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The Speed Wing Giant - Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton

On Tuesday 23 April I met up with Matthew D Thornton in a Café Nero in Tooley St London to hear about his exciting lifestyle and his current project #RidingGiants which is set to be the next benchmark in high altitude mountaineering.

Matthew manages a busy lifestyle he is:

  1. A Programme Manager at the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School in Oxford University;

  2. On the advisory board for a UK-Indonesian management consultancy;

  3. A keen outdoor enthusiast in particular a pioneering speed wing pilot;

  4. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; and

  5. Ambassador for Global Angels. Matthew specifically supports the Water Foundation of Global Angels, which aims to give the opportunity of fresh, clean drinking water to every child on the planet.

By day Matthew has a career like many but he doesn’t let it stop him from enjoying his passion! You’ll see his passion is his driving force!

On the 19th May 2012 Matthew D Thornton became one of the youngest British climbers and part of the youngest ever team to climb Mount Everest. Since climbing Everest, Matthew has gone on to race the length of the UK by bicycle, make daring flights from towering alpine peaks, write and publish Dare to Dream - Matthew's account of Everest, and engage with numerous audiences at public speaking events across Europe.

Whilst climbing mountains is a large part of Matthew’s life, his first passion is flight. It was great to hear that Matthew first made the acquaintance with adventurer Squash Falconer who is a good friend of Rainbow Brands soon after summiting Everest and even better to hear that she inspired him to further his plans as a paragliding pilot which led him to become a speed wing pilot today.

Speed wings are light weight and can be easily packed into a small backpack. These wings typically measure between 8.5m2 and 12m2 in comparison to an average paraglider which can easily measure over 24m2 and takes up a significant amount of space, not to mention the weight increase. Speed wings give endless options in the high mountains, both on foot for speed flying, or on skis for speed riding. Matthew is continually trying to perfect his flying ability and make new probing flights to test the limits of the sport, particularly concerning fast and light climbs at high altitude.

Matthew explains that speed wings can remove a significant element of danger from mountain climbing. The descent for a mountain climber can be seen as the hardest part of the climb; being tired and less sharp facing the risk of avalanche having reached the top. Flying down provides an exhilarating alternative over challenging terrain like crevasses with relative ease which would otherwise take many hours to bypass and are generally very physically demanding particularly when at high altitude. Flights can take as little as 3 minutes from summit to the bottom of a mountain, and unless flying from the summit of an 8,000m mountain or in strong winds, flights over 5 minutes are essentially non-existent on all but the largest speed wings.

Matthew further explains that originally speed wings were adopted by the adrenaline junkie looking for a quick buzz over more attainable heights rather than from high altitudes and from the top of mountains. The downside of the short repetitive flight is that you tend to lose focus as you tire which subsequently increases the risk of mistakes, particularly when one of the overriding aims of speed flying is to be as close to terrain as possible.

Matthew wants to take speed wing piloting to the highest of heights, quite literally beyond the “death zone”. This is the area above 8000m which is generally accepted as the region where climbers can only survive for short periods, a couple of days at most. At these altitudes, the body is driven into hypoxia and slowly deteriorates thanks to the incredibly low atmospheric density which is also why the vast majority of climbers opt for bottled oxygen when climbing above this height. Matthew aims to be the first speed wing pilot to make a speed riding flight (speed wing + skis) from an 8,000m peak, the first time any climber has attempted such a feat.

Matthew is forming his team of partners and sponsors for this pioneering venture which aims to take off at the end of 2018.

I was pleased to know that after our meeting Matthew went to speak with Red Bull who are the obvious main brand to partner with on this project. I hear Matthew came out of the meeting buzzing it went well and was inspired no end.

It’s fair to say that our joint interest in entrepreneurship, brands and the outdoors made this interview a pleasure and Rainbow Brands wishes Matthew every success with #RidingGiants and we look forward to working together in the near future.

Stay Safe Keep Buzzing

Selchouk Sami


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