About … want to climb

Just because you are a wheelchair user, just because you breathe with the help of a ventilator, wouldn’t you go climbing if you wanted to?

Feb 2014 … Clare’s first climbing session at The Foundry … wow!

Climbing was Clare’s choice. Out of the blue, when she was asked to pick an ‘Elev8’ activity for school. “Suitable” choices were pointed out to Clare but she chose climbing. Well, no chance … she joined ‘Making sock monkeys’ instead, and sociably watched other people sewing.

But if you can achieve life with locked-in syndrome, you can try anything. In the days when Clare communicated only with single blinks she spelled out W-A-L-K and asked me to take her on a tour of the hospital.

So … she wants to climb?! Hmmmm. Where to start, who to ask?

Email to Pippa of ibk initiatives. And in New Year 2014, Pippa was round at ours with Nick and Robin. And we got started.

Nick, Robin, Helen – the regular team!!

Smiles of anticipation before the first session. IMG_3001Afterwards, team smiles of success 🙂

Session 2 introduces the bar through the jumar. Two-handed climbing with determination!
Woo – still going up !

The third session further develops the jumar system with wrist straps. We call this a Whittaker.
Climbing is simply, totally … amazing.

Late April it’s the first climb to the top. I’m really, really impressed. With Clare reaching 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? Robin wore a helmet to film the climb. Just watch the YouTube vid!


By June 2014 Clare is raising the jumar entirely on her own (climbing has increased arm power a lot). Nick suggests using the handholds now.

It’s July when Clare arrives for climbing without the ventilator for the first time. IMG_4591It’s been 28 months since Clare’s stroke, and it just goes to show you shouldn’t believe the “improvement window is the first 2 years” myth. Clare and I know of super-fast recoveries but also 7- and even 16-year big improvements. In this uncertain life we have taken the approach: “live your life NOW and any improvements that happen are a bonus”. Plenty of life lived, and plenty of bonuses so far. Including climbing – both categories.

In August, Nick attempts the 100 mile mountain marathon Ultra Trial du Mont Blanc. He extended his fund raising aims to include support and specialist climbing equipment for young people with disabilities, as well as equipment for his schools. I’m delighted Clare’s own amazing experience of climbing is opening doors for other young people.

Now 2015… Clare and Robin are taking GCSE’s. Nick and his schools are taking more kids with disabilities climbing too. I feel extra happiness about how the whole climbing adventure is working out. A sport where problems are solved for all abilities.

Clare has been climbing for 12 months, and counting. Can’t wait for this week!

2 thoughts on “About … want to climb”

  1. Hi there, I was directed to your blog by Jenny Featherstone, physiotherapist in Sheffield. I’m doing a research project about supporting leisure participation in children and young people with disabilities. Would really love to run some of the ideas past you and get your views. Here are my details: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ihs/staff/profile/jennifermcanuff.html#background
    Would really love to hear from you 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer
      Great to hear of your interest … I would be very happy to talk to you about your research project. Sending you an email with more of my contact details S:)

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Wheelchair, ventilator? So?! Teen stroke survivor goes climbing…

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