Overcoming fear

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Posts: 31
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:56 pm
Real Name: Gwright

Overcoming fear

Post by gwrightjhb »

Hey everyone,

I'm interested in learning how different climbers deal with fear. The fear of falling , the fear of heights... whatever it may be for you and how do you manage that fear.

I recently went on a climbing trip where myself and my partner did a few routes that scared the crap out of both of us. I feel that if I had better control over my nerves I would of climbed more efficiently.

Keen to get other peoples thoughts on the topic.

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

I don't.

It keeps me safe, being scared all the time.
Happy climbing
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Real Name: Patrick Fraser

Re: Overcoming fear

Post by rocklooney »

Interesting topic this one. I am a champion scaredy pants so well qualified to comment on the shaky and teary end of this discussion. When I got dragged up Blouberg I cried like a five year old at the top and toasted my adrenal glands good and proper ... so ..... I did some research and the popular opinion seems to be the following. 1. Rational fear is a good thing - it keeps you alive 2. Irrational fear can be very dangerous so it's a good thing to get this figured 3. Being prepared (fit, strong and confident) goes a long way toward mitigating overgrown fear emotion. 4. ...however the main factor that differentiates seemingly fearless climbers (Dean Potter, Matt Bush, Catherine Desteville, Alex Honnold etc etc ... the list goes on sorry if you haven't been mentioned) from lily-livered yellow-bellied pansy climbers (like me) is, those in the know say, ... the ability to focus the mind to the exclusion of all else (including your fear). Whilst I won't be personally testing the theory anytime soon, it seems to make sense and to climbers who get this right, I say ... respect.
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Real Name: Charles Edelstein
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by SNORT »

Practise! Period!
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Real Name: Andrew Blanche
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by Chalk »

I think fear is your body's way of saying "hey, I am outside my comfort zone, stop scaring me"

if you progressively move your experience level up.. you are turning your freak zone into you comfort zone and life is (a little) better...
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Real Name: Henk Grobler

Re: Overcoming fear

Post by henkg »

Conditioning. But I don't think it can and should go away completely.
You may still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. Cat Stevens
Warren G
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by Warren G »

1. Fall, and fall regularly-on lead! If you're not falling you're not trying hard enough, and when you have to try hard you'll be too scared to. Go find a steep route and have fun.

2. Skip draws on routes you consider easy.

3. Skip draws on routes you think should be easy, but haven't done before. Play Climbing Golf (explained next to the :afro: )

4. Learn your limits, and back yourself: you are your primary safety, not your gear/partner. You will learn your limits are beyond what you think, but necessity is the mother of invention, and you'll only learn genuine limits in a state of need. It is a fantastic feeling believing in your abilities, even if you have doubts: there are few things sweeter than placing the next piece or clipping that bolt. Please don't overlook this line as it is easily the most important of this post, in fact, re-read it.

5. Climb Granite.

:afro: Climbing Golf: try onsight a route with less draws than there are bolts. as you get better at this game try it on harder routes. Never skip bolts 1-3.
Sandbagging is a dirty game
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Real Name: Megan B

Re: Overcoming fear

Post by meb »

I find fear and its management one of the most absolutely fascinating aspects of climbing (so I already bet this post is going to be pretty lengthy... :P ). I also think it affects performance a LOT, both negatively (fear) and positively (proper management), and is a crucial consideration in growth as a climber.

So, like mentioned above, "overcoming" fear isn't necessarily a safe or healthy thing to do, but the key is to overcome perceived fear, and be able to tell the difference between that and fear generated from real danger. That comes with experience-- the more you climb, the more you build up positive experiences in your memory, and the easier it is to recognize that you're in a safe vs. dangerous situation. If you've successfully led a 14 a million times, you should be able to say, while on the wall, "I've led a 14 a million times, and this is no different. Nothing to be scared of". On the other hand, even if you're on a 14 and you've sent a million before, but you grab a loose block that's threatening to come down on your head-- that's a real danger. Scared is ok! These things are inherent in climbing, and the more you do it, the more you figure out the best way to handle such situations as they come up. But the vast, vast majority of fear in climbing comes from perceived, or invented danger, and that's something that can be dealt with. Here are a couple things I've learned over time:

1. Reduce the variables. If you're afraid of heights, don't do climbs you'll probably fall on. Get to the top of an easy wall and sit there for a really long time, until your heart rate returns to normal. If you're afraid of big falls, take them on purpose, with the conditions as controlled as you can possibly make them, and with a belayer you really trust. If you just got to the top of a climb you thought was scary, but just because it was hard (not because anything bad happened), take a good rest and do the same climb again. It's all about the baby steps, and there's no reason not to expand your comfort zone nice and slowly.

2. Speaking of belayer trust... It's so incredibly important. If you're afraid your belayer won't give a good catch, you'll be afraid of falling. Make sure they're vigilant, make sure they take it seriously, make sure they know you're nervous. If they won't take it seriously, make sure you call them an asshole and go find someone who will. Have them practice soft catches. Have them practice catching you near the ground. Swap roles a lot. The belayer has a huge responsibility in the climber's comfort on the wall, something I think is too often overlooked.

3. Practice falling a lot. Like a whole lot. You won't get good at something you don't practice, and if you're a clumsy faller, it's going to be scary. Start at the top of a steep route in a gym, and fly into air. Again and again and again. Take it to a steep route outside. Fall from above the bolt. Then from 1/2 higher. And 1/2 m higher. Then try a move you know you''ll fall on-- try as hard as you can to stick it, but if you fall, it's cool, because you knew you were going to, and you knew exactly what would happen when you did.

Practice being conscious of where the rope is, and where features on the wall are. Perhaps start each session with a good fall, especially if it's been a while. Force yourself to do a climb in which you ask yourself every single move "what happens if I let go right now." If the answer is "it wouldn't be good", stop and figure out how you can make it better. If you're not sure the answer, let go and find out. If you're scared to let go, down climb a step and let go there. Climb with someone more experienced if you don't yet trust your ability to tell real from perceived danger... just for the second opinion.

I realize this all sounds very pedantic, but if you go for overkill at first, it will eventually all become natural. At some point your brain will realize that it isn't necessary to freak out about most things, and you'll be able to just inherently trust your ability, your experiences, and your belay, and enjoy pushing hard grades.

Cheers, and sorry, I was right-- this is really long ;)

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Real Name: ___Don

Re: Overcoming fear

Post by Don »

Turn your fear into exhileration.
Old Smelly
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by Old Smelly »

I like what you said Meb - very well put and down to earth :thumleft: :thumright
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...
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Re: Overcoming fear

Post by gwrightjhb »

Thank you for the feedback guys. Great practical info.
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