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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Climbing at the Foundry 2

Second time climbing at The Foundry.
Nick has put a wooden bar through the jumar, so now Clare can try pulling herself up with both hands, and there is also another rope, somehow, that is going to let Nick help Clare’s upwards pull.
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First time up … going higher … higher than before … but soon Clare is straining to hold her head up, and her head is on the verge of dropping backwards. Quick descent on the ropes, swing back into the chair.
Grace, same age cousin, feels her way to the top and walks down. Clare’s neck is resting meanwhile.
Clare needs to have her upper body more vertical, so Nick adjusts the harness. Success. Clare’s shoulders are now rounded forwards and her head no longer defying gravity.
One more improvement: wrist-loops. They aren’t perfect, but they reduce the time that Clare and Robin spend getting Clare’s hands back on the bar when they slip off. After Clare’s second climb, Nick tweaks the wrist loops. Grace climbs again, and then it’s Clare’s turn once more.
Two-handed climbing with determination!
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Each pull moves Clare higher.
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“One more pull?!” shouts Nick.
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And again. And again.
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Higher and higher!
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Wooo! Still going!
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Heh heh!!
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Climbing at the Foundry 1

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?
First climbing session was 26th February ….. wow!

IMG_3001Before – smiles of anticipation.

After – team smiles with success:

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