Thursday, 20 March 2014

BMC PARA Climb Competition... 1st Round

Gwyn, myself and Gwyn's friends (Chris and Mike) took the trip from Llanberis to London to support Gwyn in his first PARA Climbing competition. Gwyn did all the organizing of what bus or tube we had to get and used his special app on his phone to guide us to where we needed to get. So our blind guide got us there where we joined the other competitors at The Castle Climbing Wall (cool bunch of people running the place) and got ourselves registered to compete then a coffee and some cake in the cafe. 

The last time I had competed in London was around 1990 against the likes of Jerry Moffat and other climbers of the day. I came 5th then but today as a 'caller' to Gwyn we came 1st! Gwyn won his category for the Visual Impairment category and climbed amazingly well. I was more nervous in this role than competing directly back in the 90's!

Gwyn flashing final boulder problem
The competition was made up of a bouldering and top rope event with 3 routes in each. We were allowed 3 tries on each boulder problem and 1 go at the top rope routes using a standard competition points system.

Spotting Suzi Rees

As the place filled up with competitors the buzz began to fill the place like any other competition. But this comp felt very different to me. It seemed to hold more resonance in terms of what is was all about for the competitors and the supporters of the PARA climbers. Watching a person with one arm or one leg combining explosive campusing power with climbing techniques I could not have imagined in a million years blew my mind. I pride myself in being able to read routes well, but I was continuously perplexed by some of the sequences that were being unlocked by the climbers (especially the one armed climbers) on boulder problems up to V4!

I was so pleased for Gwyn and I's success but I am so excited about being involved in these amazingly inspiring events. Although I was there to coach Gwyn and be his sight caller, I couldn't help myself but get involved with the others as they psyched up, chalked up and took their turn in something that really mattered. Competition is something my climbing has been part of but this feels so much more real to me as a person. Coaching someone to this great event is a journey I hope continues further.

Coaching people is a very personal thing, it takes time for trust to build and when someone has restricted sight and is listening to your voice over the other noises in the building for instruction in a competitive environment is so frightening but also so rewarding when they climb well for themselves. Gwyn climbed exceptionally well and won. But it feels like this is just the beginning for us.

The route setting by Ian Dunn was excellent and I couldn't have bettered it. But, it got me thinking about maximizing each para climbers full potential in a climbing environment and I believe we have a great opportunity in setting routes that test these climbers in a way that not only creates an obvious challenge, but perhaps setting in a way that allows them to truly demonstrate their athleticism and technical capacity totally specific to them as PARA climbers. For example, having more technical knee bar sequences that allow a one armed climber to test their core? The routes were set as able bodied climbs and watching Phil with one leg campusing off a crimp from the deck that you couldn't hang a snotter from, really woke me up to what he and the other competitors were truly capable of and it seems it is up to us to give them the routes that will blow them away and in turn blow away the spectators at how just amazing these dudes are... Dunno, maybe am wrong? But I know this, I want to coach more of these guys...

1/2 Boulder the Breck from George Sewell on Vimeo.

The VI 1st round winners! 

Referrals from clients:

"...This training season I decided to get all the help I can to speed up my improvement. I needed guidance to work towards my goals in long term. I also needed more vision and opinions about my exercises and weak links. I am glad I can share my training with Mark..." (Ville Mustonen, Finland)

" I met Mark in Glen Nevis on his return to climbing to check out some lines he had in mind for me, I wasn't really training at this point but after a day or two talking and training with him I had a much more structured idea of what to do to improve and I did" (Kev Shields)