FREEZING temperatures are usually unavoidable this time of year, but actively seeking sub-zero climatic conditions is open water swimmer Colin Hill.

High Wray resident Hill has just returned from Tyumen, Siberia and is fresh from competing in a winter swimming race – although this was no ordinary gala.

The contest took place in two 25m swimming pools cut from ice, with the air temperature clocked at -15 degrees Celsius and the water temperature at zero.

Hill took part in two events, winning gold in his 35-45-year-old age group which secured him fourth-place overall before recording 1400m in an endurance race – the fourth longest distance.

And despite Hill – the owner of Ambleside business Chillswim – being a UK and world endurance cold water champion, the 42-year-old admits this event was an incredibly difficult mission to complete.

“To go across to Siberia for a winter swimming race and compete against swimmers from South Africa, USA, Estonia and South America was amazing,” he said.

“I have done a lot of cold water swimming in the Lake District but this was an extension of what I have done before, it was something else.

“It was very hard. When I was swimming I almost felt my body freezing in the water, it was zero degrees with ice forming on the top.

“To keep yourself going and motivated in that sort of temperature is extremely difficult.”

Completing such a race requires considerable recovery, but Hill – who trains with Ulverston Swimming Club to maintain his speed – is already focused on his next ice swim.

“As soon as I finished I was picked up and carried into a sauna where there are people working to help you recover,” he added.

“People are throwing towels and trying to warm up your kidneys so you get warm air around your body.

“It’s a long process but really fascinating.

“Swimming is my passion and it’s nice to go to international events. I’m now training for the World Championships in Finland in March.”