Tarquin Cooper: the journalist with a passion for adventure

WE TALK to journalist and adventurer Tarquin Cooper about his passion for extreme sports and writing.

Tarquin Cooper

Tarquin Cooper has travelled around the world writing, climbing and exploring. photo Tarquin Cooper


TARQUIN Cooper was always up for an adventure when one came along but he didn’t get into sports until his mid 20s. He travelled before university but chose challenging countries such as Africa and Sudan to visit. This passion for exploring and facing the unknown was to play a big part in the man he has become today.


It was in his 20s and when tired of a job behind a desk that Tarquin found extreme sports. He was introduced to climbing and within six months climbed Alpamayo in Peru with two friends. He then went on to run the Marathon des Sables, the 150-mile desert marathon. 


Tarquin has always had a passion for writing and studied journalism after university. He has written for and worked at the Telegraph but today lives in Austria and is currently writing and making videos for Red Bull. Of course, he is climbing and exploring as much as possible too!


Here Tarquin talks to us about his journey to working in the mountains as well as going into more detail about some of his life adventures to date. Read on to find out more about the journalist in the hills whose always ready to jump at the next opportunity life offers him.


Find out more about Tarquin and the services he offers at http://www.tarquincooper.com/.


Tarquin Cooper

Tarquin has a passion for all kinds of sports from running and climbing to skiing and hiking. photo Tarquin Cooper


When did you first realise you had a passion for sport and adventure and who or what sparked this?

Well, I always had a passion for adventure, the sport part came later. I backpacked around Africa in my year off, travelled in some remote places in Sudan while at university. But actually I didn’t get into proper adventure sports until my mid 20s as a reaction against working office hours.


My younger cousin Billy and his brother Dave were both avid climbers. And one Christmas Billy invited us up to go Scottish winter climbing in Aberdeen. I wouldn’t say I was hooked immediately – it was cold, the jacket I borrowed wasn’t waterproof and the climbing boots were a size too big. And Billy had no intention of wasting a weekend playing nursemaid on something easy – he took me straight on a near vertical grade IV ice climb. But in between the horizontal hail and hot aches in the hands, there was something in the raw elemental experience that has kept me coming back for more.


Tarquin Cooper

A keen runner, Tarquin has competed in the Marathon des Sables. photo Tarquin Cooper


Tell us about any early sporting adventures or successes you had and the impact they had on you?


Learning to climb was special. There are so many courses out there and climbing walls where you can learn and that’s awesome. But there’s nothing quite like being taken under the wing of someone you know and literally shown the ropes. You slightly make it up as you go along, make mistakes (hopefully not serious ones) and the experience is all the richer for it.


Six months after my first baptism into the world of climbing, Billy, Dave and I climbed Alpamayo in Peru. None of us had a clue really. Billy was a good climber, Dave had some experience of rock, and I was the only one who had any experience of glacier travel – only because I did a three-day course in the Alps beforehand. We hired donkeys to base camp and took a kilo of beef and a crate of eggs. Amazingly, we had the mountain to ourselves. The climb was a 20 hour round trip, was steep, hard and at times quite scary. But the beef omelette that Billy cooked up afterwards was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.


A couple of years after that I decided to run the Marathon des Sables, the 150 mile desert marathon. It also had another big impact on me. At times it’s felt as though these two feats have given me a shield of armour – whatever happens in life – no one can take these experiences away from me.  


Tarquin Cooper

Once Tarquin started climbing it wasn’t long before he was taking on challenging summits. photo Tarquin Cooper

When did you start writing and could you tell us a bit about your work as a sports and adventure journalist?


I was always into writing. I did history at university, a post-grad course in journalism afterwards and then joined the Daily Telegraph as a trainee. At the end of my year at the Telegraph I heard about a three month expedition across South America led by the ubiquitous Col John Blashford-Snell who’s quite the legend in the world of expeditions. I managed to persuade the travel desk to send me out. Naturally, afterwards I thought this was the way to earn a living, not realising that this was literally a once in a lifetime gig. 


Tarquin Cooper

The desert has provided new challenges for Tarquin. photo Tarquin Cooper


Tell us about your work in Austria and how often you’re able to get away from your desk and explore the country?


Right now I’m working out of Salzburg and London. (Big fan of Ryanair – I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this life without them.) Salzburg is where Red Bull is based and I’m doing quite a lot of work for them right now. Everyone assumes that if you work for Red Bull you must be jumping out of aeroplanes the whole time. And that’s not far from the truth in my case. I’ve got this series going where I film myself doing mad-cap events like running a mountain marathon with a donkey in Colorado, go skiing behind a motorbike in Latvia or do an obstacle course swim in a 7ºC canal in Glasgow.


It’s been fun and quite challenging too, also because I’m doing all the filming. On my doorstep are some gorgeous lakes and mountains so after work and at weekends there’s always the opportunity to go trail running, ski mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking or swimming, depending on the season. 


What have been some of your biggest sporting and adventure accomplishments to date?


I think the stuff I did early on. Before you tackle a big climb or an ultra, at least in my case, I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. So the sense of achievement was off the chart. These days I’ve built up a lot of experience across many challenging situations so I’m able to approach a big challenge with that knowledge that provided I take care of myself, I’ll be alright. It’s different. When you’re young and just go for it – the satisfaction is something else.


What can our readers expect from your blog and website and where else can they read your work?


You can see some of my latest Red Bull videos here: http://www.redbull.com/en/insiders


Tarquin Cooper

Tarquin looks on as he completes another climbing challenge. photo Tarquin Cooper


Do you have any exciting adventures or other projects planned for the year ahead and beyond?


This Summer I’m going to be on the road covering the Red Bull X-Alps, the world’s toughest adventure race in which athletes hike and fly all the way from Salzburg to Monaco. I’ll be following them in the car and on the trails but can still expect it to be physically tough. Besides that I’ve got some mountaineering goals and a couple of crazy races lined up. Life is never dull, that’s for sure! 


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