We're blessed with an amazing community at the Castle and are proud to support Paraclimbing London; Paraclimbing London is a social initiative set-up to reduce barriers disabled climbers face at the wall, they regularly host sessions at different walls across London.
Anoushé Husain, co-founder of Paraclimbing London, has written a helpful guide explaining how you can be mindful of paraclimbers during your session.
Do you watch what goes on around you? Are you mindful of your surroundings?
Have you ever thought after a climbing session that it could have gone a bit better? Not because of you or those you might have been climbing with but because things weren’t necessarily as welcoming or as inclusive they could have been.
As a climber, I talk a lot about the amazing community I am part of – People are friendly, climbers look out for each other and it’s probably one of the least intimidating places to be in as a climber thanks to this amazing community. So what can make things a little less pleasant and how can we change it?
I’ve talked to a few climbers and had examples from members of Paraclimbing London: a social initiative set up to reduce the barriers to climbing for anyone with disabilities (visible or invisible) and to provide peer support for disabled climbers.
The most common example of non-inclusive climbing I hear of is a new climber approaching a bouldering wall but the area is constantly being occupied by the same crowd. As the new climber is new, they aren’t exactly comfortable going for it and, frankly, they shouldn’t feel like they should have to “barge” their way in.
An easy fix to this is to have a look around you as your bouldering. Can you see someone who is uncomfortable and maybe hesitant? Maybe introduce yourself and encourage them to have a go?
Paraclimbers come in all shapes and sizes and you often won't see why they are paraclimbers. Some of their disabilities will be very visible (missing a limb) but some might be absolutely invisible (mental health, other health conditions or sensory impairments) or they might have a few things going on! They might climb as a group or like me, they might climb with whoever or on their own.
In general, paraclimbers are like most climbers, we enjoy meeting new people and finding new climbing partners, regardless of their climbing ability or whether they have a disability at all. So if you want to come say hi, please do, we won’t bite! However, there are a few things we have noticed that could make things go a bit smoother!
Please don’t pet/distract the guide dogs! These dogs work hard to keep their owners safe and when they are working, they are actually working. The last thing anyone wants is an owner who can’t find their dog or a dog getting tangled in ropes because they got distracted.
If you want to say hi to the dog, that might be ok but ask the owner first.
Use climbing etiquette to keep everyone safe.
If you have a paraclimber who is bouldering, the likelihood that they can control or stop a fall is much lower – DON’T walk under them (you shouldn’t be walking under any climber anyway…)
If your routes on top rope overlap: Give priority to the climber who is above you if they are climbing up or on a crux. If they are resting, ask if you can overtake. Be aware that some climbers can’t sit back in their harness without swinging so if you’re forcing them to by overtaking without asking, you could be putting yourself and them into danger.
Climbers love a challenge but if a paraclimber says no, they really can’t/shouldn’t try something and you’ve gently insisted? Accept that they have their reasons
The key thing to remember in all of this is to check your surroundings and keep conversations going.