“What goes up must come down,” Sir Isaac Newton famously observed. Though rarely questioned, ‘Squash’ Falconer decided to put that rule to the test.
A few years ago, the adventurer, mountaineer and motorcycle fanatic became the first British female to climb Mont Blanc and paraglide from the summit, after riding 1,200 kilometres from the UK to southern France on a BMW F 650 GS. Ever since, she’s continued to prove that there just ain’t no mountain high enough to keep her from reaching any of her goals…
Summiting the majestic 4,810 metre high peak of Mont Blanc combined three of her passions in life – mountaineering, paragliding and motorcycling – all passions that she’s had for a long time, especially motorcycling. “I’ve been riding motorcycles from as early as I can remember,” says Squash. “I was brought up on a farm and had an electric trike at four, then tried quad bikes and motorcycles – I love everything about them.”
Her mountain-climbing career started soon after she had completed her first ski season at the young age of 18. “I could see Mont Blanc from the ski slopes in Les Arcs,” she says, “and I remember thinking it would be cool to climb it one day.”
She later joined friends on a climb up Acongagua in Argentina (at 6,961 metres the highest mountain outside of Asia) then took on the 7,546 metres high Mustagata peak in the Himalayas before conquering Cho Oyu (8,201m) in Nepal. “I got the love for climbing straightaway, but I wasn’t keen on walking back down,” she admits, “so I snowboarded down Mustagata and bum-boarded down Cho Oyu!”
By the time Squash acquired her motorcycling licence at 23, she had also started to learn how to paraglide and so the idea for her record-breaking challenge emerged. “I remember thinking it would be great to ride to the south of France, climb Mont Blanc and paraglide down from it. People thought I was mad, but I had the skills and the perfect team-mate to do it. So I decided to just go for it.”
Only around 30 per cent of people who attempt to summit Mont Blanc succeed, and after two attempts, Squash started to wonder if it would even be possible. On her third attempt, climbers on the other side of the mountain were turning back due to avalanche warnings. Nevertheless, Squash and her climbing partner Irwyn Jehu kept going, and made it to the top.
“We were the first to reach the summit that day, but the wind was blowing too strongly,” she says. “I felt scared about the paraglide, but I also didn’t want to climb back down. All of a sudden the wind dropped, I set my wing out, held my breath and off I went. It was incredible.”
Despite the feelings of euphoria, Squash had to focus on her 22-minute descent and landing safely. During a subsequent BBC radio interview about this achievement, she let slip that her ultimate ambition would be to climb Mount Everest and attempt to fly from the top. She went on to conquer the world’s highest mountain (8,848 metres) two years later, on her first attempt, even if her dream of becoming the first woman ever to solo pilot a paraglider from the summit was deemed out of reach due to bad weather and high winds.
She’s since flown her paraglider from the top of the 4,061m Gran Paradiso in Italy, been part of the largest ever group (94 people) to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, set a new world record by travelling nearly 5,000 kilometres through six countries on an elliptical bicycle, as well as becoming Women’s ElliptiGo European Champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Many other mountains have been summited and thousands of pounds, euros and dollars have also been raised for various charities.
Mountains and base-jumping (another hobby) aside, it is motorcycles that really get Squash’s blood racing – especially BMW GS bikes – which she’s used for all manner of adventure travels. These journeys include riding 4,000 km across Baja, Mexico in 2012 for a TV series ‘Rodando pour Mexico’ and riding 4,500 kilometres in 2015 with a film crew through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Brazil for a forthcoming adventure travel documentary. Ever since she chose a GS for her original Mont Blanc challenge, Squash has found them to be reliable, comfortable, fun and brilliant bikes that just get the job done, whatever the conditions and terrain.
“I’ve always had an adventurous spirit and the GS bikes totally fit in with that. I have a can-do attitude and always just go for it, and the GS encapsulates that very same attitude. They represent exploration and adventure – it will always be the rider who has to stop first.”
An adventurous spirit is common to every GS rider and Squash (who now has ‘wing-suiting’ on her bucket list) remains passionate about pushing the boundaries, trying new experiences and hopefully inspiring others, especially women. “I think the world of adventure is very much dominated by men and I hope that if young girls see another woman doing it they’ll realise it’s an option for them too,” she says. “It’s my aim to inspire everyone to go for their dreams, not just women. It doesn’t matter how big or small a dream is: with the right mix of self-belief, preparation, planning, training and imagination, people can be amazed by their own potential.”
Discover more about Squash at www.squashfalconer.com