Local para-climber Michael Ellis has set himself a challenge to complete 50 outdoor climbs in a variety of locations to help encourage other islanders to take up the sport.
'I chose this challenge as a personal goal and achievement, to increase awareness around sport and inclusion and raise some funds to enable more people to have this opportunity,' said Michael.
'My plans in 2021 to mark becoming 50 were disrupted, but 50 is also when I started climbing. I have met some amazing people, locally and further afield, and had the chance to climb both indoors and outdoors in Guernsey, Wales, England and Spain! Incredible that I have been able to compete at a national para-climbing event and attended a LGBTQ climbing festival – and at the same time complete so many fabulous climbs available locally.'
Michael is registered blind and is also autistic.
'Part of the challenge involves organising the actual climbs and inviting people to join me – and then telling people about it. Any climbing needs to involve other people, but in addition to the group having the necessary technical skills, I need a sight guide and additional thought/preparation to ensure safety. Hopefully, the range of climbs and people will reflect the diversity of what I do and how accessible it can be!
'I began climbing after a referral from Bailiwick Social Prescribing to Climb LBG. In addition, I have received sponsorship from Ravenscroft and liaised with the Sports Commission and others. In more recent times, with some support, I have also been able to access the mainstream Guernsey Mountaineering Club.
'It is often hard to know what is possible to try or join in with – knowing where to start looking, but then how accessible and inclusive it will be. The climbs are the part that people see, but it has been beneficial to me in so many ways, including social interaction, confidence, self-esteem and challenging my inner fears (which aren’t heights but centred around confidence and competence). This is evidenced by being able to turn up to a UK festival, messaging someone to see if they want to climb, assisting others or setting/organising this challenge.
'All climbing is based on communication and trust, but as a visually impaired climber, this is intensified as I am reliant on the information from my guide – and that includes actually getting to the climb. Those who assist and support also benefit from having to think differently about how to approach and read a route, communication, general adaptability/inclusion and new sight guiding skills. I know how much pleasure I get from being a part of other people’s climbing journeys too.'
Michael will be raising funds for Climb LBG by completing his challenge as he says accessibility and inclusion is at the core of what they do.
'It was through them that I was able to have this fabulous journey so far, and I want others to have the same opportunities that I have.'
You can support Michael via his sponsorship page https://giving.gg/donate/event/9437/Michaels-2023-%20Climbing-Challenge