An exciting new collaboration now exists that we are confident will positively contribute to adaptive and para climbing.
In particular, those climbers who are chair users will now be confident that while they climb, their legs will be protected.
So here’s a bit of the backstory. There are chair users who climb around the world, some more extreme than others. Some climb big long climbs in Yosemite, some lead climb, some compete in para-climbing competitions, and others join groups such as Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society, and others similar, whenever is convenient for them.
One key difference between the people who climb seriously to those who climb casually is indicative of how much care is taken with respect to protecting their lower limbs.
Our organization from the very beginning recognized the importance of this. We know that this fear of damaging skin or worse may likely prevent some people from even coming out to try climbing. We really wanted to assure people that we were making this a priority and that we would do all we could to protect them.
The hurdles in solving this problem are numerous, every body is different, knee pads don’t offer enough protection, even the full length ones that mountain bikers wear, wearing a harness causes pants to ride down under the hips and also up the ankles.
Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society have tried everything, and finally one day during the summer Brent made the decision to start bringing chainsaw chaps to the crag. They were ugly, orange and grease stained, but they offered full protection to the legs, they were easy for chair users to put on and take off, they could be shared easily between climbers, and you could still put knee pads on underneath.
They were a good start, but there were problems. The issues that were noted above still persisted; pants and chaps would ride up the ankles and down below the hips, knee pads still wouldn’t stay in position, and they were ugly. Climbers, such as Paulo Guerrero, who is younger, hipper, and fashion conscious, wanted nothing to do with the chaps. He did wear them reluctantly, but it was the first thing he removed when he got to the ground.
This is where Kevin Priebe steps in. Owner of Society Wheelchairs, his input was immediate for ways to improve the chaps. We changed the fasteners so that the chaps could tighten around the leg better, and around the hip, we added grab loops around the knee, and we added a stirrup around the ankle. Eventually we refined these design features on material that was even more durable than what is used on chainsaw chaps, and adding climbing rubber to the knee.
Could this be improved even more?
In August 2020, Hanae made contact with us. She was looking for a meaningful capstone project to help her graduate from KPU’s Wilson School of Design’s Technical Apparel Program. She actually proposed to design an adaptive climbing pant, even before Brent shared with her the story our journey in designing our chainsaw chaps, and how important this tool is for us.
Her capstone project was a perfect fit! We got an agreement prepared between the 4 parties involved (KPU Wilson School of Design, Hanae, Society Wheelchairs, and Canadian Adaptive).
Within a few weeks Hanae had visited Kevin to see our chaps, began doing research of the other climbers in the world and how they protect their legs, and starting sketching out her design.
The outcome of this project is now called ‘Resilience’. Hanae’s prototype is a game changer. It will allow us to provide each of our climbers with a tool that will protect them better from anything else on the market. They are likely going to be fantastic in both indoors and outdoors, and in hot and cold weather.
Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society couldn’t be more thrilled to have been part of this collaboration, and we are committed to continuing the relationship with Hanae and Resilience in order to get to the next steps. We are only at the prototype stage, but we are confident that by continuing to support Hanae however we can, that these pants will continue to improve in design and function, and that they will become an essential tool in our toolkit.
What is Next for ‘Resilience’?
Hanae says that she is hoping to continue living in Vancouver, and that she has plans to continue pursuing Resilience with not only the adaptive climbing pant prototype but to identify other needs in the para sport community. She has been in contact with athletes and para sport organizations, and she is confident that her skills and experience from this project has opened the door to identifying other opportunities within the adaptive and para community.
We at Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Hanae Yaskawa for reaching out to us, to the KPU School of Design, Kevin Priebe, Paulo Guerrero, Nic Vissers, the team at Arc’teryx who mentored and advised Hanae during the design phase, Arc’teryx Vancouver for funding support, and to all of our climbers who have put up with Brent’s constant need to experiment through trial and error in order to get to this important stage.
Keep an eye on our social media and website for updates about this project. Thanks for reading, and contact us if you have any questions about this. Brent