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.

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The Winning Team.

An update to the last post. The Eigerparaclimb were the proud winners of a National Adventure Award, in Scotland, on the 16th March. We would like to say thanks to all those people who supported us.

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.

1st International paraclimbing comp of 2015

Last weekend was the first International paraclimbing competition of 2015.
The format was the same as last year with 3 routes on both days. The comp was well attended with 12 federations being represented.
The atmosphere was the most relaxed one i have been to yet. Day one went well with me finishing in 3rd place by one point. This was with one route being moved because of heavy rain, the route i did was not for my category.
Day 2 started earlier, things went very well. I topped 2 of my routes. With these results being added to day 1’s my final position was 2nd.  I was very pleased with this.
The next comp is in less than 2 weeks, in Chamonix, France.

Busy times ahead…

For the last 5 months i’ve been doing extra training. This has involved doing a lot more aerobic workouts. I also did some mountain training in North Wales with a succsseful ascent of Tryfan. Most of which was done in a storm and temperatures of -1 and lower. The main aim of this was to get much fitter to do the Eiger, the plus side of this is that it has helped my climbing.
An unexpected outcome of this was i started to run with my coach and good friend Mark, a pleasant surprise was that i can run much further and longer now than when i was at school.
It’s busy because over the next 3 months i will restart the international comps, Summit the Eiger with some great people, Take another friend Jake up Snowdon(He wants to try it in a blindfold) plus there are other things in the pipeline like a paraclimbing comp in the west Midlands next month, a first for the area and lot more.
I’m still training hard for the comps, always aiming to be able to do that crimp or sloper on an overhang, slowly getting there.
So first comp is in Imst at the end of June so still have a few more weeks of hard training.