This year hasn’t had the easiest of starts, with changes in my sight, trouble with my hearing and ‘other’ issues; It has all been a bit much to deal with at times.
All of this compounded by a need to explore who I am and where I belong, and it isn’t hard to realise that my anxiety and mental health has also taken a beating.
But that’s ok.
It is alright to not be ok ALL the time.
And it is ok to admit that; however hard it may be.
There are a few things I want to tell you about, I have realised I never finished off my 2017 BMC Paraclimbing competition blogs, or even mentioned the Team Selection Day back in February 2018.
So, for now I am going to spend some time going ‘backwards’ but as all posts are dated to (around) when they happened, humour me.
And once I have completed these, take a good look through the past six months. I can promise you there will be laughter, whit and sarcasm. But be warned there will also be sadness, upset and moments of total despair.
Just what you need to hear when you have a journey to Newcastle to make for the final round of the BmC Paraclimbing comps for 2017.
So, to cover all eventualities a pup sitter was sourced for both Vicky and Fizz (us humans getting stranded in the snow is one thing, but not at all suitable for a dog; extra layers and clothes packed; along with extra car supplies SHOULD we end up stuck.
Driving up wasn’t an issue, apart from the odd icy patch, we managed to make good time.
Saturday morning we awoke to frost, but thankfully NO SNOW.
But the temperature was too cold. It would actually have to warm up to snow. And I am sure I have mentioned before how cold weather and climbing centres don’t really mix?
Especially when said climbing centre is inside an old church….
So, base layers, t-shirts, jumpers, coats AND hats at the ready I was warm. (But totally unable to climb with all these layers.
Newcastle Climbing Centre had restricted entry, it was only available for the competition, which made for a much quieter and less stressful day, but it was really REALLY really COLD.
The first top rope route was long, it wasn’t technically difficult, but such a high route in a cold setting and about 2/3rds of the way up I found myself having to move quickly from each hold, while at the same time unable to move quickly because of the temperature.
This very problem caused me to come off rope rope two at a move that I should have had no trouble with.
Top rope three was quirky, it saw me challenging my climbing style and making moves that I wouldn’t normally do, but these moves saw me reach higher than I ever expected. I was proud of this route, even though I didn’t too it.
The bouldering problems were much easier to warm up for. Boulder problems are set on lower walls, with bigger crash mats underneath and as such, this area of the centre appeared warmer.
Route one on the boulder saw me miss out the top hold for fear of sitting down and pulling up. Route two was more of a traverse around a corner and then up on a diagonal, a route where I managed to get the start of on my final try, but then slipped further on on it.
Route three was a pig! I am being kind here because it would be rude to swear. It was a route that started in an almost horizontal laid back position and then you were to climb backwards before moving upto a standing position of height. I was put off this route by watching some of the climbers I would count as ‘elite’ not managing to get past the backwards climb section of the problem. Not surprisingly I got to the starting golds of this route (where all my body was off the floor) but only managed to move one hand before coming off.
My efforts were not in vien, these little ‘extra point’ moves saw me gain silver for this round of the competition.
And accumulatively see me awarded with Silver for the series.
However, the results of these competitions is not how the 2018 Paraclimbing team will be selected. This time around there will be a selection day in February in Sheffield.
So watch this space …. My climbing has changed dramatically in the last year, but will it be enough?
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.
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.
So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 !!
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 !!