Busy days!

It’s been a while since I blogged here, mostly due to university being full on and that combined with training means I’ve not had much free time.

Back In February I flew out to Colorado Springs for the 2014 Abs Para Climbing Nationals.  It was a good comp although the setting didn’t really suit me as it was quite jumpy in style, not my forte! I was happy to come second though in what was a mixed class so I was climbing against much more physically able individuals.

Since then it’s been back to training for the world cups which start in 12 weeks. I won the first round of the British Para Climbing Series in March, which was a nice measure of where I’m at with my training.  The second round is in a week so I’m training full time now. It’s nice that it’s the uni holidays finally so I can juggle fewer commitments for a couple of weeks.

I’m close to getting back into skydiving and have been working on my body flight at Airkix so I can be 100% sure that I am comfortable in the air before I go jump  out of the sky!

I’ve also recently been filming with Transworld Sport so I’ll blog again when that is going to be shown on tv and I’m also in the process of filming a new video of a return to my climbing roots on Dartmoor.

I was disappointed to be dropped by my shoe sponsor Five Ten in January, I had assumed that as it’s a world championship year I would never be dropped but hey ho, you live and learn, it was just a bit of a blow at the time. As it turns out though it wasn’t all bad as it was a catalyst to try and find a new sponsor and I have a new amazing deal lined up so all is well (look out for the announcement soon!).

I’m also really pleased to say that I am now sponsored by Blurr Clothing who have even managed to convert me to wearing women’s climbing trousers not guys ones! Their kit is comfy and functional as well as looking pretty damn cool.

The end of 2013!

Well its been a busy few months with university, exams and training. I haven’t managed any climbing trips outside as the Font trip I was planning got a bit derailed by transport issues.

In early November I spoke at the Women’s Climbing Symposium at the Arch and hope my tips on dealing with pressure and expectations were useful to those who attended my talk. A couple of weeks later I presented a workshop about performance coaching for athletes with disabilities at the first disability climbing symposium at the Calvert Trust in the lake district. This was a really successful event run by the BMC. I have also recently been selected as a BMC ambassador, a post I am honoured to accept and I am looking forward to acting as a role model for those new to climbing.

I have a number of outdoor trips, filming projects and training ideas for 2014 and being a world championship year it looks like it’s going to be busy!

I did an interview with London athletic yesterday at the Arch. The video is below and you can read the full interview here: http://www.london-athletic.com/2013/12/fran.html

I hope everyone has a great new year and 2014 starts well. As it’s the end of the year I’d like to thank my sponsors The arch climbing wall and Five Ten for their ongoing support in 2013 and my coach Jimmie Gustin for being amazing this year as always.

Happy New Year! Fran

Fran Brown at the Arch Climbing Wall, Bermondsey from Andy Waterman on Vimeo.

Competition Season Review

So it is the end of the comp season and a good time to reflect on the year. Full reports from each of the last three comps can be found at www.archclimbingwall.com so I won’t repeat them here.

The first half of the year was taken up with surgery and rehab on my hand and wrist something that is on going but there has been a lot of improvement. The Europeans in Chamonix were my first comp, and with only three weeks back climbing after my surgery and no training, I was happy with second place. This was a great comp, completely integrated with the able bodied competition and with the exception of some routesetting issues was an enjoyable event. Rockmasters in Arco followed, a trip I really enjoyed, the outdoor climbing was amazing, but a comp that was ruined by poor routesetting decisions. Joint first is always a rubbish way to win. The London comp came next, a small scale comp, limited by the lack of attendees and being ill the whole weekend made it the least enjoyable one of the season for me, although I was still pleased to win in front of a home crowd.

(photo by Nick Pope)

The final international of this season, was 10 days ago in Laval France. This was the first ifsc paraclimbing bouldering comp and was a really well run competition. The finals routesetting was a little disappointing and there were a couple of accessibility issues but on the whole this was a great comp and a good example of how the ifsc and particularly a national federation (in this case the FFME) have learnt from previous comps and proactively improved paraclimbing competitions this year. I was especially pleased to win in Laval with it being a bouldering comp. Going last in finals put me under a lot of pressure, particularly knowing I needed to flash the last boulder and I dealt with this well. This has been one of the great learning points of the year, and clearly working with my coach on how to approach comps and deal with pressure has helped. Thinking back to how stressed and nervous I was in Chamonix compared to Laval just shows how much better I’ve got at coping with competitions.

