In the back of a Russian heli after leaving Khan Tengri base camp at the end of expedition, 2012 (c) Ed Farrelly
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this opportunity, but finally I’ve had the awesome privilege of interviewing 21-year-old adventurer and mountaineer Ed Farrelly! Why is he so awesome? Well in 2012 Ed ranked 6th in a list of the 20 most seasoned adventurers, explorers and expedition leaders in Men’s Fitness magazine. And currently, you’ll find he’s training for his next adventure — a solo expedition to climb Khan Tengri on the Kazak/Kyrgyz/China border this summer.
But adventuring is not all this young man does. He’s also studying for a politics and development degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In awe yet? Well let’s get on with it then… I’ve left this interview unedited, as his answers were pretty raw and real. So, enjoy!
What’s your very earliest memory of adventuring?
Well a relative took me up Tryfan when I was six, and as far as I’m concerned, from then on I was hooked. It’s actually quite funny, because a couple of weeks back Tryfan topped the polls in a survey done by Trail magazine, as the most loved peak in the UK! I reckon most will agree that it doesn’t take much to catch the adventure bug. I have also always had a personality that can never do things by halves, which I think plays a part in why it spiralled so much from there.
Who’s been your inspiration to get where you are today?
I don’t really have one single inspiration, it’s been more a sort of collection. I admire people like Bear Grylls who have been able to very successfully turn a passion into a career, but I also draw on guys like Messner, who had skill that was out of this world and without whom the sport would not have progressed. I’m a mere mortal in comparison to those lads.
Amphu Lapcha Pass, Nepal (2010), two days after Ed had become the youngest person to summit Baruntse (7,129m) (c) Ed Farrelly
What’s your next adventure and how are you preparing for it? What are you most and least looking forward to?
I’m heading off on the #solo2014 expedition to climb Khan Tengri on the Kazak – Kyrgyz – China border in summer 2014. It’s basically an attempt to become the youngest Briton to solo a mountain over 7,000m.
My prep so far has mainly revolved around running. I’m in the process of building myself up to a base fitness level from where I can then begin exercising a little more strategically. I run about 25 miles a week I guess.
I’m looking forward to the same thing I always do, seeing the mountain come into view for the first time and thinking, “Wow, what the hell am I doing here?!” The mental challenge is what it’s all about.
Why do you choose to work on your own sometimes? What do you love and hate about it?
I don’t always work alone. Indeed all of my big adventures so far have been as part of a team. For me, this is a new challenge and a very different one from previous. Operating solo is very mentally straining. I have no one to fall back on and every decision I make is my own. Ultimately if something goes wrong, the chances of help are far slimmer. In that respect, it’s very much a double edged sword, the rewards are bigger but so are the potential consequences. Either way, what I can be sure of, is that experiences in the past have shaped the way I view mountaineering and make me sure that I’m doing this for the right reasons. Whether summit or fail, it’s already a success.
What’s been the craziest/scariest thing you’ve done in your life so far?
Hmmm… That’s a really tough one, there have been quite a few strange experiences I’ve ended up in. I guess the No.1 that sticks out was Aconcagua in 2011. Tragically one of my team mates passed away on the mountain and I ended up in hospital with frostbite. It was a life changing experience to be a part of, and has completely shaped what I’ve done since. No one ever thinks they will end up as part of something like that, it’s unreal. Coming out of it I asked myself endlessly why I did a sport that was potentially fatal and it took me a long time to answer.
Do you still want to be doing this when you’re 70?
I want to continue doing what inspires me and never settling for second best. Whether my body permits it, I guess that could involve climbing or maybe it’s just getting out of bed in the morning and taking the dog for a walk. Everyone has their limits. I strongly believe it’s more about pushing that than anything else. I think legacy is also really important. In the same way that we are inspired by those that come before us, we also have a responsibility to inspire the next generations.
Nepal in 2010 on the Amphu Lapcha – one of Ed’s favourite shots (c) Ed Farrelly
What advice would you offer females who aspire to do the stuff you do? Do they face different challenges to men?
I think it’s actually quite simple. If you have a long term goal, begin by coming up with an idea that will take you closer towards that, plan it and then execute it. If you take things one step at a time, it’s amazing how far you’ll get. Also in the process of execution you might well decide that your long term goal was wrong and change it. Adventure is all about trial and error and is very much an evolving concept, centred around the individual (it’s not wrong to change your mind).
I actually think that when it comes to adventuring, women and men face pretty much the same challenges. Mountaineering like most sports is meritocratic — people are judged on their performance. Also I think mentally women can be just as strong, if not stronger than men, and in that respect adventure sports can often advantage them. The obvious obstacle that does exist is in travelling, there are many parts of the globe where I know it is not safe for women to go it alone, so I guess in that respect there is work to be done!
Have you worked with any inspiring women in your life as an adventurer?
I saw a talk by Rebecca Stephens MBE a few years back, which really impressed me. Again, I thought it was great to see how someone could use their skills from past experiences and translate them into becoming a very successful adventurer. She had a plan and executed it.
If you weren’t an adventurer, what would you be?
I would probably be a conventional sportsman. I need something physical and mentally challenging to focus on, otherwise I feel like there’s something missing. I guess that would be the next best thing to adventuring. Although it would still be no comparison!
Ed is sponsored by Rab, Adidas Eyewear, Edelrid and Scarpa. If you wantto find out more about this adventurous lad, check out his website (www.edfarrelly.com) or follow him on Twitter (@edfarrelly).