The Summit is a climbing group run in Calderdale for people who use mental health services. The group, which has been running since March 2012, gives individuals the opportunity to learn to climb independently without supervision. Individuals in the group develop more confidence when climbing and taking on new challenges, and more competent climbers are able to offer support helping the less competent climbers.
Rock climbing has proved to be a fun way for the group to exercise, whilst being able to develop a skill which they can use outside Trust services. Individuals can either climb for fun or if they choose they can pursue climbing as a vocation through gaining a recognised climbing instruction qualification. It is hoped members will gain the knowledge and expertise to work towards gaining the recognised climbing qualification and be able to instruct the group independent of the instructors in the future making it a sustainable project.
Group members can climb individual routes of varying difficulties which has enhanced their problem-solving skills to be able to navigate their way up the walls. This offers a sense of accomplishment and enhances their self-esteem and confidence. The nature of climbing using ropes helps individuals to work within teams and the development of effective communication skills and ability to trust others. By using climbing as a therapeutic intervention individuals are engaged and focused on the activity rather than any personal challenges such as anxiety or psychosis.
One service user who took part said, “Climbing has helped me to develop as a person, enhanced social interaction and given me something to look forward to. It is rewarding achieving goals. I am gaining a qualification and now use my expertise to support novice climbers. It has a positive impact on all who participate.”
The group has now grown to such a level that they are now self-sufficient and have even begun to offer their expertise and instruction to train other service users at the Trust. Trainee instructors are now facilitating groups and have expanded The Summit to allow other groups to benefit from the hard work they have put in.
Climbing and abseiling in the Peak District
In June 2014 the group went on a group development trip to the Peak District where two members of the group would continue their training to become a climbing instructor. Throughout the day the team climbed up and abseiled down steep rock faces with a qualified instructor. Overcoming their natural fear of heights members of the group said they felt a real sense of accomplishment by completing the challenge and said it really helped improve their confidence.
By working together and supporting one another the group showed great co-operation and leadership skills, learning from each other, sharing knowledge and skills. The climbing routes were complex and required patience and planning to make the right decisions as to where to go as a team. The group successfully worked together and solved problems, looking for a solution before executing the climb.
One member of the group said: “The sense of achievement I gained by reaching the summit is second to none. It seemed impossible to do but I have realised my true ability and I can’t wait to climb outdoors again.”