How Do Climbers Overcome Their Fear Of Falling?


How can beginning climbers overcome the fear of falling? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Hazel Findlay, professional climber, mental training coach, on Quora:

Beginner climbers should approach fear of falling in a similar way to non-beginners. Fear of falling affects many climbers, not only beginners, just because you have more experiences it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be less frightened.

Fall practice is the only way I know of for overcoming fear of falling. There are a few things you should know/consider when approaching fall practice.

  • Safety concerns: You should be able to lead competently before falling and you should have a very experienced belayer belaying you who knows how to give a soft catch. You should only do your fall practice where it’s safe to fall eg. you are high enough so you won’t hit the ground on rope stretch, there are no ledges or obstacles to hit, the equipment you are using is safe. Seek professional help if you didn’t already know this.
  • You should not go and take big falls without working up to it.
  • You should be working outside your comfort zone but not too far out of it. So start taking small falls you know you are comfortable with and then build up from there. The falls should feel a little uncomfortable but not terrifying. If you don’t want to, or can’t let go this is a good indicator that the fall is probably too stressful for you right now and you should repeat smaller falls until you are more comfortable.
  • Before you fall. Take on the rope, lower don a few feet from the bolt and bounce out from the wall to practice how you will land (legs shoulder width apart and bend deep on landing). This helps you practice the physical skill of falling and also helps you get used to the rope and harness and the feeling that this equipment ‘has you’.
  • There are many ways a fall can be more or less stressful. Falling further distances usually scares people more than short distances even though bigger falls aren’t necessarily safer. Slabbier walls can make things feel scarier, although some people may find the exposure of steep walls to be more intimidating than slabby walls. Being off to the side of your bolt/gear can also make it scarier because you may swing. Having someone new belaying you can add stress or even just having a stressful day at work can add stress to your practice.
  • It’s good not to rush the fall. Fall practice works because you are exposing yourself to something that scares you. The part that most people find scariest are the moments before the fall. It’s the apprehension of the fall that is the most distracting part for climbers. It’s a good idea to take a few deep breaths before you fall so you spend a few seconds in that space of slight apprehension that you are trying to get accustomed to.
  • If you notice any negative thoughts entering your headspace before you let go, try to focus on your breathing.

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