What is Paraclimbing?
Paraclimbing is a form of rock climbing designed for people with impairments. Like the term ‘Paralympic’, the ‘para’ part stands for parallel, meaning “equal to”.
Although still in its infancy, paraclimbing has gained rapid support in recent years as we approach Tokyo 2020 (the first year sport climbing will feature in the Olympics). Climbers ascend the wall on a ‘Top Rope’ (the rope is attached to the top of the wall with the climber on one end and their belayer on the other) and are scored based on how far they can reach on their assigned routes. Paraclimbing is an IPC (International Paralympic Committee) recognised sport; however, we are yet to see climbing in the Paralympics as it is still very much a developing sport. Although competition climbing for paraclimbers is limited to top rope, few stop there. There are a vast number of paraclimbers pushing their limits in lead/sport climbing, trad climbing, bouldering, ice climbing and DWS (Deep water soloing); proof we really don’t have any excuses!
How do paraclimbing categories work?
There are a whopping 20 categories (including male and female) that are recognised internationally for paraclimbing competitions as shown below:
B1/2/3 – Visual impairment in decreasing severity with B1 referring to fully blind/light perception
RP1/2/3 – Limited Range, power and stability in decreasing severity
AU1/2 – Arm/Forearm amputee
AL1/2 – Seating/Leg Amputee
How can I get involved in paraclimbing?
Although other impairments may not be recognised internationally, the UK’s National Paraclimbing Series (held by the BMC, British Mountaineering Council) encourages climbers with any disability to get involved and push their limit. The series is incredibly inclusive and welcomes all climbers ranging from those suffering with mental illness, hearing impairments, ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and everything in between! It’s an incredible series of events with a great atmosphere that I would strongly recommend to anybody, regardless of how much experience they’ve got climbing or competing.
The GB paraclimbing team currently has 20 members, all with vastly different disabilities and each with their own unique and inspiring story to tell. The GB paraclimbing team’s success has skyrocketed in recently and they are now one of the largest paraclimbing teams in the world, regularly dominating the medal tables. Follow the GB Paraclimbing Team’s success.
Despite having a tonne of different categories to best group athletes together, every paraclimber is still incredibly unique from one another. I compete in the Female B2 category; which is still a very diverse category, despite the complex classification system, as no visual impairment is the same. Equally, the nature of someone’s visual impairment can affect them in many different ways; as my peripheral vision is relatively untouched, I am very lucky in that I am able to navigate fairly independently where others may not be able to. On the other hand, when it comes to climbing, the blind spot in the centre of my vision effects my coordination and makes reading a long route virtually impossible. Additionally, there are a number of athletes that compete in one category but have other conditions that affect them too and it’s really inspiring to see all of these people competing together. I think the most fascinating part of paraclimbing is how no two athletes climb in the same way; even athletes with incredibly similar disabilities each have their own unique way of overcoming it and pushing their limit against all odds.