Derbyshire adventurer and mountaineer Squash Falcolner is appearing at the Pavilion Arts Centre in Buxton as part of the new Buxton Adventure Festival.
Last year Squash reached the summit of Mount Everest and stood on top of the world. But climbing the world’s highest mountains isn’t enough of a challenge for her. Instead of going back down the way she came up, she’d rather jump off the top.
More accurately, she runs off the top to launch her paraglider which she uses to gently swoop and soar thousands of metres down to the valley bottom.
Unfortunately the weather closed in and prevented her flying from the highest point on Earth but she booked her place in the record books when she became the first British woman to fly from the top of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc.
She is fresh back from a trip up (and down) the 4,061m high Gran Paradiso in the Aosta Valley. The classic question is of course, ‘Why?’. She says it’s the thrill of paragliding that drives her: “The actual buzz of flying off a mountain is just an incredible, incredible feeling. I’m not blasé. It absolutely frightens me but I use those nerves to focus my mind.”
In fact Squash claims that jumping off the top of a mountain is easier and safer than climbing down. “It took two days for me to climb Mont Blanc and just 20 minutes to fly down,” she said.
“Most accidents happen on the way down because that’s when you’re at your most tired - you’re very exposed, the weather can change and it can take hours to descend. Or at least that’s what I tell my parents!”
She never planned to be an adventurer: “In life you don’t always know what you want to do and where you want to be but often you do know where you don’t want to be and what you don’t want to do. So sometimes you have to work backwards.” Her advice is simple - do the things you’re passionate about.
Securing sponsorship from local outdoors equipment company Rab was a massive boost for her: “It makes all the difference in the world. Up there on Everest you need the best equipment available and Rab design and make that, so to be able to work with them and wear their kit was just fantastic.”
Her next project is to try and help organise a spectacular mass flight from the top of Africa’s highest peak - Mount Kilimanjaro. The aim is for 200 hundred paragliders to fly from the summit to raise a million dollars for charity.
Though she travels all over the world, she says one of her favourite places for training runs to maintain her fitness is right here in the Peak District at Ladybower Dam. “It’s amazing to come back home - when I was last out running it was a beautiful, cold, crisp day and I thought how lucky I was to be there. It’s absolutely stunning, I love it,” she added.
You can hear Squash talk on Saturday October 21 at 12.30pm.
Tickets are £10 with multisaver, concessions and family tickets also available.