Para-Climbing – It really is an uphill battle.


What my mind often thinks when I think about climbing…

Whenever people find out I’m an Outdoor Studies student or hear that I’m “Outdoorsy”, they naturally ask me what sports I do. Over the last four years, I’ve come to see myself as a:

  • Mountain Triker
  • Sit skier
  • Para-Climber

The first two are easier to support and explain how I participate in them.
I mountain trike on rambles with the Experience Community and go out alone, with friends and family in parks, forests, trails and moorland.
I sit ski at the Chill Factore when I have time, have done a season in Canada and spent a week in Scotland this year with uni.
I climb…when I can?


Climbing a couple of years ago at Windgather Rocks, Peak District on a uni taster day.

I’ve always loved climbing. Before my injury at the age of 11, if my Mum needed to find me she’d go looking for me on the local green where i’d be fixing my bike chain or sitting on a branch up a tree. If we were visiting an historical site, I’d ignore the “Do not climb” signs, and sneak up a wall or window to gain a new perspective on the place before my dad’s Scottish boom of a voice shouting “Laura!” made me jump down. I held my first political protest, climbing a tree outside my school grounds…to prove to my deputy head teacher that I didn’t need to be in school until the bell rang at 9am. (You could see the veins popping out of the side of his head from 15ft!) The actual act of pulling myself up branches really helped me physically and mentally in those final days of walking. The pain from my severe scoliosis was (and still is) sometimes unbearable and caused me a great deal of fatigue. But when i climbed, the aching of my back and anxiety of a big scary operation was numbed by the endorphins and achivement of working my muscles and seeing the world from a higher place.

This is still true.

Deep down, I know I’m a climber and I can climb. Somebody once said to me as they saw me pull and swing myself into my car, “You’re not a paraplegic, you’re an ape!” I know in the able bodied world, you climb with your legs. But in the adaptive world, you climb with what you’ve got. I’ve got my arms. My muscles in my legs have now turned to fat but my arms…they’re amazingly long, strong blessings that I’m grateful for and empower me to navigate the world. They also enable me to climb.

I do climb occasionally. Like anyone, I can do it if I have the right people and equipment. So it’s relatively easily and accessibly for me to do at specialist centres. But I don’t want to spend my life just climbing when I have the chance to go to an Outdoor Centre on a residential, I want to be able to do it when I choose to do it, with friends.

As always, there’s a few things i’m trying to work on to make this happen.

Here’s the low-down into a few of the main issues I’m finding solutions for to enable me to “just go climb!”


10 thoughts on “Para-Climbing – It really is an uphill battle.

  1. I love climbing and it’s difficult for me so I can’t imagine what it’s like for you! I’m glad you’re defying the odds though, hopefully you’ll be able to climb more often soon 🙂

  2. One of my housemates and climbing buddies works to support a badass lady with impressive upper body strength that’s she’s developed over many hears of getting around in a wheelchair.
    We’d had a few wine-fuelled chats in our loungeroom about the kinds of systems we could use to introduce her to our own climbing obsession.

    Stoked to see that you’re making this happen, even if it is happening slowly. I’m really keen to see where your next round of problem solving takes you. Wishing you luck and good adventures.

    • I’m guessing you’re based in North America? From doing my own research, para-climbing has taken off quite a bit in Canada and America and I could get you in touch or pass on some knowledge about the type of rope work you need to do. It’s 3:1 ratios that sort of thing and a lot of systems you’d initially use for rescues, but actually use for pats climbing in the end! I published this on my Facebook and an outdoor centre I’ve volunteered with got in touch and said they’re starting fort nightly sessions with kids so I can go along and climb as well as get some instructing done. So things are happening. 😊

      • I’m actually in Australia. I might send your post on to a few people around here who might be interested. I’ll bug you for more details if we get closer to making something happen here.

        Keep it up!

  3. Pingback: Para-Climber Laura May - Dirtbag Darling

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