Tag Archive for Calshot Activity Centre

Familiarity is a Blind Gals Best friend

Just as a car driver does not need to actually look at the gear stick to change gears in a car, there are places where I can move around with great ease without the need to see.

To a degree I can walk around in my local gym without the need for my cane or guide dog. The machines all have their set place, it is just me needing to focus on where the other gym goers are, although given the location of the mirrors and the windows in the gym I can easily become disorientated.

One such place I do not need to look is my own home.

Although this does not include my childrens’ bedrooms ….. These are the only two places in my home that I walk with shuffled feet and taking extra care.  But then I have it on good authority that many of my sighted parents do the very same thing in their childrens bedrooms as they are a minefield of Lego, cars, clothes and all things child!

I can also extend this ease of movement to The Scout Hut where I volunteer, although with this environment I have to factor in moving children.  However the main hall, entrance hall and kitchen are set out in such a way that apart from the odd additional table, everything has its place.

Suprisingly another place that I can move with ease is Calshot Climbing Centre.  For obvious reasons the walls never move.  Even though the holds and routes on the walls may alter.  The blue fencing around the climbing walls and the black cubbyhole benches don’t move.  It is just the climbers, their gear and the ropes that do.

The wall also has marked out areas on the floor where you can and cant walk.  These are depicted by a dark red floor for the climbers and belayers to stand in and a black mat flooring where you can wait, stand and walk without being in the way of a climber or their belay partners.  Although saying this, there is not much contrast between the two colours and if I don’t concentrate I can occasionally get it wrong.  But generally I am ok.  Although if I am moving between different climbs; for ease I will link into the arm of my CPiC.

Should I need to go and top up my water bottle or pick up a set of hold keys, because a hold has slipped, I can do this unaided and unsupervised by my partner.  Although I will often ask him

Is there a clear path?

I know to walk with my head down, so that I can look out for objects on the floor.  I also find myself asking others if they are belaying if there is the odd person stood.  Because although I can see the person, I would really struggle to see the rope they were holding on to and as a considerate climber, I would never want to walk near a belayer that may need to suddenly move to support their climber.

This familiarity that is great for me is often an issue of concern for those who do not know me.  Especially as I tend to wear a top that says ‘Blindclimber’ on the back.

I have previously, in other circumstances had people question my blindness.  It is a common occurrence and one that does not faze me. It does however occasionally upset me when people are critical and rude in the way they question.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, Friday while climbing I had one such occurance.

The climbing wall was cold.  So while belaying I had my fleece on.  This covered my top.  So as is usual, I don’t look up to watch my partner climb.  Not because I am rude, but because once his feet are over my head height I can’t see very much of him.  And because I feel is climbing and movements through the rope; I learnt a long time I didn’t have to get neck ache and pretend.

This does however often lead to other climbers (not so) quiet whispers of

Oh my God, he isn’t safe up there.

How can he be safe with her? She isn’t even watching him!

Wow, he’s brave.  How can someone belay without looking out for the guy on the rope?

This is a conversation I have had many a time with my CPiC, he knows I have him.  He knows he is safe.  He would not be happy to climb if he didn’t feel either of them.

Friday was very much the same.  With my fleece on the group of three chatting by us were not so subtle in their conversation and accusations.  So me being the outspoken, no shit personality that I am.  Without them even asking, I politely said

Hey, just so you guys are aware, I can’t see too well, so if you are climbing near here you will need to be more aware of where my partner is as I can’t warn him of where you may be on the wall.

This was met with the usual mumbles and apologies as they were well aware that I had overheard them talking.  And as such were very detailed in the position they were going to climb, which was actually several climbs over and no where near (but this I also already knew from the direction of their voices and the movement of their rope bag)

But it enabled me to make my point and be heard loud and clear.

So, it was my time to climb and off came the fleece.  The back of my top visable and I never thought anything more of it.

That was until later in the evening when I went to full up my water bottle  (afterall when it is cold it is just as important to be hydrated!). and The Three Amigos were sat around the other side of the wall laughing and joking.  I was met with

She can’t really be blind, look she is walking with such confidence she can clearly see what she is doing.  Why would you lie?

I don’t even warrant such comments with an answer.  I just got my water and went back to my partner.  He instantly realised I was bothered by something and so I told him, he knows how this gets to me and told me (sincerely) to ignore them and enjoy the climb.

Which is exactly what I did.

