Walls are made for climbing

22.08.22 04:41 PM By Dan
The sport of adaptive climbing is quickly building momentum worldwide. Michael Tarulli, a member of Adaptive Climbing Victoria, shares his journey into the sport, why he loves it, and how we can get involved.
Since restrictions have eased, Adaptive Climbing Victoria have run six come and try days at the climbing gym in Brunswick.
By Dan Nathan

Michael lived with his low-lumber injury for 26 years before he found his sport. 

For a while, he thought it was wheelchair basketball. Eventually playing at a national level, he ended up leaving the sport to focus on his rehab, which got him walking again. But, he’d also realised he just wasn’t a team sports guy. Which is why his ears pricked up when his physio suggested adaptive climbing in 2019.

‘It was scary and challenging, yet I fell in love with it,’ says Michael of his first session.

‘My physio and a group of volunteers were there to help me, and I just kept going back.’

The kind of climbing Michael does is called top rope climbing. You’re in a harness connected to a winch at the top of the wall, with someone holding the other end of the rope on the ground, supporting you as you scale the wall - a process known as belaying. 

‘As you go further up the wall, you’re challenging yourself, not anyone else,’ says Michael. 

‘It’s a special feeling - and being up so high is exhilarating.’ 

When covid hit, and the gym closed, he felt like he’d been cut off from his lifeblood. 

Luckily, Michael had already established himself in a small but growing community of adaptive climbers. During the pandemic, this group got organised. They called themselves Adaptive Climbing Victoria (ACV), and set about strategizing how they could share the sport they loved with more people. 
Michael finds the process of challenging himself to further and further heights exhilarating.
As soon as restrictions allowed, they started hosting come and try days - with six held so far. 

‘We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the people that have come along - they usually want to go again.’

Physiotherapists assess participant’s physical capacity, and decide on the kind of equipment they’ll need.

‘If someone has a higher-level SCI, they’ll need a full vest to keep them from leaning too far back, and to give them more control. For people with lower injuries, they just need a belt around their waist, with a harness to the rope.’

Michael can’t emphasise enough that limited upper body function is not a barrier to climbing. The belayer can augment the climber’s function by supporting and lifting them with the rope. 

‘We have the equipment and the experience to support people with a wide range of disabilities, including quadriplegia, and there’s no issues with weight.’ 

Along with the belayers, ACV have recruited volunteers who are professional climbers, and they side climb next to the participants, supporting them physically and morally. 

The climbing gym ACV have been using is in Brunswick, but they’re hoping to expand to other suburbs in the future. According to Michael, the accessibility of the Brunswick gym is excellent, with parking spots reserved for participants, and accessible change rooms and toilets. 

As well as the come and try days, the group is planning to introduce casual Monday climbs, where volunteers will be around to help people climb for a couple of hours. 

‘And if not for the sport itself, we’re a great community - you’d love the people involved.’ 

The come and try sessions are $10, with the next one on the first weekend of October. Contact Michael (below) at or follow ACV on Facebook to hear when details are locked in, or about other climbing events.
As seen in the August issue of NewsLink - get your copy here

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