In September 2019, para climbers from across the UK will gather in Ratho for the fifth annual Mountaineering Scotland Paraclimb Festival.
Climbing, of all sports, would seem to favour strength. Images of big biceps and vice-like grips come to mind, giving the climber the strength to pull themselves up despite tiny handholds on overhanging walls.
Muscle power is vital, but climbing depends just as much on brainpower, while flexibility and balance count for more than brute strength. That’s what makes climbing such an inclusive sport.
Scotland Paraclimb Festival
The 2019 Mountaineering Scotland Paraclimb Festival will be taking place at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in September.
Overcoming a range of disabilities and additional support needs, these climbers are living proof not just of what can be achieved but of how much fun can be had in the process.
Mountaineering Scotland is the governing body for climbing in Scotland and every year its ClimbScotland team runs a range of climbing competitions. In recent years it became clear that there was a gap in provision for people with disabilities, whether they were existing climbers or first-timers attracted by the prospect of a new challenge.
The first Paraclimb Festival was held at EICA Ratho in 2015 and it proved such an immediate hit that there was no question about turning it into an annual event. The interest led to the Scottish Paraclimbing Club – the first of its kind in the UK – being formed.
The Scottish Paraclimbing Club runs a free 'Come and Try Paraclimbing' session for those interested in joining.
Club founder Keith Lynch said: “We welcome new members. If you are interested in coming along, then just contact us to ensure that we can cater for your needs.”
Supported by Mountaineering Scotland and Lothian Disability Sports, the club recently received a specialist equipment grant of £2000 from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.
Equality in climbing
It’s not just on disability matters that climbing reaches across traditional barriers to inclusivity. While climbing may once have been seen as a sport for boys you are just as likely now to see girls stretching for the holds.
ClimbScotland’s youth competition statistics show that 56% of entrants were female and just 44% male. More than 2700 youth competitors took part in 21 climbing competitions across the period and the ClimbScotland Fun Comp provided an opportunity for 400 young people who were new to climbing to take part.
Climbing is a sport on the up and – with its first appearance at the Olympic Games fast approaching in 2020 in Tokyo – the ClimbScotland team are looking forward to supporting the growth of grassroots climbing for all abilities across Scotland.
Take a look
A recent film by award-winning adventure cameraman Keith Partridge showed some of these athletes in action at Ratho, facing up to challenges on vertical and overhanging walls. The overwhelming mood of the film, ‘Challenging Minds’, is positive and life-affirming. Participants face a variety of additional challenges but are motivated by the same impulses as any climber.
Interest in paraclimbing is growing and, following on from the success of the national club, ClimbScotland have supported the formation of clubs in Stirling and Glasgow.