Blind veteran Garry is intent on climbing to incredible heights

3 November 2017 13:00

Ex-RAF veteran Garry, 36, was injured in a parachute accident and had to learn to walk again. Then, after contracting chicken pox, he went totally blind.

Garry at ZipWorld in a charity T-shirt standing in front of a rock wall. Ex-RAF blind veteran Garry Morrison, aged 36, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Scotland broke his spine in two places in a parachute accident in 2003.  He says, “I did 494 successful jumps and then I had a bad one. I was 23 and had to learn to walk again.  I had 14 operations and was in rehab for 4 years”.

In 2015 Garry lost his sight following a bout of chicken pox.  He explains, “After leaving the RAF I was working on offshore oil rigs, doing crazy shifts, and was absolutely exhausted and run down.  I was unwell but as I thought I had chicken pox as a child I did not take it seriously until my sight started going”. Garry lost his sight in his left eye, swiftly followed by his right, and is now totally blind.

"I was absolutely devastated. I had always been really independent, really active, enjoying sports, and particularly running, and I thought now I will have to rely on people to do everything for me."

He joined Blind Veterans UK at the end of last year and went to our Working-Age Members Conference in March this year and that, he said, “Was life changing.  Fantastic.  An amazing experience”.  Garry found that among other blind veterans he was able to ask all the daft questions he had such as, “How do you put toothpaste on your toothbrush?!

"The camaraderie was like being back in the RAF."

Garry had not climbed in 12 years but as part a week’s stay at our Llandudno centre he was encouraged to try climbing. He found it was something he could do, enjoyed doing, and actually was very good at.

Garry Morrison indoor rock climbing, low on wall, looking back over his sholder

Now he trains at least three times a week in the gym, concentrating on his leg and arm muscles, but he says, “Climbing is as much about mental strength as physical.  It is about tackling challenges and keeping going on, even when frustrated, keeping a cool head“, which he admits initially he found very hard to do.

Recently Garry took part in the BMC Para Climbing Event at Castle Climbing Wall in London. He was accompanied by Lee, one of the charity’s sports and recreation instructors. Garry has further competitions scheduled for November and December and we'll be keeping a close eye on his progress.

Garry tired after a big climb, lying on the ground recovering with a smile on his face.Garry’s goals for the future?  In his words, “to be part of the Team GB climbing team”.  We're sure with your determination Garry, you might just get there too. Good luck and well done!