Tag Archive for Paraclimbing

Inspiration comes in MANY forms

Today marks International Women’s Day.  A day where social media and such goes CRAZY over ‘inspiring women’ well I am bucking that trend.  I think that inspiration can come from ANYONE.  Man, Woman, Human, Animal ….. You get the idea!

In recent months with my changing hearing and sight I have been working hard on myself.  On how I deal with a situation and how I do not allow my ‘disabilities’ to take away my sparkle, to rob me of my mood or emotions.

If I said it was an easy task I would be lying.  But it has been a task I have set about with great vigger and enthusiasm; not always successfully I may add.

Within my climbing, Be it with fellow Para climbers or (regular) climbers I am free, everyone at any wall is always happy to offer support or suggest a different move Or body position.  But some of my greatest inspiration has come from fellow Para-climbers.

From my very on CPiC who has Fibromyalgia and Aspergers, he is continually in pain or ‘foggy’ which high levels of medication can simply ‘reduce’ but not ‘cure’,  He finds a great strength from within to push through it and to climb his ass off, always pushing himself and yet still there to offer me continual support and help ME with my climbing.

There is also my dear friend Anoushé,  her ‘visable’ disability is that she has no arm from just below her elbow on her right side.  She also has many other health conditions that are ‘invisable’

Anoushé is climbing within a ‘chimney’ at Ratho Climbing centre, she is surrounded by pink jug and bicycles handlebar type holds, her left hand is about head hieght on a hold and she is just moving her right arm, which is covered in white tape at the end onto a similar hold

We first met in September 2016 in Ratho, the first paraclimbing competition for us both.  And we have grown closer upon each meeting and now regularly try to fit in training sessions together.

I look at Anoushé and feel humbled to watch her climb (mostly via videos or in photographs )  As a guide dog owner and a long cane user I am more often than not walking with either my right or left hand full (be it with a harness or a cane) but if I REALLY needed to use both my hands, I can.

I am not, nor will I ever compare my disabilities to another person (not even another hearing and visually impaired person) as just as humans we are unique; how we live with ‘differing-abilities’ is also unique.

My disabilities have been a platform for me to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and just as I believe there is something to learn from each of the people who have come and gone from my own life; I hope that others can look to me for those lessons and ‘alternative’ views.

So, today on International women’s day I want to say THANK YOU to all of those who have enabled me to grow.

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Fear is a strange thing.

It can come from no where and just APPEAR before you even realise it is there, then it can stop you from achieving so much, holding you back from something that you don’t even realise is a SOMETHING.

For me, I have a fear of falling. Literally falling, not metaphorically falling.

Which you would think as a climber would be ‘part of the territory’ for me; and actually partly it is. However there is a big difference between taking a fall on a rope to taking a fall on a bouldering wall.

The most obvious of which is the lack of rope! That rope that even when I am 17 ft up a wall doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself on the wall; or swing out; or come down a fair distance because of the give in the rope, or my belayer leaving too much slack.

And there are also times when I make a move on a roped climb and I am not actually at a height where the rope would have an affect. But it is a security, it is a safety net and one that even if it is purely psychological at times makes me feel safe.

When I boulder (outside of competitions) there are no top ropes, no safety net. It is all on me…..

And that is scary and fearful and makes me emotional just writing this.

One thing that I see other climbers doing, and I have watched dozens of instruction videos about, is jumping down from the wall.

Not from the very top, but most definitely from a height at least as tall as they are.

Which for me; as someone who cant even see the floor when I am stood on it, the thought of jumping any height is where my fear of falling comes from. You see, or rather I can’t see, so can’t work out where the floor is and how quickly I will approach it.

And it is this fear of falling and not being able to get off of a climb that has stopped me from wanted to boulder. It is only on the odd route where I can actually ‘top out’ climbing over the top of the wall and coming back down via the cafe seating that I happily give it a go.

All routes on a bouldering wall are colour coded. So you can go to ANY wall within the centre and know exactly what level the climb before you is. I had no real intention of actually bouldering on this evening. But then my CPiC said

“You need to be aiming for yellow”

I looked at the colour chart, I looked at the yellow and then I replied,

“I’m just going to work on biscuits”

As in the colour, not the food!

