Tag Archives: climbing and fear

Conquering a Fear of Falling

Climber Fear

Chelsea on Fuzzy Undercling (5.11b) in the Red River Gorge. Photo by Erik Thatcher.

Chelsea has been climbing for 11 years and has dedicated her life’s work to outdoor education as an Outward Bound instructor. The self-proclaimed lover of all styles of climbing: bouldering, sport, trad, mountaineering, and ice, has worked hard to overcome her fear of falling. Today she shares her story with you. 

I was fed up, utterly frustrated, on the brink of quitting climbing all together.

I had spent the majority of my decade-long climbing career not climbing anywhere close to my physical limit. Here I was, an Outward Bound Instructor whose job it was to teach people to push their comfort zones in order to learn what they are truly capable of, and I was not able to do that for myself. It’s not because I didn’t want to. I really did want to know what it felt like to try hard and to climb while pushing my physical limit.

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A Step-by-Step Approach to Conquering Lead Climbing Fear

Feeling the nerves as you get ready to climb? You don't have to!

Feeling the nerves as you get ready to climb? You don’t have to!

When today’s guest contributor, Josh Thompson, approached us with this piece about dealing with fear, I (Missy here today, hey guys!) was on board right away.  As a person who a) has terrible fear of lead climbing, b) is even more afraid of belaying than climbing, and c) has had a lot of negative experiences with climbing in a short period of time, his approach of focusing on belayer competence, rather than the sink-or-swim, take-a-bunch-of-whippers-and-you’ll-feel-better school of thought that is the common wisdom just clicked with me.  Some of it may surprise you, but keep an open mind, and read on! Here’s Josh:

Have you ever tried to reason yourself out of fear? There you are, on the wall, ready to make a move, and suddenly you are flooded with doubt and what­-ifs. No matter how the climb unfolds (i.e. you send, you fall, or you take) you’re enduring this fear for at least some of the climb. We’ve all been there, but here’s the thing – if you wait until you become consciously aware of fear to deal with it, you’ve missed your opportunity.

Here’s my gutsy proposition: The only way you can conquer fear while climbing is by doing NOTHING that causes fear.

You may ask. But how can that be true?  Doesn’t trying to get over a fear of falling mean taking falls, feeling fear and facing up to it? That’s not exactly how it works, here’s why:


Happy calm belayer = happy calm climber

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Rock Roots: Alice Chiang

Lately, climbing has scared the crap out of me. Within my circle of climbing friends I definitely complain the most about being scared and feel helplessly restrained by my second-guessing and over-thinking. But then I met Alice. She talks about being panicked … almost more than me. The difference is that she talks about being terrified and exploring new climbing areas, trying new climbs, falling on vertical walls in the same breath. She has a constant willingness to put herself in scary situations while being completely aware that she is scared.

Today's Rock Roots tells Alice Chiang's story of climbing through fear

Alice psyched to be in Colorado for the first time! “LET’S GO CRACK CLIMBING!”

LH: You moved to Boston without knowing anyone. How has climbing helped you expand your community in an unfamiliar place?

AC: Actually back in Seattle I was in grad school and found bouldering. It was such a social activity that it was one of the ways I ended up expanding my community. I was one of the few people in my program who regularly worked out and found new friends to boulder with me at our school’s climbing gym. I was also lucky to come to Boston at a time when new communities were being formed in the recently opened gyms. Participating in something that was evolving made it much easier to meet people who were more open to new faces, although climbers in general are pretty social.

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