Squash Falconer talks Bounty Bars on Everest and jumping off mountains in the build-up to this weekend's Buxton Adventure Festival.
Rab-sponsored mountaineer come paraglider Squash Falconer is appearing at this weekend's inaugural Buxton Adventure Festival - where she'll be talking about her passion for climbing big mountains then paragliding from the top of them.
In the build-up, she spoke to BAF's Lissa Cook about mountains, paragliding and what that Bounty Bar was doing on the summit of Everest....
Squash on her most recent trip flying from the top of 4000m Gran Paradiso mountain.
LC: You're just back from Gran Paradiso [Aosta Valley] where you ubelievably jumped off a 4000m mountain?
SF: Yeah, it was amazing - plan was to try and fly off Monta Rosa but they’d had a huge great dump of snow - a metre of it and the weather was clearing so there was a chance of summit but there was no way we could have ran through a metre of fresh snow to launch our paragliders so literally in the morning before we were due to go and climb Monta Rosa we changed our plans and went to the other end of the Aosta Valley and climbed Gran Paradiso can be climbed in a couple of days but the weather was looking great for the Thurs so we left on the Tues and had a long acclimatisation day before and it all worked perfectly.
Squash on why she still jumps off mountains even though it frightens her.
LC: You’ve paraglided off the top of Mont Blanc and climbed Everest but unfortunately didn’t get to jump off of the top because of the weather - the obvous question is why? Going to the top of a mountain in my mind is bad enough but why then jump off the top?
SF: There are several factors - one’s probably the thrill of paragliding. I’m a paraglider and a love to do it. It absolutely frightens me - I think some people think I go and do it quite blase and I’m a bit mad about the whole thing but that’s not the case - it does frighten me. But I can use those nerves and that fear quite constructively and positively to focus my mind and concentrate on what I’m doing but the actual buzz of flying off a mountain is just an incredible, incredible feeling.
Squash on why jumping off a mountain is safer than climbing back down.
SF: When you do it from a certain height it doesn’t matter if that height gets a 1000m higher because it’s still incredibly high - so when you fly off Mont Blanc or a mountain that’s a 1000m lower it doesn’t actually seem any different. The altitude is different and that affects the way the wing flies but the actual leaving the mountain is still a huge height so once you start doing it it doesn’t matter where you’re jumping off because it’s still high.
The other thing is when you’ve climbed a mountain - it can take a long time and it’s hard work and to be able to fly down in just a matter of minutes is just amazing - it took two days to climb Mont Blanc and 20 mins to fly down.
LC: You make it sound like it’s the lift option!
SF: No, it’s not that at all! Some people argue it’s incredibly dangerous but I’d argue it’s the safe option - once you’ve got the take off done - because most accidents happen on the way down and that’s when you’re at your most tired and very exposed, the weather can change, it can take hours - or at least that’s what I tell my parents!
Squash on career advice - do what you’re passionate about.
LC: I noticed on facebook that you were taking at Nottingham girls school - what sort of career advice is that? How do you get into the career of jumping off mountains?
SF: In life you don’t always know what you want to do and where you want to be but often you do know where don’t want to be and what you don’t want to do. So sometimes you have to work backwards. And absolutely it wasn’t a big plan or career path that I was going to go and do this - I had other ideas and things evolved and I found myself in places that I wanted to be, doing things I wanted to do and it’s only recently I’ve figured out how to make it into a career so my advice was more about doing the things that you’re passionate about and you want to do rather than going to climb mountains and jumping off them!
Squash on getting 200 people to fly off Mount Kilimanjaro
LC: You obviously want to spread the passion - you’ve got an amazing project on the go trying to get a whole group of paragliders going off Mt Kilimanjaro
SF: This is a project I’ve become involved in more recently. an Australian guy called Adrian McCraecame up with this idea. He wanted to raise $1m for charity and have 200 paraglider pilots climb up and fly off the summit of Kili. Initially I thought it was a crazy idea - I had enough problems with logistics when just me and a climbing partner but 200 people is just mad.
But then I thought if I’d have listened to all the peopel who thought that about what I did I wouldn’t have done it so I started chatting to him and I have got involved and it’s a wonderful thing. And although it’s a big team event, every individual takes responsibility for their own decision - the individual will get to the summit and fly and as long as people remember that and remember the bigger picture which is we’re raising a phenomenal amount of money for two great causes - one is Plant with Purpose and the other is the One Foundation and the money’s going to be going to Tanzania and African and as long as people remember that and everything else is just a bonus I think it’ll be a really wonderful adventure.
LC: If it works just to see it will be spectacular
SF: yes, it’s be spectacular - when you go to paraglider competitionss and they launch 150 - 200 gliders around the sky it does look amazing.
Squash on what chocolate bar she’d carry all the way to the top of Everest
LC: Now, you kindly gave us photos for Buxton Adventure Festival - one is you on top of Everest and the eagle eyed editor at OM, spotted a Bounty Bar in the background - he was wondering if this was a cunning promo!
SF: No, although that would have been a good idea actually as I could have got Bounty Sponsorship! No - what is was , was people take offerings to the gods, but often people give their most precious item as an offering to the gods and often that is your food or your water so it was a gift to the gods, but I didn’t put it there it just so happens that it was in the background of my photo but it’s quite amusing and of course people see that picture and there was no view because the visibility was so bad and they are like ‘where are you, this looks like a messy area with chocolate in the background”.
LC: If you were to take a chocolate bar to the top of Everest for me it’s got to be Kendal Mint cake - what would it be for you?
SF: Probably Cadbury’s whole nut - but it’s difficult as I also like Galaxy, Mars Bars and I like Kendal Mint Cake too - I’m a bit of a chocoholic really so prob a whole stash of it - not sure it could be just one.
LC: More seriously, you are sponsored by RAB, a local Derbyshire company - it must make a huge difference.
SF: Oh it means all the difference in the world. In the early days when I started working with Rab it was the biggest thing that had happened to me - I needed exactly the right gear for the conditions I was getting myself into. Up there on Everest you need the best equipment in the world and best kit and Rab are that so to be able to work with them and wear their kit was just fantastic.
Squash on why the Peak District’s her top training spot
LC: You are a Derbyshire girl - you travel all over the world but what’s it like coming home and do you have any favourite spots in the county?
SF: Always amazing to come back home and I live near to Elvaston Castle and I always feel very lucky that I can just go for a quick run round there but just this last weekend I needed to do a longer run so I went up to Ladybower Dam and it was a beautiful cold crisp day and I just thought how lucky I was to be there - it’s just absolutely stunning and I love it.
You can catch Squaash Falconer at the Buxton Adventure Festival on 20-21 October, 2012. She's just part of a great programme of speakers and films at the event. More details at www.buxtonadventurefestival.co.uk.