And why biscuit?

Well, basically biscuit is v0, the easiest of all the climbs. But it wasn’t because of the ease of the climbs, tonight I had decided I was going to work on something in a different way.

I was going to work on my fear.

My fear of falling and my fear of how I would get back off of the wall. As I said before, jumping down when you can’t even see your feet makes the ground a scary place. And as I had previously had to be ‘lifted’ off of the wall by my CPiC because I totally froze and couldn’t go either up nor down. (Something that he didn’t want to be repeating every time I attempted a boulder)

The climbs were easy, they were also over far too quickly (v0 climbs don’t tend to be high)

However it wasn’t about the climbing up, it was more about the coming down. And this is a point that anyone who climbs will tell you is actually harder than going up in the first place.

So, how do you climb down?

I often climb up by allowing my feet to follow where my hands have been, I didn’t know how I could just reverse this process seeing as I couldn’t actually see where my feet were.

I stopped thinking……….

May sound silly, but thinking too much is often my downfall.

It didn’t matter what holds I used to get down, I didn’t stick to biscuit, I just took the holds that felt safe and in reach. A reach that I naturally found myself doing with ease when I crouched down, climbing my hands down the wall first to enable me to then move my feet.

As good as it felt not to be scared of going up as I knew how to get down, I was exhausting myself.

Climbing down is harder than going up (I think I said that already) ……

But how do you jump when you can’t see the floor?

Maybe that was my problem? I was fixing on something I couldn’t see, rather than working with something that I could see. When I am on a roped wall I can’t see the floor. I don’t even look down anymore. I just sit back in my harness and walk down the wall with my belayer counting me down to the floor. (Initially he would just sit me down on the floor in my harness)

So, to jump off the wall. This is where the trouble with thinking reared its head again! I just kept thinking about it. So much so that I had built it up to be a lot more than it actually was.

With my CPiC spotting me (standing behind me) he put his hand on me to ‘show me’ where he stood against me (height wise) and knowing that he is just short of 6 ft I could gauge where I was compared to the floor.

But I couldn’t jump.

I had to climb down further.

And even then I just couldn’t jump.

As I said, I was thinking too much……. I knew the floor (safety matting) is spongy and have some give in it. So I knew I wouldn’t be landing on solid ground (for good reason too) but knowing that the floor would move made me even more scared of it.

I needed to just do it.

But how do I jump?

I was holding onto the wall…..
I was crouched down slightly……
I was less than waist height from the floor……
I just had to let go and jump down…………………….. But I couldn’t do it……………

I forgot how to jump.
It was that ‘thinking’ thing again……

So, letting go with my hands first and then i jumped……..
Only I didn’t …… Not really ………………………………………..

I forgot to bend my knees.
I landed with a thud.
It was purely because of my CPIC that I didn’t fall backwards.

I failed………….
I tried again…………

I struggled again………..
I forgot to bend my knees………

I ended up head butting the wall in front of me………
I went back to climbing off the wall……………………….

I faced a fear, and although I didn’t over come it, I tried. I gained a better understanding of my position on the wall.

I moved to purple holds,

I worked on my technique.

I worked on my starting point on the wall. I worked on my start, pulling myself up from an almost sitting position on the wall and I focussed my energy on something else.

While my CPiC was busy with his own climbs I found myself relaxing about the jump down, I climbed down to the floor, then climbed back up several holds and jumped……

The benefit of me doing it is that I couldn’t see how stupid I looked (I felt stupid enough) I bounced on the matting, I sometimes stayed on my feet and sometimes not.

But each time I jumped I landed without hurting myself or anyone else.

It may well have looked ridiculous; your probably reading this thinking it sounds ridiculous. But do you know something. That doesn’t matter.

Because despite thinking, despite fear. I DID IT.

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Silvers nice ….. Yet Bronze is prettier

This weekend saw the 3rd round of the BMC Paraclimbing series.

Manchester Climbing Centre was the venue – A beautiful former church, which has kept many of its original features, not to mention the lack of heating!! (Which was clearly felt this weekend ‘tup-north)

The routes were set, the atmosphere was buzzing and the turn out was phenomenal.