The year has overall been great, 3 gold medals and a silver is a good outcome particularly considering that as an NPD B athlete I have competed in a combined class all year with athletes in the NPD A class who have less severe impairments. I think international routesetters need to think a little more about the limitations and abilities of each category of paraclimbers and some obvious access problems that often get overlooked, such as stairs and toilets, need to be thought about when federations plan future competitions. 2014 is a world championship year and there are plans for a series of several international competitions in the run up to the worlds. With any luck this will bring an increase in the number of competitors providing a better spread across the classes.

In the meantime it’s back to winter maintenance training and some outdoor trips before a new training block starts after christmas. The draft calender for next years internationals isn’t out yet so it’s a bit difficult to plan training at the moment. I’m speaking at the women’s climbing symposium in a couple of weeks and the bmc disability symposium two weeks later. With a trip to font in between, it’s going to be a busy November. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my coach Jimmie Gustin for his support during this competition season and my sponsors the Arch Climbing Wall and Five Ten for making it possible for me to attend all the competitions this year.

More updates soon!


A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Chamonix for the european championships.

The paraclimbing side of this event was in the usual format of two qualifiers and a final with the exception of a move away from factors, with climbers being classified and the grouped into competition categories. Less maths then for the results! This worked well for the physical disability guys who were split into npd 1 and 2 but due to to the small number of female competitors this system meant some athletes had to compete against athletes with less disability with no factoring to make things more even. As the results turned out this still lead to a good competition, (although the route-setting didn’t really split the athletes), however it is something that might be an issue in future competitions particularly for me considering there are a much greater number of moves that are hard or impossible for me to make with my disability.

I topped both qualifiers which meant I qualified for finals. This was my aim for the competition after only three weeks back climbing and 8 weeks post op so I was chuffed to have achieved that. Finals went well although the route included a tonne of side pulls and undercuts which are super hard when you cant push up with your legs. I got to the same point on the wall as the winner, slipping as I made the move off the hold (and thus not getting the crucial plus). My inability to stand up off an undercut to bump to the next hold and reduced left hand strength due to the op meant I had to pull on a tiny thin crimp that wasn’t designed for that. Oh well. I was super happy with second and the fact that I basically equalled the performance of the less disabled winner with so little training time. I also made no mistakes during the three routes in the competition which was a good plus and shows my onsight training has helped, as did being allowed a guide for inspection of the final route. Due to my visual impairment inspection has previously been 6 mins of looking at the first ten holds and then a load of guessing! I learn’t a lot about the need to stay in my own zone when competing which is useful. Considering this was only my second international competition it was definitely a helpful learning experience.

Photo by Tom Humpage.

I’m back to full time training now, working on getting used to the hand without the finger and working on the balance of muscles in my arm to stop elbow and shoulder issues from developing. Strength training has been tough in the recent heat but I can see improvements happening slowly. The paraclimbing cup in Arco is the next aim which gives me six more weeks of cranking so I’m looking forward to that. It was good to see such a large GB paraclimbing team represented in Chamonix with some excellent performances! A definite step up from last year.

I managed a day of outdoor climbing in Chamonix after the finals with my coach which was great although baking hot granite mean’t we only climbed for a long morning. Still it was great to get out on some actual rock with such an amazing backdrop. We also managed a trip up the Aiguille du Midi which was awesome and totally accessible. The view from the top was amazing. I’m hoping to fit in a couple more outdoor trips before Arco which will be great. I much prefer climbing on actual rock even if pulling plastic is the way to get strong! More updates on training to follow soon!

I’m also happy to announce I’ll be speaking at the 2013 Women’s Climbing Symposium which is being held at The Arch Climbing wall, Bermondsey on the 2nd of November.


So as many of you may know I’ve been waiting to have surgery on my wrist for a while now. Well it finally happened on the 9th after being cancelled the week before (see the post below about my unexpected trip to Font). I was pretty nervous and going into hospital the night before didn’t help. I was in hospital a little longer than expected until the 16th due to pain control issues my mobility difficulties such as transferring now I temporarily only have one hand to use. The surgery addressed a long standing problem but as a result I lost my little finger and most of the hand bone (metacarpal) associated with it.

