post injury overcoming my fear of lead climbing..help


Original Post
Lydia and Kona · · Barre · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

A couple years ago I fell badly in a gym and shattered my ankle (tibia coming out the end, ex fix for weeks, 2 plates, 12 pins...you get the idea).
About 6 months ago I got back to climbing and I'm fine top roped, but bouldering and lead climbing are tough. Even lead climbing in the gym I freeze up. They are routes I know I can do but if it involves taking more than one limb off the wall at a time I start panicking. Outside I struggled to lead more than a 5.5..I do better trad climbing.
Does anyone have any suggestion for getting past this fear? I know that my injury was a freak accident but my fear is limiting my climbing progress.

CRAG-list-KILLA · · Wisconsin · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

It's all in the head, fall and fall some more in the gym. Either that or maybe time to take up fishing or golf

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

You could try wearing a shin guard on the leg you hurt. That might be enough of a mental crutch to give you a positive attitude. Here's an analogy; I used to ride a skateboard with no helmet no problem, now if I ride without a helmet I become nervous and afraid. As soon as the helmet goes on I feel safe again.

Lydia and Kona · · Barre · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

I can give it a go with my Velcro brace at least my foot couldn't get stuck sideways. I don't know How much I can climb with my ankle mostly imoble.
But it's a good idea.

Lydia and Kona · · Barre · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Craiglist- I fall all the time top rope and I've taken probably a dozen moderate lead falls but I'm still afraid of it. Dinos are impossible unless I'm top roped or like 6 inches above a clip. But I probably do need to keep falling.

CRAG-list-KILLA · · Wisconsin · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

Yeah when I started climbing I was deathly afraid of heights and falling, with a matter of time I came to love and enjoy both

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

I was thinking more like a soccer shinguard. something that wont immobilize your ankle but has some hard plating like elbow pads to give you some mental comfort.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,407

Patience. Let the injury mentally grow on you.

I took three years of regular climbing before the mental part seemed completely back to "normal." And I am unsure whether that is good progress or not. Well, I do suspect I am now better at leading which was my mode of ankle injury six years ago.

In this moment, maybe more of "do what you enjoy" - and less of what you want to be. (?)

... or maybe my post is more about me than you?

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Get a couple friends to help, and do top roped leads. Two ropes, two belayers. Climb super fast so you can't think about it and are guaranteed to fall, but know the top rope's got ya. Keep at it until the top roper is just standing there and you're only getting caught by the lead.

Even on top rope, maybe trail a tag and do a bunch of clipping?

And, if the shin guard works, back it down to an ace bandage, then maybe something like a hair scrunchy on your ankle. Brains are amazing, and rituals help. You just have to figure out how to derail it at the start, rather than trying to get through once it starts freezing. Yell? Curse in some other language not known at the gym? Sing? