Back to the Slab

Clare and I arrive to the sound of Sultans of Swing, which I suddenly remember from our first Foundry session back in Feb. What is also the same is the Slab: this is the slightly slanted zone/block where Clare first tried a climb.

What is different, is that Clare has no ventilator attached! Recent chunks of time off the vent have now built into pretty much whole school days (3 days managed so far).
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It’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.

Anyway, is Clare going to climb off the vent? Good question. And parked for now …

We are talking about music while Clare gets into the body harness. Robin has been watching Metallica’s Glastonbury performance on TV, while Clare and I watched Friday’s Glasto highlights on iPlayer, and Helen’s brother has seen Metallica live. Nick has enjoyed the ‘chilled’ music playing at The Foundry this morning … Dire Straits & Queen & the like.

So, the climbing. Nick is pointing out the plentiful holds. The nonverticalness of the slab wasn’t helpful when Clare climbed with a jumar but if she’s using the holds it might help. There are enough holds here for Clare to have a real chance of using her feet.

Right, decision time, what about the vent? Is Clare going to climb without it…?

I’m not sure if she’ll manage strenuous movement without ventilator backup – we haven’t tried yet. I’m dithering. But Clare wants to give it a go. Well, it will be easy enough for Robin to attach the vent if Clare needs it while she’s on the wall. (Ha! You weren’t thinking you’d get off carrying it, were you, Robin? 🙂
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Robin takes the silent vent off the back of the chair and I tell him how to turn it on (very easy, just one button). He’ll also need to take off the ‘swedish nose’ on the end of the trache. (Mild amusement … why “nose”?! It’s because it humidifies incoming air, same as your nose does.)

Clare starts off well. She is placing her hands with some help, and pulling up. And she is using her feet a bit.
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Up and up some more. Not many photos though, as I’m busy at the wall pulling through rope to assist Clare and Nick.

Robin is wondering if Clare should be back on the vent. “Come down, then”, I’m saying. Either Clare’s breathing patterns are worrying Robin needlessly, in which case there’s no rush to reconnect the vent, or she is struggling a bit, in which case the vent’s moderate pressures won’t be enough for rapid improvement.

Clare is smiling as soon as she lands back in the chair.
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She looks OK. How did it feel, Clare, using your legs?
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“Yayy!!”

So far so good but I’m thinking we could turn the vent on for the second climb rather than push our luck. Clare agrees.

On the second climb Clare gets higher.

Helen is excitedly pointing out the way Clare draws up her knees as she pulls down. Clare’s feet are seeking holds. Pushing from her feet makes Clare’s body swing round, and Nick is calling instructions to Robin to steady her.

Robin’s knee helps Clare’s foot find a hold.
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The vent tubing gets trapped as Clare and Robin climb up past the chunky ledge that crosses the wall, but Robin digs it free.

The ledge provides a really good push up for feet, though Clare’s body swings round some more.
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A bit higher, and then back down, cheerful. Great climb!

Nick says a helmet will be a good idea in future, in case foot pushes swing Clare’s head round to the wall. We undo the twisty bun and try on a helmet he’s brought along. It’s perfect for the team photo 🙂
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Helen goes for coffees as we don’t have a carer with us today. Nick and Robin get the ropes down and I ask about Nick’s 60 mile running event last weekend. Best part of 15 hours of running, with a 3 mile run home afterwards. Nick is training for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc to raise money for his schools and for climbing equipment for disabled youngsters (mail him at nick.whittaker@rotherham.gov.uk ).

“Unbelievably, I’m fine … I’ll do a 10 mile recovery run on Saturday and see you Sunday,” Nick’s email had said.

“He wasn’t ‘fine’!” says Robin, cheerfully. “He was sick! And exhausted – I had to look after him when he got home!”

“Are you worried about picking up injuries in long runs before UTMB?” I ask.

It seems not. One ankle is twice as wide as the other, but this doesn’t stop Nick climbing to the top to get our ropes down.
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And now we take a proper look at Robin’s nose – it is purplish and wider than usual. He was kicked during football. Ouch – first aid & sit out rest of game? No, played on! (I decide not to mention my two mildly purple toes from Thursday, when the power chair veered over my foot as Clare & I struggled down a steep slope – I sat down for half an hour to ice my foot.)

We’re drinking coffee now. Clare has a couple of spoonfuls of my cappuccino. She worked really hard this morning and now looks zonked. We might try an evening climb next, as in 2 weeks’ time it’s Helen’s big event (mum’s wedding). Will Clare be too tired? Hard to say and Clare is actually too tired to even contemplate it now … back home to rest!

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Dalmations

Nick & Robin & Helen pick a different place at The Foundry each time we go, so when Clare and I roll in we are looking round for them…

Spotted! There they are, roughly where we climbed last time. I remember commenting on the Dalmatian holds just here … large and white and all-over spotty.
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Nick summons Clare to the wall straightaway, to look at the Dalmations. These holds are more grabbable than most: Nick’s new suggestion is to try pulling up from them instead of using the jumar … see how it goes. A future addition could be to use stirrups for Clare’s feet, which will be lifted when she pulls down with her arms, allowing her to then push with her legs as well.