Selfie of me with Guide Dog Fizz with the Climbing Centre behind us and showing a large round stain glass window at the top Centre of the photograph


There were six competitors in female VI (according to the entry list anyway)  and Abi a fellow vi Climber who often ‘flashed’ all her routes and boulders was here.  So barring a natural disaster I set myself up for the best I could achieve would be a silver.

….. So what is a FLASH I hear you ask …..

To ‘Flash’ all routes and boulders is to get to the top hold on the first attempt.  With the top rope climbing routes you only had one go to get the best score or to ‘flash’ the route, but with the boulder problems you are given 3 opportunities.  Scoring a bonus 2 points if you succeed on the first go.

Anyway, I set myself the personal challenge to beat my scores from the same competition last year.  Knowing that the climbs had been set harder, this was my way of judging how I had improved in the past year.

This is the same challenge I have set myself for each of the rounds.  However one that, despite topping more routes and reaching higher in the routes I didn’t top, I didn’t actually achieve this in Edinburgh.  But as we don’t climb the EXACT same routes each year this isn’t always a clear sign of improvement, they may have changed the scoring against how everyone performed last year.

This was certainly the case for the 2nd round this year; after 3 of the 4 Male VI climbers scored maximum points, the route setters upped the challange for London.  Given that the 3rd top rope in Manchester was graded as a 7a (2a grades above my comfort zone) the Competition was seen to be set for a much higher status.

Usually as the routes go, boulder 1 and top rope 1 are lower grades, I flashed boulder 1, yet took a silly slip on top rope 1, costing me 26 points.

Photo shows me on toprope 1, just before I slipped. This is about 2/3rds up the route.

I got further on top rope 2 and just under the first ledge on top rope 3 (where I hadn’t expected to get too far from the ground!)

Photograph of me on top rope 3, my right hand is up on an underhand hold, my right leg is bent and the move I need to make is to stand up on my right to reach over the red ledge with my left hand.... I didn’t reach it!

The second boulder was a challange and one I had hoped to return to after a break (but time ran away from me) while boulder 3 was set as a challange to most.  I was happy to get the minimum points of 47 on this as it was such a hard set.  47 Out of 60 meant I got both my feet off of the ground, which given there was only one foot hold and the hand holds had an interesting placement was quite an achievement and similar to many of my fellow competitors.

This photograph is of boulder 2, I managed to get one hand hold higher having moved my right foot to a higher hold.    

Had time allowed I think a 3rd attempt on this route would have seen me complete it.

But time didn’t allow.

The sheer volume of competitors and lack of volunteers who could belay meant that the competition ran over by 35 minutes as it was.  In which time I competed in the 3rd top rope, where I found myself scoring much higher than I expected.

Once the competition was over it was time to calm down, take off my climbing shoes (hello feet) and harness and await the results.

There were no podium blocks, but an innovative use of the stone steps that led upto the bouldering area and my catagory was read out.

As expected, 1st place went to Abi (which I congratulated her on) then 2nd place …….. Me!

I took my podium; accepted my medal and had my picture taken.

There had been no 3rd place on the podium which I had felt was odd, but had honestly thought the person named as 3rd had left.

It was only after all the podiums were announced that the organiser explained that the medals that hadn’t been handed out in London were ready for collection.  It was at this point I discovered that a fellow female VI had been mis-catagoried and was in fact 2nd.  So back went my shiny silver medal and out came the beautiful bronze!

Sadly it was too late to re-take the podium photographs. So the only one I have is of me with my silver.  So here is my ‘incorrect’ Podium photo showing me beside the beautiful Abi.

Photograph of me stood on the left hand side of stone steps with a silver medal and certificate with Fizz stood beside me and fellow climber and gold medal winner Abi on the right

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You climb with your mind

…… Your arms and legs are only a tool to enable you to achieve any height. (Or something similar)

This was in one of the many climbing books I have read, it is one that has (loosely) stuck with me.  My CPiC often says think positively and you can achieve anything.

