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Very strong fear of falling - looking for testimonials
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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Nov 21, 2011
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

1) Learn about falling and what makes a fall safe.
2) Learn about how to dynamically belay falls, to make them safe, and find a belayer who knows this (not a belayer from the "leader doesn't fall" school).

3) try the "clip-drop" technique, in which you start with toprope falls then gradually transition to longer and longer falls until you are taking short lead-falls.



4) practice, practice, practice. When you take a good fall, ask yourself, "what did I learn?" For me, grabbing the rope with both hands in mid-air helped me to calm myself while falling. Much of fear of falling is fear of the unknown - which fades when you know what falling feels like.

Your plan of taking many falls at eye level then waist level is a good one. With a proper belay, you shouldn't fall very far at waist level - technically you are still on toprope until your harness is above the bolt.

One caveat: learning to take safe falls on overhanging terrain may not help you with exposure on easy multipitches. Often easier climbs do NOT have as safe falls as steeper, more difficult climbs. It will be critical to learn how to distinguish safe and no-fall situations, and learn to deal with each within your comfortable level of risk. This is where the Rock Warrior's Way comes in.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Nov 21, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Rajiv Ayyangar wrote:
For me, grabbing the rope with both hands in mid-air helped me to calm myself while falling.


This is not good advice. You should never attempt to grasp the rope while falling. Please do not do this.


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By Lanky
From Portland, ME
Nov 21, 2011

muttonface wrote:
This is not good advice. You should never attempt to grasp the rope while falling. Please do not do this.

Care to explain? Assertions without reasons do not make for very helpful advice.


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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Nov 21, 2011
Belay

Sam Lightner, Jr. wrote:
I've taken a lot of falls, some over 30 feet and one near 60. I think your fear is justified. Also, all humans are born with a fear of high places... probably a trait from when we lived in trees.

Definitely an instinct.

Read The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan for some really cool insight into how these innate fears have lasted through the eons in our brains.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Nov 21, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

JulianM wrote:
Care to explain? Assertions without reasons do not make for very helpful advice.



Fair enough. First, grabbing the rope gives the false assertion that the fear has been controlled; it will not help overcome fear, just quell it temporarily. Second, if you're grabbing the rope, you can't use your arms and hands to brace for possible impact with the wall. Third, if you have a death grip on the rope, and there's a lot of line between where you're holding it and your tie in, get ready to lose some skin. Fourth, and this one's rare, but it is possible for a slack rope to form a loop on itself during a fall and for one of your digits to get lodged in that loop. Makes me shiver. I'm sure there are more reasons, but I can't think of any more.


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By Taylor Jenkins
Nov 21, 2011

Thank you for all the great replies! Here's the latest update:

1)I went back to the gym undaunted last Friday night. I was determined to practice those lead falls but since I was too scared to climb past the third bolt on lead I tied in on top rope and and clipped the lead rope on my way up. Then I came down and untied the top rope and used the lead rope as a top rope until I got back to the top bolt. Most people would probably call this silly and unnecessary, but it helped me remain calm. Once I got back up there I took probably 20 falls. The bulk of them were with the bolt at eye level but I managed to do the last five or so with the bolt at my waist. My belayer gave me some surprise slack a few times to keep me on my toes, which I handled well.

2) I led a very easy climb at a nearby crag on Sunday and belayed my wife up to the anchor while sitting on the ledge facing out and looking down at her. The prolonged time looking down helped me become accustomed to the height and as we were coiling the rope and doing the walk-off I was aware of the feelings of fear being greatly reduced.

I'm going to look more carefully at the other suggestions in this thread and see what I can implement the next time I go climbing. Thanks, everyone!


