Fear of Falling

Published in Climbing - 2 mins to read

As part of thinking about some of the next set of goals that I’d like to set, I’ve been thinking about what climbing aspirations I have and what I’m going to need to do in order to fulfill them. The kind of things I want to achieve all involve doing classic, adventurous, exposed lines, which means my mental game is going to need some serious work. That isn’t desperately easy to do in the gym, but it is still something that I can work on a little, by doing the only type of gym climbs that I do still get scared on… slabs.

I hate slabs (climbs where the angle of the wall is less than vertical). Give me an overhang and I feel perfectly safe, but even on easy slabs, I’m always scared of falling. I don’t really know how well-founded that fear is - presumably a bad slab fall could be really painful, but fortunately my fear has served me well so far and I’ve never taken a nasty one. The first step towards improving my ability to manage my emotions and fear of falling, and still climb well, begins with climbing more slabs in the gym, so that’s what I started trying to do this evening, and it was terrifying in points, as predicted. On one boulder in particular I reached the final move and got properly scared, in a way I haven’t in a gym for a very long time, and begin panicking and overgripping. It was partially from not having read the route properly from the bottom and partially because I particularly dislike the set of holds used for that climb (they are very smooth), but I knew that if I wanted to be able to ever lead any multi-pitch trad routes than I can’t be bailing off gym walls because I’m afraid of falling, and somehow managed to get my body and feet sorted and matched the final hold.

And there was a genuine sense of achievement afterwards, again something I’ve not particularly felt while climbing for a long time. Conquering your fear feels really, really good, and I think that is a huge part of the appeal of climbing outdoors. Now I just need to translate that skill from 6 feet up, to 60 feet up, and maybe one day to 600 feet up.

See other posts in the Fear of Falling series