You may have some form of fear when climbing, you may not. I’m not claiming here to say how you should deal with these fears, nor am I saying you even have them. But for a large majority, having some mental training might make all the difference int their climbing. I’ve been meaning to post an article like this for a couple of weeks now, but exam writing, trip planning, and spontaneous alpine course taking postponed it. Ah, dilemmas of life.
It is intrinsically inserted that we feel fear.
Yet it is in what aspects of life, and in what proportion that separates us. Failure, falling, forgetting – and these are just ones relevant in climbing.
If you are aware that you hold any of these fears, then you may already have browsed through articles, features, papers giving advice or guidance on how to handle or overcome these feelings. Because that’s all they are; feelings you’ve created to make a rational situation, irrational to your head.
Lately in the climbing world, a lot of emphasis has been put on concepts such as ‘mindfulness’ training to make the psychological factor of climbing easier for some people to cope with. I’m very glad this is the case, as what I’ve come to see and feel, is that this part of climbing is as relevant as tying in with the correct knot.
It is estimated between 70-80% of climbing is mental.
I’m not one to be throwing advice around the subject of fear, as I too am in the learning phase of pushing through my mental blocks. But I will throw out this knowledge which has helped me so far: part of this process is actually identifying where your fears stem from. You can then see how to proceed in changing them.
Recognition is the first barrier.
I’m going to throw out my mental blockages here and tell you what has, and what still does, sometimes hold me back from going for moves. There’s a few…
Not trusting equipment – Until recently, even when top-roping, I’d have to try really hard and push out the thought that the equipment wouldn’t hold me while I was climbing. Even though strong as nails, an image floats into my head of it snapping if I were to fall on it, especially when I’m high above it. Pretty irrational thinking right there.
Not wanting to fail – In your mind you want to perform at your best. In reality, it doesn’t always work out like this. Bad day, tired arms, bad conditions, distractions, expectations – it’s an ongoing list. (A product maybe of how ego plays a part in our success in climbing). Again however, an irrational reason for not taking a fall.
If you step back, acknowledge these things as part of your mind, then it’s easier to not let them interfere when you are off the ground.
But enough of my rambling, here’s some very useful insights into how to get your head straight(er) for climbing. (And if you’re going to only read one of this links, it’s the incredible comeback of Rannveig Aamodt)
Rannveig Aamodt – Positive mind, positive gains
Dr. Rebecca Williams – a simple yet effective way of analysing where your fear IS in climbing
Jonathan Siegrist – a top climber, yet realistic in his view of achieving climbing goals
Hazel Findlay – Bristol-breed mindfully strong climber