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Inclusive climbing – changing lives

How often when trying to convince someone to come climbing, are you met with responses like “I have no upper body strength”, “There’s no way I could do something like that!” or simply “I’m not strong enough”? If this is the go-to response for your average Joe then one can only imagine what might go through the head of someone with a disability or impairment when faced with the same situation.

Dispelling myths

Many people will live under the misconception that there are bouncers on the door who will only let in adrenaline junkies and birthday parties of 10-year-olds. From the outside looking in, climbing may look like a terrifying activity filled with danger, high risks and even higher falls. Of course, those of us who have tried it, know this isn’t the case – so it’s very much on us to dispel the myths.


I’ve been climbing now for 3 years and to say it has changed my life would be an understatement.

There is an event that happens in Bristol each year which sets out to introduce indoor climbing to people with varied impairments that might leave them thinking climbing was inaccessible. It’s called the Bristol Inclusive Climbing Festival or BICfest and 2019 will see it’s 6th birthday. It is this event which I have to thank for introducing me to the sport which has taken over all my free time.

As an amputee, I think the world of accessible sport is remarkable. Hearing stories of people who use physical activity to overcome their impairments never fails to inspire me. I’m particularly biased when it comes to the power of climbing. I truly believe anybody can make use of a climbing wall, and more importantly, that everybody should be able to.

BICfest provides a perfect gateway into this amazing new world.

A safe, inclusive space to push boundaries

An indoor climbing gym is a safe space in which you can push boundaries. It’s an accessible location for those that want to train their mind and body to work together. Climbing gyms offer a unique place where people with a disability can take part in the sport in the same building at the same time, importantly alongside those without disabilities.

How many other para-sports can you say that about?

Your turn to change lives

BICfest should be proud of the work it’s doing and if you know someone who you think might benefit from a free taster session, let them know about it. [We hope BICfest will be able to restart after Covid-restrictions end].

If their experience is anything like mine, when I attended all those years ago, you’ll change their life! Armed with an accessible climbing centre, volunteers who know their stuff and enough support to shake a stick at, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to come along.


BICfest is a FREE festival, last run in 2019 (due to Covid). It is a collaboration between The Climbing Academy, Redpoint and Bristol Inclusive Thrill Seekers. It is open to all adults, children, families and those within care and their carers. All taster sessions are free of charge but bookable.

WRITER: Tom Stabbins is a climber, accessibility advocate and a new TCA Black Diamond Local Hero.