It will be harder gripping the holds than the jumar, but there’s also a harness for me this week, with rope and gri-gri (Nick reminds me how to use it), and pulleys so that for every metre of rope I pull through Clare will rise 50cm. I give my iPhone to carer Rachel, who gets cracking on the photography.


Clare reaches up for dalmations, using the arm lifting power that she’s developed through climbing. Robin and Helen both help with hand positioning. Once Clare’s hands are on top of these shapely holds her fingers wrap around them fairly well.

Clare pulls down. Nick pulls down, and I pull rope through my gri-gri, and we have lift-off.

The technique works! Clare and Robin grapple with a couple more spotty holds, and then Clare rests briefly before Take 2.

It’s a chance to quiz Nick some more about his mountain race: the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. One hundred mountainous miles, running day and night, fund raising for his schools … Nick had told us about it when we’d first met, and I’d thought “hey, that’s a pretty exceptional way for a headteacher to raise funds!”

Then last week Nick sent out the details, and Clare and I watched the event video: http://www.ultratrailmb.com/page/1/The_event.html
What?!?! How on earth?!?!

Nick has extended his fund raising aims to include support and specialist climbing equipment for young people with disabilities, as well as expedition equipment and sensory equipment for the schools. I’m delighted Clare’s own amazing experience of climbing is opening doors for other young people. (Nick is aiming to raise £30 per mile, so if you’d like to contribute or get more info, mail him at
nick.whittaker@rotherham.gov.uk
)

Clare’s second effort:


Practice gained from first meeting with dalmations seems to be helping Clare with her grip.

She climbs as high as before …
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And then a bit higher… Then, surprise! Clare’s leg is lifting up onto one of the big blue bulgy protusions … she’s trying to push up with her feet!
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Almost. I’m nudging her foot onto the bulge, but her body is swinging round a bit. She comes down for a rest. Not too tired yet, and really enjoying the climbing.
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All of us are laughing during the second rest, as Robin tells us how he’s accidentally injured his dad over the years, e.g. with karate kicks. Nick laughs as much as anyone and owns up to self-inflicted injuries too … the skin graft is from when his arm went into a heated mangle, which seems to relate to a climbing accident in the kitchen when he was a boy. Your mum can’t have been pleased, I say (surely an understatement).

A third climb, energy levels still high:


Once again Clare reaches the first big blue bulge …

It’s not so surprising this time when she raises first one foot then the other to get a push off. Robin provides a steadying force, and Nick and I nudge her feet towards a flatter part of the surface.

Whew! That session was an eye-opener. Clare was very happy with it, and says “I enjoyed using my leg myself.”

Next weekend it’s Helen’s Duke of Edinburgh practice trip, taking kids canoe camping. Nick is running a 60-mile marathon to train for the UMTB. See you in 2 weeks!
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Upward lift

Nick: “How are you feeling today, Clare?”

Clare curls her fingers and gets her thumb up.

Nick: “Right, we’ll do something hard then!”

It’s been 3 weeks, and we have wet holidays to talk about as we get ready.  Helen’s Norwich trip involved canoeing so was bound to be wet. And it was. Robin’s D-of-E trip was really wet (he says cheerfully) but he had a tarpaulin that he sheltered under, so no worries there. Clare and I were in a comfy dry cottage looking out at woodpeckers and wet trees, and had to admit our trip to Harry Potter Studios had been totally unaffected by rain.

Last time she climbed, Clare got very cold.  Today we help her put on Hazel’s cycling gloves at the start, hoping her hands will stay warm.  Which they don’t – but today’s clothing, including full thermals, joggers, an ample jumper, and fleece, keeps her warm enough.

For the first time ever, we don’t need to think whether the vent tubing goes above or below the harness – we’ve remembered it goes above.  And we repeat last time’s nifty trick of tucking the NG tube into Clare’s hairdo (Clare’s carer Becky does this as she knows how hairdo was built).

To the wall! Nick, Helen and Robin have picked another new location, this spot having vertical rather than horizontal obstacles (if obstacles is the right word).

Clare starts very fast, raising the jumar without assistance.

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“Nice one, Clare”, we’re murmuring.  But Clare is already pulling the jumar down, and going for the next lift.

Upward progress is steady.  What is surprising is that Clare continues to lift the jumar herself. The velcro system built round Hazel’s gloves is doing a great job keeping Clare’s hands from slipping off the bar, but upward lift of the bar is all from Clare.

The big blue vertical obstacle keeps Clare and Robin further apart, but not too far apart.  The vent tubing falls off only once, dangling downwards … we all shout at Robin and he’s already retrieving it to reconnect.

 

Ooh, this is looking like another trip to the top ….

 

 

Robin is telling Clare to go for it.

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Hesitation as the climbers near the top.  Four of us watching below. Two people up high.  Movement.  Watching.  Waiting.

Is Clare still OK? Robin says Yes.

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Hovering.  Encouragement.  “Reach up for the karabiner!”