Well, on Tuesday I attended the 2nd round of the BMC 2017 Paraclimbing competition at The Castle Climbing Centre in London.  And I am beginning to think I shouldn’t have gone.

I have lots of things going on in my personal life at this time that I am trying to work my way through, the funny weather and darker evenings are beginning to take effect too.

So to say I wasn’t on top form on Tuesday would be an understatement!

I was exhausted, I was emotionally tired before the climbing even started and it was only a very last minute decision that actually saw me attend.

Because up until 10pm Monday night I wasn’t going to go.  I didn’t want to go and perform badly.  But some smooth words of encouragement from my CPiC and I changed my mind, because going and performing badly would still put me above where I would be if I didn’t show up.  So I was already beating my worst possible scoring just by showing up and getting my hands and feet on those first holds.

I set myself a personal challenge to get through the day.

Remembering back to last years competition at The Castle where I didn’t reach for the next hold for fear of failing, I told myself

you have to climb until you fall… Because there is a 50:50 chance you COULD make it

But if you dont reach for it, you won’t know if you could have made it.

My footwork was clunky and I was ill spending energy because of it, but I made it to the top of my first climb and a sense of pride kicked in.

I. may actually know how to do this!

But I was already physically tired and cold.  Never a good mix when you have problems to solve and climbs to overcome.

I was also starting to struggle with the venue.  There was an AMAZING turn out for the competition, with people coming far and wide.  The Centre was only open for the competition. So everyone there was there for just one thing.

The noise was unbearable and distracting at times.  There were different languages, accents and pitches of voices in addition to well deserved cheers and applauses to those climber who had pulled of a good move or topped a route.

I wanted to take my hearing aids out. But instead I took myself out.

Actually I took myself and Fizz out.  Outside to stand amongst the relative quiet (by comparison) busy part of London.

Fizz got to sniff the grass and investigate the lavender bushes while I got to breathe.

Breathing; all be it a fundemental to surviving is often something I forget to do when I am concentrating on a problem or a climb.

I found myself crying as I breathed in; I found myself sitting on the sandy, stony path burying my head into Fizz’s neck as she offered me reassurance.  I found myself feeling rediculous.

So I stood up, dusted myself off went back inside to finish what I started.  To climb !!

Thankfullly my brief departure went unnotice (or at least unmentioned) and I was able to warm myself up with a hot drink and face the climbs ahead.

It wasn’t my best performance.

And by being the only female VI I gained a gold medal (purely by default)

But although I wasn’t at my best, I did complete all of my climbs and my boulder problems.  And by the end of the day I felt much better for showing up and not going up.

The troubles I have are still there and still need to be deal with, but for this competition I did go.  And for that I am thankful.


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Why do I climb?

I watched a climbing film this morning about a climber with progressive cerebral palsy.  He took up climbing as it looked more fun than physiotherapy.  When asked what he enjoyed most about climbing he answered:

I am equal to everybody else.

This comment has had a profound effect on me.  A friend asked me a few months ago; how do you feel when your climbing?

I couldn’t answer. I told her it was something I would have to think about and come back to her on.

It is a simple enough question isn’t it?

How do I feel when I am climbing?

I feel free.

No-one is looking at me when I am climbing, they are all too busy concentrating on their own climbs or climbing partners.

I have no idea what it looks like to climb (not first hand, without zooming in on pictures) therefore I do not feel conscious of how I look.  Don’t get me wrong there is the odd occasion I come down off a wall and I can feel the sweat stinging my eyes and I have a fair idea of how red and sweaty I look, but that is no different to any other Climber that has just given their all.

Climbing is not something I have known with much better sight.  It is not like the sight I had 15 years ago, which although pretty poor was much clearer than the sight I have now; the sort of sight that wearing glasses made a real difference; where as now they only really help with REALLY close up things.

An example, as a child I rode a bike, as an adult I rode a bike and even up until last year I felt comfortable riding a bike.  Since my hearing loss I have found it a real struggle to feel safe on a bike.  Not the physical movement of actually turning the peddles and making the wheels move, but the ability to even judge how far my foot is from the ground.

I refuse to give up on ever riding again, but my days of riding alone or just taking the kids out are gone.