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By Taylor Jenkins
Nov 21, 2011

Also, It's incredibly hard to not grab the rope when falling. I've always failed when I try to stay hands off. On the bright side, I'm only grabbing with one hand so I suppose it could be worse. I'll keep trying.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Nov 21, 2011
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

I'd agree that getting in the habit of gripping the rope tightly during a fall is bad. I've never had this problem, so it didn't occur to me that this might be a problem. For me, grabbing the rope while taking practice whippers helped get me over the initial mental hurdle. It was especially helpful for intentional whippers, when you have to force yourself to let go. After more experience, I naturally stopped grabbing the rope , which - as you say - is better for bracing for impact.

I don't think it's accurate to equate grabbing the rope with grabbing pro/draws. Grabbing pro or quickdraws during a fall is always dangerous. Grabbing a rope during a fall is usually safe.


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By Jim Gloeckler
From Denver, Colo.
Nov 21, 2011

You might think about bouldering too! This will help you get much better at climbing in general. How to rest on the rock, how to read the rock, how to stand on your feet better etc etc!! When you get real strong, you can then safely climb routes at a couple of grades below your level (say 5.8) then after many of those; work into multiple pitches. This all takes time.......but it is worth it in the end. I actually kinda fell in love with bouldering when doing it twice a week minimum. I got much better at climbing and felt much more in control and therefore safer at heights. It also helps on runouts too! The more you put into climbing the more it gives back!!!


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By Lanky
From Portland, ME
Nov 22, 2011

Thanks for the explanation, mutton. I've never had the inclination to grab the rope while falling, so never thought through the potential dangers there.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Nov 22, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

JulianM wrote:
Thanks for the explanation, mutton. I've never had the inclination to grab the rope while falling, so never thought through the potential dangers there.


You're welcome. I wish I had someone to tell me all this stuff when I started leading. I had to figure it out on my own. I used to go for the rope by instinct too. Then one time I grabbed it about five feet above my tie in with a death grip, and when the rope came taut at the bottom of the fall, that shit turned my skin into burning jelly. About two or three feet ripped through my palms and the insides of my fingers in a split second. I couldn't pick anything up except with my pinky and thumb for a couple weeks. Looking back though, that's really not the best reason NOT to grab the rope. Mentally, you'll begin to get over your fear of falling a lot quicker if you let go of the rope. Not grabbing the rope, and not having the inclination to grab the rope means that you're probably embracing and becoming more comfortable with falling. Logically, the converse is true. If you're grasping for the rope during the fall, then you're probably not that comfortable with falling. One thing that helped me is focusing on the point at which you think the fall will be arrested and looking at the wall if you can. For me, it kind of inspired a "ok, get ready" instinct. Once you have this instinct that you are most likely going to have to use your arms and legs to cushion you, and you've already picked a spot where this will occur, you get in the habit of having your hands and arms free and ready. On overhanging terrain, this is of course hard to do, unless you're going to take an inward swing at the bottom of the fall. I'm babbling now and have been for a few sentences. The end. Good luck with your fall training.


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By John Farrell
From Phoenix, AZ
Nov 22, 2011
Chilling on Moby Dick, Cochise Stronghold.

I took Arno's Trad Camp at the New River Gorge last year and it was the best thing I have done for my trad climbing. I was deathly afraid to fall on trad gear and after that class, it's not something I think about anymore, and it increased my situational awareness of climbing. Before the trad camp, I was skiddish on 5.8 trad lines. My goal was to lead a 5.9 by the end of the year. After the camp, I skipped the 5.9 and went right into a 5.10 and had no hesitation.

My opinion, if you have a fear of falling, you need to practice falling. Granted, even if it's very short falls of 1' or less, you can start to build up longer and longer falls as you get more comfortable. The gym is a great place to practice this since it's in a more controlled environment. Ease into, challenge yourself just a tad bit more each time and set modest goals. Fear is irrational, and what works for others might not work for you.

