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Scared to lead 5.10!!??
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By zach-4
From Lakewood,co
Aug 26, 2013
clear creek
So I have a similar problem to an earlier post except I know what my problem is... I get very scared being above the bolt and my nerves really get the best of me! Its crazy because I can follow my partner up on top rope 10+ or 11- flawlessly.
I also think I get a little more nervous when the route is slabby because I worry about skinning my face on the rock when I fall I'd be more comfortable falling on something vertical or overhung. Any advice on how to over come this would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks

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By Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Aug 26, 2013
Viking helmet cover, yep.
Practice falling. That's really the only way, in my opinion. Get on a nice, safe, bolted climb, get high enough that you can take some safe falls, and go for it! Start with the draw a little above your wast so you're almost falling on TR, then just keep moving up a little bit each time until you're taking bigger and bigger falls. You'll learn to have fun with it!

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By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Aug 26, 2013
Mt. Agassiz
While "practice falling" can be helpful for some people, I found it was a very slow approach. By taking practice falls, you have so much time to prepare yourself for falling, relax a bit, and then take the fall. This is very different than falling while pumped out and on lead.

The best thing that worked for me was to get on things that were at or near my limit and safely bolted or protected with gear. I then would communicate with my belayer before stepping off the ground that he/she was not allowed to "take" if I called for it UNTIL I took an actual fall. After this point, after having already fallen, I would get back on the climb and would be allowed to bolt-to-bolt my way up the route if I needed.

The key was taking that first fall. I poured everything I had into those first routes in the process because I didn't want to fall. Eventually, I learned that (a) it was fun to push myself hard on lead because (b) falling was not actually scary. In most cases, I would fall and the next thing I knew I would be hanging in space. No harm done.

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By anna.gutwin
From Burlington, VT
Aug 26, 2013
April climbing
I agree with Abram, practice falling in a safe environment first. Work your way up to reasonable falls with an experienced belayer. Then try leading something that may be too hard for you and practice making committing moves. Because you'll (probably) still be sketched out, you'll most likely take a fall. And then you'll think, "hey, that really wasn't that bad."

For me I was fine falling when I had total control over when/where I fell. But my bad lead head was still holding me back. It wasn't until I finally told myself, "no saying take, no giving up," that I really had a brake through.

Best of luck!

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Aug 26, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
Pinpoint why you're scared first. Deliberate falls might do the trick, but they might not either, as Ryan suggested. I can take deliberate whippers all day long because I feel in control of the environment. My belayer is ready, I'm ready to cushion myself, etc. However, I still have trouble sometimes committing to moves at my limit because I am too worried about what the consequences of a fall will be instead of focusing on the efficiency of the movement. If this describes you as well, then Ryan's advice is spot on. Keep in mind though, that you should have an experienced belayer if you're going to take practice falls. If you start out taking short falls, and the catch isn't dynamic, it's a good way to get injured. Good luck.

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By Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Aug 26, 2013
Viking helmet cover, yep.
Ryan Nevius wrote:
While "practice falling" can be helpful for some people, I found it was a very slow approach. By taking practice falls, you have so much time to prepare yourself for falling, relax a bit, and then take the fall. This is very different than falling while pumped out and on lead. The best thing that worked for me was to get on things that were at or near my limit and safely bolted or protected with gear. I then would communicate with my belayer before stepping off the ground that he/she was not allowed to "take" if I called for it UNTIL I took an actual fall. After this point, after having already fallen, I would get back on the climb and would be allowed to bolt-to-bolt my way up the route if I needed. The key was taking that first fall. I poured everything I had into those first routes in the process because I didn't want to fall. Eventually, I learned that (a) it was fun to push myself hard on lead because (b) falling was not actually scary. In most cases, I would fall and the next thing I knew I would be hanging in space. No harm done.


You're right that practice falls =/= the real thing, but for me when I was starting out, it was just about realizing that the falls were always way better and way softer than I feared. It helped me distinguish subjective danger from objective danger. The risk with just telling your belayer "don't take, no matter what," is that for someone already inclined to be fearful of climbing/falling, it could just cement the fear even more by not having control over the situation. But it could work fine, too :-) For me, controlled falls worked — first in the gym, then on sport, and finally on trad — and now I'm willing to take the unexpected falls. So it absolutely worked for me, but as always, YMMV.

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By slim
Administrator
Aug 26, 2013
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
i would be hesitant to recommend fall practice on routes in the 5.10 range in the denver area. usually not steep and have too many ledges. if you do this, make sure you have a good route for it.

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By Tane Owens
From Pahrump, NV
Aug 26, 2013
Nice place.
Something that I've had success with when trying to build confidence in younger leaders is what we call a slap. It may not be super ideal to just jump into it until after you've already taken a couple controlled and expected falls, but you can try it when you're comfortable.

