Squash Falconer

Squash Falconer Interview taken in 2011

Squash Falconer reached the summit of Mount Everest on the 12th May 2011. Squash is a very adventurous woman, she is a keen mountaineer, skier, snowboarder, paraglider and loves to ride motorbikes. While doing all this she raises money for her chosen charities.

You have been very adventurous from a young age. What would you say to other young girls who think that the adventurous activities are only for the boys?

That is not the case! Adventurous stuff is out there everybody. Don’t be intimidated by doing something that is perceived to be for the boys or is predominantly done by boys. Girls really can do it too.

What do your family and friends think about you doing all these exciting but sometimes dangerous activities?

They are incredibly supportive and positive. I clearly sometimes scare them with the things I do, but they trust that I will make good decisions and accept that I know the risk when I get involved. It’s only when you start to look at who you are and the reasons you do the things you do that you realize how significant the things that your family and friends say to you are as you are growing up. I am so lucky that I was encouraged in so many different things and given the confidence to believe in myself.

You have reached the summit of some great mountains, Aconcagua, Cho Oyu, Loubuche East, Mt Rainier, Mt Blanc and of course Mount Everest. Is there a mountain you would like to climb in the future? 

Yes. Although it’s not especially big compared to the other mountains I’ve climbed I would really like to climb Kilimanjaro with my friends.

Which one girlie item did you miss the most while on Mount Everest and did you take anything girlie with you? 

I took 60 pairs of knickers with me! A clean pair for everyday. I suppose that was fairly girlie! I can’t say that I missed a girlie item. I missed people.

Were you treated any different on Mount Everest because you are a woman? 

Yes I think so but I noticed only the good things about that, like; when there was a queue for the shower (well a small bag of water hanging in a tent!) I was often moved to the front of it, when there was extra kit to carry the boys would offer to take it, when there was a particularly awful crevasse to cross I wouldn’t have to go first.. Things like that. Good things! Although I know it still exists I really do think that there is less and less prejudice against women doing what were once seen as ‘male only’ adventures.

Did you have any fears of going into the Khumbu Icefall for the first time and how did you find it once you were in there? 

I was nervous about the Khumbu Icefall. Once I was in it, I tended to put the dangers out of my mind and just get on with climbing but when I stopped to think or simply looked at the huge stacks of ice all around me I could feel quite uncomfortable. On a mountain there’s so much you can do to minimize the dangers and risks (i.e., not climb in bad weather, avoid certain danger spots) but in there you feel very out of control and you know that at any moment there could be a fatal icefall. As a team we were careful to only climb through it before the sun hit it which did go a little way to making me feel better about it. Probably the worst climb I had through it was coming down after there had been an icefall. No on had been in it or injured at the time but the route we had climbed through it was totally devastated and you couldn’t help but think, what if I had been right here just a few hours ago.

On the 12th May 2011 at about 8.30am you reached the top of the world after eleven and a half hours of climbing. How did you find the climb from the top camp to the summit and did you have any problems? 

It was very long and very tough. It was without doubt the hardest day (well night) of my life. I couldn’t believe that I could keep putting one foot in front of the other. I really was thinking only about the next step and seeing if I could make the next step. In my head I knew that I was on my way to the top of the world and it was almost surreal. The main problem we had was that the weather was deteriorating and I was constantly assessing whether or not I should turn back.

On reaching the summit of Everest you planned to become the first woman in the world to solo pilot a paraglider from the top. Because of the weather this didn’t happen. What was the weather like and how much of a disappointment was this to you?

The weather was awful. It was 50 below, sometimes the winds were up to 60mph and the visibility was poor. There was no view from the summit. There was no disappointment at all. How can you be disappointed when you have reached the top of the world?! Obviously to fly from the summit would have been amazing but I didn’t want to die trying so there was no way that I was going to even attempt it unless the weather was good (i.e., little wind and good visibility). I think in these situations you have to realize that actually just coming back from Everest alive is the biggest and most important achievement. Even the summit isn’t as important as this.

Did you have any scary moments during your descent? 

Yes. There were quite a few. I was so tired I was constantly loosing my footing and slipping. The wind was so strong crossing some of the ridges very near the summit that one gust did make me feel like I would get blown off. I crouched on the ground at one point and shouted to my team mate that I was really scared and he was brilliant. He reassured me and I so needed that extra strength at that moment. I also almost went of the edge when lowering myself down the Hilary step. I wouldn’t have fallen as I was roped on but it would have been very traumatic and difficult to heave myself back onto the ridge. I saw another climber fall down a rocky face that she was attempting to abseil down. She was ok, but as she fell my heart leapt and it was awful to watch. In some ways I was too exhausted to get that scared. You just do what you’re doing (climbing down) and there’s little room for anything else physically or mentally.

Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step? 

I think that it was possible for them to have done it. I was kind of hoping to find the photograph of Mallory’s wife on the summit. Wouldn’t that have been cool!

If you would like to find out more about Squash Falconer then head over to her website at www.squashfalconer.com