“Just don’t think about falling.”
“You won’t fall.”
“You won’t hurt yourself.”
“You’ll be fine.”
I’ve been putting myself through a mental and physical regimen, of sorts.
1. Climbing exposure therapy
Well, it’s not been anything scientific, measured, overseen by a psychological professional.
So I’ve been trying to throw myself back into things full speed (sounds like me, right?). It’s been beautifully sunny so, of course, we’ve been outside bouldering and trad climbing. How could we even think about going indoors to train when it’s been 25 degree days and we have a wealth of natural climbing around us?
I did my first proper lead up Fluted Columns, a short, tricky steppy route which I probably had no business leading seeing as I have zero leg strength.
Did it. loved it. hated it.
We’ve headed to the Lakes a couple of times now to gently settle ourselves into some multipitch trad. Seconding, I’d been blissfully loving it (except a traverse that left me pretty shaky).
My multi-pitch trad lead!
So I managed to lead one and a half routes.
Wait, one and a half?
Yup. I managed one, belayed Michael up, and then went to lead another and just… froze. Began crying. My hands couldn’t stop shaking and my foot slipped and I couldn’t find any places for gear on a move that I (afterwards) flew up easily whilst seconding but, whilst leading, felt like the most difficult thing I’d ever done.
Once I’d seconded the route up, enjoying the climb, I felt back to normal.
I genuinely can’t believe the level of absolute fear and terror has nestled itself inside of me. And I refuse to let myself keep feeling like this.
2. “Just Look Up”
So once this has healed I’ll have zero fear and will only ever look up, right?
But seriously, I’m really trying to find the balance between not *just* thinking about falling. But also it’s important to think about falling a little so I’m prepared and can fall safely. But also not think about falling too much because I become rigid with terror. but also fall safely. You see my issue here.
3. Absorb everything
Recently, I’ve been trying to absorb everything.
The Push is also excellent just as a really fascinating read.
Alex Honnold’s Alone on the Wall is on the way to my house as I type.
Make or Break has also been a decent investment (a whole section on talus injury!)
And, although no one book or podcast will fix my fear of falling, I hope that this aggregation of advice, relateability, and the building of a new knowledge base will have some kind of positive impact.
So after all this absorbing, reflecting, trying, still being scared, it’s been decided:
- No more trad leads (at least for a little while)
- Fall when it’s safe (i.e. leading sport)
- Slow and steady
- …but consistent
- Be okay with feeling fear
- Remember it’s about managing fear, not making it disappear