Paraclimbers on the Eiger

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 07/09/2015
The paraclimbing team.
View 1 of 4

In July, a team of British Paraclimbers climbed the Eiger by the West Flank Route to raise awareness about climbing with disabilities. John Churcher, who is blind with 3% vision and also requires hearing aids, describes the ascent.

John was joined by Alex Taylor who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and Jay Owen who is autistic. The team were assisted by Mark McGowan and Colin Gourley.

JC: The idea for the challenge came about through the climbout.co.uk #Climbout365 challenge. You set yourself 12 challenges or lifestyle changes to achieve that year, in aid of mental health.

One of my challenges was 'to climb a mountain'. My sight guide, Mark McGowan, said to me: "Do you want to do the Eiger?" I said "Yes". Mark asked Jay if he wanted to join us, and Alex asked Mark if she could also come. Mark then asked a good friend of his, Colin Gourlay, an experienced climber, to take part. We were also joined by Finalcrux films. 

I took up the challenge to prove to myself that I could do it, and also to show that people with disabilities are just as capable of having outdoor adventures.

The aim was to promote paraclimbing, but also to inspire other disabled people that they can have adventures, big or small. Also to change people's perceptions - just because you have a disability doesn't mean that you have to stay at home and not experience an outdoor lifestyle.

It was challenging to achieve support and funding at first, but eventually this proved very successful, and we are all really grateful. We were supported by Rab, Lowe Alpine, Bloc Eyewear, Life Systems, The Climbing Academy in Bristol and Glasgow, Tiso Outdoor, Terra Nova, Wild Country and Primus.

Every day I trained on a cross-trainer and exercise bike. When I could I went running with Mark. I also continued to train for climbing competitions as a member of the GB Paraclimbing Team. The Eiger team also had two training weekends. The first was the north ridge of Tryfan in North Wales. The second was Curved Ridge, Glencoe, in Scotland. We had the honour of staying in the Jacksonville Hut.

Physical challenges were being fit enough to cope with the altitude and keeping up with Mark, at the pace he was going, as I was always in contact with him.

Climbing has given me more of a social life. I am fitter and more active now than I was in my early twenties, and I want to promote the benefits of climbing to other disabled people.

It felt absolutely amazing to be standing on the summit of the Eiger. I took a selfie! I couldn't see the view, but I had achieved my goal. I was also happy to reach the train station at the end and know that it would then be counted as a successful ascent.

Most of the ascent was really hard for me as it was scrambling with loose rock everywhere rather than straight-forward climbing. However, this was no surprise, and was taken into account with longer times allowed for ascent and descent.

The scariest part was when, on one short section of the descent, my boots were not gripping very well, and my hands were cold, even with gloves, and could not grip. It was solved by a quick bit of short-roping.

I'd never done anything like climbing the Eiger before. I hoped to gain a sense of achievement for myself, and I have. Also the aim to promote paraclimbing to a wider audience is still ongoing. Hopefully the film will inspire people to have a go.

We celebrated later in the evening with pizza and a pint.

READ: More about the Eiger Paraclimb on the team blog.

WATCH: Defiance - The Eiger Paraclimb Official Trailer 2015 below.


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: 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/join-the-bmc-for-1-month-U27-membership


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 1159 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Disability Symposium: learn how to support people with disabilities outdoors
3
Disability Symposium: learn how to support people with disabilities outdoors

Do you support or instruct people with disabilities to go hill walking, climbing or mountaineering? Get up to speed with the latest best practice at the BMC's second Disability Symposium, with talks from Eiger paraclimber John Churcher and Emmerdale actor, motivational speaker and quadriplegic Andy Walker.
Read more »

We are GB Climbing: athlete profiles
0
We are GB Climbing: athlete profiles

They all have their own journey through the sport and through climbing and they all tackle it in unique ways. We're celebrating that. We've put together strands of interviews and insights into their climbing lives. Get to know some of the personalities behind the powerhouse athletes of GB Climbing.
Read more »

National Climbing Competitions: 2021 and Beyond
0
National Climbing Competitions: 2021 and Beyond

Despite the many challenges of 2020 the BMC team have been working hard, along with support from Mountaineering Scotland and Mountaineering Ireland, to develop a proposal to make significant changes to the structure of the national competition climbing calendar across the UK and Ireland.
Read more »

Post a Comment

Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

Disability Symposium: learn how to support people with disabilities outdoors
3

Do you support or instruct people with disabilities to go hill walking, climbing or mountaineering? Get up to speed with the latest best practice at the BMC's second Disability Symposium, with talks from Eiger paraclimber John Churcher and Emmerdale actor, motivational speaker and quadriplegic Andy Walker.
Read more »

We are GB Climbing: athlete profiles
0

They all have their own journey through the sport and through climbing and they all tackle it in unique ways. We're celebrating that. We've put together strands of interviews and insights into their climbing lives. Get to know some of the personalities behind the powerhouse athletes of GB Climbing.
Read more »

National Climbing Competitions: 2021 and Beyond
0

Despite the many challenges of 2020 the BMC team have been working hard, along with support from Mountaineering Scotland and Mountaineering Ireland, to develop a proposal to make significant changes to the structure of the national competition climbing calendar across the UK and Ireland.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £16.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »