The thing that struck me when I first started climbing was: where are the other paraclimbers? With 1 in 10 people living with a declared disability (and so many more not declared), how is it that in a city as big as London, I didn’t know any other paraclimbers?
In fact, it wasn’t until my first year competing that I first met other paraclimbers. Even then, many people didn’t know they were paraclimbers, especially those with invisible conditions or those who are neurodiverse. At every competition, every paraclimber would say, it’s a shame that we don’t have a way of meeting socially to climb outside of comps. This was, amongst other things, what turned into Paraclimbing London, a social initiative to connect people. We regularly climb at the Castle, and we classify a Paraclimber as someone who is living with a disability and/or long term health condition, invisible or not, including mental health and cancer.
So when Blokfest and the Castle approached last year with this ambitious idea for a climbing comp that was designed for paraclimbers, all about having fun and bringing people together, how could we say no?
This is why there is so much excitement about this festival. Since its launch one year ago, Paraclimbing London has grown to 170 members who love climbing for different reasons. We have people from all walks of life, all abilities and all areas of the UK climbing with us. People who are trying the sport for their first time and others who are members of Team GB. We cater for everyone. And we’ve spent that year gaining experience through our members, to really identify what an all abilities, all levels Para Festival should look like. In two weeks, we get to see it become a reality.
Climbing, as a sport, is the greatest equaliser for any ability. With the help of ropes and harnesses, we really can get most people onto a climbing wall. Like most disability sport, paraclimbers can feel relegated to the sidelines despite their achievements. But this event has something for everyone and is a celebration of Paraclimbing at the same time. We can’t wait to see how it goes and watch everyone have a good time.
If you’re a brand-new climber who has not really been active due to health reasons, there’s something for you.
If you’re an active new climber, there’s something for you.
If you’re an experienced climber but just want to have a play on some of the routes, there’s something for you.
If you’re a competitive climber, there’s something for you.
Whatever level you climb at, the key is that it is going to be fun. There will be 20 boulder routes with an option to have a rope put up for anyone who wants. There will also be 3 top rope routes – the Castle are even making their first-floor step free for the day!
So if you weren’t sure whether this comp was for you, I can promise you it is, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Everyone will have a disability/medical condition climbing category so if you are competing, it’s fairer. If you’re not sure you’re a Paraclimber, email Paraclimbing London and have a chat with us. If you’re not sure of your category, just select open, say you’re unsure in the comment box and the team on the day can support you in identifying where you fit best.