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 climbing, and bouldering in Fontainbleau, France. My dad had been in 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 normal central vision and no peripheral vision. I could almost see well enough to place rock gear, but not necessarily well enough to pick out the routes from the ground.

Jesse aged 2 at Idwal Slabs
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. I developed a great circle of climbing friends (this 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.

Alpine climbing..
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 normal vision left. This means that I can see a few light blurs but I cannot count how many fingers are on a hand 1 ft from my face.

Descending having lead Croton Oil, Rivelin
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!

IMG_20170909_174933
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 competition 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…

Blindfold training
Training with my blindfold, on the circuit board at the The Climbing Station, Loughborough

 

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