Working out with AppleWatch

Well I’ve had my Apple Watch for about six weeks now and I am fairly familiar with it. My main aims with the watch were:
 1) to get out and about with it by using a suitable map app and using it for navigation with the haptics to guide me left or right and 
2) to help me monitor my physical activity levels.
Suffice to say I have done more of the latter. I have been learning to use the watch blind (if you pardon the pun) without looking at any instructions on the Internet. I chose to do it this way because I wanted to see how accessible it was to a blind user.
I pretty much use the ‘workout app’ which is native to the watch to monitor my physical activity levels. So far I have tried a couple of other apps but some of them are not fully compatible with voice-over and others want to share too much information with everyone else (you may be able to turn this feature off but I suspect you would have to use your iPhone). I find that this is a great little app, and you select which workout you want whether it be outdoor or indoor walk, indoor or outdoor cycle, elliptical or even other. For me as an athlete this is great especially since I can use voice-over. I choose the activity I want then scroll through the pages and press ‘start’ and away I go. The three main activities that I am using it for at the moment are elliptical, indoor cycle and outdoor cycling. 
The latter being on a tandem which I am very grateful to have been loaned from a charity called ‘Charlotte’s Tandems’. Without this I would not be able to experience outdoor cycling as I am far too dangerous on a mountain bike by myself. 
Charlotte’s Tandems is a charity that loan tandems to disabled people, free of charge.  Please have a look at their website: http://www.charlottestandems.co.uk
The benefit of the applewatch talking is that whilst I am doing an activity (so long as I am in a quiet environment) I just touch the screen, find the page I want, and I can get the information about how well I am doing, e.g. this could be how many calories I have burned, my heart rate or the distance I have gone. 
I also use the ‘activity app’. Some of the benefits of the activity app are that you can change your ‘daily move goal’, which is how many calories you want to burn in one day. You can also set it to tell you to move every hour. Another brilliant little feature of the activity app is that it will tell you how much activity you achieved in the previous week. I find this a great little feature as I can monitor how much exercise I have done and make sure that I increase it for the coming week. 
The other sport that takes up a lot of my time is climbing, so far I have been unable to find an app that is specific to climbing, e.g. in that it measures the height that you have climbed up and down the wall, and how long you spend on each route. 
The other thing that I would be worried about is banging the watch on the wall and holds indoors, or on the rock face, if I used it outside. I know the watch has strong glass but i’m not sure it would survive a direct hit, but I guess I could wear a large wristband with something sturdier covering the face to protect it.
I have also had a little play around with the clock faces on the watch. I am currently using the modular face, which I find is perfect for what I need, to give me the option to put specific information on the clock face so as I turn my wrist the information is there (saving me having to go into the apps or using glances).
As I mentioned in a previous blog the watch uses a simplified version of what you would find on the iPhone. Having now used it for a few more weeks I find that it is very useful. I think also that other members of my family like it because I do not constantly have voiceover on my phone announcing that I have a new Twitter or Facebook message. I also use several other apps on the watch, and found that some work better than others with voiceover.  As time goes on I will explore more apps and use the ones that work best for me. 
But, all in all, I am very happy with the Apple Watch.  In the past all I had was a talking watch which obviously told me the time and had a stopwatch but that was it. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be able to use a watch the same as a sighted person I would not have believed you especially one that has all the features that the Apple Watch has.
 
 
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A blog i did for The Molly Watt Trust.

Hi I am John Churcher and I have Usher syndrome type 2. I have always had a hearing loss and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 14, was then registered partially sighted in 1992 at aged 19 and registered blind in 2000. Currently, I have about 50% hearing loss and 3% vision. My two main passions are climbing and technology (even more so when it is accessible tech). I had looked at the applewatch before, but being on a limited budget and not sure what it could offer me I left it at that. Therefore I was so pleased to hear that I had been selected to receive an #applewatch from the Molly Watt Trust. I eagerly awaited its arrival but as always with these things they seem to arrive when you’re out. Once I got it home I then proceeded to do the set up. The first few steps proved to be a bit tricky. I’m usually pretty good with gadgets but this time I got a bit stuck, but with the help of somebody who can see I was soon up and running. 

Photo shows Applewatch with text highlighted using voiceover. 

The first thing you need to do is select the language and then pair it with your iPhone using your phone’s camera (also this step for me required assistance). I did try to activate voiceover before I started the set up but could not get it to work, maybe I did not press the Crown quick enough or this feature is not available at this stage of set up. As far as I can make out these are the only steps that you would need help with if you cannot see the screen. From this point on everything can be configured from your iPhone.
I have had my #applewatch nearly a week now and I am really pleased with it. At first it takes a bit of getting used to as the voiceover gestures are slightly different to that of an iPad, iPhone or iPod.
The other main difference is that the apps are a simplified version of what you would find on an iPhone or iPad. The more I use my watch I’m finding that as a ‘voiceover user’ the commands that you have at your fingertips are the ones that you need, so there is less time spent searching for the correct buttons to press.
The initial things that I will be using the watch for are to keep track of my physical activities, and to use it for navigation when out and about with my Guide Dog Annie. This is one of the features that I am most looking forward to using as I will be notified by haptics when I need to turn, rather than having to hold my phone in my hand. Another really great feature that I like is the fact that I can use Apple Pay to pay for things. So, again instead of having to get my phone out at a contactless PayPoint I can just use my watch, which makes me feel even more safe and secure. So, now I don’t need to use a gorilla grip hold when holding my phone to pay for things as it stays safely in my pocket.

