The adventurous life of Katy Parrott

WE TALK to Katy Parrott about her passion for adventure and the wonderful journey its taken her on.

Katy Parrott

Katy Parrott has made a career out of her passion for adventure and her love of nature.

KATY PARROTT found her passion for adventure at a young age and when she was 17 went on an expedition to Nepal. Her love of nature and the outdoors led her to gain a First in Biology from the University of Bath and a Masters for which she had to make a video out in the wilds of Bulgaria.  


She was a ‘recruit’ in the BBC programme Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week, which she was selected for out of thousands of applicants, and made it to the final six in the show. It was an experience she found ‘life-changing’ and one that has inspired her to train to become an Army medic. 

Here Katy talks to us about her experiences of all the above plus some of her other most exotic and challenging adventures she’s been on. 


Where do you think your passion for adventure stemmed from and at what age did you realise the outdoors and adventure would play a big part in your life?


I would say my adventurous side stemmed from being extremely fortunate to be taken to some incredible places while I was growing up. I was taken to Australia for the first time at the age of six and visited The Blue Mountains in New South Wales. I remember thinking is was amazing, like a giant natural playground. I climbed on every rock and hiked on ahead of my parents, they said they could barely keep up – I think that’s when they really realised they had raised an adventurous little tomboy rather than a sweet little girl (my brother and step-siblings now lovingly call me the ‘feral’ one of the family).


From then on I got stuck into anything that wasn’t a typical ‘girlie’ activity (I’ve never liked following the crowd) – I played football and rugby instead of netball, I went to Scouts instead of Guides and would choose a summer hiking trip over a festival.


At 17, I went on an expedition to Nepal which involved trekking along the Annapurna trail and some community work at a remote mountain village. Despite being eaten by leeches and having a rather upset tummy, I felt right at home. There was nothing better than sleeping under the stars, breathing in the fresh mountain air and exploring on foot. I knew then that the outdoors, adventure and physical challenges would be a part in my life – but I didn’t realise quite how big!


Tell us about some of your earliest ever adventures and who were your role models and inspirations at that time?


My earliest and some of my fondest mini adventures have to be when I was a scout. At the age of 11 I was skinning rabbits, building and sleeping in natural shelters and making fire. On our scout camps we lived like miniature grown ups in charge of our own miniature camps, building our own furniture, cooking our own food so I learnt to fend for myself from a young age.


Don’t laugh at this, but as a young girl I used to watch my Dad play Lara Croft games on our PC, and I was fascinated by her strong character. I wanted to be a full-on action woman like Lara – some things will never change!


On one scout camp there was a wrestling competition (last one standing on the tarp) and the last two on there were me (the smallest girl) and the largest, oldest and quite terrifying girl in the troop. Conjuring up all my 12 year old girl Lara Croft strength I managed to wrestle her off and knew that being a pocket sized lady (I’ve only reached the grand height of 5’2.5’’ at the age of 25) would never stop me from being strong – if anything if probably spurred me to be even more feisty!


Katy Parrott

Before the age of 18 Katy had been on an expedition to Nepal and also spent some time in Africa.

How did this passion for the outdoors affect what you studied and could you tell us more about your time at university?


A safari through Kenya at the age of 14 confirmed my love for nature and the outdoors. But I’ve always been a very creative person too. Wildlife and Adventure filmmaking seemed a perfect career to combine both my passion for the outdoors and getting creative. Having done my research I discovered that a lot of people within the industry had a science background in either zoology or biology. I ended up getting a First in Biology from the University of Bath and absolutely loved my three-year undergraduate there – it even took to me Honduras to conduct research in the cloud forest.


I then took a year out to travel and returned to Bristol, where I grew up, to do a Masters in Wildlife Filmmaking at UWE. I had never done any kind of filmmaking before so it was challenging to learn so much in only a year. As our ‘dissertation’ we were required to make our own short film. I knew I had to make a film that revolved around adventure, the wilderness and a physical challenge – something that no one had ever made on the course before. I decided to trek an entire 400km biodiverse mountain range in Bulgaria!


Katy Parrott

Katy’s experience as a contestant in a BBC series has led her to train to become an Army medic.

Tell us about your involvement with the BBC programme Special Forces and what was involved in being part of the show?


Becoming a ‘recruit’ on Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week was certainly an unexpected experience of a lifetime. When you apply for these things you never expect to actually get chosen out of the 1000’s of other applicants. The application process involved a studio audition, a weekend of fitness testing and medical and psychiatric assessments! During the period before filming, I was training up to eight times a week to ensure my body was even slightly prepared for what was about to hit it!


