Victorian Russell Harrison Heads to New Zealand

Paraclimbing has been seen at numerous state and national climbing competitions in Australia for a number of years now, but in 2019, Sport Climbing Australia selected a Paraclimbing team for international competition for the first time. Three athletes are heading to Briançon, France to represent Australia at the IFSC World Paraclimbing Championships in July: Eddie Sparks, Marc Altmann and myself.

On the 18-19 May, I competed at the Climbing New Zealand National Championships in Auckland. The format was two qualification rounds and an onsight final, all climbed on top rope. With only four paraclimbers competing, I was guaranteed to have three routes to climb. The other competitors in the category consisted of a marathon running ice climber, a Paralympian and a climber that finished one spot off the podium at last year’s Paraclimbing World Championships in Innsbruck.

After viewing the forerunning videos, I went through my warm up which seemed to add to my nervousness. I was climbing second on the first qualification route and watched the first climber top. As I tied in and pulled onto the wall, I began to feel a little more at ease with each move. I climbed the bottom section easily but fell off a small crimp a few holds from the top. Although a little disappointed, my climbing felt controlled and efficient.

Qualification 2 saw me climb last and I watched 2 of the 3 climbers before me top the route. This route consisted of a difficult traverse across a steep wall and then up into a hard sequence as the wall angle tapered off for the last few moves to the top. I again climbed reasonably well until I lost my feet as I tried to move into the final section. I fought hard to regain an effective position but was unable to recover and fell.

The final looked to be a few grades harder and finished on what seemed from the ground to be a very thin horizontal edge. It was going to be a very difficult finish for anyone who managed to get there. Second out, I fell a dozen moves in as I threw my left hand up trying to latch a small jug. I didn’t hit the hold cleanly and slipped off. My finish was a long way from the eventual high point and the final route remained un-topped. But, with two climbers getting within a couple of holds from the top, I think the setters got it right with the final they set.

Overall, I had a really great time and am looking forward to my next two competitions, the Imst (Austria) Paraclimbing Masters and the Paraclimbing World Championships in Briançon during July. I’d like to sincerely thank Sport Climbing Victoria, Sport Climbing Australia and Climbing New Zealand for their support of adaptive sports and paraclimbing.


– Russell Harrison, Australian Paraclimbing Team Member