Karen Darke MBE is an extraordinary human being. She has touched the lives of many through her spirit for adventure.
A keen runner and mountaineer, Karen was paralysed in a traumatic rock-climbing accident on a Scottish sea cliff at the age of twenty-one – the opening chapter of her best selling book ‘If You Fall’, and the beginning of an extraordinary life.
Although during a conversation on the night prior to her accident, Karen said she would rather die than be paralysed, she chose to fight preconceived ideas of just what was possible for someone who could feel nothing below their chest, pursuing instead alternative ways to access the outdoors.
Karen Darke has overcome many physical and mental barriers, completing many trips others believed impossible; from marathons and triathlons to kayaking, sit-skiing and hand-cycling in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet.
These trips have included a remarkable crossing of the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains of Central Asia on a hand bike (1997 and raising £12,000 for charity), handcycling the length of the Japanese archipelago, sea kayaking a 1200 mile length of the Canada – Alaska coastline, crossing the Indian Himalaya by handcycle and skiing the Valle Blanche on a sit-ski.
In 2007 Karen undertook the groundbreaking 600-kilometre traverse of the Greenland ice cap, a month-long journey across one the world’s last great expanses of wilderness, where winds can reach 200 miles per hour and temperatures drop below 40 degrees.
Many seriously doubted Karen’s chances of success, yet with grit, determination and courage she proved it possible.
In 2008, along with Andy Kirkpatrick, Karen climbed El Capitan. With her back to the rock-face, it took thousands of pull-ups to scale this impressive vertical rock formation, nearly a kilometer high in Yosemite National Park.
As a competing hand cyclist, major achievements to date include winning two silver medals at the 2011 Para-Cycling World Cup in Sydney, Australia, in both the women’s H2 Road Race and Time Trial, a Silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and Gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Karen Darke speaks from the heart and inspires audiences around the globe. She shares personal stories focused on overcoming challenges, embracing change and achieving the ‘unachievable’.
As a learning and development specialist and with personal experience of working in corporate and public sectors, she is able to connect with a wide range of clients, large audiences and small teams.
Speaking topics include:
- Leadership and Teamwork Development
- Change Management
- Positive Psychology Tools for Self and Team Understanding
- Developing and Selecting Positive, Powerful Teams
- Managing Stress and Enabling Performance in ‘Stretched’ Situations
- Embracing Diversity, Disability and Inclusive Practice
Modest and thoughtful, Karen is a highly sought after and successful motivational speaker, whose stories inspire all those who take time to reflect on what it took to achieve them.