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.
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:
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

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 …
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!
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.
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!