In the spirit of Halloween, what scares me the most about climbing?
Most people will tell you: falling is scary, placing gear is scary, and looking down on highballs is scary. Indeed, these things can make anyone as pale as a ghost. To me, leading is the best, but leading is also the most daunting (or haunting). New or experienced, all climbers have faced or will face the spooky aspects of leading. Here’s a few tips on how to face your fears (on lead).
- Take the fall. Even if falling doesn’t seem to bother you, skip the take and simply fall. Get into the habit of falling at any clip.
- Talk to your belayer. As wimpy as you might sound, just make some contact. “Are you there?”, “do you have me?”, “I’m a little scared,” or “I might fall” are all good ways for you to feel sure that your belayer has got your skeleton. To be more low-key, just talk about the route by saying, “it’s a jug!!”, “this isn’t a 12,” “[insert route setter’s name] is the best/worst!”, “this route is garbage/so fun!”, or any other useless comment. Any contact with your belayer reminds you that they’re there, ready to catch you.
- Go for the move! Pumped out of your mind, you might think, “this is silly, why don’t I just fall (not take, of course) and then get back on?” Many of us struggle with commitment, and sometimes getting us to commit on lead would require a witch’s potion. The worst possible outcome is you miss the hold by a pumpkin’s width, and then you fall, but you were going to do that anyway, so it’s no big deal. If you make the move, though, you just committed on lead! Well done, you’re one move closer to sending the project.
- Climb outside of your range. If you project 5.11a, get on 5.11d. Even if you think there’s no way you’ll send, try it. You’ll begin to feel comfortable with ghoulish moves. You may not get the route clean, but when you hit your easier project, you’ll be good to go. It never hurts to fall all over routes that are above your grade (your rope may disagree, but you didn’t ask its opinion, did you?).
- Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yoga is especially helpful with this; sometimes, you drift into a pose that’s moderately uncomfortable, but since you have to stay in it, you learn to be alright with the discomfort. On the wall, sometimes that sloper is absolute garbage, but try to be okay with that. You can fly off of it later.
As frightening as leading is, everyone can move past it. Follow these steps, and you’ll be happy taking 100 foot whips on a 5.14 like a pro-climber.
Have any other tips that helped you ward off the fears of leading? Comment below!