And exactly what I will continue to do each and every time someone questions my abilities.

Afterall, those who are technically blind can often see something.  And they will use that minimal sight to appear as ‘normal’ as the next person.  I don’t believe I am any different to others in that way?

Or maybe I am?  Why don’t you put your comments below.  I am always interested in people views.


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Blindly following Google

When your climbing partner in crime suggest meeting him from work for an evening of climbing, what is a gal to do?

Other than to find out where the closest coffee shop is, and how you can get to it. As it would be an evening of climbing, the ‘have dog will travel’ attitude was altered to ‘have cane will travel’.

Train journey, easy, no problem.

Bus journey, not so easy, but still no problem.

Hedge End (where the CPiC works) has a tiny train station, yet within a short distance there are mammoth superstores of every possible concept. While other coffee places are available, I set my sights on hitting Starbucks, mainly because it has a simple pull up and park location right next to the motorway junction in the direction of Calshot.

Which in fact meant that it had a ‘quirky’ navigation on Google Maps.

The bus stop is placed directly outside the station, the bus was scheduled to tie in with the train arriving. Pure brilliance!

The bus however did not have an audio-visual display. It did have an incredibly friendly and happy to help driver, who ensured me he would notify me of my stop.

So off we went……. And sure enough, the driver true to his word, told me when we had arrived at my stop, he even explained the direction I needed to walk to arrive at Marks and Spencer’s (the major store that afforded its own bus stop!). He also waited until he had ensured I was walking in the right direction before continuing with his journey.

Only; I didn’t want to go the Marks and Spencer’s. I wanted Starbucks. Which as the crow flies is directly opposite Marks and Spencer’s (near enough) Simple enough? the only issue was the great big MASSIVE road known as Charles Watts Way – A334.

And this is where I put my faith in my iPhone and Googled my way!

The directions weren’t straight forward, which made me believe that Google was aware of the size of the road and was walking me a safer way, after all how could it possible take 7 minutes to walk such a short distance (when equating walking time, it doesn’t allow for traffic, as it would if you were driving)

So, ironically. I blindly followed its route……

….. A route that saw me walk through Marks and Spencer’s and out the other side, around the outside of Sainsburys and behind it where a worker was having a sneaky cigarette.

Still my map told me to continue, so onward I went. (I must admit, had it not been a bright afternoon, I may have had other thoughts)

Across a short path and …….. BINGO……

I had found it. The reason why Google maps was telling me it was 7 minutes.

Because in front of me was a rusty cream rail, a thin metal grate on the floor and the key to crossing Charles Watts Way.

It was the ramp, that twisted around in a loose corkscrew before evolving into a long straight path with a slight gradient for several steps, before flattening out and then rising again. It was a bridge.

In the warm sun, the shadows create by the overhanging trees made it hard to make out just how simple and easy it was to navigate.

It was a time to put my trust into my cane, because with the light; the shadows cast and the uncertainty of where I was, I felt apprehensive. I needn’t have; it really was as smooth and easy as I explained it to be.

And before I knew it, I was walking across the top of the bridge, right above all the traffic queuing beneath me. And then I was back into the shadows and the long straight declining path. Turning just once, 180 degrees to walk a similar distance again before coming to a small offset railings, a quick weave and I was on the path beside that very same traffic that I had just walked over. (I didn’t hear it moving!)

A short distance ahead and I could feel the path changing, this time it was much smoother, yet paved, not tarmac as it had previously been. I couldn’t home in on much, because although the trees were cut back, their shadows were replaced by bright glaring sun.

Faithful cane soon told me I was reaching a curb edge, the tactile paving soon enabled me to place myself in the right direction, a small road across the car park and low and behold…….

 

…………Starbucks.


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10 days ago I climbed a Cheese-Grater !!

Ten days ago I CLIMBED A CHEESE-GRATER:  All 225m plus a little extra for good measure.

It seems so much longer than 10 days.  Part of this is because my hands are shredded like they were after The Gherkin Climb, which although it was a much shorter climb that this one, it was at a time when I firstly hadn’t been climbing very long and secondly I wasn’t as physically fit as I am now.

I won’t lie, it was hard.

It was emotionally exhausting.

It was uncomfortable.

And almost a hard slap in the face to how differently I could see and hear inside the climbing centre.  So much so that at one point mid-climb that found me 2/3rds of the way up a wall I strategically removed and dropped my hearing aids into the awaiting hands of my climbing partner.