[I have digressed slightly….Fogive me]

With climbing there isn’t this feeling. Because the routes on walls are very rarely the same after 3 months, there is no ‘marker’ to judge my changes in sight.

The only way I can judge my climbing is the same as anyone with any type of sport…… How I feel the next day !!

I am working on stretching and movement, on endurance and core strength, which in turn is improving my climbing.

When I am on a wall, only the thought of reaching the next hold and getting further than I did before is on my mind.

My sight loss and hearing loss don’t come into it.  They make up such a small part of me as a person, and yes they clearly do have an affect on the way I climb.

But for me I JUST CLIMB.

And just as Nik Royale (BMC Article linked here) commented how he felt about climbing over 5 years ago; I find myself absorbing his comment and believing in it, regardless of if you take part in Paraclimbing or other forms of competition.

Climbing is about equality.  A climbing wall doesn’t care about the colour of your skin, how your body looks or even how your body works.  It enables you to find a way, to reach personal challenges and milestones.

It is simply there for you to climb it.



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And so it all starts again…..

Round 1: Paraclimbing competition for 2017 (2018 team selection)

EICA – Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, hosted by BMC and MSC.

One year and one week to the day of my first ever competition and I was back to do it all over again.

And in that one year and one week many things had changed.  I have most definitely changed; my climbing has most certainly improved and although my sight and hearing have had their setbacks (as detailed standing alone)    I thought I was in a much stronger position physically and mentally for this competition.

I wasn’t sure though, why I hadn’t been as prepared for the 13 hour drive that had seen us be diverted off the M6 and not arrive at the hotel until after 1am on Saturday morning.  After all, thanks to said sight and hearing impairments, I wasn’t able to share the drive with my CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime). The whole horrible job had been left to him to endure and in turn exhaust him mentally in ways, that as having never been a driver I can’t quite understand; yet one I can fully empathise with.

This year was different, this year I didn’t have the apprehension of a new Climbing Centre, the apprehension of never having competed before.

This year I had a bench mark; a place to beat and a score to improve upon.

This year I always wanted to EARN my podium place (not just get it by default-having been the only competitor last year!) Which although I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have competition I was setting myself a personal goal to get me up on the podium.

After a bit of a wobble I found myself ready to set about the day.  My first move was a bouldering problem which was actually marked as the hardest of my 3 problems, but it wasn’t something I was aware at the time.

it was to start from a sitting position, it was also then I realised that my routes where only to cover 2 categories; interestingly the 2 categories where VI and Upper-Body Amptutee.

It happens some times that some routes are set for particular categories and not others, for example a route set for lower body amputees would probably not be suited to an upper body amputee.  And for a reason I do not understand it is often that the Vi and Upper-amputee are grouped together.

All competitors (from each of the 9 categories) had the same Boulder 1 and 2, in addition to Climb 1 and 2, but when it came to the 3rd of each problem this was where the VIs and Upper body amputees had a different  problem on each.

This meant that the queue of competitions on these routes were much smaller; hence my school girl error of actually doing my hardest first.

 Use of my back, sat crouched on a smalll foot hold with my right arm out to the side holding a large pink hold.

So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.

Image with my on my halls up above my head on a hold ready to step up

I wasn’t as successful on Boulder 2, where I misread my footings and started off all wrong, a silly error I repeated on my following attempts.

Image of me on Boulder 2 struggling to get my feet and hands right to move forward

Time for lunch and freshness break for Guiding girl Fizz, who had made herself lots of friends while benched as I climbed.  And was sporting a slightly grey colour around her ears; afyerall a black dog around all that chalk isn’t the best mix!

Fizz cuddled up on the shoulder of another climber

Then it was onto the climbs. (Which unlike the Boulder, you only get one shot)  Climb 1 was over before I realised, it was a great warm up climb and one I didn’t need any guidance from the ground on.

