Keith Lynch GB Paraclimber
Climbing is a challenging sport that makes you push the boundaries of physical and mental limits, not only this, it encourages and drives you to become stronger and more creative as the grades are pushed. Keith Lynch is a perfect example of the drive and passion that is synonymous with rock climbers and their craft. Keith has been climbing just three years and has crushed his way to the forefront of the climbing scene in Scotland and Great Britain. With the para climbing nationals well under way, there is a lot to do for the athletes vying for British championship and a chance to take on the international circuits. Teaming up with sponsor, Psychi, Keith talks about his start in climbing, training and where he wants to take the adventure next.
So, Keith, tell us about yourself?
Well, I’m born and bred in Edinburgh. As a child, I enjoyed many years playing Ice Hockey at Murrayfield ice rink in Edinburgh where I played from youth to professional with the Racers. I’m a real adrenaline junkie and love challenging myself. After a skydiving accident in 2010 and subsequently losing my leg in 2013 I wanted to get back into sport, so, I attended a ‘come and try event’ at EICA Ratho in 2014 and that was me hooked! I only started to climb seriously in 2016 and I’m the current Scottish Champion. I also climb with the GB Para Climbing team. I mainly climb at EICA Ratho and Alien Block.
Did you do any climbing before you lost your leg?
I had climbed before the accident but to no great level, mainly as a family activity with my two girls.
There are a lot of challenges in climbing. What would you say have been big challenges in your experience?
I’d say reading and working routes in a way that suits my disability and climbing style, learning more about my abilities and adapting to different situations and trusting my Prosthesis.
When you’re both preparing for competitions, do you work to a training plan?
Since being on the GB Team, our coach, Robin has identified specific things for me to be training so I have adjusted my routine to incorporate these while working hard on the finger boards. Also, focussing on route reading and specific routes up to 7b.
What type of workout/training do you Enjoy and Dislike the most?
I enjoy working on my technique and making up boulder problems, working on finger strength at the moment which is a bit of a weakness so I’ve just purchased a new fingerboard to work out in the house too.
What things do you find most effective when training to help your progression?
Having a clear focus and being able to avoid distraction, like when I turn up for a training session I try to stick to the plan in hand to get the best results. Setting goals helps a lot as well as being around positive people.
How about when it comes to competitions? What do you find helps you get psyched up?
I like to listen to Pink Floyd before I climb, the music helps me to relax and focus.
I’ve got a hell of a lot of hard work ahead of myself.
Some people have a mantra or motto, something to tell themselves to keep going forward. Do you have a motto or phrase you like to use?
I’ve adopted “Reach your potential” from Psychi, I hope you guys don’t mind. It sums it up for me quite well.
Planning for the future is important to any athlete. What goals do you have for the next couple of years? Any specific routes or crags you want to climb?
I'm currently working on two routes in particular, one 7a and the other 7a+, I just need to work a little more on my recovery and efficiency. My aim for the next twelve months is to onsite 7b and rank in the top 10 in the world, I’ve got a hell of a lot of hard work ahead of myself, I know, I need a full time paid sponsor so I can quit my job and climb full time.
I'd really like to find the time to get outside a lot more, places like Elephant and Malham; Rocklands would be a dream too.
That’s a lot of work and it would be awesome to see where it goes. What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
Being asked to represent my country on the International stage is definitely at the top.
Climbing gives you the opportunity to travel all over the world. What is the most unusual situation you have found yourself in? My first international competition was in Imst in July this year. I flew into Munich where I hired a car to drive to Imst. When I put the address for where I was staying into the sat-nav, I didn’t notice it only took the hotel name which happened to be a small town outside Salzburg, So I had driven an extra 368 miles in the opposite direction of Imst! I didn’t mind so much as the scenery was amazing, I did feel a bit of a fool though when I walked into the team hotel where I got greeted with a round of applause and a steak dinner.
Do you have any support from sponsors in climbing?
I am really lucky to have the backing of Psychi, Tiso, EICA Ratho and a shoe sponsorship from Tenaya.
I think everybody looks up to other people who inspire and motivate us. Who would you say is a major influence in your life when it comes to climbing?
I took real inspiration from the Scottish Mountaineer and Climber Jamie Andrew. If you haven’t already you really should read his book, Life and Limb, then you will realise why he is such an inspiration.
Do you think that there is enough awareness and support out there for people with disabilities to get involved in different sports? No, nowhere near enough. With the help of Climb Scotland and Scottish disability sports along with EICA Ratho, I'm in the middle of setting up a Para Climbing club with hope of introducing lots more disabled people into the sport and hopefully some future champions too.
When you’re not training or climbing, what do you like to do?
Spend time with my wife, Carol, and daughters; Katie and Charlotte.
If you could share a piece of advice given to you to others seeking motivation, what would you say? The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can’t.
Is there anything that you know now that you wished you knew when starting out with climbing? Just how addictive the sport is mostly.
Where are your favourite places to climb?
Ratho will always be my favourite, the Depot, Manchester is another. I’ve not done enough climbing outside yet to have a favourite though.
How do you find it being one of the most senior members of the team?
I know I’m an auld fart, Keeps me on my toes!
Time for a few speed questions. Bouldering or Route climbing?
Campus Board or Finger board?
Training or competing?
Reading or Netflix?
Perfect night out?
Whiskey and live music
The paraclimbing competition season is well and truly under way with the British national competitions and the IFSC paraclimbing Cup running alongside, it’s certainly going to be a busy few months for Team GB’s paraclimbers. Athletes like Keith, just by being there are giving inspiration to many who may think they are not capable, strong enough or brave enough. Team GB is filled with strong, capable and motivated people with a broad scope of different disabilities and each one exudes the determination to show that disabilities shouldn’t have to be disabling.
Written by Gerard West