During the climb we had the additional media of not one but two GoPro (like) pieces of recording equipment.  We took lots of footage, we shared ‘live’ videos on Facebook during the challenge.  We do however have a fair amount of editing to do before we can share the ‘helmet’ footage or even the footage I didn’t realise was recorded.

This editing is only to remove some of the ‘colourful language’ used, we also have to mindful of copyright on music that was being broadcasted in the background!

It is coming together though, there is some fantastic footage of both myself and Simon my climbing partner accessing and defending the wall.  Simon even talked through descriptively on his final climb!

The support, emotionally, encouragingly and financially have been higher than I ever expected.

At the time of writing this post, HelpTeeHear had raised £900 online and a further £100 off-line.  That is One-Fifth of the total hoped for.

So for now, I say thank you; THANK YOU; thank you.


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Taking my time to come down !

Read more


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A little over SIXTEEN climbs isn’t THAT much!

… In one day, with each of those climbs topping out at 14m, doesn’t make a 225m climb sound TOO difficult, does it?

Or is it wishful thinking on my part?

Either way, there is no backing out now.  The posters have been printed, the wall booked and my climbing partner (in crime) has agreed.

So, on May 3rd I shall be climbing the equivalent height of The Cheesegrater; otherwise known as The Leadenhall Building, the 225m office building that towers over its closest neighbour (and another building who’s height I have climbed) The Gherkin, 30 St Mary’s Axe.

Time to ‘earn’ my hearing aids.

Poster reading "Climbing a cheesgrater, having conquered a Gherkin."

If you would like to show your support, you can donate HERE


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The Cheesegrater is going to have to wait

An image of the London Skyline, showing The Cjeesegrater with The Gherkin to the right and The Lloyds building in the foreground.

All the climbing of 2016 has taught me so much more about myself as a climber, I am going to need to work on my technique dramatically if I am to turn my 1st place into a Team GB place.

This doesn’t mean that I am giving up on my fundraising, now more than ever I want to show my worth and EARN my Resound Hearing Aids, but with my climbing partner currently our of action, as the post title suggests ‘The Cheesegrater is going to have to wait’

Just days before Christmas, my climbing partner in crime underwent an operation for a hernia, one that has left him unable to train for a minimum of six weeks.  So with him not even being able to go to the gym until mid-February, let alone climb.  I have made the decision to postpone my climb.

Yes, I can climb with another partner.

No, I am not sharing my climb with ‘climbing partner in crime’.

But…… He is my motivator, my muse and my forceful “not let me down until I have reached the top” coach.  It wouldn’t be right to climb without him as my belay.

The new date is looking like late March, early April.  But no date is being set until the whole of ‘Team T’ is fit enough.

First a gherkin; Next a Cheesegrater !! is where I wrote about my challenge back in October, it was hoped that the climb would happen later this month, but health comes first and so, I am going to be cheeky and link you to the Crowdfunding page that has been set up for me, ‘HelpTeeHear’ where you can see why I am doing all of this.

My world is getting quieter in addition to darker and I’m not happy with it, not one little bit.  I want to be able to keep me, my independence and my love of technology that helps me to do all this.

So, my shameless plug is above, please take a moment to have a look.

And in the meantime, follow me for more updates on the climb and my other adventures.

 

 


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First a gherkin; Next a Cheesegrater !!

September two years ago, I set about climbing The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) in the form of a relay climb at Calshot Activity Wall … My climbing partner did it too, he had a harder challenge I feel, as he took it on wearing a blindfold.  Together we set out to climb the 180m (591ft) between us, but having done that within 3 hours, we upped it to challenge ourselves further and finished 5 hours later; just before the wall closed for the night having climbed the height EACH.

It has been an odd time since then, I have trained with my now working guide dog Fizz, moved house and  discovered that my hearing is failing me along with my sight.

My climbing style has changed and these last few months I have found myself thrilled by the enjoyment of competing and moving my climbing forward to include bouldering and  it just top-roping.

This leads me into my next challenge. In December I shall compete in the final heat for the Team GB Paraclimbing team, which is no mean feet, and most definitely not something I would have dreamt was possible just six months ago.  It was through contact with The Molly Watt Trust, a charity that supports those with Ushers Syndrome that I made contact with John Churcher, a fellow climber who has both a visual impairment and a hearing impairment,  who just happens to have been on the GB team for several years.

