Dear Abby

You all know Abby…she’s the wisest, kindest, and most responsive omniscient being out there. You may remember her from the American advice column “Dear Abby” created by Pauline Phillips. Regardless, since we at theDIHEDRAL have as many climbing issues as the next set of dreamy-eyed climbers, I, High-Clip, decided it was high time we sought advice from the mighty Abby. We each wrote heart-felt letters to Abby soliciting the figurative climbing beta, and my hope is you guys can answer!

Dear Abby,

I sincerely believe in the adage “each one teach one” when it comes to rock climbing.  I love the old school mentality where established rock climbers felt an obligation to teach newcomers the ropes (literally and figuratively).  Prior to climbing gyms, rock climbing technique and safety was more of an apprenticeship than a how-to video or how-to class. With YouTube and intro to climbing classes offered at most gyms, a lot of the learn on the fly mentality is gone.  There are plenty of obvious advantages to the modern style of climbing lessons (I wouldn’t be a climber if it wasn’t for the intro to climbing classes at my local gym), but something is lost as well. In addition, for climbers there is generally an anti-spray mentality (i.e. unsolicited advice on how to climb a route is frowned upon).  Those who spray (give unsolicited advice) quickly garner a repugnant reputation and are often avoided as climbing partners and associates. No one likes a know-it-all. There are times however, when beginner climbers acquire bad habits that could lead to unsafe climbing conditions for themselves and those around them. Obviously, there is an obligation to speak up where danger is eminent.  My question however is how would you recommend going about talking to those (random climbers who you may or may not ever see again) who are in the midst of what might become a bad habit. Is there an obligation to speak up and “spray” which could have personal adverse effects, or have we entered into the “each one teach one only when asked” phase of climbing communication?


I’m not a sprayer, I just crush a lot!

Dear Abby,

I was dropped a few weeks ago. I flew down 40ft from the top of the wall at my local gym after clipping anchors on a seemingly safe warm-up. After bouncing off of the mat, I felt fine. I hadn’t realized how stunned and freaked I was.

The next week, I was on break so I climbed with my climbing friends who I’ve climbed with for years and trust whole-heartedly…I was okay except for the quick lowers (but who likes those, anyway?).

After returning to school, I climbed again at the gym where I was dropped. I really thought I’d be totally fine; I’d let my belayer know to lower me slowly, I’d climb with a different belayer, etc. Before I knew it, I was shaking on a 5.9 and I could feel my stomach drop like it did as I raced down those 40ft some weeks before. The guys I’ve talked to who’ve had similar experiences all brush it off like being dropped is no big deal at all—fun, even—and I can’t seem to shake off my 100lbs of fear.

I’m gradually improving—the other day, I took some practice falls, and though it took some time, I fell with my last draw at my ankles. Despite this, I’m still having a really hard time committing to moves and trusting my belayer(s). I still shake when I’m not tired. I feel like I’ll deck even though I’m at the top of the wall. Every move feels like a gamble.

What can I do? I know practice falls and sheer volume will get me there gradually, but I’d like to know what else can get me to climb with only reasonable fear.


One determined dropped high-clipper

Dear Abby,

I went to the climbing gym the other day and I was scared. I don’t know what got into me but I did not want to climb. My friends suggested that I lead a route…I panicked. It had been a while since I had had a panic attack. I felt like crying and my palms were sweaty (mom’s spaghetti). I suddenly think walls are intimidating, especially high ones. I want to be able to lead without being afraid. What can I do to be comfortable again? I don’t want to panic at the crag and disappoint my friends! My partner wants to lead all the time and I feel strange top roping it and coming up with excuses. Do you think he’ll understand where my fear comes from? Or…don’t you? Because I still question it. Perhaps it’s because I don’t climb as often as I used to, but not even during my starting days I was this intimidated.

Please Abby, help me! I hope you are able to empathize and orient me.

With love,

The fearful climber 

Yo/Dear Abby!

I’m an all-in all-out kinda guy. Whenever I get into rock climbing I want to be the best I can possibly be. If I have to take a break from it for some reason or another, I have an extremely hard time getting back into the sport, because I know how long it will take me to get back to my “best.” I would like to get to a point where I am happy with my abilities, and just enjoy the sport without putting too much pressure on myself to get good. This happens to me with all kinds of activities, not just climbing.

Most of the things I do in my life have something to do with where or who I want to be in the future. I’d like to not be so serious about things, and learn how to just relax and have a good time more often. There has to be a line I can find in between my competitive nature and a need for relaxation. Sometimes walking that line feels like we forgot the slack line and tried to use a 9mm dynamic 35 meter climbing rope instead.

So, what’s your advice? Meditation? A time-out from climbing? Therapy?

Let me know, and keep shredding!


An All In Addict



5 Replies to “Dear Abby”

  1. Dear Climbers,

    You are all out of your minds. Life is dangerous enough without you seeking out death by climbing rocks inside or outside. But, since you seem hell-bent on pursuing this dangerous, uh, pursuit, “spray” away. No one has to listen to you. That’s on them. As for climbers spraying in your direction, I strongly advise taking their “spray” if they are over sixty years old, still on the ropes and doing clean pitches. Survival is a meaningful credential in your sport.

    Meanwhile, make out your wills and have them notarized.


    Liked by 2 people

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