Reaching rocky heights
I enjoy doing sports with my partner. He doesn't have a disability but we have found the perfect sport for us. It is indoor rock climbing. I can't see where or what my partner is doing when he's climbing a wall. But the tension in the rope tells me if he has fallen or needs to be lowered to the ground. When I climb I use my hands and feet to scan the wall. Rock climbing is great. You try and improve what you did last time by climbing higher, faster or using a more difficult path up the wall.
Posted by: Kristy Hyland, on 03/07/12
I make my own rock climbing challenges.
I've always enjoyed sport, and usually the less mainstream the better. Goal ball, swish, blind cricket, tennis, skiing. I've had a go at it all. My partner and I recently went looking for a sport we could do together and discovered indoor rock climbing.
My partner Rowan doesn't have a disability so playing a sport specifically designed for blind people doesn't allow him to build on his own abilities. While he's welcome to play goal ball or swish he is effectively given a vision impairment to even the playing field.
My lack of vision rules me out from competing against sighted people in mainstream sport. When I played sport at school I always struggled to recognise my team mates or to see the goal, a fact that the opposing team would often take advantage of.
About three months ago we decided to have a go at rock climbing. I told the staff member providing the initial safety instruction that I couldn't see what she was doing. I needed her help to learn how to tie the knots and to use the safety equipment. She stood beside me, talked me through it and physically demonstrated everything. She then went and provided a similar level of one on one instruction to a sighted couple.
I was comfortable standing at ground level. I was linked to Rowan via a rope so he couldn't fall while he was up the wall. But when it was my turn and I first climbed up the wall I felt terrified. I'm scared of heights and my arm muscles burned as I hauled myself up.
When I reached the top of the wall I peered over my shoulder at Rowan and the safety instructor on the ground. Rowan called up to let me know he had my rope locked off and it was safe to let go of the wall. I didn't want to show I was scared but still released the wall with both hands and Rowan lowered me to the ground.
I can't say that I'd lost all fear of climbing and falling at that point. In fact, after that first climb I thought rock climbing might have been a big mistake. My arms badly ached and I knew I was going to end up very stiff.
Regular rock climber
But I don't give up easily. We have continued to climb every week for several months now and I can tell the difference from that first climb. I move more freely on the wall and reach for tougher hand and foot holds. I still can't see the colour of the rocks on the wall to take a designated path like most climbers do. But it is completely up to me which rocks I use so I make my own challenges.
While Rowan watches what I'm doing on the wall from the ground I can't see him as he climbs. I use the tension in the rope as he climbs to know if he's fallen or is ready to descend. One hand always keeps the rope locked off so he can't fall.
As a couple, the best thing about rock climbing is that we support each other. It's not about outdoing the other person. It's all about bettering what you did last time which means anyone can have a go.
Back to top