There is a lot of talking about fear of falling in the climbing community. It has been eventually understood that the mental game is the biggest variable in climbing, exactly like Wolfgang Güllich said more than 20 years ago.
Clip-drop technique, positive self-talking, visualization, breathing techniques… Everything good and nice. New books and articles are being published on these themes so I will save my time and talk about something else.
Let´s start with our triggers. Everybody feels fear at climbing, also people who swear the opposite. It is a basic instinct: manhood has evolved to live on the ground and has an instinctive fear of heights. In addition to this climbers develop more specific fears: of clipping, of dynos, of overhangs, of incapable belayers… Those fears are in fact triggers. Everytime that we are faced to those situations they triggers our fears.
I have learned that you cannot avoid fear but you can train yourself to feel less of it. Our brain is plastic and works in a continue cycle of input assessment and adjustment. This is how fall training works. You continuously fall and after a while the brain grades such falling as no longer fearful because you have accustomed to it.
But first of all you need to know what triggers your fears. By knowing your triggers you can foresee them and be conscious of them when they happen. You can then decide to not climb that route because the crux is awkward and will trigger your fear. Our you can go for it knowing the reason why the crux is awkward… and overcome it. Have you noticed that once you name your fear it becomes less effective and powerful? This is the reason why you need awareness about your triggers.
Another important point is our daily condition, our form of the day: how well we have slept and eaten, our attitude, our recovery status, if we are stressed or not, if we are well trained or not. It has been scientifically proven that when we are not in form – physical and/or mental – we are more vulnerable to fear and prone to bad decisions. So in life as in climbing.
For this reason I urge every of you to self assess yourselves before a climbing day and be really honest with yourselves. If you are having a bad time at work or could not sleep last night due to partying neighbors, maybe you should not attempt an on-sight or set high expectations on your climbing day. Just accept that you could feel more insecure and fearful, that the route could feel harder that it is and that it will be fine anyway. We climb because we love it and we don’t need anything else, isn’t it? 😉
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