When you get pumped on a route and you begin to give yourself negative talk (The main one is normally: "I don't have enough energy to make the next hold, so I might as well yell 'take' instead of going for it."), yell "watch me" to your belayer, stand up and slap the target goal and take a controlled fall. Just slap it, don't grab it... it's fall practice, send practice comes later.

This does a few things:
1) It inspires the idea that, "you know what, I may have actually been able to grab that hold!"
2) It is a "controlled" fall from an actual climbing position, rather than the whole mind game of "ready? ready? ready? are you sure? o gosh! count of three, etc." Less thinking and second-guessing is involved.
3) The climber gets quicker at bracing themselves on the fly from a reaching position.

Falling on a slab is just another art of falling that comes with a little practice, for lack of a better term. My advice would be to avoid long run-outs until after you gain a little more experience.

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By doligo
Aug 26, 2013
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style
zach-4 wrote:
I also think I get a little more nervous when the route is slabby because I worry about skinning my face on the rock when I fall


Unless you work in the industry where you need to keep your face flawless, a little redness on your face should be the last of your climbing fall consequence concerns, IMHO. I'd be more worried about clipping my ankles or falling upside down and hitting my head (both risks could be addressed with proper rope management and proper belay). I think your face is most likely to come into contact with the rock or rope from a top-rope fall.

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By Tommy Layback
From Sheridan, WY
Aug 26, 2013
Tom on Cloud Peak, Bighorn Mtns, WY.  Blacktooth and Mount Woolsey in the background.
zach-4 wrote:
I get very scared being above the bolt and my nerves really get the best of me!


Yea, I think we all get a bit like that when we are getting close to our lead limit (or at or above it). Embrace it...isn't it wildly exhilarating when you successfully pull through after gettin' scared to the core?

+1 for fall practice advise -- and yes, as always, be aware of fall consequences

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By Kenan
Aug 26, 2013
Shelf Rd
"Practice falling" is the simple answer, but for more details, thought experiments, and nuances, check out The Rock Warrior's Way by Arno Ilgner. ... and the newer "Expresso Lessons"... both have falling exercises that you can work on in a controlled, incremental way.

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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
Aug 26, 2013
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.
Apply a belt sander to your face every night for a few minutes until you get a good layer of scab going. It will then be much more resistant to getting "skinned" during slab falls.

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By bearbreeder
Aug 26, 2013
the simplest way to solve it ...

when you want a take ... you have to shout "IM A FCUKANG WUSSS!!!!"

thatll solve the issue ... and keep u "safe" in that if you really need one you get a take ...

works best if theres hawt chick around of course

;)

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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Aug 28, 2013
...
IMO what's lacking is FOCUS. Learn to focus on the move. Not falling! When you start thinking, "I'm gonna fall", you may not actually fall. But damned good chance you're going to FAIL!

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By Kevinmurray
Aug 29, 2013
There is a very fine line between falling and letting go. Don't let go.

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By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Aug 29, 2013
Mt. Agassiz
Kevinmurray wrote:
There is a very fine line between falling and letting go. Don't let go.


Reminds me of something someone told me once:

"Don't look down, give up, and plan to fall. Fight the false fear. Fall not knowing."

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By 5.samadhi
Aug 30, 2013
me
slim wrote:
i would be hesitant to recommend fall practice on routes in the 5.10 range in the denver area. usually not steep and have too many ledges. if you do this, make sure you have a good route for it.

This!!!

I was just going to mention that I am still scared on 5.10 sport and I have been climbing for 10+ years on and off. I am much more comfortable on 5.11 or even 5.12 which is near my limit at the moment. It is because the falls on a 5.10 are often really nasty...all those holds that make it 5.10 (the big wonky ones) - they also are real good to twist or break an ankle :(

I wouldn't recommend taking a forced fall. Just climb at your limit on safe climbs and eventually you will fall and get used to it if you are doing the mental work to weed through the unnecessary thought patterns that are holding you back.

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By jeffozozo
From santa clara, utah
Aug 30, 2013
me
As usual, advice like this is worth what you pay for it. I am still afraid every time I climb above a bolt, and more so on lower grade, lower angle climbs that I haven't done before.

The only advice I have is to lead as much as you can on things that you feel comfortable with. Lead a TON of 5.8's and 5.9's. Eventually, your confidence will increase on 10's as well.

My wife (who climbs 11's and 12's) completely disagrees with this. She won't lead anything that isn't steep enough to afford clean falls.

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By Patrick Mulligan
Aug 30, 2013
The top of the tufa on Magma
This is something that I have recently be struggling with too - although on 10+ / 11-. I think the best thing to do is simply climb more while lightly pushing yourself to develop the necessary confidence.

