Biography

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.

A picture of Jesse aged 2 holding hands with his dad at the bottom of Idwal Slabs. Both are wearing climbing gear and helmets ready to climb.
Jesse aged 2 at the base of Ordinary Route, Idwal Slabs. His first rock climb!

University Years

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.

A picture of Jesse sat at the top of a mountain in the alps with snowy peaks in the background. He is wearing an orange helmet, has a rope coiled over his shoulder and is holding an ice axe.
Alpine Climbing in the Aiguille Rouge

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.

A picture of Jesse abseiling off the top of a gritstone pinnacle in the Peak District. He is in silhouette against a dark grey sky.
Jesse descending having led Croton Oil, Rivelin

Now

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!

A picture of Jesse on the podium at Ratho, an indoor climbing wall in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was his first climbing competition
Jesse on the podium in Ratho, his first climbing competition.

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…

A picture of Jesse hanging off a jug one handed while training at his local indoor wall. His is blindfolded and looks quite tired.
Training with my blindfold, on the circuit board at the The Climbing Station

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!

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