It has taken me some time to write this, and as I type this I am travelling to London to compete in Round 3.
Manchester was a fantastic climbing environment, the inner designer in me was in love, the church looked very much like a church from the outside, and even though I had seen interior images on the inter web, I didn’t expect it to have as much if not more character on the inside.
How I was wrong…….
All of the ‘churchie bits’ that were on the outside, like the large stain glass window at the alter, the solid stone arch of the doorway, the monolithically door frames and doors, along with most of the stone. It was all there. They weren’t hidden behind fake walls with holds on, they were worked around; they were in some cases ‘peeping’ out from behind an area, allowing the light to filter through and stream mixes of colours on the walls and the climbers; just as I could imagine it had done on the congregation when it was used for its original purpose.
The building oozed character, charm and beauty. While at the same time taking ownership of its role as a climbing centre. The walls weren’t out of place, the chalk dusted floor that comes with every climbing arena was perfectly at home. The bouldering walls, sat snugly in the rear of the church, that you were lead to by solid stone steps and solid banisters. The design was deliberate, it worked with the buildings original design, instead of against it.
This climbing competition was going to be different, not because of the building, not because I had a clearer idea of what was needed of me, but because my climbing partner was also entering the competition (all be it a different category to me).
He was going to have his own climbs to concentrate on, his own issues to overcome and his own exhaustion to deal with. To say it put me in state of anxiety, fear, panic, that I was ‘on my own’ would be an understatement. I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place. I want for him to compete and have his chance, but at the same time I wanted him to be focussed on helping me. (for which I felt and still feel guilty and selfish for)
Different competitiors in Edinburgh had been given different routes and problems to solve, which was fair. After all, some of the competitions had physical disabilities, that would make a difference to the way in which they climbed a route. So, it was with this in my mind that my fear and worry had grown.
Manchester was however, a very different centre. There were different climbs for different competitors, but as luck would have it, my route problems were the same as my partners. So we were both able to work with each other and with the use of his iphone 6s, I was able to watch him climb and offer support.
The climbs were misleading though; from the ground, the descriptions of the holds were large and simple, yet when up there, on the end of a rope with only one shot of making the moves needed, it turned out the holds weren’t simple. Yes they were large, but held no grip for hands or fingers. it was like trying to climb with only your feet, not something I was too successful with.
So, the building was beautiful, the experience was amazing, but the result…… Well, that is the bit I am not too happy with, the sort version is I came 3rd. A result that I have not been happy with, a result that I have played over and over and over in my mind.
I am not going to make excuses, I wasn’t happy with my performance and it showed. My only saving grace in my ranking for my climb was that there were 5 competitors, and the 1st and 2nd place in my category went to women who had previously climbed for Team GB.
I didn’t ‘see’ this at the time, I also didn’t ‘see’ that several of the VI climbers were actually aided by laser pointers. A gadget I had never considered before. But this got me thinking……
One of the male VI’s also has a hearing impairment, so he uses hearing aids and it is through these that he hears his guide talking to him with a small mike. So the 2 climbers that made use of their remaining vision by following a laser light, were just receiving a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for the climb. Not a cheat, not an unfair advantage, but a supporting role from a floor bound guide.
The one part of climbing competitions that I have found the most difficult is that you only get one shot on a top rope climb. No second chance if you start off on the wrong foot. So for me, someone who climbs through feeling and smearing the wall, picking the wrong hold half way up can be the difference between getting higher and coming off. Most of the climbers, even those with limb amputations can plan the route and get an idea of what and how to climb from the ground. As a VI climber, maybe it is time to start thinking and climbing differently.
On to round 3….. just 10 days later, although that is actually today. Off to climb in a castle in London !!!