Clare’s hardworking arm reaches up waveringly.  And again.  “Go on, Clare!”

I think Clare touches the karabiner.  Anyway, she is defo at the top

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Woo hoo!!  The amazing thing is that Clare has done every single lift of the jumar herself.  That’s a first.

We get Clare down as fast as conveniently possible, not sure how tired she is.  Her knees are coming into contact with the holds.  We don’t need a full-speed descent, and Robin helps Clare’s feet and knees past tricky spots.

She lands in the chair. Smiling! And looking well.

High five!

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Climb again? Well, Clare’s priority is café.  We fetch some coffee and Clare has a few spoonfuls of mine.

So – another amazing climb to the top.  More for future reference than anything (as Clare is looking perfectly well) we take a reading of Clare’s sats – they are 100% (i.e. fully oxygenated) once we have got a reading from her cold hands.  We relive the enjoyment of the climb and Clare feels really pleased with it.

Coffee drunk.  Ropes to get down.  See you in 2 weeks!

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Climbing and cafe

Back at The Foundry.  We’re still buzzing after last time’s climb to the top.

Getting ready – to a background of Arctic Monkeys.  Nick produces the adjusted cycling gloves and jumar system.  Hmm, new gloves-? They’re Hazel’s gloves apparently, but Nick & Robin assure us Hazel never uses them.  Anyway, she’ll like the new velcro additions, they say 😉

No need to fuss with the vent tubing as we have at last started to remember that it should go over and not under the harness straps.  Just recently Clare has started to take significant chunks of time off the ventilator so maybe Robin won’t have to carry it in the unspecified future.  We tell him to enjoy the grooves in his shoulders while he still can.

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Clare starts climbing.  The now sewn-on velcro is holding well and her hands mostly stay on the bar.  Lifts and pulls are thick and fast.

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Upwards progress is rapid. Intense effort.

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Clare is rotating to the side a bit more today, but still lifting the bar well. Robin helps her get her right hand back on the bar a couple of times.  Clare and Robin negotiate the groove in the wall.

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But now Clare is too tired for more pulls. Time to get down and rest in the chair.

Clare looks exhausted and seems cold.  She isn’t wearing enough today: jeans instead of the usual joggers, and a not-over-thick-or-long jumper.  Nick and Robin are finding it warm enough to wear tshirts today and it’s certainly warmer here than it was in February, but Clare has always been nesh. I put my jumper on her lap, hoping she will warm up a bit.

We discuss the climb. Robin says Clare was pulling down on the bar even before Nick added his weight to the pull.  It was the most intense burst of climbing so far.

The gloves are good. Nick explains some other thoughts he’s had about modifications to the jumar, but wearing the right clothing is a higher priority for next time.  Helen suggests fleece trousers for Clare – Helen leads canoeing groups, and keeping people warm is part of the job.

Clare might warm up a bit when she starts her feed, so I ask her: “Do you want to rest for a bit then do another climb if you’re up for it, or call it a day now?”

Clare mouths her reply, which doesn’t seem to match either suggested option, or perhaps it matches them both.  “Erm … did you say you want to rest for a bit … and then you want to call it a day?”

Clare mouths one word at a time: “No, I want to rest for a bit, then go to the cafe, then do another climb!”

Cafe! “Like your thinking!” we all say.  Right, what are we all having?!

I tell Clare we don’t have a munchkin bag with us as she used it at Woodcraft Folk on Thursday to eat a bourbon biscuit.  OK then, I’ll try to find a cake with some easily eatable icing.

Helen and I head upstairs to the café and return with assorted coffees and a wedge of sponge cake with icing and jam. Nick hadn’t wanted a coffee but volunteers to eat the sponge minus its icing and jam.

Good coffee! Clare has spoonfuls of cappuccino, icing and jam.

Hey, I’ll stage a photo of the drinks as this week’s group photo.  I’m waiting for Clare to finish putting the spoon back onto her plate. But she is still leaning forward over her plate and cup.  Is Clare OK? Hmm, she is looking peaky.

Rachel and I attach the sats (i.e. oxygen saturation) monitor, and suction airways.  Sats are not very good. Turn on oxygen. Have another go at turning on once we’ve realised the cylinder’s valve was closed.  Sats as measured don’t improve much but this may be because Clare is really cold so we’re not getting a good reading.  Freezing cold knees. Forehead feels like cold water.

Lesson learned on clothing. Clare is looking a bit better now.  Rachel, Clare and I watch Robin and Helen get started on some climbing. We set off home, oxygen still running.

It was a good climb.  Clare really went for it.  It wasn’t so high, but Nick reflects that once you start to do something regularly you get some days better than others.  We’ll next meet in 3 weeks, as Robin is doing Duke of Edinburgh expedition in 2 weeks’ time.

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.

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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.

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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!”

“Nice!”

“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.

“Ready!”

“That’s it.”

“Nice.”

“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!”

“Pull!”

“Amazing!”

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

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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.

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“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.

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Whew. Cheering from us below.

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

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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.

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Jubilation!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Postscript:

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….

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