicker that does not cut off circulation would be fine, given that you were warm in a 5.5 with no heat packs. I use 5mm gloves if I am going to want to use my fingers and seal the wrists with my instruments. The warmest I have found are 5mm three finger mitts with dry seals made by Sea-Tux.

Best wishes,

This sounds like a fantastic dive! Could you share some of the experience with us such as visuals, feelings, and overall impressions? Thanks.

We live near old mine, about 30m free water. You can actually dive to level -300m if you know the right caves ;) This mine has very unusual conditions. At summertime visibility at surface is about 10cm, totally black. At about 20-25m you suddenly start to see, visibility is there 10m+. But it´s pretty dark because this fog is eating all light.

But when the ice comes, visibility at surface starts to get better and better. And finally water is totally crystal clear (from december till april when it´s getting darker again soon after ice melts). No wind, perfect conditions.

After making a little hole to the ice (about 1,5m x 2m) we let the weighted rope to drop to the bottom. And few divers to the hole..
We usually share these same discussions, "hrrr it´s pretty cold again isn´t it" , "yeah I can´t feel my face" :)

Sun is shining and you make your moves and start heading towards bottom. You can feel the crystal clear "fresh" water and open your eyes and look around. I cannot tell you how damn good it feels to see the sun shining through the ice and hit the bottom. You can see some old trees, it allmost seems like they are still groving after 25years breatholding. This mine was filled pretty quick by water, and all trees and other things are still there.

Look left, there you see one very big cave. There is also another, but you cannot see it, maybe you can feel it :) You can fit there at least two bulldozers one on top of the other. You can see the caves vault clearly, but cannot get closer..

You just look around and feel calm, no stress no pain, unbelievable feeling. Only thing you must remember is this blue rope which is the only way out of this paradise. When the time comes and the dolphins stop singing you start to move towards that little shining hole. You look up, and see your partner looking down. Then you slide to the hole and breathe again...

You icemen, keep going there
wonderful images

Hi Antti,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. You describe some
great perceptions.

Best wishes,

Top off the chart cold water protection

being french canadian and a ice diver myself, i know cold. The best thing for keeping your finger warm, i found at the Escoumins (a paradise for diver). The trick is to use dry mitts. They are three finger gloves for dry suit made of 7mm neoprene. The think about them is that they have a neckdown at the wrist so it's water proof. What you want to do is to fill 'em up with mildly hot water. After that you put your wet-suit wrist OVER the glove's wrist. That way, water wont comes in or out of them.

You have to fill them with water or else the pressure will compress them on your fingers and you'll feel the cold much faster. It's really pure bliss to have cold water all around you, your lips are frozen and your finger are gently floating in hot water...

By the way, i also use a pair of 100% wool sock in my booties when i dive in cold water, the best are the one that my grandmother make but they are only for me... sorry.
I have many pairs of drysuit mitts. I thought about using them, but decided against it because they are too thick. I just kept refilling my 3mm gloves with warm water out of a cooler we had on the ice- this works out great for defogging your mask before you go in too.:cool:

My feet never got cold. I wore a pair of 5.5mm Esclapez open cell booties and filled them with water. After a morning of diving I went into the changing house and took a hot shower, changed and ate a big lunch. When I went back in for the afternoon I put my suit on in the shower and pre-warmed it. Nothing ever got cold besides my finger tips.
I did notice that my breathhold times seemed to drop quite a bit after the big lunch that I had. Next time I might go a little bit eaiser on the food. It was tough to do because my mother-in-law made three different types of cookies and my wife's grandmother showed up with fresh rolls that were still WARM from her oven. Another friend of mine was in charge of the fish boil, so I ate.:D
This is about the 20th year in a row that we have run this dive. We have an argon line tied into our safety rope so that the divers on the end have an unlimited supply for their drysuits. We keep the bottle on the surface in a heated tent- nothing like warm argon to keep you in the hole all day with a bunch of students.
This was the first year in almost two decades that I didn't have to teach. I just freedove and shot pictures. Now, I am hooked. I can't imagine using a tank again. At the end of the day my gear clean up took so much less time than everyone elses.
In the past I have always gotten my best pictures close to the hole. I also ended up holding my breath most of the time so that my bubbles wouldn't get in the hole and spoil my photos- breath holding is not the best thing to do on scuba. With freediving I could move around so much easier and not worry about the bubbles spoiling my shots.

Thanks again for all of the tips. I think what I need is just a nice pair of 5mm open cell freediving gloves.

I am trying to post some pictures of my dive. If I figured out how to attach them I have many others to post. If nothing comes up on the screen, feel free to email me privately. My frozen brain is still trying to figure this out.
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It worked. I guess that I'm not as much of a chessehead as I thought.

I have a picture of my breath-up. I am on the surface holding onto the sides of the hole.

I also have pictures of my ascent back to the surface. If you look closely you can see me holding on to the caribiner in my right hand. Holding on to it made it easier to slip it up the rope. There were a couple of places that I had to slide it over knots and things to get back up. I will improve on this next year.

The last picture is of my fat, smiling mug. Or, it could just be brain freeze
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I screwed up. I guess I can only post one picture at a time. Back to chessehead mentality. :duh

This is the ascent picture.

I'll get the hang of this one of these days, or years. :confused:

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Awesome stuff, Jon. Very cool....no pun intended.
Erik Y.

www.freediving.at says H. Nitsch is going to try world record attempt in dynamic with fins under ice 16. March 2002. Any idea what distance? Or what might be excisting record?

Once when wathching Eurosport I saw some extremeshow where some guy tried to dive 80m dynamic under ice, but he didn't make it.

Really Cool stuff Jon thanks for sharing your pictures!
Keep diving, keep safe.:eek:
picture link

The pictures can be found from

This was my second time diving under the ice. In the first time I used scuba gear (one year ago). Now it was time to try freediving.
If conditions are good, not too windy, sun shining and air not too cold, it really is a good practice to freedive under the ice. No need for a boat, no need to swim. Just put your wetsuit on near the hole and dive!
Psycologically this far more demanding, I cannot expect to dive as deep as in summer.
But if I get familiar with these conditions, it is going to be very, very easy to freedive in summer
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