So the next thing that I need to do is to set it to navigate to a place that I know well and just get used to the haptics. I am also looking forward to seeing what else I can do and use voiceover with. The only slight downside at the moment is not with the watch but with my hearing aids in that they do not connect directly to the watch therefore if I’m in a noisy environment it is harder to hear what is being said. But aside from that I think that it is great that Apple include accessibility software as standard in their products thus enabling me, having a disability, to access the same technology as everybody else.
So over the coming weeks and months I will explore the Watch’s features in more detail.
It would be great if you could support the Molly Watt Trust by donating to their www.globalgiving.org/projects/deafblind-need-access-to-life-enhancing-technology/page. In doing so this would help raise vital funds so that more people can have access to assisted technology to enhance their life.
If you would like to know more about me and what I get up to please visit my website www.johnchurcher.co.uk

Back outside.

 After a long break of 18 months I finally made it back outside.   It was so great to be back on real rock.
I had gone on a club meet down to Cornwall where we climbed at  Sennen.  This is a great place for me to climb as the access is very easy.  We walked along the coast path then over a small patch of boulders and then you are at the top of the cliff.  We set up the belays and then abseiled in.  The weather was good.  It was a bit blowy on top of the crag, but once we had abseiled down to sealevel we were out of the wind and the sun was shining brightly.  We subsequently proceeded with the first climb which was Civvy route, a HS.  Then we moved on to Demo route, which was also a HS.
 I hope that the good weather continues and I can get more climbs done outside this year.

A blog about climbing and other stuff.

Well, it’s been a few months since I did my last blog. I wasn’t sure what to write, and I’m still not sure now, so this will be a blog about climbing and other things. 

After doing the Eiger last year things started to get back to normal. I did the national paraclimbing competition series, and I became British male VI champion.

Then after Christmas me and Mark decided on a new project but then about a month later we decided that we were doing it for the wrong reasons.
I have still been doing my training for competitions with the focus on getting to the World Championships, which are in Paris this September. Getting to them will depend on funding. If you feel you are able to support me please see fundrazr link at http://www.johnchurcher.co.uk
But, before that there will be lots of other things going on. 
Me and Mark, along with our friends Colin and Ian, have decided on a new project. This will be called ‘Project Shibboleth’. Shibboleth is one of Scotland’s most iconic routes on a wall called ‘slime wall’ in Glencoe. No exact date has been set for this yet, but it will be later in the summer this year.
I will also be organising another Paraclimbing competition in the West Midlands for later this year.
This next bit has nothing to do with climbing. Well, as a blind person you have certain perceptions about things, and recently a couple of things were pointed out to me that I could not believe. The first of which my daughter gladly told me is that white chocolate is not actually white in colour, not that I eat chocolate as an athlete! So for over 40 years I thought white chocolate was white, wow you could’ve floored me. The second was when the audio description on the TV told me that the yellow ambulance came past. When I could see, when I was younger, ambulances were white and I thought that they were still white, so when I look at an ambulance now my brain is telling me that it is yellow but all I can see is white.
I still have my guide dog Annie who turned nine in February, she is working just as good as the day I had her. She still helps me get to the local bouldering wall unless she decided it’s too wet(or is that me).
As I write this blog the @eigerparaclimb Team has been nominated for some awards in the National Adventure Awards, which take place in March in Scotland. I will post an update as soon as I hear anything. 

As I write this blog the weather outside is slowly getting warmer but it’s still just a bit too cold for trad climbing.

2015 Wow, what a year!

Well it’s that time of year again when we all look back at what we achieved.
I can honestly say that if you told me what I would do, I would have not have believed you.
 
It all started in January, Jake from climbout.co.uk announced his climbout #365 challenges.  Just for fun, you would set yourself as many challenges as you liked and try and do them in 2015. One of mine was to climb a mountain.  It was at this point my sight guide, & now good friend, Mark McGowan said ‘do you want to climb the Eiger?’  Well what could I say but YES. Now this was my chance to prove that people with disabilities are just as capable of having adventure, with the right support.

So the training began. In an earlier post I did a very detailed write up of our first training day on Tryfan, where we climbed North Ridge.  We planned the climb for July 2015, so we had a good 6 months to plan & train.
While all this was going on I was still training and competing in International competitions. First up was Imst. then Chamonix which was just one week before we set of to Switzerland.
 

