Topped out!!!

So, back at The Foundry on 23rd April.  Only 1 day has been spent trapped in bedroom by broken down lift and that day is parked in the past.


Since last Foundry visit Clare and I have been to Decathlon for cycling gloves, hopefully to help Clare keep her hands on the jammer whilst being able to pull them off it too.  I’ve dug out remnants of strong Velcro tape that Speech & Language gave us in hospital to stick photos to a communication board. And I’ve brought Evostik …. ahhh, nice smell!

The plan is to Velcro the gloves to the bar.  Clare tries on the gloves and it seems pretty clear where the Velcro will be needed.  Nick reads from the Evostik packet that bonds take 24 hours to reach full strength, though based on my experience of patching jeans in the seventies I’m hoping we can get away with just 5-10 minutes drying time, before pressing touch-dry glued pieces together.

The other new plan is to photograph or film some climbing: Robin puts on a bright yellow helmet to carry the automatic camera.


While the glue does its thing there is time to admire (or joke about) the colour match between Robin’s helmet and his dad’s tshirt, also looking good with Helen’s green today.

Now it’s time for Clare to get into the body harness. We attach the sling for the vent (which adds another zingy slash of yellow).

Robin asks briskly: “So how high are we going?” Obviously he’s thinking about the top.

Nick replies casually: “We’ll just see how it goes.”

Ready to start. There’s still the question of the vent tubing – does it go over or under the harness?  It seems we have to figure this out every time.  Under looks better while Clare is stood on the ground.  But Robin remembers it should be over, so it doesn’t detach (so often) while Clare is reaching and pulling.

Upwards.  Clare lifts her arms so much better than she used to, I’m saying.  The training effect of climbing.

Robin is encouraging Clare.  It is teamwork.

“Go on!”

“Go on, Clare!”


“There we go!”

“Nice one!” from Nick, too.

The Velcro has failed on at least one side. Robin is helping Clare place her hands. But Clare seems actively to be doing both sliding and pulling.


“That’s it.”


“You ready?”

”Very nicely done!”

“We going for the slide?”

Now Clare is really high up. Higher than she’s ever climbed.

“I think you might make it!” Robin is saying.

“Go on Clare!”



It’s tricky right up at the top. The wall seems to be bulging outwards so it’s hard to slide the jammer up.


And/or Clare is now tired.  I can’t actually see her face. I’m thinking I’d notice if her head was wobbling backwards of if she looked trembly.  Though I’m not totally certain.

I’m looking at the whole scene. Necks are bent upwards. Nick and Helen are totally focused on the two-person climb.  I point the iPhone upwards for yet more photos but Clare and Robin are tiny figures up high.

IMG_3649 IMG_3652

“I can’t see if Clare’s OK!” I call cautiously. Nick relays, sends on the message as a question.  “She’s fine!” Robin’s voice floats down confidently.

They are so close to the top.

Robin’s encouragement keeps going. Clare’s hands on that jammer manage some more lifts and pulls…

“Touch the top!” says Robin, and demonstrates. Clare reaches up … that arm lift! wow … she touches the top.


Whew. Cheering from us below.

Robin and Clare shake hands. I ask them to do it again, for the photo.


Now to get down. I untie that knot I’ve been taught about.  Nick and Helen and Robin get Clare down to the waiting wheelchair for a rest.




I’m really, really impressed.  With Clare’s climb to the top, certainly. Also with the climbing partnership side – it’s been an eye-opener. The 5th climb together.  Who would have thought a couple of Y10 school students could achieve this?

While Clare rests we take a look at the gloves.  Velcro gripping power has overcome the strength of the young glue bonds and two of the four Velcro pieces have become unstuck, meaning neither left nor right glove has retained a Velcro grip on the bar.

We can’t see what the camera has captured yet but we look at some previous stuff on the robwhitt youtube channel.  Robin’s video of his France holiday gets its first like 🙂

Clare says she isn’t too tired for a second climb. She sets off strongly, effortfully.



She does some good pulls and goes upwards but finds her muscles need more rest. Back down. Nick and Robin take the gloves for more work.

I’m still reeling from the climb to the top. I’m going to read Karen Darke’s climb up El Cap. And we’re all looking forward to seeing the pictures from the headcam.

Talking of which, enjoy:

You need to watch this, if only for the sound of Robin chuckling all the way down. “And you said we weren’t going to do it this time, dad!”


Getting outdoors?

Double helping of the blog coming up.  Now for a spoiler, a huge whopper of a spoiler: Clare climbed to the top at the Foundry!!!!!

But topping out is the theme of the next post.  Soz for the spoiler.  If you want to go there straightaway then check out this headcam video by Clare’s climbing partner:

Theme for this post is our trip to Horseshoe Quarry. Well, almost to Horseshoe Quarry.


We arranged to meet at Calver crossroads, bringing the time forwards to morning due to weather forecast.  Clare and I are 10 minutes late.  It’s been a bumpy journey because nearly all roads are bumpy and Clare is feeling fairly cross because her feet kept falling off the wheelchair feet (we’d rashly removed the chair’s velcro heel-straps to make the feet fold better for standing transfers).

Nick and Robin wave us into the car park, and Helen is there too in her car. Greetings. Clare cheers up. We set off without delay for Horseshoe Quarry, in convoy.