Climb 2 was a busy climb, with each and every Climber using it I got to enjoy watching (through the camera on my iPhone) the others who went before me.  It was a much higher climb, with a column and yellow holds on the grey wall.  It was time for me to climb, just as my CPC had returned from completing his 3rd Boulder (not the same as my 3rd Boulder) he told me how he had scraped his knuckle on the wall and would just need to sit and rest.  (I later discovered that he had popped a tendon and actually had to have it strapped up and imobilize his middle fingers)

So, off I went and got myself tied in for the climb.  I was about 2 m off the ground when I realised I didn’t have the support.  My ground support wasn’t there, I was on the climb alone and had to up my game and concentrate on my hands and feet.  I heard no instruction, I just had to focus and more importantly; remember to breath !!

….. Something is very easy to forget when I climb…..

It was a long climb, it was a climb that went from left side to right side and back to left, it wasn’t easy with the little contrast, but I did it.  Or I hoped it had!  When I got to the rope top (the rope didn’t finish at the top of the wall) I reached around but couldn’t find another hold, I had to just hope I had the last one, but I was worried I had missed it!)

Thankfully coming down I confirmed with the judge, I had got to the final hold and I had flashed the climb.

Phew….. I could relax.

It was then I discovered my CPiC’s injury and worked with him to support his injury to enable him to finish his own last two climbs.

And given the shortage or judges, there was a fair wait for me to finish my final climb.  I was however able to watch two of my fellow competitions complete the climb (yet as they were both upper body amputees, their climb was different to mine…….. Even though it was the same route and wal)

It also gave me the opportunity to watch my CPiC complete his climbs too.

Then it was time for my final climb; just in time too as they announced it was time for the last climbs.

And this climb looked like a great contrast; black holds on a light grey wall.  I hadn’t worked out why my fellow climbers had ignored several of the obvious holds, that was until I got on the wall.

The ‘obvious’ holds were in fact not holds at all, they were black gaffer tape taping over quickdraws and other such climbing accessories.  A feature that had apparently been on the other walls too.  But as the holds on those routes weren’t black, I hadn’t even noticed them.

I took on the climb, it was most certainly a challenge.  But a fun challenge at that.


Image of T climbing on a grey wall with black holds, while being positioned in a capital K position.

I had a move planned in my head, I moved my feet to make it an easier set a ste and then ….. OUCH!

I had missed it, it was such a simple move, but one I never made, instead I scraped my elbow off the wall as I dropped quite far. (My belay has been getting ready to take up my slack, which gave me more rope, sc I when I missed the move he found himself unexpectedly giving me more rope-which was no issue as I was fairly high up the wall!)

It was the final climb though, I had no second chance and one I am proud to say that “I climbed until I fell.”  Not something I had done in previous competition; not something I had been doing while climbing in general until very recently.

And yes, I fell….. But it felt AMAZING !! I climbed until I couldn’t climb anymore.

And it got me a Silver Medal!

Photograph of me & Guide Dog Fizz stood on the silver podium with mouth my fellow competitors stood on the gold podium tithe right of me, with the 3rd competitor stood on the bronze podium to her right.

Out of the 4 competitors in my category I came second.  A medal I am more than proud of.  And can’t wait to improve on at October’s competition!

Roll on round 2, when I get to climb at The Castle !!

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Standing Alone amongst Thousands.

Image of the high quarry walls of Ratho EICA garden, with dark storm clouds behind creating a bright reflection of light from the sun from behind the photographers

Ratho is ingrained on my memory; it is where it all began; it is a place that until this weekend I had only ever been once before.  But my memories of it didn’t disappoint me.

Although, sadly my sight and hearing did.

What is so special about Ratho I hear you ask?


Ratho is the home to EICA or Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.  It is where my journey REALLY began with my climbing.  The date was  3rd September, 2016.  Yes I did say 2016!

However, it would take until 9th September 2017 to really realise it.  You see, this is the date that I made my second visit.  The visit that was filled with mixed emotions, anxieties and fears.  But for very different reasons.

And it is because of this that this visit where I felt much more so than ever before that I was alone.

Obviously I wasn’t literally alone; I was surrounded by 43 other paraclimbers, who included my best friend and CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime) in addition to about 400 other climbers, spectators, Scottish Mountainering and BMC staff.

But still I felt alone.