I recently started climbing again after a 6 year hiatus due to the birth of my children, and fear has been the biggest factor in my return to form (5.11 climbing). BITD when I was climbing 3-4 days a week outside on trad gear, I simply developed enough confidence in my ability to downclimb, find gear, and keep climbing at that level that fear wasn't a factor. While I can still physically climb at that level, my climbing outside has been reduced to once a week at most and I simply haven't gotten my head in the game the way it once was.

There are days when its gone great and everything works, but many more days when I've been frustrated in my level of fear and lack of focus.When it works, I'm able to focus on my 8' sphere of influence and only consider that my gear will hold a fall and I can make the next couple of moves. When it doesn't work, I get nervous stepping above my gear and into real fall territory and start over-gripping or taking too much time.

Something that might help you would be to work a route in the mid 10 range till you get it wired and then lead it. Then do the same by only climbing it once or twice. Then move into on-sight territory.

TLDR - Climb and lead more.

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By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Aug 30, 2013
Mt. Agassiz
Patrick Mulligan wrote:
When it doesn't work, I get nervous stepping above my gear and into real fall territory and start over-gripping or taking too much time.


I noticed a big mental improvement when someone told me to speed up my climbing. They stuck me on toprope on a climb that I had backed off on while on lead a couple times. They then told me to climb as quickly and fluidly as I could, without getting sloppy. I cruised the route and realized that climbing like a snail gave me enough time to psych myself out about every little thing. Maybe my hands aren't chalked enough...maybe that smear isn't going to stick, maybe I'm grabbing that crimp weird, maybe I need to "rest" more so that I don't fall. I then proceeded to lead the route at a pace that was nearly twice as fast as my previous attempts, with no issues. I've seen this work for other people as well. When in doubt, fire the moves; the longer you contemplate things, the longer you'll have to hold on and the more tired you'll get.

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By Moritz B.
Aug 30, 2013
Profile Pic
Overcoming ones fear of falling is really important. Your mind shouldnīt be occupied by these thoughts. Focus on the one next move. Donīt think about the "send" or the "fall". Taking practice falls helped me tremendously to keep it together. Donīt be stupid but also donīt get overwhelmed by fear. Step up your head game, take whippers. Itīs fun!

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By 5.samadhi
Aug 30, 2013
me
^ Shouldn't you add a caveat about taking a safe whipper? You should have two trustworthy pieces in that will keep you off the deck/ledges before you intentionally whip off a route. Have you not heard of bolts failing???

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By Eric Chabot
From Thetford Ctr, VT
Aug 30, 2013
When I push myself on lead I like to have the draws pre-hung on sport routes. It really helps me psychologically not to have to spend as much time in clipping stances. Lead falls are scary enough, but blowing a clip is a lot worse, and used to freak me out when I first started leading climbs with crappier clipping holds.

Get a 10 dialed on TR, hang the draws, then go for it.

Or if it's a climb you're just getting on for the first time, don't even go for the onsight, just climb bolt-to-bolt. Then lower off, pull the rope and try to re-lead it clean on your second go after a little rest.

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By Moritz B.
Aug 30, 2013
Profile Pic
5.samadhi wrote:
^ Shouldn't you add a caveat about taking a safe whipper? You should have two trustworthy pieces in that will keep you off the deck/ledges before you intentionally whip off a route. Have you not heard of bolts failing???

To me it is not a practice whipper if:
1) only one piece is between you and the ground
2) you might deck because you are so run-out
Maybe I should have mentioned that and not assumed people use common sense :-)

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Aug 30, 2013
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
Sack up and go whip off of the top of p1 of the Norwand or Too! (both 5.10s) at Little Eiger in CCC. Safe, good climbing. Overhung cruxes, clean falls. Have at it.

Edit: just read that you are having trouble with slab. Can't help you there. I hate slab. Scares the bahjesus out of me.

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By Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Aug 30, 2013
Viking helmet cover, yep.
This reminded me of a good story :-)

I've climbed with Mike Munger a couple times, he put up a few hard/scary routes in Eldo back in the day, and I believe he also nabbed the second American ascent of the North Face of the Eiger. When they first started using nylon ropes and more reliable gear, and were finally getting away from the "do not fall" mentality, he and a partner decided they wanted to get over their fear of falling. They went up to the top of the The Diving Board , tied off a few trees, payed out 100+ feet of rope, and Mike jumped off. They were still using pretty crappy harnesses at the time, not much better than a swami belt, and that combined with the factor two fall broke a few of Mike's ribs — of course, then he had to prussik back up the rope afterwards, broken ribs and all!

The irony is that he told me he's had a much worse fear of falling ever since. So this may not be the best way for you to get over your fear... ;-)

EDIT to add: after a little digging, it seems his partner in the stunt was Charlie Fowler.

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