Molly Watt (an inspirational young woman) has done lots of work with and around raising awareness and support for people with ushers Sydrome and RP (the family that my eye condition belong to)  She is a big believer in technology and has been using for some time Resound Lynx digital hearing aids.  These hearing aids are fully compatible and work with an app on an iPhone to be adjusted, directions and tested.  They also work as headphones to listen to music and with the addition of a small microphone enable her to be hands free to make and take calls.

I am not always so, but I try to look for the positives and I decided that if I was loosing my hearing, if I had to go through all this, then I wanted to do it in the most comfortable and least obtrusive way.  But at just under £5,000 for a pair, that isn’t going to be easy.

My climbing partner and dearest friend Simon set up a crowdfunding page, I wasn’t keen and felt ‘odd’ asking for friends to help me pay for these.

SO…… I have decided to do something to EARN the money from my friends and family, in the form of sponsorship.  And this is where the ‘Cheesegrater’ comes into it.

That is the nickname given to The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, the 225m (738ft) building that towers over The Gherkin; as is shown here:

Image showing the London Skyline, The cheese-grater is on the Left, with The gherkin on the right and The Lloyd Building in front.

So, the challenge …… To climb this height, all 228m of it, that is a whole 45m MORE than The Gherkin or 147ft in old money!

The tallest straight wall at Calshot is 14m (45ft) meaning that it will take 17 climbs up the wall to complete the equivalent of the buildings height.

Sounds simple when I break it down like that.  But I know I have lots of training ahead of me, and a date to set.  But I hope that you would agree, it is worth a little bit on sponsorship money?

The fundraising page: HelpTeeHear is up and running, so feel free to pop over and have a look, it shows the hearing aids in much more detail.  I would appreciate your support.

 


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Way back when I wrote for Guide Dogs….

Tee stood in Cascade Shopping Centre on the campaign day with Fizz laid on the floor at my feet.

My whole reason for writing this blog is to raise awareness, share some of the crazy hiccups that occur along the way on my journey in a world of sight loss.

I enjoy campaigning about issues that I found myself affected by.  So, way back in September I supported Guide Dogs on a campaign day collecting signatures for a petition to ‘The Big 5.’  For which I wrote a one off blog for guidedog.org.uk, which is linked below.

Pavement Parking causing headaches.


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It’s been a whole year

It’s so weird looking back on the photos of last year…. This day one year ago along with the support of a great friend and the brilliance of my very talented climbing partner, I found myself climbing the equivalent height of The Gherkin, London’s iconic tall building, named so because of its glass uninterrupted shape and dominance in the London skyline.

 

say the equivalent, because the building itself is un-climb able, so at Calshot Climbing centre we relayed between climbing and belaying to climb the 180m each.

We did the challenge to raise money for Hampshire Association for Care of The Blind,ore commonly known as Open Sight. With the final total being over £900.  It was also a major personal challenge for both me and Simon whom I climb with.  For me, because I had never climb this sort of endurance before and for Simon, he undertook the challenge blindfolded.  It was our ‘Blind Climb’

due to life and work commitments, sadly it has been some time since we have been up the wall again…. But we shall return and soon !!

 

 


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One Gherkin wasn’t enough

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WE DID IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Wednesday 17th September, me and Simon faced our challenge of climbing the height of The Gherkin. We set out to climb the 180m between us. We felt that this was a realistic challenge to conquer.

 

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How wrong we were……

 

The climb equalled 90m each, on a stretch of wall we both knew well. The climb was for endurance, rather than climb technique. After all, Simon faced a bigger challenge than me. He had to climb blindfolded. I have only ever climbed blind, so I didn’t have that additional element to deal with.

We got 120-odd meters into the climb when we both agreed that it wasn’t enough. We then made to interesting if not slightly bonkers decision to continue climbing, until we had both individually climber 180m.

I say bonkers decision, as we both felt the adrenaline going at that point…. The very same adrenalin that began to wear off at around 300m.  Redbull, Kendal Mint Cake and Dextrose Tablets saw us through the last 60m….. Along with a VERY large amount of finger tape !!!!!

It was an amazing adventure. One that has left a few scars and bruises, but one that has spurred us both on to do something even bigger and even better.

So, having doubled the climb height, we are still pushing forward to ask those who wish to support us to show their support. The Just Giving page is still up and active. As is the ability to send a text donation from your phone.

www.justgiving.com/gherkinblindclimb

OR

TEXT BGCC70 £10 to 70070

 

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