We are hoping to see the quarry, to appreciate its sunny shelteredness, possibly to recce climbs – though there’s no certainty Clare will be able to drive her chair close to the walls.

In fact, we don’t get any closer than the small parking place near the road, as two giant boulders block the path up the hill, with a padlocked heavyweight chain between them.

Interesting problem!  We look at various options to get past the boulders.  There is no way round them and, even if we had a key to unlock the chain, the jutting shapes of the boulders make the gap too narrow to push a wheelchair through.  A few pairs of climbers go past and step over the chain: no one has a key or knows where one is kept.

Could Clare step over the chain? Not very easily.  With support she could take little steps from her chair to the gap … more help needed to lift her legs over the chain, with a third person carrying the vent.  And meanwhile her chair would need to be carried over the smaller but still chunky boulders to the right of the path.  I assure the others that the chair is too heavy to lift. It’s reputed to weigh 12 stone though we haven’t checked this.  (In fact, its weight is 15½ stone or more, according to an online manual.)

As we’re here now, we decide on a little pilot try of the ‘get through the gap’ idea anyway, as a learning exercise.  Clare stands up with my help, and Nick tests the weight of the chair. Yup, very heavy!

Tentative conclusion is that we would have a chance of carrying a non-powered chair over the boulders, and that with a key to remove the chain Clare could step through the gap.  Beyond the gap a gravel and leaf mould path slopes uphill beside woods: it would be useful having a power chair to get up the hill, but perhaps not essential.

So, where next?  Nick suggests Burbage Edge, and we set off.

In the car, I’m wittering on to Clare about the scenery, telling her to look out this window or that (while I keep my eyes on the road, of course).  On the way over I’d already been speculating about the rock formations that are everywhere visible in the Peak District.  Has Clare studied in Geography the kind of erosion that produces these high-up rocky edges? And what is this kind of cracked and craggy rock – could it be the limestone of GCSE Chemistry?

Burbage Edge looks special when we get there.  We park in the kind of car park that makes you feel like you’re on holiday (bring out the thermos and sarnies, please).  Outside the car it’s windy.  Clare manoeuvres down the road behind parked cars and the chair can be shoved and bounced through a kissing gate.  Now we are at the end of a path that runs at the foot of the edge, with sweeping views in front and out to the right.  It’s chilly, but luckily the others have brought hats so Clare can borrow one.


Access uncertainty dealt with, can start to enjoy surroundings. Nick points out and names a few landmarks.  I remember to ask the basic geology question: “Is all this rock limestone?”

“Gritstone”, replies Nick.  “It’s God’s own rock!” he laughs, and the climbers enthuse about the kind of cracks you get in gritstone, and other great things about it.

We look at the rock face as we mosey down the path.  Triangle Buttress is the first route discussed as a possible climb.    It can be “well-protected”, like many routes here though there is the question of how to get to the foot of the climb.


A non-powered chair can be lifted up individual steps and ridges… but is there any sort of chair-pushing route up the boulder-strewn grass? It seems inevitable that a chair has to be lifted at least some of the way.  Carrying Clare and her chair separately would need a biggish team so we need to carry Clare in the chair.  Well, no big deal. We still have the base for a non-powered chair and we will sort out a complete chair: it’s already on the todo list because we visit houses that aren’t accessible even with our 6ft ramp, and we have carried Clare and the chair up 9 steps before.

Nick says we could climb some buildings.  It’s the new thing: “buildering”.  Buildings can often be well-protected and access to their feet isn’t usually a problem.  Possibly something to do in the summer …

“I want to climb the Eiffel Tower!” mouths Clare, with a cheeky grin.

We go past other scenically named climbs, stopping to look at Overhang Buttress and a couple of others.  Robin runs up a rocky slope and urges Helen to give her footwear the same trial.  We pass others on the path, or they pass us: one or two walkers or joggers; the occasional dog walker and dog; two teeny cyclists and their little pink bikes.  The edge itself is lightly sprinkled with brightly-coloured climbers and their ropes.  Burbage Edge is a playground, I think admiringly.


We get as far as Ash Tree Wall and turn back.  Now Clare is tired from the terrain so we put the chair onto one speed higher and I walk alongside Clare to steer the chair back up to the top.  Our first real outdoor walk with the power chair has been excellent.



The next day we have already planned to meet at The Foundry at 2pm.  It’s going to be a busy day for Clare as we have an appointment with the neurology consultant beforehand.  We have a carer for the morning and Clare is up in good time … warm but smart clothes chosen, make up and earrings, hair twisted into the plait-bun for the climbing.  Ready to go.  But the lift has broken down.  Rachel and I try various strategies then cancel the neurology appointment.  Oh well, morning in the bedroom, then let’s use the big red pull-button in the cellar to get Clare and the lift downstairs for climbing.  The lift engineer can sort out everything when he arrives.  It’s 12:50 and Clare and I are in the lift while Rachel is in the cellar.  Pull big red button …. jolt, but no descent.  Repeat 10 times with minor variation. Drat.  So much for lack of access to Horseshoe Quarry – today is going to be a day in the bedroom.

Lucky for us, Nick, Robin & Helen say they can do Friday instead….