Ilam Rock Paraclimbing

It’s almost 2 years since I posted about supporting Michelle to fulfil her goal of climbing The Old Man of Hoy – a stretch target and bucket-list dream for most climbers, but an incredibly ambitious goal for a climber who has lost the use of her legs.

Route to the Sky (via Hobson Moor)

Having set aside a couple of week-long target windows in May/June 2020, Michelle cracked on with her training through the winter, only for Covid to scupper those plans. With walls closing, and the various prohibitions on meeting / travel etc (not to mention a house-move) Operation OMoH has had to go on the back burner. Post “Freedom Day”, it seemed like a good opportunity to start ramping up preparations again, but it would be too late to put together an attempt on The Old Man before the weather breaks for the winter. What we needed was an inspiring objective which would present some of the same challenges we’d face on Hoy, get the team back together, and give us all a feeling of progress along our RouteToTheSky (Michelle’s blog about her mission When I sent Michelle a photo of Ilam Rock she was immediately up for the challenge, and a recce in the rain did nothing to dampenen her enthusiasm.

The team assembled at Milldale a couple of weeks later, with Bill and me forming the advanced party to get a rope up, Dave accompanying Michelle in jumaring up a parallel rope, Andy in charge of ground-ops and Helen and Jane providing moral support.

It might look like a cluster#u@#, but most of the bits of string and gear in the set up below were necessary to tie together the crumbling top of Dovedale’s iconic pinnacle and provide back-up redundancy against all eventualities.

Meanwhile, the launch team at mission control were nearing blast-off:

Michelle put aside any concerns about a lack of training and was soon back in the groove of her punishing pull-up regime (a three in one pulley arrangement reduces the force needed, but makes for a painfully small amount of height gain for each pull-up).

Here she is, powering upwards…

Much to the amazement of the passing tourists!

… and nearing the summit.

Topped out and checking out the views…

Mission accomplished, and a few useful lessons learned to fine tune the system further for the “Real Thing”, but first the hand-cycle ride back up the dale

and a debrief over beers

Congratulations to Michelle on a really impressive performance – climbing didn’t make it into this year’s Paralympics, so it was especially fitting for her to put on this feat of Adaptive Athleticism in the same week as events started in Tokyo.

If you are inspired by Michelle’s Route To The Sky you can follow progress at as we prepare for our assault on The Old Man in 2022. Meanwhile, why not support Michelle’s adopted charity, The Calvert Trust, in their mission to enable people with sensory, learning and physical disabilities to make positive change to their lives through the challenge of adventurous activities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s