Taking on a record-breaking paraglide

Richard Barber
Richard Barber
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
19 May 2023

Adventure has always been at the heart of the Virgin brand. So, when amateur adventurer Richard Barber said he was planning to set out on a World Record-breaking trip, Virgin was ready to support.

Richard will attempt to fly a paraglider over the world’s second highest peak, K2 – an altitude of 8,611m. If successful, he will break the Guinness World Record for the highest paraglider flight, which currently stands at 8,407m.

Virgin has provided a special wing to help Richard with his attempt – it’s bigger than the usual wings used for hike and fly adventures because of the altitude that he’ll be flying at, and of course it’s in the iconic Virgin red.

We caught up with Richard to find out more about his adventure…

Tell us about the adventure, where did the idea come from?

I’m not good when I’m bored. And during the pandemic I had too much time sitting inside. I started looking at options for adventures.

I started to talk to some friends about it as an idea, and it’s just developed from there.

How are you feeling about it?

I think mostly just focused is the big expression that springs to mind. I’m just doing everything I can to make sure I’m prepared. I’m sleeping in an altitude tent (simulating altitude of 4500m to prepare) to reduce the risk of hypoxia, of course but there’s a degree of trepidation. If things go wrong it could get very serious. I’ve also started growing a beard because although we’ll be wearing face masks, it’s going to be -25 degrees Celsius so I need all the protection I can get.

What do your family and friends think about it?

My mother was initially furious, but seeing how seriously I’m approaching this is proud (but still cross!). I hosted a party last night to help raise a little money for the catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan last year and she asked, semi-seriously, ‘Is this your pre-wake wake?’ I couldn’t believe it! But I guess there is a degree of risk to what we’re doing.

How are you balancing training with your day job?

I’ve got a full-time job, but I’m very fortunate because I can work from anywhere so I’ve been able to balance training and work. And I’ve got a very supportive boss who’s basically just said to make sure that I come back from the trip.

You can follow Richard’s training journey and adventures on his Instagram channel.