Forth Rail Bridge Abseil: How I took on my fear of heights to raise money for Royal Blind

Posted: 19/06/2018 | Scottish War Blinded

By Caitlin Gould

I’ve always been a believer that when it comes to fundraising you should do something out of your comfort zone. That’s why I decided to take on my fear of heights by completing a 165ft abseil from the Forth Bridge.

Caitlin and Scottish War Blinded member Garry Cowan stand in front of the climbing wall wearing harnesses and smile at the camera. Photo by Black Cloud Media

To prepare for this hair-raising challenge, I was invited to Ratho Climbing Centre by Scottish War Blinded member and Team GB Paralympic climber, Garry Cowan. The hope was that by climbing with Garry, I’d be more comfortable with the equipment and little more settled with the height aspect. 

Garry is completely blind and has been climbing for about 2 years. He is the only blind climber in the UK to complete climbs at grade 7A.

I was extremely nervous to climb at Ratho; I was sweaty and my legs felt like lead just looking at the vast heights of the walls. Despite knowing that Garry is fully trained, it was still quite daunting knowing my entire safety was in his hands.

Garry guides Caitlin up a climbing wall at the EICA

However, it was clear from the get go that Garry is extremely knowledgeable and a champion for safe practice. I was mesmerised by his skill as he tied my ropes to the harness.

As I was going through this process again on Sunday, I recalled my time with Garry and I felt much more settled knowing exactly what equipment was there for and how it worked. Without having had my climbing session with Garry the week previous, I’m not sure I would have felt as comfortable.

Completing my climb with Garry at Ratho not only helped to settle my nerves ahead of the abseil, but it was a very humbling experience. Learning about Garry’s life, how much he has achieved and continues to achieve despite losing his sight was so inspiring.

A former RAF instructor, Garry had to leave the forces after his back was broken during a parachute jump in 2003. After learning to walk again, he sadly lost his sight as a result of the chicken pox virus in 2015.

Now he is training with Team GB and is one of the best visually impaired climbers in the world.

Despite the challenges that Garry has encountered, he remains an amazingly positive and determined person. He is a fantastic example of how, with the right support, anything is possible for someone with vision impairment.

On Sunday, I was surrounded by the beautiful scenes of the Firth of Forth, and I realised how lucky I was to be able to appreciate that. Between my moments of fear and panic, I had moments where I realised how grateful I am to have my sight and have my independence; there are so many occasions where I know I have taken this for granted. 

Knowing that every single penny I raised by taking on my fear enables Royal Blind to care for, educate and employ blind and partially sighted people from across the Scotland was massively motivating.

I am so proud of taking on my fear of heights and I’m even more proud to have done it for Royal Blind.

Want to raise money for Royal Blind? Find out how.