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kevinoregon

Fear of Falling

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So many times I see good climbers who will continually drop it down a few grades before they will lead trad. Falling on a bolt is one thing, but falling on a chunk of steel and cable stuck in a crack is quite another. How do you know if it will really hold unless you fall on it? If you are just starting to lead, even the thought of falling on a bolt can paralyze you with fear. How do we get over it?

 

I remember my battle with the fear all those years ago. The skin scraped off my body as I used it to try to slow my decent. Hanging on to an edge until my fingers just couldn't hold on any more. The paralyzing fear. I know how I got over it. I fell. I always pushed my limits, so fell a lot. Now I don't even worry about it. Until last year, I had not taken a long fall on gear for at least 12 years and what did I do when I got my hands all tied up and out of sequence? Just let go and pushed off with my last piece at least 15 feet below me.

 

So, here are a few tips that I picked up along the way:

 

1. Climb with someone experienced to check your placements.

 

Good placements are not only about the chock in the crack. It is also about where the chock is. What is below you if you do fall? How far to your next stance? Put in two pieces if you can see a long runout through a crux section.

 

2. Maybe try some aid climbing to gain experience and confidence

 

3. Once you know you are in the habit of good placements, push your limits.

 

You will never get over the fear of falling unless you fall and you will never fall if you always drop it down a few grades.

 

Lets hear some other stories about the battle with the mind.

 

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Wings of Desire with John the Gambler, I was so pumped with a bolt staring me in the face, unable to let go with one hand to clip. Started to scream repeatedly "I'm going to fall!" but was too scared to fall.

I finally pushed off for the harmless 25 footer.

My friends were in tears, laughing so hard at my antics.

 

I'm such a pussy sometimes.

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thats why there are stickers all over at the place i work that say "stupid should hurt". it really doesnt, if your like me to stupid to fear/feel pain

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Um, sir. You state that you need to climb harder to learn to fall yet you haven't fallen for 12 yrs. until last year? Maybe you should read your post and take your own advice?

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Um, sir. You state that you need to climb harder to learn to fall yet you haven't fallen for 12 yrs. until last year? Maybe you should read your post and take your own advice?

 

Check again. I said I have not taken a long fall on gear in that long. Oh I have fallen though.

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So many times I see good climbers who will continually drop it down a few grades before they will lead trad.

 

 

I guess good sport climber is what you imply and if you turn your statement around it is just the difference between working a climb and onsighting.

 

 

Falling on a bolt is one thing, but falling on a chunk of steel and cable stuck in a crack is quite another. How do you know if it will really hold unless you fall on it?

 

 

I may be out of step with the march of science and philosophy but I'd really rather not find out.

 

 

 

I remember my battle with the fear all those years ago.

 

 

Lets hear some other stories about the battle with the mind.

 

 

I'v had to battle 3 kinds of fear in climbing:

 

 

1. Fear of exposure

 

2. Fear of falling

 

3. Fear of Seattle getting nuked

 

 

I got over fear #3 when I moved to Toronto in 1987.

 

Fear of exposure was probably an irrational fear of falling and after the first 7 years or so even I realized that just being high up wasn't going to kill me.

 

Fear of falling is not something you should get over. If you hit something on the way down you could get hurt.

 

However, when you start to scare your muscles tense up. Even if you can keep your mind focused you have to work against that extra stiffness. Falling is a great way to get rid of the tension. The worst has happened (assuming you didn't get hurt), imagination must yield to predictability, and you should now be fired with angry energy. This happy state of affairs depends a lot on just how long the fall was, though.

 

In the last few years my exciting falls:

 

2nd pitch of The Great Game because of a lot of rope out and a lot of slack

 

The second 10d pitch on Anxiety State, both times I did the fucking climb

 

A fifty-footer on a wet day on the slab right of Slot Machine when I foolishly yelled to my partner that it was getting slippery and he foolishly thought I had called off belay ( I went back later and measured that one)

 

 

 

 

These falls were exciting in an amusement-park-ride kind of way. They relaxed my mind. I went back up and did the climbs.

 

My biggest fear is falling in the first 10-20 feet of a climb because although you might miss a ledge on the way down its hard to miss the ground.

 

 

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