We travelled to Switzerland on 18th July. We did our recce on the 20th . After this the rest of the time was spent waiting for the right weather. We were looking for a 3/4 day window. The best we got came on sat 25th. The climb took the planned 3 days, 2 nights.
After the Eiger came the last IFSC comp held in Sheffield, also the National Paraclimbing Series had started with the first being in Scotland, where I came first.
Here’s a short clip of boulder problem 3.
 

Video by Andy Colthart

The last competition of the series was in Manchester at the beginning of December in which the series winners would be announced . I am very pleased to say that I am now British male V.I champion and have been reselected for the 2016 GB Paraclimbing team.

 

So that brings us to the end of 2015 and time to start planning for 2016.

This coming year has international competitions, including the world championships and our new project which we are calling Voyage to the tallest wall in Europe. A kayaking adventure in Norway. Plans are still at an early stage with me and Mark needing to learn new skills. If you would like to help please get in touch. www.johnchurcher.co.uk

 
 

What next…

After doing the Eiger back in July things slowly got back to normal.Training for the paraclimbing series began with the first competition being in scotland in September. Jump forward to November and two comps later, so far i have won each round with the final one in Manchester at the begining of December.
While all this was going on me and Mark were trying to work out what our next project could be.
We finally decided it would be a two part adventure, the first part will be a 500km kayak through the Fords & rivers of Norway, the second part will begin where the kayak ends which is at the base of the tallest wall in Europe also in Norway, The troll wall. http://www.norwaykayakclimb.blogspot.co.uk Plans are slowly coming together. We are supporting climbout.co.uk & Deafclimbinguk. We also have our first sponsor onboard, buffwear.co.uk
I also gave my first talk about how i got into climbing and the story of our journey to the Eiger all in preparation for me talking at the BMC’s Disability symposium at the end of November at the Calvert trust in the Lake district.

The Eiger vs Blind Man

The journey started way back in January of this year. There was lots of training which inclued exercise bikes, cross trainers and even me doing some running for the first time in 30years. All this time I am also still doing all my usual training for my climbing competitions. We then started to contact suppliers who may be able to help us with equipment. The ones who supported us can be found at http://www.eigerparaclimb2015.blogspot.co.uk
The day came when we finally left the uk and headed for the Swiss Alps. I was sure all the training would pay off, but I had to wait and see.
We arrived on the 18th July. Team sprits were high.  We arrived at the campsite later that afternoon the weather was great.

We set up camp and started weather watching.

 

We decided to do a rece to get used to the altitude.  All went well with nobody having any problems. The weather was also great on this day. We returned to camp.
All we needed now was a three day window in which to do the climb, we waited and waited.
Day 1
The window finally came on Sat 25th July. So off we set.
We arrived at Eiger station at 8.50am. This time we pushed on much quicker. We reached the previous high point and pushed on to the first bivi site which we reached at 13.40. The decision was reached that we should go higher.  So after a short rest we moved on. We found another bivi at around 3,450mertres. This was home for the night. We had dinner, then bedded down for the night.
Day 2
We woke, had breakfast, then started up again. The weather was good again, but because it was the west flank it took longer for the sun to warm us up, but eventually the sun appeared, warmed us up and melted any remaining ice. It was to turn into a very long day.
As we got nearer to the summit the winds picked up and the clouds came in, but visability was still good. We finally reached the final ice field, although i forgot to check the time, crampons were put on and me, Mark & Jay were roped together, and off we set. It was at this point I realised that I had a blister on my right foot, which meant I would feel every kick more than normal. Off we went. The 3 of us moved well together.
The summit was getting closer all the time, and I finally summited at 14.53.  I know this was the time as I have since checked on the selfie I took.

I was over the moon. Shortly after Colin & Alex joined us. But this was only half of the journey the hardest part was still to come, which was getting down.
We started the descent. At first it was by abseil just to get off the top icefields. Down we went all the time the wind was still blowing. It then started to snow. We then did quite a lot of abseils to descend quicker.  After some time the snow turned to rain and it started to get dark for me. Again I lost track of time and during one abseil it went dark for me, this was not a big problem it meant I went even slower. After another abseil it was decided to have an emergency bivi for the night. This was rock protected but was on a slope, so we all slept with our harness’s on and were secured with slings and screwgates.

Day 3
After what was one of the most uncomfortable nights I have ever had it was time to get up. We woke to frozen backpacks. Thanks to Rab, for the bivi and sleeping bags, I was dry and warm. All set for our day ahead. More abseils were to follow. We arrived at the second snow field at about 14.45, at this point we knew the worst was over as we had been at this point before on our rece, the end was now in sight.  After some more scree slopes, some slabs and the final hand over hand sections the end was in sight. Me and Mark were slowly making our way to the train station when we noticed a train coming so we had to make a dash to catch it. Luckily we did. So after a long 3 days on the Eiger the Eigerparaclimb2015 had been a success with all 5 members summiting along with @finalcruxfilms who filmed our journey. This was the first time it has been summited by a blind man, a first for a sight guided ascent(Mark McGowan).
I want to thank all involved with this project, but a big thanks to Mark whom without his help this would not have happened for me.