The surgery went well and I coped with the anaesthetic as well as expected. I won’t know for a few weeks how much function I now have in my wrist and obviously I have one less finger to climb with, although that’s no great loss, It didn’t really work very well after my spinal cord injury. All my other three fingers on that hand are now moving although the ring finger is super weak and won’t extend fully. I now have to wait for my stitches to be removed this coming friday, (not looking forward to that, there are a lot!!) before I can progress to rehab.

fran hand post op

I’m hoping it won’t mean I miss too many competitions but i’ll hopefully have a better idea of the timescale on friday. The splint I have to wear at the moment is quite restrictive but is designed to prevent contraction of the scar tissue. Annoyingly this means I can’t really wheel my chair so am pretty much stuck in the house. No bad thing as I have to revise for my human biology exam however it’s still boring. I’m already missing training and have started some light one arm work on my fingerboard and some core stability training, although I’m taking care not to overdo it. I’ve been having quite a lot of phantom pain and neuro pain from where the finger was removed. This still isn’t under control so hopefully the docs will have some ideas on friday. The phantom sensations are odd, I can still feel my finger touching the ring finger or curling up at times and as the skin that was between my fingers is now on the outside it feels really strange. I’m sure it’ll all settle down with time.

hand splint fran

So for now there isn’t a great deal else to report. I’m trying not to get too bored, or depressed by the time out from climbing and am taking it easy so things can heal well. I’ll post some updates of my rehab as time progresses!

I’m off to the BBC tomorrow to be interviewed for Radio 4’s women’s hour so I’ll post when that will be broadcast as it’s not live. I’d also like to thank Climb magazine for including me in the one’s to watch list in their 100th edition.

Take care.

Fontainebleu in a wheelchair.

So I recently managed a weekend in Font. It was a little last minute as my upcoming surgery was cancelled thus enabling me to join the trip. It was a great trip. We visited a few areas I hadn’t been to before including 95.2 and Petit Bois. 95.2 didn’t really work with the wheelchair but Petit Bois was awesome with some really nice red and blue circuit problems. We also spent most of a day at Gorge Aux Chats which I really enjoyed, there are some lovely red circuit problems there and it helped that the weather was brilliant. Big thanks go to Fred, Josh and Jo for the excellent spotting!

photo of Fran in Font

We spent the final day at Cuvier which was extremely wheelchair accessible and, although busier than the other areas we visited, was still fun. For me it was a great trip that proved that Font can be done in a wheelchair even without much planing and it was good to get back out onto rock. I’m now planning a couple of return trips this time with a tick-list in mind!

Other News

In other news:

I was recently featured in the telegraph, see the online article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/9949854/Meet-Fran-Brown-the-real-spider-woman.html

I’m also super psyched to announce that I am now part of the Five Ten Uk team for 2013, you can check out my page on the Big Stone site here: http://www.bigstone.co.uk/climbing-team/fran-brown/

I’m also proud to be part of the climb blox team. Their clothing is ace and they are super supportive. Check out my page on their website here: http://www.climblox.com/fran-brown/

I’d also like to thank The Arch Climbing Wall who have agreed to support me again this year. Without their support I couldn’t train full time or attend the comps.  Thanks guys! www.archclimbingwall.com

I would additionally like to mention Climbers Against Cancer, set up by the amazing and inspiring John Ellison. Check out Johns Story on their website and buy one of the colourful T-shirts to show your support here: http://www.climbersagainstcancer.org





Well It’s been an interesting couple of months.

Back at the end of February, just as training was going great, I took a fall off the circuit board leading to some broken ribs and a two week stay in hospital. Not quite how I’d planned my training!

Those two weeks pretty much on bed rest meant I was really out of shape!

The ribs have healed and I’ve been back climbing for a few weeks now and am back to full time training. I’ve been working hard on my cardio fitness as well, getting back what I lost when I was in the hospital. I have a few comps coming up the first of which being a para boulder comp in Vail Colorado which I’m super excited about. Then there are a couple of possible lead comps in June and July and rockmasters in Arco in late summer. I’m planning some outdoor trips too although logistically these are quite hard due to my disability. I plan on filming some video blogs for this site soon, mostly they will just be updates but I hope to make one on my training at the Arch so people have some idea what I’m up to day to day.

More updates soon.

Take care!



Finger Strength Training Workshop.

I’m running a finger strength training workshop as part of the Arch Climbing Walls Women’s Workshop this coming Saturday, the 19th. The full program for the day is as follows:

Women’s Workshop – Saturday 19th January

Alex Puccio Masterclass
12:00 – Intermediate V2–V4/V5
15:00 – Advanced V4/V5

Fran Brown Strength Training
16:30 – Fingerboard Strength Training for Intermediate climbers

Introduction to climbing with Emilia
14:30 – Unregistered new climbers
15:30 – Novice climbers technique

£5 Admission for all women climbers all day.
All bookings made via email at thebiscuit@archclimbingwall.com

I am currently in Austria skiing although I’m flying back for the workshop on Saturday morning. It sounds like it will be a great event and I hope to see some of my readers there!