As if you were cruising on the surface of the water – that is how many divers describe altitude diving. Due to the particularly clear mountain lake water, a crystal-clear view of up to 60 metres is often possible. A fascinating experience! However, there are also a lot of things to consider when altitude diving: We provide you with useful tips on how to dive safely at high altitudes and show you the most beautiful places to explore the underwater world of the mountains.
What is the difference between altitude diving and “regular” diving?
First and foremost, you will be able to discover a very special underwater world with an extremely clear view. However, there are also some technical differences compared to “normal” diving: When altitude diving, you will be going for a dive at a altitude of between 300 and 3,000 metres above sea level. The air pressure differs from that of sea-level waters: Due to the lower environmental pressure, the risk of getting decompression sickness is significantly higher. As such, you need to prepare and surface more slowly. In addition, most mountain lakes are very cold, which is why you should adjust to the conditions in the area: Special equipment for diving in ice water (including a dry suit) is essential. Another important point is that some lakes have inlets and outlets, which can make diving in them dangerous.
What do I need to keep in mind when altitude diving?
Above all, you should be clear about the effects of the changed environmental pressure: As a rule of thumb, the ambient pressure per 1,000 metres above sea level decreases by 0.1 bar. Thus, at an altitude of 2,000 metres, the air pressure only is 0.8 bars. Hence, you have to plan for a longer surfacing time: In this example, you would have to take a decompression stop 2 metres below the water surface. This means that you have to budget your oxygen supply differently and budget more air for your ascent. Since the conversion of the ambient pressure is not very easy, there are special tables to calculate the surfacing time. However, these days, most diving computers offer a “mountain mode”. If your dive computer offers this feature, this is the safest option.
Which mountain lakes are approved for diving?
Before your dive, you should contact the responsible municipality to find out whether diving in this mountain lake is possible: Not every mountain lake has been approved for diving. Also inquire whether the lake is attached to any weir systems. Mountain lake inlets and outlets can turn into an almost insurmountable danger for divers due to strong currents. If at all possible, choose a mountain lake, which is easy for you to get to. Especially on your way home, there is still the risk of getting decompression sickness, if you have to drive across mountain passes at even higher altitudes, for example. If you acquire this information before your dive, nothing can stand in the way of you getting to experience a fascinating underwater world!
The Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes for Diving
Which mountain lakes are great for diving? Many great mountain lakes lie directly in front of our doorsteps in the Alps. These are our “top 5”:
Urisee is a popular diving location both in the summer and winter. Going for a dive is especially worthwhile given the mysterious statue as well as the underwater reef.
- Walchensee, Bavaria (Germany):
Walchensee is not only a popular excursion destination for families, but also a very exciting dive location with a depth of more than 200 metres. Something that should be of particular interest to wreck divers: This is where you can admire several sunken cars as well as World War II remnants.
- Blindsee, Tyrol (Austria):
Due to its rather shallow depth, Blindsee is often frequented by less experienced divers. The highlight: A “maze” made up of sunken tree trunks, which looks almost like an underwater forest.
- Lake Lucerne (Switzerland):
Due to its size, there are many exciting dive sites in Lake Lucerne. Especially for wreck divers, this destination is of special interest, as there are some sunken boats to be seen.
Plansee, which is up to 87 metres deep, allows for both ice diving and diving in the summer. In addition to the unique diversity of fish, a sunken transport of timber from the 19th century can also be admired here.