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Eiger Paraclimb: A view from the camera lens

June 18th, 2015

So here we see the start of our very exciting blog series on a world first attempt of The Eiger by a team of paraclimbers. Their training has been going on for some time now so we wanted to get behind the headlines and find out more about what is driving the team, the challenges they face and the aims of the project.

"Climbing isn't a sport. It's a way of life. It's a passion. It's a dedication... It doesn't matter what your body can and can't do. It's about figuring out what you want it to do, and then figuring out how you can make that happened"

First up is camerman Euan Ryan of FinalCrux Films. Having begun his climbing journey at 8 years old, he soon found his passion for mountaineering and alpinism. Whilst working in Glasgow Climbing Centre, he set up FinalCrux Films and the rest as they say, is history.

You are filming the Eiger Paraclimb in its entirety.  What made you want to get involve in the project?

My role in Eiger Paraclimb 2015 is director of film production. I worked with Mark McGowan and Jamie (Jay) Owen last year producing a short film about Mark's transition in to paraclimbing coaching - the field of my sport that I knew very little about!

My eyes were opened to the amazing feats that paraclimbers perform on every climb and my admiration could not have been higher. When I heard Mark's plans for Eiger Paraclimb 2015, I couldn't resist the challenge!

As a mountaineer, you're no stranger to a bit of adventure. What has been your most memorable climb and what challenges were involved?

My most memorable climb would have to be my first 4000m peak - Mont Blanc du Tacul in the French Alps. It was a battle of physical and mental fatigue unlike anything else I'd ever encountered.

I haven't been up that high since then so The Eiger is a daunting prospect, with the addition of the task of documenting the climb.

Taking into account the additional technicalities involved in this project, how would you describe the enormity of the project itself? How does this match in magnitude to anything you’ve done before?

Eiger Paraclimb 2015 is unlike anything I've ever encountered or conceived of before. It will be a massive effort for every single member of the team to see ourselves from the base, to the summit and back again safely. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about it.

"It has the potential to ignite a flame in the hearts of additional needs climbers the whole world over. A flame of ambition and motivation to go out there and do something they never thought themselves capable of"

It's a notoriously dangerous mountain, and even more so in recent years. Many people I have told about the project have uttered words of warning and well-founded advice. But if it weren't such a challenge, I guess it wouldn't hold the gravitas that it does.

With little experience of working with paraclimbers, what new things are you experiencing and learning as part of the team?

My skill set for this project has had to widen substantially. I'm used to climbing fast and light however our ascent will most likely be painfully slow and add to that the requirement for carrying camera equipment up and down the mountain. I need to focus on being patient on the climb, and dedicate my time on the mountain to capture the best possible footage that best represents the team and the effort involved.

What do you think this project means for the climbing community as a whole?

This project is immeasurable. It speaks volumes unlike anything else. The climbing community has a stigma that surrounds the disabled that needs to be broken down and challenged.

Climbing isn't a sport. It's a way of life. It's a passion. It's a dedication. It doesn't matter what your body can and can't do. It's about figuring out what you want it to do, and then figuring out how you can make that happened.

A small team of British Paraclimbers are tackling the West Flank Route to the summit of The Eiger in Switzerland in July along with Finalcrux Films who will be recording the climb. Assisted by Mark McGowan and Colin Gourlay, the objective is to safely climb The Eiger with two members of the BMC GB Paraclimbing Team, John Churcher (Visually Impaired), Alex Taylor (Multiple Sclerosis), and British Paraclimber, Jamie Owen (Autism).

The Eiger Paraclimb 2015 is inspired by a will to raise awareness of Paraclimbing on an international stage alongside supporting the climbout365 challenge for awareness of mental health. You can support the project by donating to the FundRazr page (above),

Categories:   iDID Adventure  

Posted By:  Susanne Rees

Comments:  0

John Chandler joins the team

June 16th, 2015

As you may have noticed, here at iDID we've been welcoming in some new team members. We're excited to introduce the newest member of our advisory board *drum roll*... Disability Snowsport's very own John Chandler.

We caught up with Jon to have a chat about life as an adaptive snowboard instructor and what it means for him being involved in iDID.

           Jon with iDID Northampton Volunteers

Suzi: Hi Jon, great to have you onboard... welcome!

John: Thanks, It's exciting to be here.

Suzi: With all our new team members, we like to find out a little bit more about them. With that in mind, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

John: I'm John, and I'm proud to say I'm a bit of a geek. I wasn't a sporty kid growing up, and preferred to read or draw. I discovered computers at a very early age, but never expected to turn that hobby into a full-time career (at the time, I wanted to be a fighter pilot).

