A team of British Paraclimbers have successfully tackled the West Flank Route to the summit of The Eiger in Switzerland, the goal of their Eiger Paraclimb 2015 challenge. John Churcher, Alex Taylor and Jay Owen were assisted by Mark McGowan and Colin Gourley.
The challenge was inspired by a will to raise awareness of Paraclimbing on an international stage alongside supporting the climbout365 challenge for awareness of mental health. After months of preparation and training, the team reached the summit at 3pm on 26th July followed by a slow and careful descent with a forced bivi in a storm.
John Churcher of Birmingham is blind with 3% vision and also requires hearing aids. Commenting on the team's achievement, John told UKC:
"It was an amazing thing to do. The very thought of me - a blind man - doing the Eiger was mind blowing. Even with a disability great adventures can be had."
Alex Taylor from Aberdeen has Multiple Sclerosis - a condition which would make physical endurance and balance on the climb a tricky hurdle to overcome. Alex commented:
"It still hasn't quite sunk just what we achieved. A massive team effort, the support and encouragement each gave plus the sheer mental toughness of the team enabled us to succeed and what an amazing experience. Hopefully we are changing people's perspective of what "disabled" climbers can actually achieve."
Jay Owen is a Paraclimber and is Autistic. He summed up the experience as follows:
"I believe climbing helps with positive attitude to life and is mentally and physically. The Eiger was a massive goal and a life changing experience - showing the world out there that we can overcome challenges we face on a daily basis. What we are doing is all about diversity."
Euan Ryan of Finalcrux Films was also part of the team and documented the ascent alongside Willis Morris. He told UKC:
"It's without doubt the biggest project we've worked on to date, and to see the team make the summit, and capture all the emotions that come with that...well...I guess you'll have to see the film when it's out!"
Colin Gourley is a Scottish mountaineer. He praised the positivity and high-spirited attitude of the group:
"Words fail me really. The toughness of the team, the focus, the humour under pressure and sense of purpose was incredible. Life changing stuff..."
Mark McGowan is a climbing coach and acts as John's sight guide, in paraclimbing competitions and more recently on the Eiger ascent. Summing up the Eiger paraclimb and its wider implications, Mark commented:
"I believe anyone can achieve what they want in climbing with the right direction and access, a bit like society..."