Whanganui's Rachel Carter, quite literally, can climb over all of life's obstacles.

The 35-year-old Springvale mother of three has just been invited to wear the New Zealand colours in Ohio as she will compete as a paraclimber at the USA Adaptive Climbing Championships next month.

Carter, who today uses one crutch, has shown remarkable progress from five years ago when she could not walk at all, following severve progressive damage caused by a climbing accident when she was 16.

Having undergone an experimental surgery on her left leg, only the fifth time it had been done in New Zealand, Carter made the courageous decision that her rehabilitation would include learning to climb competitively again.


After eight weeks training, she won paraclimbing bronze at the 2017 indoor rock climbing nationals in Auckland, and returned this year at Rotorua where she claimed the gold.

"I climb better with one and a half legs than I ever did with two," Carter said.

Although she was the only paraclimber at this year's nationals, the gold medal was justified as her performance was up to the able-bodied standard, where despite being unable to use her lower left leg on the wall she still "topped the climb".

This led to the national body to help arrange for her to compete in Ohio.

"It's strategicly motivating our competitiors, to keep training," she said.

"We've never had, in our history, a paraclimber compete outside of New Zealand."

Carter said her national results are "at the higher end" of what paraclimbers are achieving in other countries, so she is not going to America just for the privilege of competing, but with a chance of making the podium.

Last year's USA championships had 100 paraclimbers, with more expected this year.


It's more than Carter could ever have dreamed nearly 20 years ago when a fall at a faulty competition facility saw her left ankle shattered and her right ankle broken.

The 16-year-old was wheelchair-bound while she recovered from major joint reconstruction.

Part of her hip was used as a graft to shape her left ankle, held in place by large metal screws, and she then had to completely re-learn how to walk.

With that came the unfortunate barbs and bullying comments one would find at high school, labelling her "a cripple".

"You wear it a little bit, like your favourite clothing," she said.

Over time the progressive damage got worse, leaving Carter unable to walk again, so she took a chance on the experimental surgery.

Part of it involved having a metal frame attached to her lower left leg, connected on the outside and the inside.

Like a mechanic, every day she had to use spanners to unscrew the frame slightly, so slowly expand the joint.

"You'd go down to football and see little kids tugging on their mum's arms, saying 'mummy, mummy, that lady's a Transformer'."

Joining the New Plymouth club to get a domestic licence and access their YMCA Climbing Wall, as well as training at the Vertigo Climbing Centre in Ohakune, Carter taught herself how to climb with two arms and one leg.

She uses her left leg either as balance weight or just carries it up along behind her.

Carter said she has never stopped being afraid of another fall, but when she is harnassed up and challenging the wall she does not feel disabled, because she is free of her crutch and her I-walk – a strapped-on artifiscal left leg where that sits her actual leg on a shin pad for the times of day when the pain or joint stiffness is severve.

While her flights are fully sponsored, Carter is now out fundraising for the other expenses to make her trip to the United States.

The former teenager who lost all confidence in herself is now sharing her experiances with others, as this weekend she will be speaking at a Parafed New Zealand event in Wellington, aimed at encouraging other disabled people to take up sports.

She also has an upcoming appearence at Whanganui High School to talk about her experiances with school bullying and how climbing helped her overcome self doubt – timed to coincide with the Bullying-Free NZ week which concludes with the Pink Shirt Day on Friday.

Carter will leave New Zealand on June 19 to enter the competition on June 23.