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An Interview with Keith Lynch - Team GB Paraclimber

by Mollie Hughes

Mollie Hughes is a Mountaineer, Adventurer and Motivational Speaker based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with GB paraclimber & Tiso Supported Athlete Keith Lynch at the International climbing arena in Edinburgh. Keith oozes passion for paraclimbing and shared his vision for the progression of the sport within the UK and worldwide.

Keith’s rise to success within the sport has been rapid, he began climbing in 2014, won the British climbing series in 2016, and was chosen for the GB paraclimbing squad soon after.

During the 2017 season he ranked 3rd in the UK and 11th worldwide. Keith has a busy calendar for the upcoming 2018 season with the paraclimbing masters in August, the world cup in September as well as the British series.

But Keith’s ambitions within paraclimbing are not solely focused on his own ranking, Keith has a vision to promote his sport and get it to the Olympics.

Why Climbing?

Sport has always been Keith’s passion, as a young man he played professional ice hockey and later pursued skydiving to a high level.

However, a skydiving accident in 2010 put Keith’s ambitions on hold, the accident subsequently lead to Keith losing his leg in 2013. A devastating blow to someone so passionate about sport. But Keith didn’t want to let this hold him back, he wanted to work out a way to get back into sport. Climb Scotland were holding a ‘come and try’ paraclimbing session at the Edinburgh International Climbing arena and Keith’s decision to go and have a go may well of changed his life.

''It started off as a challenge to basically climb the routes. When I first started, like any sport, you are basically just finding your feet. But I enjoyed it and I was fairly decent at it, I found it almost quite relaxing as well. As I got to know more and more people, I realised that they are like-minded, people who were doing it because they loved it, and they weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone.''

‘’Climbing is one of these sports, just like skydiving, it draws you in…''

‘’Climbing is all about technique and concentration, but in a chilled and relaxed environment. You have nothing to prove, nothing to show. I really enjoy it, and I want to make it more accessible for people with disabilities.’'

The Scottish Paraclimbing Club

Keith’s passion about paraclimbing and the advancement of the sport was clear within the first few minutes of our meeting, he strongly believes it can become an Olympic sport and is already taking huge steps to turn this into a reality.

It is all about raising awareness and participation in paraclimbing. Keith has recently set up UK’s first paraclimbing club at the Edinburgh International Climbing arena, to do just this.

''Climbing is not just for able-bodied people, it’s for anybody, just like football is, just like tennis is, you can play tennis in a wheelchair, you can play football with one leg, it is a sport that is avaliable for everybody to take part in. Just because you have lost a leg, or you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean to say you can’t come and climb. The reason I have set up the club is to create a way to get into the sport that is inexpensive.’’

''In the club we have two girls, Rebecca and Hope. Hope is an above knee amputee, she is in the Scottish swimming team and has been asked to train with the GB canoeing team! She is full of psych, nothing is too much for her. Rebecca is very likeminded, she is a below knee amputee, she used to play para football for Scotland and now is in the wheelchair tennis team.’’

''We have another couple of guys who have just started coming, Russell, he was an active hill walker, but lost his leg in a bike accident, he came along just to try climbing, but he is really enjoying it! It’s tough and it’s challenging for him but he is doing great.’’

‘’These people have really just found us through word of mouth. There definitely is a demand for the club, but the problem is getting the word out there in the right circles. Once we get the club up and running at Ratho, we will look to replicate it with others in Scotland.’’

When, where and who is it for?

The Scottish paraclimbing club meet every Thursday evening between 7-9 pm at Ratho, Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

''Anyone with any disability can come along and try paraclimbing, any disability at all! If we don’t have the capabilities to, or the means to cater for a certain disability, then we would sign post them to Ratho and they would put on a specialist 1 to 1 session.''

''To get the club moving forward, we need two things; people to come and enjoy climbing but also we need volunteers. Volunteers that have the psych and the patience. They don’t need to be climbers, just have the passion to help. They also don’t need experience with people with disabilities, just the passion to help. We can teach them how to belay, we can put them on a disability awareness course, we can give them all the tools they need to succeed!’’

It was an absolute pleasure to meet with Keith and hear all about his own climbing and his passion for the Scottish Paraclimbing Club. If you are interested or know anyone that is interested in trying paraclimbing or volunteering for the club, many more details can be found on the Scottish Paraclimbing Facebook page

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