Is ‘The Fear’ justified?

It’s a good-natured laugh line, fraught with undertone. Climbing’s continual balancing act, between safety and daring, freedom and caution, has been injected with a growing quest for speed.

One of my biggest difficulties I face when climbing is ‘the fear’. I know I ought to push myself harder in the gym, I ought to climb harder and not fear the fall over the bolt, but the head game physcs me out. I struggle to boulder well because I fear for the fall, a broken limb or smashing my nose against the wall.

I have been a long distance runner, completing marathons and halfs for years. The head game is just as much a crucial factor- you’re in pain, often wet and or cold, and your legs are screaming not to go on. It’s the motivation, the goals and the grit that keep you going. The biggest danger is that you push yourself to vomiting, passing out of perhaps an injury.

With climbing however, the fear is a little more justified. As I have become more integrated in the climbing world, there have been some high profile deaths and falls that have shuddered through me. We watched a film about Brad Gobright and two days later, he fell to his death in a climbing accident. Emily Harrington, a climber that fills my instagram with motivation, also had a nasty fall in Yosemite the same week. The fear of falling to severe injury, or death, is a reality of the sport.

We discussed extensively in our last podcast the effects of feeling the fear, so great it has been for us both getting our legs back in to sports after an elongated Christmas and January break. The crucial factor to justifying the fear and of course, overcoming it, appear to be in techniques used to manage it. I find that I have gone from being a worryer, an angsty child who was very risk averse, to a much more confident, adrenaline junkie adult. Combined with some suggestions from friends and reflection on my own increased ability to deal with fear I thought it best to note down and share, if anyone else out there is feeling the fear and wondering like us, is it okay?

  1. First and foremost, the anxious child. You are safe. If you are employing the correct techniques with gear, knots, ropes, tie ins, the chances of error, when applied correctly, are slim. Keep logic in mind and remember, you are safe.
  2. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe!! It is something we do instinctively, without thinking, yet in moments of sheer panic, the breathing goes and so does our nerve.
  3. Find a soother. For long term worries yoga and writing work a treat for calming my mind. In the short term fear, a stretch to either side echoes the feeling I have at yoga and calms my nerves. A friend of ours places both hands in her chalk bag as a ritual to calm down.
  4. Develop some strong self talk. We all have our reasons for getting up, choosing hobbies and being our own wonderful selves. Tell yourself you can do it, why you want to do it and how you will do it.

Often fear stems from our primal instinct that something isn’t right or potentially dangerous, so yes the fear is justified and we shouldn’t squash it but learn to channel it to strengthen us.

Do you have any experiences of fear? Agree with the justification? Is it something that you find really stops you? Drop us a message and let me know!

Love Zo xx

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