Arriving in South Africa myself and the 21 other recruits had no idea what training each of the six Special Forces veterans would put us through and mentally there was no way to prepare for it. We experienced sleep deprivation, kidnap, interrogation, carrying our own body weight in 40 degree heat, hypothermia, tidal torture and hours of strenuous physical exercise – it was relentless and that only touches the tip of the ice berg! I even got singled out to get locked in a coffin for hours at night while they filled it with water.


It sounds like a cliché but I genuinely found it quite life changing. The whole experience revealed a crazy physical and mental resilience I wasn’t sure I had. I was overwhelmed to make it to the final six in the final episode as I never expected to get that far. It just goes to show your mind and body can be pushed far beyond what you think your limits are.


Out of the original 22, there were seven women and four of us made it to the final six. I don’t think anyone was expecting the women to be so strong either but we supported each other during every step of the brutal two-week challenge. It probably isn’t many people’s cup of tea but I would go back and do it again in heartbeat.


Katy’s love of the outdoors and nature led her to study Biology at university. Her masters included her making a film in the wilds of Bulgaria.

What have been your other biggest adventures to date?


In between my undergraduate and masters degrees I took a year out to backpack around the world. I had worked three jobs to save up for the trip. I started in Argentina and finished in India, visiting 17 countries along the way – bring my total countries visited to nearly 40. It was an incredible and eye-opening year experiencing so many different cultures, foods and terrains. I worked out that I travelled 64,620miles, experienced temperatures of -25 to +47, a couple of earthquakes and slept in 168 different places including a room made entirely of salt at 5,000m above sea level and under the stars in the desert. It’s certainly given me the travel bug and I feel I’ve only ticked off a fraction of the incredible places I want to visit.


As I mentioned, last year (May 2016) I headed to Bulgaria to make my final film for my masters. In a team of three (myself and 2 zoologists) we set out to become the first people to trek the entire length of the Rhodope Mountain range in Southern Bulgaria. We choose this mountain range because it’s a European biodiversity hotspot and is home to brown bears, wolves, snakes and a huge array of birds of prey species which we hoped to survey and film. It was an epic and slightly rollercoaster adventure. We trekked over 400km, carrying 30kg of kit each which took its toll on our bodies in the form of nasty blisters and abrasions. We wild camped the entire journey – half of which was in bear territory meaning we had to be armed with bear spray!


We would go days without seeing another human, camping on dried out river beds and in dense coniferous forests – it really felt like pure wilderness. We would stumble across small mountain villages and the locals couldn’t have been more welcoming and giving, offering us shelter, food, drinks and gifts at any opportunity. I felt humbled by their generosity to three strangers. During the entire month, we didn’t see one other person trekking which made it feel like we had the entire mountain range to ourselves at times.


Considering I had never made a film before I was pretty pleased with the finished product – Walking Wild Bulgaria – which can be viewed via the link below


How far are you in your training to be a medic for the Army and what inspired you to work towards the role?


I’ve been in the Army Reserves for a year now and absolutely love it. After my experience on Ultimate Hell Week I was inspired to join so went to the army careers centre as soon as I got home. During the past year I have completed my basic solider training, gained an alpine ski-touring qualification in France and very recently completed my first Combat Medic training course.


I still have another year or so to go before I’m a fully trained Combat Medic and hope to go away on operations as soon as I’m deployable. I’m attached to an Infantry Unit so am also really enjoying learning frontline infantry skills on our weekend exercises. The infantry opens up to women next year so who knows what doors that could open for me.



Katy is part of a group which is currently raising money for First Light Trust and Army veterans.

What other projects and adventures do you have planned for the rest of the year and beyond?


I’ve got really into trail running recently so am in full training mode for a very busy events schedule coming up. In less than two weeks I am part of team from my Army Reserve Unit running a 24 hour race. We are raising money for First Light Trust who help veterans get back into the community. Our fundraising page is below:


In August I’m off to Georgia with the Army, trekking in the Caucasus Mountains and working towards my military mountain leader qualification. Then in September I have a marathon over Dartmoor and in October I’m taking part in the 2 day self-sufficient Original Mountain Marathon.


I’d like to say I’ll be having a well-earned rest after all those events, but I struggle to sit still so that’s unlikely. Beyond that, next year there are a couple of potential big expeditions on the horizon, but you’ll have to watch this space to find out more.

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