Title: Meet Para climber James Rudge

SEO title: AU2 British Para Climber James Rudge shares his secrets on how to keep positive, motivated and be inspired.

Author: Abi Purvis

Date: 06/04/2020

Publication type: Climbing, Outdoors, and Lifestyle

//Strapline// “I was born like this, I know my body as well as someone with two hands knows theirs, so I never class it myself as a personal disability”

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If you, like me, don’t have the funds to create your own at home climbing wall, or the nerve to break lockdown rules to sneak into a bouldering wall,  you’ve probably been keeping your climbing addiction fuelled by watching Dawn Wall for the tenth time and following all things ‘#climbing’ on social media. Forearm amputee (AU2) para climber James Rudge, 27, is the missing piece in your ‘climber stuck in lockdown’ problem .

After conducting a phone interview with James, as we are in the midst of the UK coronavirus lockdown (how could we forget?), I found James is the most inspirational climber. As a competitive top rope climber for the GB Para Climbing team, sponsored by both Trika Yoga and Ellis Brigham, James is not only incredibly chilled and charitable, but he also has the biggest surge of positive energy, even in these difficult times. His approach to climbing and life is certainly one you’ll want to adopt for yourself.

James even uses his love for climbing to run a charity called  Bristol Inclusive Thrill seekers (BITs) on top of his 9-5 job in the financial servicing sector.

BITs gives children, from various backgrounds and abilities like those with learning difficulties or impairments like James’, the chance to do adventure sports. They run volunteer-based rope climbing sessions at Redpoint on Wednesdays. They are always looking for volunteers: anyone fancy volunteering with me when this charming virus has cleared up?

Despite his incredible successes, James explained how climbing was something he fell into: “I’ve always done Parkour, but I lost interest and found climbing. I started climbing about four years ago, someone said come along and give it a go and I just really enjoyed it”

James was (and is) determined that his disability will not restrict his climbing — In fact it doesn’t really even cross his mind: “I know my body just as well as anyone else would. At the climbing centre you always get a really supportive crowd. People do a problem or a route and they’ll maybe struggle with it and I look at it and think Ooo I think I quite fancy that and have a go at it, and that encourages them to have another look at it. They probably think if he can do it then I can too.”

With ‘Mr COVID-19’ cancelling not only UK climbing competitions but the Olympics too (of which climbing was appearing for the first time), it has meant that climbing for James (and the rest of us) has been a little tricky.

“It has been a crazy time,” James said.

But James has been making good use of his coach, who has given him training plans. Although the Olympics isn’t on the cards yet for James, as climbing has not been introduced to the Paralympics, he knows his goals and is working hard to get there.

            He is trying to change how static he is on the wall, and he is bulking up and strength training so that he can put more dependency on his short arm as well as his strong arm. On top of that, he had also been doing circuit training, route reading at climbing centres and working on different types of holds like pockets and crimps… but slopers remain his absolute nemesis.

Hopefully I didn’t jinx him when I asked if he had any climbing injuries as a result of his training. He revealed that he only gets tennis elbow from overworking his joints but never a proper injury: “Most of my injuries and calamities come from the world’s most simple things like crossing the road or tripping over my feet.”

But it’s not just training physically, James is also training his mind.

“I made a decision recently to stop being so driven by grades. Obviously, the route setters don’t set routes for people with one hand and it’s still good to get your first 6C or 7A or whatever, but I can get loads of satisfaction from doing one of the lowest grades just as much as some of the harder ones.”

      I asked James if he had any tips for those with a fear of heights, and he gave some pretty sound recommendations: “Remember you can always climb back down but you know if you can make that move, so don’t think about the height just think about the move”. I can’t wait to put it into practice on the wall when Boris gives us the all clear. 

James also thinks that climbing is great for mental health: “That’s one of the reasons we do the charity, climbing gives the kids a platform to compete with themselves and just have a bit of fun.”

In an interview for Forbes, trad climber Hazel Findley said that climbing can be great for mental health too because of its flow sate experiences. “Flow state is the state you’re in when you’re completely present in the moment […]. Everything falls away and you’re just there with the rock. These experiences leave you feeling exhilarated.”

Hazel’s advice resonates with James’ advice about focusing on you. He said, “Focus on having your own fun. I could easily go to compare the amount I train (obviously I have an impairment) but I can be taken back by the others who are training the same as me but are doing V10s. But I’m quite content on working on my own challenges. Work on your weaknesses but make sure you’re enjoying it.”

        If a climber’s first-hand experience isn’t enough for you, a study in ‘Psychology Research and Behaviour Management’ looked into the positive relationship between climbing and our emotion: “Coping emotions significantly increased and negative affect and depressiveness significantly decreased after the climbing session”

       So, as James says: “If you’re feeling a bit stressed, get out and go climbing, you’ll feel a lot better for sure – it keeps you motivated.”

Throughout the duration of our call, I was blown away by James’ positive attitude. Before it was over, I had to know what his inspiration was — even that was very humbling.

            “The other guy in my category Matthew Phillips is my biggest motivation. He’s pretty monstrous and powerful and dynamic” – sounds like a tricky guy to beat.

“I’m most inspired by the guys on the Para climbing team. Jesse Dufton lead a climb up the sea stack in Scotland the Old Man of Hoy completely blind, which is absolutely bonkers. Also Tommy Caldwell because his attitude is pretty next level. He lost a finger and he smashed on through.”


Maybe we should all take a leaf out of James’ book.

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Hi all, thanks for reading.

I’m super excited to be able to finally share this with you and to have had the opportunity to conduct this interview.

I got to use this feature for one of my final university assignments (which I got a first in!)

Finally, Thanks to James for letting me interview you back in March

If you want to follow James’ climbing journey, you can find him here