For some reason, I begged my parents to let me go on a school ski trip. I've no idea how they found the money, but they managed it, and I loved it - though I was definitely not a natural! I discovered snowboarding years later, and that really made an impression on me. So much so that, when I hit a rut in life, I quit my job and went off to Australia in 2004 to re-train as a snowboard instructor. Yes, that's Australia, not Austria.

Believe it or not, I rediscovered my love of programming during that winter season. In fact, I should say I rediscovered the real me and found out a lot of new things about myself.

Nowadays, I work full-time as a software developer, and teach snowboarding and skiing part-time for Snozone and DSUK. I'm one of the first British snowboard instructors to be licensed to teach adaptive snowboarding, which involved a lot of hard work but has been an amazing experience.

        iDID Northampton member learning to snowboard with John

Suzi: Sounds a bit epic to be honest and full of excitement. How would you describe your approach to work... and  life?

John: Have fun, keep learning new things.

My parents raised me to find the funny side of most things, which can get me into trouble sometimes! Having fun is important, and I'm fortunate in that I enjoy my life and my work. If something gets me down, I try to figure out a way to change it.

Learning is also important to me: I want to know everything, so I read up a lot on all kinds of subjects and often look around for courses to do or new things to try. Teaching comes as an extension of that, in that it forces me to understand a subject and learn how to pass that understanding to others.

Suzi: I think you're right, it's so important to learn new things particularly in your line of work. You work with an organisation, Disability Snowsports UK, who share our passion for accessibility, how do you see adventure sports in the context of well-being? What impact have you seen on people’s lives?

Jon: A lot of people concentrate on the "keep fit" part of adventure sports, and that's an important part for sure. However, there's more to it than that: the social and mental/emotional aspects are often forgotten.

Snowboarding and climbing may not be "team" sports, in the usual sense of the term, but they're very social. I've made many friends through them, and I was a very shy person until I started snowboarding and teaching. Public speaking was one of my biggest fears, but now I think nothing of talking to a group of beginner snowboarders or a packed hall at a tech conference. Everything is intertwined, and skills from sport or work can be applied elsewhere.

It's a real confidence boost to land a new trick, or climb a new wall - and anyone can do it with practice. I love seeing someone go from terrified strapping into a board for the first time, to doing their first unassisted run down a slope. You can see people's body language and mindset change in the space of a few minutes.

One of my first adaptive lessons was working with a child who has never been able to walk without someone holding on to him. His parents were worried he'd tire easily or find it too overwhelming, but we put him on skis and for the first time in his life he could balance and move around without help. That was such an amazing moment, to see him change the boundaries of what was possible. The first of many moments I've witnesse

Suzi: It can be really emotional work, I remember that first moment of mine, it was quite breathtaking. You've worked with our Northampton team on their snowsports programme, how did you first hear about iDID and what made you want to get invovled?

Jon: iDID booked me for snowboard lessons through DSUK. I didn't really get much information, other than it was a group booking and I might need to dust off my BSL skills, so I went in not knowing what to expect.

When I arrived, I was made so welcome by the group that I don't think most people realised I was the instructor until we started the lesson. I remember it being pretty chaotic (at least for me!) but the vibe was fantastic and everyone was great fun to teach. I love the fact everyone's so friendly and encouraging to each other - getting involved was such a natural thing to do.

Suzi: They're a great group of people, both members and volunteers, we really pride ourselves on our positive approach. So now we've got you more involved, what do you hope to achieve with iDID?

Jon: I think snowsports has a bit of reputation in the UK as being elitist and inaccessible, which certainly isn't the case. Take a look at our freestyle skiing and snowboarding Olympians, and you'll see they've come from backgrounds you wouldn't associate with the stereotype. Our Paralympians put in an amazing performance at Sochi, earning our first on-snow gold medal, and lifting adaptive snowsports in the UK to a new level. They all worked hard to get where they are, they didn't get it handed to them on a plate.

The UK enjoys a fantastic scene where we can ride snow or dryslope all year, and it's accessible to everyone. Through iDID, I want to ensure snowsports are for all: no matter who you are, or what your background.

Suzi: It's so good to have you involved, i'm sure we'll be hearing lots more from you. Thanks for chatting to us Jon

John currently works for the Milton Keynes branch of Disability Snowsports UK providing specialist instruction in adaptive snowsports. He is a pretty awesome fella ad is raising money for Milton Keynes to buy an adaptive snowboard, one of the first in the country! Click here to support Jon in his bid to raise money to enable DSUK MK to purchase an adaptive snowboard.

Categories:   iDID Adventure  

Posted By:  Susanne Rees

Comments:  0