Just over 12 months on from having her leg amputated, Whanganui's Rachel Māia is beginning the slow, steady ascent toward next year's Paraclimbing World Championships.
Māia had her leg amputated last February after shattering her ankle in a climbing accident as a teenager. A year on from the operation, she remains optimistic despite it being a more difficult process than she envisioned.
Māia said the journey has been difficult, but signals her ability to do more with her kids and connect with others as well as the dissipating pain as a "huge win" for her overall wellbeing.
"If you don't feel connected to the people around you or you feel like you are in a constant haze of pain and can't really engage properly, that's tough."
A big moral boost for Māia has been a prosthetic leg she has had for the past few months, which has "made my world a little bit bigger".
"It's always about the little wins for me. To be up and about with the kids more and having pain starting to settle makes it easier."
• Big Read: Whanganui's Rachel Māia on resilience, grace and climbing with attitude
• Whanganui paraclimber Rachel Māia aims to scale new heights after partial amputation of leg
• Premium - Whanganui paraclimber Rachel Māia heads for world championships
• Whanganui paraclimber Rachel Māia wins emerging athlete prize at Attitude Awards
Maia is travelling to the United States next week to compete in her first major competition of the year, the USA Paraclimbing Nationals in San Diego. She flies over on March 21 to acclimatise and prepare. The competition takes place on March 28-29.
After struggling to fund her own trip, Māia will travel solo, which presents its own set of challenges.
"The little things that people don't think about are the hardest. Getting through airports carrying all your gear, mobility and transport on the ground once you get there is incredibly fatiguing."
Māia will look to build on her 2018 US Nationals appearance, where she finished fourth.
With a podium finish eluding her so far, Māia is determined to secure a medal. She admits she has struggled with balancing her expectations for the US, as the ultimate goal is to succeed and peak at the world championships next year.
"The level of competition there and the amount of athletes will be similar to the world championships I have been to.
"It will be a good confidence booster to see where I sit on the world stage."
Māia said growth, training experience, getting used to performing in a tense environment as well as dealing with the travel demands were the keys for her in the US.
Local businesses have teamed up to fund and supply Māia with equipment for a climbing wall at her home, which has significantly eased the heavy travelling and training workload she was previously on.
"One of the biggest challenges for my training has been being able to access a facility nearby."
Facilities in New Plymouth, Ohakune and Wellington were becoming increasingly difficult to get to, with all that Māia was juggling outside of climbing.
"I haven't been able to fit that in around raising three kids very easily."
Māia said having access to a wall at her house has been revolutionary and she was thankful to the businesses that helped.
"No way I would be at an elite training level going into this competition if I didn't have that facility to train on at home. Because my body hasn't been able to keep up with the driving that I was doing and the hours I was putting into being out of town, I haven't been able to make that work whilst juggling recovery, healing and solo parent life."
With a podium finish at next year's IFSC World Championships the ultimate goal, Māia is ready to give it her all.
"I can't really see beyond that, and I don't know what I'd do if I don't get the results that I want, because I can't see myself quitting until I have the result."