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Climbing stories: Meet Jono

My name is John Gale, Aka Jono, Aka “it’s easy for you because you’re tall” – I’m 37 years old, have a plus four ape index, and have been climbing for 10 years now.

I first climbed at my local wall (RIP ROKT) and was surprised to find that I was quite good quite quickly. I spent my first 5 years of climbing focused on strength and progression, regularly placing top 5 in climbing competitions and leading trad routes up to E6…until an injured spine left me unable to walk properly and requiring major surgery to fix.

A degenerative condition, I had enough time to switch to competing in the BMC Paraclimbing series and despite the injury i went on to win 5 gold medals there, placing 1st in my category for two years running, before my back finally forced me to stop completely.

Fast forward a few years, and several surgeries later, and I’m back in a harness and slowly working my way back towards feeling fit and strong. During my time off I realised how important the outdoors is for mental health and wellbeing, and I co-founded Blackdog Outdoors as a result, a mental health charity dedicated to improving people’s wellbeing by providing free outdoor activities, including climbing, bouldering and abseiling.

We’ve since grown into a national charity winning multiple awards for our work and helping thousands of people to reconnect with the outdoors and nature.

The ups and downs of my own personal journey have allowed me to realise what is truly important about rock climbing and it’s not climbing hard or winning medals…it’s about having fun, making friends, and supporting one another in a healthy and enjoyable way. Something which SummitUp and the team there seemingly have in abundance!

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