Wednesday, 02 December 2015 23:15

An Exciting Time for Para Climbing Featured

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With para sports over the last few years on the increase, assisted by the swelling profile of the Paralympics, the para-athletes are now in the lime light. It is inspiring to see that there are no restrictions on anyone when it comes to sports. Karen Darke is one of many high profile para-athletes that has assisted in bringing recognition to para-sports in the UK.

At the end of July a team of five climbers summited the Eiger, each of them had a disability. The Eiger Para Climb team topped out one of the most prolific and dangerous mountains in the Alps. A mountain that has fended off a vast amount of abled bodied mountaineers.

Final Crux Films premiered this film at the recent Kendal Mountain Film Festival which received high acclaim.


Over the past couple of months the BMC Paraclimbing Series 2015 will be hosted in EICA Ratho, Edinburgh, Castle Climbing Centre, London, Newcastle Climbing Centre and finishing in Manchester Climbing Centre. These events are in association with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Wild Country.

The event at EICA Ratho, Edinburgh on 19th September, which was a great success. With 24 competitors ranging from 13 to 40 years old both male and female. There were 10 different categories and the inclusion of a new one, Arm Amputee. The following two events at Castle Climbing Centre, London and Newcastle Climbing Centre in October and November, respectively, were equally well attended.

paraclimb 2015 poster v6

The results from the 3rd round and current standings can be found on the BMC website.

The next event is at the Manchester climbing Centre this Saturday, the 5th December with full details to found here.

In this video giving an insight into the commitment given by the current team, GB Para-climbing team manager, Graeme Hill introduces a couple of the team members. The video is produced by one of the teams sponsors Wild Country

We spoke with the Graeme, prior to the series starting, about how the team operate and what the future holds for them.

Para Climb 1

Is the Paraclimbing team assisted by government funding?

Yes the team is partly funded through Sport England. Part of the BMC sport England budget is managed by the BMC Equity Starring Group. Money is allocated to support its development in its early stages. This is pretty crucial in a sport that is very new to the disability community. We also receive funding from sponsorship….Wild Country being the main one who provide all the funds from the Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall Crack Climbing School. This is a 3 year commitment and has made a huge difference. The team is always looking for further funding to support overseas competitions.

Are the athletes in the team full time? How is their training structured?

None of the athletes are full time. All team members plan their training and competing around their work lives. The team generally meet around 3 to 4 times a year which will be led by the team coaches Mark McGowan and Phil Blue. Ian Dunn provides the majority of the route setting. There is still a lot of work to be done around building a training structure. There is a number of factors influencing this. Coaching disabled people in climbing is very new…plus the team is relatively new. There has been a lot of work around getting the team started. The team members also work with personal coaches in their locality. There is a lot of background work going on with both the BMC and Mountain Training to develop systems which enable more climbing coaches to be more skilled in coaching disabled people.

Para Climb 2

How does the Paraclimbing events differ from the abled bodied events?

From a BMC point of view we have tried to develop a competition theme that enables anybody to come a long and have a go but also provide a proper competitive environment. This a deliberate move to encourage people to join in. So at the moment you will have 3 routes and 3 boulder problems. The routes are generally set to work around people’s disability. The first route and problem is very easy but as you move up the line the routes and boulder problems will separate people. The main difference from a non-disability event is people are put into disability categories so that you don’t have a blind person climbing against a leg amputee person.   Currently the domestic series Edinburgh, London, Newcastle and Manchester is also used for deciding who gets selected for the GB paraclimbing team. The BMC events are really great days with a superb atmosphere. It is a competition but it is a great place for people to come and talk to each other meet the GB team, learn new things and meet the BMC. One key technical difference is all routes and boulder problems are done on top ropes. This is for safety reasons. Many disabled climber’s boulder without ropes and lead but we have to have a single agreement in the competitions to support people new to the environment.

Para Climb 3

What’s next for the team after the BMC Paraclimbing Series?

We select the team and they will enter the International Federation of Sports Climbing paraclimbing events. The IFSC have thrown all their weight behind this sport and it has been hugely successful. Teams from all over the world come to compete in venues primarily around Europe. It is superb to watch countries like France, Israel and Japan who have worked hard to train their disabled athletes to compete at the highest level. The last competition was in Chamonix in the square on an outdoor wall with Mont Blanc as a background. There was over 2000 people spectating.

With climbing in the frame to becoming an Olympic sport in 2020 in Tokyo, will the GB Paraclimbing Team put competitors forward if it gets on the events list?

At the moment there's no discussions regarding the Paralympics because the application for this can't go ahead until a successful bid is completed for the Olympics. You can only have para sports in the Paralympics if the sport is already in the Olympics.  Once that application is successful the IFSC will start work on the Paralympic application.

Para Climb 4

For anyone with a disability and interested in starting climbing what avenues would you suggest to get involved?

A wall is a good point to start. I would contact a wall and speak to them. Explain what your disability is and ask if the wall can support them into climbing. More and more providers are becoming knowledgeable on instructing disabled people. You can also contact the BMC as a starting point. The BMC are very supportive and knowledgeable on this subject. I would also suggest coming along to the competitions to have a chat with the BMC and other climbers. The GB paraclimbing team will make you feel incredibly welcome. You would also get a chance to meet the team coaches who may even be able to assist you in accessing the sport.

Para Climb 5

From the team you have now, how did they get to the GB team?

Team selection is through the domestic series. Currently we only have a senior team. We would like to follow the model of the GB junior and senior teams where people are put through a carefully measured coaching programme as juniors and also supported through transition but we need to build up the number of athletes. There is also a number of independent competitions developing. Wolf Mountain, Rock Over and Bristol Inclusive Climbing Festival which will support a talent scouting. The independent comps are very important for supporting increased opportunities at a local level.

Para Climb 6

We are looking forward to seeing the new talent coming out of the upcoming Para-Climb series. If anyone has any expertise in the para-coaching field get in touch.

I’d like to thank Graeme for his time, Sandy Carr for the use of images from last years event and Final Crux Films for allowing the use of the trailer, we can’t wait to see the full feature.

The future is promising for the sport and the athletes involved, we at My Outdoors look forward to seeing it progress. Including the amazing endeavours like the Eiger Para Climb that I am sure will happen in the future.

Last modified on Tuesday, 08 December 2015 21:53
Davy Wright

Most at home in the outdoors, preferably on top of something big and pointy. Scotland is Davy's playground, which is why he doesn’t mind getting wet. But winter is where it’s at. Hiking, scrambling, camping and a bit of climbing when I can. Sucker for a ridge. At a lower altitude he try getting out on his bike and run if he has to.

Davy describes himself as "a bit of a gear geek, maybe less of the bit. I like to see how things work or don’t!" In following this line Davy has become a respected and authoritative blogger over the last few years, working with many of the UK's major manufacturers and retailers.

Preferred activities: Hillwalking, camping, scrambling, trying to get better at climbing/ice climbing, cycling/mountain biking

Areas commonly visited: Lochaber, Cairngorms, Lake District

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