Wizz back to that date in 2016 and I found myself at my very first Climbing Competition; totally ill-prepared and in a much poorer condition to that of the climbers all around me.

But I had a rucksack full of nerves and a naive mindset that I wasn’t troubled by it.  Again my CPC was there, he having not signed up to compete, he who subsequently volunteered to be a belay and judge for one of the climbs.  Leaving me to face this adventure alone.

Although it wasn’t until Saturday I realised just how much I had taken that to heart and how much I needed to summon up the same courage I had had the previous year.

This year I KNEW Ratho would be different.  Not physically (although yes the climbs would be set differently) but for me, One year later I now wear hearing aids, my sight has detereated even further and my physical and mental strength had changed.

The changes in my physical strength and my climbing capabilities are most definitely a positive and I couldn’t wait to push myself on the climbs.  However with my sight and hearing changes, my mental state was in a questionable way.

It was such a way that I couldn’t face explaining or mentioning it to my CPC, Ratho this year held its own challenges for him, he didn’t need to deal with my Sh*t too!

You see, last year he started the competition at Round 2.  So, although he had been to EICA before, he had never climbed or competed.  This year is also the start of the competing calender for his son.  Who has NEVER competed before and although he loves to climb has a great fear of heights.

My CPC needed to be their for himself and his son.  Not me.

After all, I am a grown woman, I didn’t ‘physically’ need him there to partner me, as the belayers where also judges for the competition.

But for the first time in a very long time I found myself surrounded by familiar faces, yet standing alone.

This was my demon on Saturday, not the fault of anyone else, most certainly not my CPC’s, my other friends or even fellow competitors.  It wasn’t even my ‘fault’ it was just a demon that was with me.

And one I was desperate to ditch before the competition began.

One ‘thing’ I have noticed is that I often only see (yes I know how ironic that sounds) the changes in my sight when I return to something or somewhere that I have been before, but not for some time.

On a day-to-day I don’t ‘notice’ the changes.  It is when I go somewhere or go to do something I haven’t done in some time that I notice it.  The main reason for this is and ‘perks’ to my sight is because the deteriation occurs ever so slightly, and the sight that I have left is so minimal that no change is ever obvious.

It is for this reason I have yet to return to my university town of Nottingham (that’s a whole other story though, for another time).

I dread being able to detect the changes.  And if I am honest, I really didn’t think that in ONE YEAR Ratho could be so different.  I had forgotten that although I was under the care of the audiology team, I was unaware of the exact change to my hearing.  I most certainly was not aware that I would be needing hearing aids.  So, it is no wonder that by changing the ‘sound’ of the venue, I inturn realised how this visually changed the whole venue too; before even adding in the confirmed deteriation I had been told of at last weeks eye clinic appointment!!!

I took myself away, I left my CPC and fellow competitors.  I (guided by Fizz) escaped to the tranquility and safety of the gardens of Ratho.  Being built within a quarry you end up entering the building at the top and walk down into it, meaning that the garden is almost level with the main climbing floor.  There was the odd person about, but more importantly there was silence.  There was birdsong, which I didn’t remember from last year.  And there were great big slabs of rock to sit on.

And sit on the rock I did.

I sat and I cried.

I sat and I felt myself falling apart.

I sat and I reminded myself to breathe; to control my demon and just allow the emotion to wash over me, yet not allow it to control me.

I sat for far too long, I missed the start of the comp, I missed the group photo, but I was also able to leave the emotions that had gradually been bubbling under the surface behind in the garden.  I was able to let them wash over me, but not control me.

I sat and I focused.

Sod not being able to see the faces of my friends.

Sod not being able to see the walls as clearly.

After all, I am a visually impaired climber, no one in the competition would be worrying about me; they were all too worried about themselves and their own performances. (It’s human nature and self-preservation)

So I took a deep breath and returned, plastered on a smile and ‘acted’ the confident climber; I ‘acted’ the inspirational climber with the shear stubborn nature that others had previously commented on.

Oh…… And more importantly……. I CLIMBED

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Taking my time to come down !

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Another church and The Angel of the North….. Was it a sign?

Round 4 of the Paraclimbing series for 2016, the final in this years competitions, another great location and my chance to shine.

