Ice-swimming grannies defy age and cold in Patagonia

Ice-swimming grannies defy age and cold in Patagonia

PERITO MORENO GLACIER, Argentina - At 67 years old, grandmother Margot Anderson could be enjoying the quiet retired life at home in England.

Instead, she works a string of part-time jobs so she can afford to be standing at the foot of a pale blue glacier in Patagonia, about to jump into near-freezing water with 53 other extreme swimmers from around the world.

"If this is the last thing I do in life, I'll go with fullness," says Anderson, before plunging into the frigid water off Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier.

Anderson has made the pilgrimage to the remote region at the southern tip of South America along with her best friend, Jacqueline Cobell - who, like her, braves water temperatures of two degrees Celsius (36 Fahrenheit) wearing nothing but an ordinary swimsuit and cap.

"My husband and two daughters think I'm mad," says Cobell, a relatively youthful 60, who set a world record in 2010.

In northern Europe, where winter swimming is more widespread, thousands of participants commonly turn up for such events and competitions.

But just 54 swimmers made the trek to Patagonia for Latin America's first winter swimming festival on August 8.

Cobell and Anderson laugh as they describe their training for the event: filling a bathtub with ice and timing each other with a stopwatch to see how long they can bear to stay in it.

'You against the elements'

Anderson, who has swum all her life, comes from a family of winter swimmers - her father and grandfather also practiced the sport.

Like the other seniors at the festival - in all, six swimmers over 60 took part - her face lights up when she talks about why she does it.

"Sometimes you think, 'Why am I doing this? Why am I going in?' But once you're in the water and it's you against the elements, and the challenge, it just takes over and you want to finish, you want to compete and get out and be fine," she says.

To support her hobby, she works part-time looking after people with disabilities in Kent, in eastern England.

"I should be retired, but I have a little part-time job to pay for my swimming," she says.

She has also worked other odd jobs ranging from swim instructor to dog groomer in order to fund winter excursions to the lakes and rivers of Russia, Finland and Estonia.

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