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Summit + Harsh Conditions

SQUASH FALCONER

Some people have a natural lust for life and Squash Falconer is one of those people. 

 

Aside from being the first British woman to fly from the top of Mt Blanc, Squash has summited big mountains. From Cho Oyu in 2008 where she became the world’s highest ever bum boarder, to Everest in 2011 with bad weather being the reason for not paragliding from the top. An attempt was later made to fly from the South Col but again the winds were too high. Day to day life involves trail running, paragliding and skiing the mountains of Tignes in between speaking and sharing her ongoing adventures with those who also wish to challenge themselves. 


We caught up with Squash and picked her brains on what it takes to turn a passion for the outdoors into a career.   

Growing up Outdoors

Squash grew up on a farm in Derbyshire and loved being outdoors. At 18 years old, a ski season led her to the French Alps where she looked up at Mt Blanc, completely oblivious to the fact that this mountain would shape her life. 

One Day it Was a Dream, Next it Was Reality

Fast forward to 2004 and although Squash was competing in Endurance Adventure races, big mountain climbing was not on the plan. It was only when racing friends were planning a trip to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere (6,975m) that Squash decided to give it a go. 

Highest mountain in the western Hemisphere

The Flying Mountaineer was Born

 

In 2009, Squash rode a motorbike from England to the foot of Mt Blanc, climbed all 4,810m of the mountain then flew from the top. In Squash’s words, “it was three dreams rolled into one. There were so many reasons why not to do it and people thought it was a completely crazy idea”. Regardless, 63-year-old climbing partner and friend Irwyn Jehu had complete confidence that it was possible and joined Squash on this daring adventure.

 

Mt Blanc

Sacrifice Equals Success

 

“I didn’t even have a camera to take to the Alps”.

 

Climbing big mountains for a career wasn’t the original goal for Squash. It was only when she was lent a lightweight paraglider from Ozone then contacted BMW to borrow a motorbike that she went to the BBC. “At the time, they could only loan me a camera for my trip but upon return, they were so pleased with the footage that they bought it from me”. Squash was the First British Woman to fly from the top and everyone wanted to hear about it. 

 

Alps + Record

 

Sacrifices were made and the next few years were spent saving for trips. Squash began working with Summit Climb which meant more extreme expeditions became affordable. “With my 30th Birthday looming, it was suggested that I could climb Everest”. It was a now or never moment. Despite the sponsorship, Squash still had to take a loan out.

 

“If I didn’t have enough to pay myself a wage once I was back from climbing Everest and pay my loan back, I knew that I would need to get a day job and keep adventuring as a hobby”. 

 

Mt. Everest: The Top of the World

 

In May 2011, Squash summited Mt Everest. Her plan was ambitious- to not only summit but become the first woman in the world to paraglide from the top. In the end, Squash had to take the long way down and walk back to camp. “The conditions were too bad to even attempt to fly. There were 60km/hr winds, it was -50℃ and the visibility was poor”.

 

“Everest has definitely been my hardest expedition. You’ve got to know your limits but you also have to push them”. 

 

Summit + Harsh Conditions

 

Needless to say, Squash achieved her ambition of turning big mountain climbing and speaking into a career. 

 

Be a Hero

Just as us ‘normal people’ aspire to be more like Squash. We asked Squash where she gets her inspiration from.

 

“That’s got to be Irwyn Jehu- my Welsh climbing partner. Now almost 70, he is still climbing, flying and adventuring. If people tell him that he can’t, he still goes and gets on with it. I take inspiration from real stories and real people”.

 

Squash isn’t only an inspiration because of her ‘dare to dream’ attitude but she spends a lot of time encouraging others to reach their full potential in the outdoors. For a young person trying to get into a life in the outdoors and big mountain climbing, starting is the hard part.

 

“Find the right people, decide what you want to do and then fill in the gaps with the logistics. Say it out loud and tell people what you’re going to do. After you’ve done that, the success of a trip comes down to a combination of factors”.

 

1.       Planning / Preparation

2.       Being realistic

3.       Making good decisions at the time

4.       Coming back alive. 

 

Squash Falconer Pants

The knicker philosophy - “If your knickers are right, everything goes right”

 

Day to Day Life

 

In between travelling, filming, presenting and speaking, time is a balancing act. “I crave routine and although I do my best to keep a check on myself, life isn’t like that. Balance for me is still a work in progress”.

 

Squash’s adventures don’t always involve reaching extreme altitudes. “I recently returned from a trip to Indonesia to lead a group for the Matt Prior Adventure Academy” – courses designed to take people into the unknown on a big adventure and encapsulate riding motorbikes, climbing and hiking (www.mpadventureacademy.com). The courses are for anyone who’s looking to get more out of life and of course, not afraid to live without the luxuries. 

 

Prior to this, in 2014 work started on an entire travel documentary, filmed in South America. The documentary involved travelling 3,000 miles on a motorbike and meeting up with extreme athletes to take on world record breaking challenges.

 

Although it sets Squash apart, It’s clear that record breaking challenges aren’t everything and the small things are just as important. “One of my favourite things to do back in Derbyshire is a really short country run through Elvaston Castle Country Park or head to North Wales.”

 

Squash and Floss Inspiring Adventure

 

“I heard about Floss as an exceptional on and off-piste skier and after we met last year, I knew that I wanted to ski with her. We struck up a friendship and went on a three-day backcountry adventure at the end of the season, exploring pristine untouched mountains. I’ve been coming to Tignes for 15 years and didn’t even know these places were on my doorstep. Floss has done nineteen ski seasons and has the highest qualifications possible as a British Ski teacher – she understands the snow pact in April because she was there in December”.  

 

Mountain

We all have a lot to learn from both Squash and Floss so join us at Snow + Rock Covent Garden on 19th October for a special evening to inspire your Backcountry Skiing adventures. Purchase your tickets here www.inspiringwithsquashandfloss.eventbrite.com/

 

Photo credit: www.squashfalconer.com


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