Fear is a strange thing.
It can come from no where and just APPEAR before you even realise it is there, then it can stop you from achieving so much, holding you back from something that you don’t even realise is a SOMETHING.
For me, I have a fear of falling. Literally falling, not metaphorically falling.
Which you would think as a climber would be ‘part of the territory’ for me; and actually partly it is. However there is a big difference between taking a fall on a rope to taking a fall on a bouldering wall.
The most obvious of which is the lack of rope! That rope that even when I am 17 ft up a wall doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself on the wall; or swing out; or come down a fair distance because of the give in the rope, or my belayer leaving too much slack.
And there are also times when I make a move on a roped climb and I am not actually at a height where the rope would have an affect. But it is a security, it is a safety net and one that even if it is purely psychological at times makes me feel safe.
When I boulder (outside of competitions) there are no top ropes, no safety net. It is all on me…..
And that is scary and fearful and makes me emotional just writing this.
One thing that I see other climbers doing, and I have watched dozens of instruction videos about, is jumping down from the wall.
Not from the very top, but most definitely from a height at least as tall as they are.
Which for me; as someone who cant even see the floor when I am stood on it, the thought of jumping any height is where my fear of falling comes from. You see, or rather I can’t see, so can’t work out where the floor is and how quickly I will approach it.
And it is this fear of falling and not being able to get off of a climb that has stopped me from wanted to boulder. It is only on the odd route where I can actually ‘top out’ climbing over the top of the wall and coming back down via the cafe seating that I happily give it a go.
All routes on a bouldering wall are colour coded. So you can go to ANY wall within the centre and know exactly what level the climb before you is. I had no real intention of actually bouldering on this evening. But then my CPiC said
“You need to be aiming for yellow”
I looked at the colour chart, I looked at the yellow and then I replied,
“I’m just going to work on biscuits”
As in the colour, not the food!
And why biscuit?
Well, basically biscuit is v0, the easiest of all the climbs. But it wasn’t because of the ease of the climbs, tonight I had decided I was going to work on something in a different way.
I was going to work on my fear.
My fear of falling and my fear of how I would get back off of the wall. As I said before, jumping down when you can’t even see your feet makes the ground a scary place. And as I had previously had to be ‘lifted’ off of the wall by my CPiC because I totally froze and couldn’t go either up nor down. (Something that he didn’t want to be repeating every time I attempted a boulder)
The climbs were easy, they were also over far too quickly (v0 climbs don’t tend to be high)
However it wasn’t about the climbing up, it was more about the coming down. And this is a point that anyone who climbs will tell you is actually harder than going up in the first place.
So, how do you climb down?
I often climb up by allowing my feet to follow where my hands have been, I didn’t know how I could just reverse this process seeing as I couldn’t actually see where my feet were.
I stopped thinking……….
May sound silly, but thinking too much is often my downfall.
It didn’t matter what holds I used to get down, I didn’t stick to biscuit, I just took the holds that felt safe and in reach. A reach that I naturally found myself doing with ease when I crouched down, climbing my hands down the wall first to enable me to then move my feet.
As good as it felt not to be scared of going up as I knew how to get down, I was exhausting myself.
Climbing down is harder than going up (I think I said that already) ……
But how do you jump when you can’t see the floor?
Maybe that was my problem? I was fixing on something I couldn’t see, rather than working with something that I could see. When I am on a roped wall I can’t see the floor. I don’t even look down anymore. I just sit back in my harness and walk down the wall with my belayer counting me down to the floor. (Initially he would just sit me down on the floor in my harness)
So, to jump off the wall. This is where the trouble with thinking reared its head again! I just kept thinking about it. So much so that I had built it up to be a lot more than it actually was.
With my CPiC spotting me (standing behind me) he put his hand on me to ‘show me’ where he stood against me (height wise) and knowing that he is just short of 6 ft I could gauge where I was compared to the floor.
But I couldn’t jump.
I had to climb down further.
And even then I just couldn’t jump.
As I said, I was thinking too much……. I knew the floor (safety matting) is spongy and have some give in it. So I knew I wouldn’t be landing on solid ground (for good reason too) but knowing that the floor would move made me even more scared of it.
I needed to just do it.
But how do I jump?
I was holding onto the wall…..
I was crouched down slightly……
I was less than waist height from the floor……
I just had to let go and jump down…………………….. But I couldn’t do it……………
I forgot how to jump.
It was that ‘thinking’ thing again……
So, letting go with my hands first and then i jumped……..
Only I didn’t …… Not really ………………………………………..
I forgot to bend my knees.
I landed with a thud.
It was purely because of my CPIC that I didn’t fall backwards.
I tried again…………
I struggled again………..
I forgot to bend my knees………
I ended up head butting the wall in front of me………
I went back to climbing off the wall……………………….
I faced a fear, and although I didn’t over come it, I tried. I gained a better understanding of my position on the wall.
I moved to purple holds,
I worked on my technique.
I worked on my starting point on the wall. I worked on my start, pulling myself up from an almost sitting position on the wall and I focussed my energy on something else.
While my CPiC was busy with his own climbs I found myself relaxing about the jump down, I climbed down to the floor, then climbed back up several holds and jumped……
The benefit of me doing it is that I couldn’t see how stupid I looked (I felt stupid enough) I bounced on the matting, I sometimes stayed on my feet and sometimes not.
But each time I jumped I landed without hurting myself or anyone else.
It may well have looked ridiculous; your probably reading this thinking it sounds ridiculous. But do you know something. That doesn’t matter.
Because despite thinking, despite fear. I DID IT.