Newcastle Climbing Centre is set within the walls of an old church, one that was much larger and steeped in more history than that of the Climbing Centre in Manchester.  A building that fed my love of design, my ‘eye’ for detail and my passion to climb.  What more can a gal ask for?

The day started with a stressful tummy, a fear of failure and without my faithful Fizz, a feeling of falling flat on my face…… Which given my already bruised and broken face, would not be a good look.

Anyway, I’m stalling; Dispite the nerves, the worries and the irrational fears, I did feel more confident, I had trained with a different mindset, I felt more prepared for this comp, maybe it was the return to Calshot or the long break between Round 3 and 4, who knows?  My confidence was noticed.

Fellow climbers who took the time to great me and speak to me made comments to this; I am not able to see my competitors, VI’s don’t really have ‘a look’  I could recognise some of the other competitions, one for the beautiful head scarves she always wore, one for the her blue/turquoise coloured hair, one for the sound his crutches made and another for her bright and bubbly hello as she spoke with everyone who walked past her!

I had found myself able to make more recognitions as the series had progressed, but not with any of those in my own category.  I don’t think I ever spoke more than 3 words to my own competition.  Not for lack of trying, but when you can’t see someone and they can’t see you, the introductions don’t happen naturally.

The climbs were set, this competition saw me undertaking climbs that my partner in crime didn’t, as with Edinburgh, different routes had been set for different disabilities, to enable each climber to work with their abilities, not to be disadvantaged by them.

I set myself a personal challenge, I challenged myself to ‘just go for the hold’ not fear falling, instead reaching for it and letting the rope do the work if I didn’t get it.

This worked well on all 3 of my climbs,  I made the moves, sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t.  But as I only got one shot at each route, it enabled me to gain more points, it also gained me a rather large bruised thigh when I came off the wall and hit a volume !!

The boulders were interesting, with three tries for each I was over the moon when I got the first route first time!  The 3rd wasn’t so clear cut, my balance or rather lack of it let me down, but I gave it my best and even though each of my 3 tries scored the same points I could walk away knowing I had given it my best.  My 2nd boulder started off wrong footed, so my second attempt saw me improve, although not gaining anymore on my 3rd shot.  My points added up, my points beat those of my climbs in Edinburgh, Manchester and London.  I finished knowing I had given it my all.

I didn’t know how many female VI competitors were in the round, I just knew I had beat myself.

So, to hear my name called out for 2nd place in my catagory was a shock!  Yes I was 2nd out of only 2, but it didn’t matter.  I got to stand on the podium and I got to bring home a silver medal to add to my two bronze.

My partner in crime was also awarded a medal, he ranked 3rd in his category.  Unlike me, he was 3rd out of 5; which given that the pair that came 1st and 2nd hadn’t dropped more than 7 points between them, the boy did good!

After the round 4 results and podiums it was time for the series winners to be  announced.

The series winners were different; series winners had to rank in at least 2 of the 4 rounds, this I found difficult to  understand, but basically it meant that not all of the categories gained a series ranking due to lack of competition.

In the Female VI category 3rd place was read out, the winner wasn’t actually at Newcastle to accept their award, then came 2nd, this was the girl who had come first in Newcastle.

“And First place for the 2016 Paraclimbing series female VI goes to ….. Theresa Osborne-Bell.”

I didn’t believe it, I just stood, I was pushed upto the podium and completely dumb struck to be handed a trophy!  I was in total shock and amazed they had called my name.  I found myself shaking, I struggled to hold myself together, I just about made it back to the crowd before being unable to compose myself any more and I found myself quietly crying, tears of pure joy!

I am still in amazement of what I have achieved in the last four months, the experiences I have gained from climbing in different locations and the friends I have made in that time.



And now one week on the 2017 team has been announced, I am not in the list.  This is ok though, I learnt a lot during the competitions and now have 9 months to train, to be a stronger competitor next year……. Now to fire off an email to Santa for a Beastmaster hangboard.

I will be watching the team, following some of them through this year and build myself up, both physically and mentally to be ready to hit the ground running come September 2017 !!


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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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