The Early Years
I started climbing when I was young, my dad took me up my first rock route when I was 2! All my early climbing was outdoor traditional “trad” climbing, and bouldering in Fontainbleau, France. My dad had been in the Mountain Rescue and was part of a mountaineering club, we would go for weekends away climbing throughout the UK sporadically. He taught me to climb and I led my first route outside when I was 11. At this time I had about 20% of blurry central vision and no peripheral vision. I could just about see well enough to place rock gear, but not well enough to pick out the routes from the ground.
When I left home, and went to University in Bath I joined the Mountaineering Club and was able to climb much more frequently. We had regular trips to indoor walls and weekends away outdoors. I developed a great circle of climbing friends (this is where I met Molly) and went on multiple trips to Europe. On these I started Alpine climbing and Ice climbing too. During University my sight began to deteriorate more rapidly. While I was studying for my Ph.D. my sight dropped to a level where I could no longer read and it began to be difficult to place gear as I could no longer see whether it was properly seated. I also stopped being able to pick out the holds at indoor walls. However this didn’t stop me climbing, I just learnt to adapt with the support of my friends.
The Real World
After completing my Ph.D. I moved to the midlands and started to climb more regularly inside due to access to a good climbing wall. Using a laser pointer to direct me to the appropriate holds helped me to climb inside. I still go on many climbing trips with my friends from university. In April 2017, I went on a month-long self-organised expedition to Greenland. This was my most ambitious trip yet, camping in temperatures below -20°C and claiming the first ascents of two previously unclimbed mountains, which I believe is a first for a blind climber! My sight continues to deteriorate and at the time of writing I have very little vision left. This means that I can see a few light blurs but I cannot see my hand when I wave it in front of my face.
I was made aware of the BMC paraclimbing series and I competed in a number of competitions in 2017/18 and must have given a good account of myself…as I was selected for the GB team!
Following my selection, I have been training hard…
The category I am in requires me to wear a blindfold for competitions and it didn’t take too long to get used to this. I train all the time with a blindfold on now and to be honest, it makes little difference! Just a little darker and the fact I have to have something across my eyes. I am more determined than ever…
I do still love Trad climbing too and any opportunity I have to get outside… I like to head to the gritstone. All this training means my Trad climbing has gone up a notch too, there’s so much more I can now climb outside!