Intrepid Leeds student starts city's first paraclimbing club after diagnosis of rare neuromuscular disease
When adventurous Lucy Keyworth was diagnosed with a rare progressive neuromuscular disease as a 14-year-old, the pain she was facing meant she started to wind back on the outdoor activities that she so enjoyed.
The keen Scout was faced with a difficult prognosis after she was told she had Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT)- which normally begins with mobility issues in childhood and progresses slowly over the years to make everyday activities sometimes unbearable.
But seven years later and Ms Keyworth, now 21 and a student at Leeds Beckett University, has found an unlikely passion that she’s determined to share with others: the sport of paraclimbing.
And just a year from picking back up the sport she enjoyed while on Scouting trips as a teenager, she’s not only set to qualify as an instructor, but has set up Leeds’ own Paraclimbing Club to encourage others into the sport.
She said: “When my health deteriorated, I stopped climbing and doing anything adventurous.
“But then I went on to do my Gold Duke of Edinburgh, and it sparked the adventure back in me.
“After lockdown, my friends who supported me got me back on a climbing wall because I’d been shielding for so long.
“And since then, I’ve been going over every single day.”
Ms Keyworth, originally from Stockport, has become a regular climber at the Big Depot in Holbeck and has joined an online community of other enthusiasts for the sport.
She said: “I met other paraclimbers and was able to speak to three who told me how they do things differently and the adaptations they’ve put in place.
“I’ve been able to learn so much and use that knowledge on myself and friends, and have encouraged others to come into climbing.”
Ms Keyworth was inundated with requests to join the new club after she announced its formation, but numbers have to be capped on climbing events due to ongoing restrictions.
However, 12 enthusiastic climbers met for the first time on Friday (June 4) at the Big Depot, where Ms Keyworth also gained her formal instructor qualifications.
She said: “There’s a list of over 30 people who want to get involved, not only from Leeds but from all over Yorkshire.
“It’s open to anyone regardless of their climbing ability. Everyone will be climbing at their own pace to the top of the wall, and then they’ll be lowered down.
“Because we’ve got such a mixture of people going - it’s up to individuals how far they want to push themselves.”
Ms Keyworth, who is a wheelchair user, said she finds climbing more comfortable than walking.
Although CMT is genetic, neither of Ms Keyworth’s parents nor her twin brother have the condition.
She said: “I can walk bits and pieces but I can climb better, which is quite cool.
“I use climbing as a form of physiotherapy to keep me healthy. At the moment there’s no treatment and they’ve not found anything to cure it. It’s one of those things I’ve got to live with.”