EIGHT years ago, he was told he would never walk again after multiple injuries suffered in a freak skydiving accident forced the amputation of his lower right leg.
But now, less than six months after defying doctors to become a double Scottish champion in paraclimbing, an Edinburgh athlete is hoping to inspire the next generation to scale new heights – by establishing the UK’s first club for disabled climbers.
Father-of-two Keith Lynch, from Penicuik, broke his back in three places and suffered further broken bones in his leg, requiring surgeons to remove around 80 per cent of the muscle from his calf and more than 60 per cent from his quadriceps after his parachute caught turbulence on a dive in Perthshire in May 2010.
However, desperate to try a new challenge after having his leg amputated in January 2013, Mr Lynch took up the sport a year later, receiving coaching from fellow climbers at Ratho.
He has since enjoyed a rapid ascent, winning back-to-back Scottish titles in 2016 and 2017 as well as rising to 11th in the world rankings.
And Keith, 42, is hoping to capitalise on an increased profile for the sport by starting a competitive paraclimbing club at the centre, the first of its kind in the UK.
He said: “After the accident, I wanted to go back to skydiving but my wife and my girls quite rightly told me no, so at that point I had to find something else to keep the adrenaline pumping.
“I went along to a taster session at Ratho and I just loved it. It became a real passion and for me now, it is just about passing that on to others.”
He continued: “At the moment we are putting the groundwork in place. I probably have another year of doing this competitively in me, so I want there to be something in place for a continuation of the sport, particularly at Ratho.”
Paraclimbing has seen increased participation across the country over the last year after hundreds of fans attended the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) paraclimbing world cup at Ratho when the event visited in September 2017.
Keith’s new club has received backing from the likes of Lothian Disability Sport and Climb Scotland, and he encouraged any aspiring climbers to come along to the EICA to experience the sport for themselves.
He said: “We have established that accessible pathway for paraclimbers and for those interested in the sport, but so far we have existed solely on word of mouth.
“We want to attract as many people as possible who even just want to try it. That’s how you get people involved.”
Climbing will debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 games in Tokyo, but a lack of athletes in the paraclimbing discipline means the event is unlikely to be considered until the 2028 edition in Los Angeles.
Keith added: “With climbing getting more of a profile in the Tokyo 2020 games, hopefully paraclimbing will get more attention on the world stage.
“I think the 2024 Olympics will probably be too early, but hopefully by 2028, the sport will be in a concrete position to go ahead and put together a bid to be included.”
Scottish Paraclimbing Club sessions take place at the EICA on Thursday evenings from 7:30-9pm. Further information can be found on their Facebook page or by contacting Keith Lynch at ScottishParaclimbingClub@gmail.com