We caught up with Kate who tells us why she started rock climbing, her experiences at the paraclimbing series, and her plans for the future.
My first inspiration in climbing came from Paul, my husband and business partner who used to climb regularly but hadn’t for over fifteen years. The impetus came when he joined a new sports centre with a climbing wall that opened near us. At that time we were both heavy and unfit, living a folk musician lifestyle that involved too many late night music sessions and drinking beer! But Paul started regularly climbing again and determinedly regained his fitness level, dropped all the excess weight, and rediscovered his connections to climbing and the outdoors.
Paul encouraged me to start climbing and even bought me a pair of rock climbing shoes as a christmas present. My first trip to the climbing wall was an alien experience as I was very aware of my leg, my age and my weight, and I felt very self-conscious. Despite this, I got on the wall just off the ground and fell off a few times, my hands hurt and I moved very awkwardly. At first, I had quite a few doubts and was embarassed of my awkwardness; I had to get to grips with my feet, my prosthesis, and where to place my hands. It was such a different experience than anything I'd done before, but I stuck at it and started to enjoy the movement.
From climbing regularly, I became much more aware of my balance and I got stronger. This began to carryover into everyday situations, and I noticed how I was becoming more conscious of how I placed my feet, how I didn't thump them down as much as I walked or stepped down, and also how I could move my body more efficiently.
The BMC paraclimbing series
I was climbing with another friend, who had been injured in a motorbike accident, and she told me about the BMC paraclimbing competitions. I was really interested to meet other disabled climbers, and especially amputee climbers, to watch how they climbed and to share their experiences. There were no other climbers at my wall with the same disability and I'd often struggle to explain how I couldn't, or felt I couldn't, make that move with my prosthesis. My centre of balance was all wrong and although my two legged friends would try and climb with a locked leg it wasn't quite the example I needed.
The paraclimbing competitions are amazing; there's a great atmosphere and lots of friendly people encouraging each other. It was a totally new environment for me and completely awe-inspiring; it really didn't feel like a competition. I just remember smiling the whole time, taking everything in, watching the partially sighted competitors climbing with the help of a laser, meeting Sianagh Gallagher for the first time and watching her doing boulder problems. I also saw amputee climbers who weren't wearing prosthetic legs climbing over what looked like impossible overhanging routes, which was something I hadn't seen before. It was a heart lifting moment and when I climbed my routes, I was nervous but just got on the wall and went for it.
What was impressive was everyone's support and encouragement for each other. Professionals and amateurs cheered each other on, the BMC belayers were just as brilliant too, and competitors chatted and shared their experiences. The atmosphere was electric – it lifted your spirit and pushed you to try what you never had before, and I was just really happy to be a part of it.
Inspiration took me further
Two years on from that event, I've taken climbing and fitness more seriously. I got into cycling and rode the 'Way of the Roses' coast to coast ride in summer 2015 and kept climbing, getting experience outside on my first multi-pitch routes. I changed my eating habits, continued to play my music and tour, and lost three stone in weight on a low-carb lifestyle.
My paraclimbing experience has driven me on to keep climbing and push myself, I'm finding new things each time I climb – sometimes great, sometimes frustrating. As a teenager I was never this active, more urban goth than outdoor adventurer or even indoor adventurer. I'd love to share my passion for climbing with people, to encourage them to go for it. In May I went on the Mountain Training Climbing Wall Award and started my training, this was another amazing experience, and I am excited to be going through the course. I'm now gaining experience in preparation for my assessment which involves shadowing sessions at my local wall, and gaining experience with as many different groups as possible – I'm learning a lot and it's an exciting journey.
I want to use this award to inspire people who thought they couldn't possibly do this, people who have never moved in this way, or people who have been interested in physical activity. I'd like to be able to introduce them to a different sort of excercise, and awaken a reconnection with their body and their capability. I also want to support more people to discover the many rewards climbing brings and the positive support of the whole climbing community, which to me, with the experience I have gained up until now, has been so positive and has no boundaries.
How to get started
The English Federation of Disability Sport together with the National Disability Sport Organisations have recently launched a new campaign which focuses on helping disabled people become more active. The Together We Will campaign was set up following the most recent Sport England Active People Survey, which highlighted low numbers of disabled people who regularly take part in sport or exercise.
Results from the Active People Survey show that disabled people are half as likely to be active as non-disabled people. As one in five people in England have an impairment or long-term health condition, disabled people are a large proportion of everyone’s community.
If you want to try climbing find a climbing wall near you and get in touch with them to find out how. You can also contact the National Disability Sport Organisations to find out how you can get more active.
We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.
Did you know that we've launched a U27 membership offer for just £1.50 / month? And with full membership from £2.50 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work: