Touchstone Blog Archive
Friday, May 13, 2011
  Climbing Through Anxiety
Rock climbing is scary. The fear of falling or failing on a difficult route or boulder problem can cause serious anxiety. Often before a difficult climb, my bladder becomes the size of a walnut. On a recent climb, I moved out out on relatively easy terrain but then got scared, over gripped, and ended up hanging. In an attempt to overcome my fear and become a better climber, I talked to a number of different climbers on the subject.

World renown free soloist and hard man rock climber, Alex Honnold told me, "Being scared doesn’t mean anything. Are you scared because you’re scared or because you’re in danger?" He emphasized that an emotional reaction to climbing had nothing to do with the actual climbing. Recently, he redpointed The Book of Hate, a 13d stem corner in Yosemite. He climbed poorly through the beginning section, over gripping and stabbing his feet erratically. When he got to a rest, he saw the difficult section ahead and didn't let his poor performance below affect him. "You just have to ignore it,” he said about the fear and anxiety of climbing, "just force yourself to do it."

Dave Macleod, an extreme British climber, wrote an excellent article about the fear of falling. Macleod talks about expanding your comfort zone- facing your fears and anxiety a little bit at a time to become more comfortable with the fear involved.

Here's a video of YOSAR member Scott Deputy pink-pointing (climbing on pre placed gear) Separate Reality. Notice how smooth he is on the send. He fought through his mental anxiety. The preplaced gear helped him avoid worrying about bad protection and focus on the movement.

Scott Deputy on Separate Reality from Mason Earle on Vimeo.

This video of Chris Schulte shows the mental anguish he went through to finish his boulder problem in Font. In Chris's case, he wasn't so much afraid of falling as he was afraid of failing. When he gave up his fear he was able to send his project.

BD athlete Chris Schulte bouldering in Fontainebleau from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

A few years ago, a young Yosemite park employee saw Dean Potter and asked him, "Dean you're a super rad free soloist, you've done some crazy base-soloing, and you never seem to get scared. How do you do it?" Did responded, "Well, you know when you're in your sleeping bag, it's cold out, and you really have to use the bathroom but you don't want to get up?" The climber nodded. "Well, I just get up and go."

My next trip out to my project, I underclinged through the initial difficulties. I was scared but this time I remembered what Alex had said, the way Chris relaxed to give up his anxiety, what Dean Potter does, and I just kept going. For more information about getting over fear in climbing check out Arno Ilgner's Warrior Way.

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