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.