Confident workout

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Saturday 5th April – it’s smiles all round when we meet for Foundry session no.4. The jokes are about differing musical tastes and the daily variability of music style at The Foundry. I’m thinking there’s less caution about smiling now – confidence, about gear and technique, also about Clare’s enjoyment up there on the wall.

Climbing was Clare’s choice. Out of the blue, when she was asked to pick an ‘Elev8’ activity to do at the end of a Wednesday school day. Some “suitable” choices were pointed out to Clare. But she looked at the list and chose climbing.

Well, no chance. School has excellently supported Clare’s return to learning after 15 months away. But climbing was out of reach in the school setting. Clare joined the ‘Making sock monkeys’ group instead, and sociably watched other people sewing.

I detected a hint of ‘sympathetic reaction’ from some (“Ah, if only you could, Clare!” or “Poor thing, clinging to a lost past”), though definitely not from Clare’s switched-on Teaching Assistant. She and I mused about adventure holidays for disabled people … “disabled”, hmm, definitely need the p.c. “differently abled” term here, as the point is that everyone, so-called “able-bodied” or otherwise, needs different types of help to do their thing.

A highlight of 7 months in HDU was Sheffield’s Tramlines festival. Bye bye nurses, back later. Out the ward, carry all the medical stuff (hang as much from possible on the wheelchair), trog along to tram stop. Hey, city centre with music, sunbathers, icecream, freedom in the crowd. Those were the early days of the one-sided smile – smiles that struck like arrows of happiness.

So, Clare suggests climbing … really? Pre stroke she was leggy and bendy, clambering up rocks on holiday, finding a liking for trapeze. OK, then, I suppose it’s fun and I bet it’s possible somehow. Presumably needs ropes and someone to carry the ventilator? Where to start, who to ask?

Email to Pippa of ibk. “On a completely different topic I was going to ask you …”. And so, in New Year, Pippa was round at ours with Nick and Robin. And we got started.

After 2 practice sessions in our living room, Clare says she is going to write a climbing diary. She still intends to… 🙂 …but trying to get GCSE homework done is hard enough already. GCSE homework burden: Clare and Robin both. And a topic today, along with the music.

Also the blog is in the limelight as friends have read and liked it. Clare has linked to it on FB. We all agree it should become findable online. Clare and I get a lot of help and hope from others and it’s good to be in some way stuck in. I’m reading a few stroke recovery blogs (inspiring) and I’m going to tag this blog similarly … maybe spread the word that climbing is not on the forbidden list.

So, still chatting on all this stuff, also getting the gear sorted. Today’s session, not discussed so far, but now Nick proposes “workout”.

Nick reckons that a training session would be good. Don’t always go for climbing-high efforts. Really focus on strength and technique. Rather than get too tired, have breaks, hit it again after resting.

It makes sense. Slight delay in starting when Clare’s carer points out that the new padded strap for the ventilator is flimsily attached and in fact one clip is already broken. Helen produces karabiners and then Nick adds a sling.

First climb. Strong.


Second climb. Still strong.

“Could go for the top”, Robin says hopefully, more than once. But Nick says it’ll be easier to get to the top on the first climb of the day.

What about 5 linked moves, suggests Nick. Lift up and pull down, and onto the next…

Third climb. Clare is still pulling strongly. The 5 linked moves, then it’s 6 linked moves … and down, for a rest.


Clare isn’t exhausted, but she’s done enough. We review the kit. Descents have seemed slower today, with the jumar sticking, and Robin needing to help Clare get her hands out the hand loops. It might be good if Clare could peel her hands off the jammer at will … so what about cycling gloves and sewn on / glued on velcro? To be explored.

Rachel has a quick go. The 3rd carer to visit the Foundry but the 1st to try a climb. She’s been enjoying the music!

Then it’s time to think about the next session.

What about a trip to Horseshoe Quarry in the holidays? Not necessarily to climb but because it’s such a great spot, say Nick and co. Uncertainty over the powered wheelchair, which is nice for cruising round school or Meadowhall but makes heavy weather of even teeny steps. I’m thinking we could move the wheelchair seat back onto the non-powered base and then carry it if we have to. But possibly just go for a recce – find out how close we can get to routes, etc.

Café, views, outing… yeah!
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High expectations or height expectations

Third climb at The Foundry – Saturday 22nd March.

High expectations or height expectations … from the start there is talk of topping.
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I’m thinking privately: is it wise? Wise to aim for the top and in not reaching it risk disappointment for Clare? Safe to aim for the top, so high up, if mum and carer down below can’t see whether Clare is OK?

Yeah, let’s do it.

We’re looking at the new equipment, and smiling. Clare is smiling because climbing is what she wants to do.

Nick has revisited the bar that wedges through the jumar, and its wrist loops.  I take a picture of new, improved item later on, held by Robin.  We decide that henceforth it will be known as a “Whittaker”.
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Nick also has a “gri-gri”, which he spells for me. A simple, standard bit of kit which hopefully will stop his hands blistering on the belay rope. I don’t think Helen is using one – but Robin’s feet stick spider-like to the walls so Helen’s hands perhaps avoid much friction.

My contribution for Robin is a thicker and padded strap for the ventilator.  Robin has made a shoulder-slung ventilator look surprisingly easy, but it surely is a strain and we joke about his bruises and blisters.

Getting into the body harness is now old hat but still done carefully.  Nick reminds me what untying I’ll need to do if Clare has to be lowered quickly. And we’re off…

The Whittaker is a success and Clare can mostly keep her hands on the bar. With help from Robin and Nick, Clare’s pulls lift her higher and higher… she is working hard, again and again ….

The vent tubing drops off a couple of times. Down below we shout up to Robin, who retrieves the dangling tubing and pushes it back on. A lot of responsibility for Robin? – definitely, but actually the vent tubing is not hard to deal with.

As Clare gets higher, Robin is checking that Clare wants to do “one more pull”.  Clare nods yes.


But then comes a time when I can see Clare is starting to look a little bit trembly.  She should get down.  I untie that rope, and Nick and Helen let Clare and Robin head downwards.

A deep, sculpted groove runs across today’s climbing spot, and Clare’s foot looks like getting stuck … Helen and Nick shout advice to Robin, who clambers across to help the foot escape.

Straight back down into the chair. Phew. Rest. Rest. Rest.

Rest. Rest. Go again?

As Clare makes her initial pulls on the jumar and leaves behind the support of my hands I can feel those triangular “trap” muscles working hard.  Nick is pulling hard too, and Clare surges upwards, even faster than before.
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Up past the Moon slogan, burst by burst, up to and above the groove, up to the big white painted moon …

I’m not certain if Clare will call it a day before she’s exhausted.  Before and after her injury she’s shown the kind of determination where need for success overrules well-being. One time, during the locked-in months, her chest ‘splinted’ and her oxygen levels dropped low as she put utmost effort into typing C L A R E on the eyegaze computer she’d been loaned.

We are all checking (mainly via Robin) that Clare wants to continue.  One surge at a time.  Slightly above the level of the painted moon … getting close to the top.
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Now Clare really has had enough. Back down.  Wordlessly into chair.  “You’re shattered!” we are saying to her, and, “Rest!”

She manages to be smiling again for a group photo: “See you in two weeks!”
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