I just recently came off a bad shoulder injury that has kept me from climbing for most of this year, my "edge" on lead was gone. I had that fear, doubt, and not wanting to commit to certain moves. I went to the gym and practiced falling again... Starting off short, and then working up to 15' falls again. That paid off, last weekend was the first time on lead I felt solid and had that "edge" again. I still didn't have the same confidence I once did, but it's very close and doesn't appear to be a limiter again. Granted, I am still down about one solid rating, but hey, since not being able to climb since March, I'll take it. :)


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By SexPanther aka Kiedis
Nov 23, 2011
Thumbtastic

That is a funny image, the spot spreading on the trou in the glass elevator, classic.

I can't imagine being in the headspace that some of you guys seem to be inhabiting. Being proactive about changing it is great; I think it must really suck to exist in that state. I occasionally get the hinkies when the wind is kicking up waaaay off the ground, but FALLING IS FUN! I took a 20-footer down a slab this summer and it made my day. If you hate rollercoasters, I guess I can understand not enjoying that sensation; personally I'll ride em til my legs get rubbery. Falling's part of climbing, learn to enjoy the process, folks.


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By Tyson Taylor
Nov 23, 2011
maple canyon climb, first ice climb

I read in a book once, that it's about noticing the difference between rational and irrational fears. I thought the author really hit it on the head.
There are moments when you should be scared, and should take heed to the warnings around you, but often, when you examine the situation, ie. how much weight and force each individual component in the system is rated to hold, how confident your belay is, how well you tied the your knot, how many people have done this activity before you and survived unscathed, etc. most of the time, you can argue that your fears are not founded upon reality, and you can continue on your way with confidence and peace of mind.


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By Loren Tragen
From Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 24, 2011
Nameless boulder on the edge of the Holy Boulders area in SoIll.

Crossing wrote:
for me knowing that I had a good trustworthy friend who I know could catch a fall (both on TR and lead) helped me overcome my fear. You should probably start addressing your fear of falling and heights by top rope climbing first, I don't think you should attempt leading until top roping and falling on top rope are commonplace and there isn't any fear associated with it.


The above post summed up my climbing experience, and +1 to all of muttonface's posts. To get past my fear of exposure, I had to toprope and boulder around in the gym for a long time. This allowed me to work on technique without the imminent danger of a fall or the distraction of exposure. Keep improving technique and working up the grades. Focus on your breathing, taking rests when available and the rock in front of you when you are ready to lead outside. I can't say that any of my lead falls helped me got over my fear of heights, but they are a part of the game. Good luck.


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By Yarp
Nov 24, 2011

This thread might be a solid contender for the best troll EVER!

Nicely played.


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By fat cow
From Salinas, CA
Nov 25, 2011
perfect seam

agreed, talking about taking falls with the bolt at face level has to be a troll. though i sympathize with the OP if this is real, because i have a similar vaginal infection while leading.


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By Taylor Jenkins
Nov 25, 2011

Nope, I'm totally real. Remember: I get scared climbing the ladder to put Christmas lights up above the first floor gutters of my house. Practice falls like that are a big step for me. I got tired of all the bouldering I was doing and decided it's time to sack up and build some lead-head. (I've had the physical ability and the know-how to lead for years). Another small success in the journey today. I went to Ilchester, the local P.O.S. crag in my area today and did some top-roping. The falling practice I've been doing has been helping me with the fear I had been experiencing on top-rope.

It might be hard to believe, but some of us truly get the screaming heebie-jeebies with even the more pedestrian aspects of climbing simply due to the height and the fear of trusting the gear.


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By Tyler Quesnel
Nov 25, 2011

I think getting over your fear of falling is a natural part of climbing. Your case sounds more extreme than most, but it sounds like you have a real desire to move past it and you're obviously looking for a methodical approach to it.

I have no specific approach in mind, but whatever you do always give yourself short and long term goals. You will occasionally backtrack in your progress, but having goals give you something to work towards and a measuring stick.

Someone else mentioned learning what is and is not a safe fall--this has helped me tremendously in overcoming my own, albeit comparatively minimal, fear.

Most of all, good luck and stick with it. If climbing is something you truly enjoy then it will be worth it.


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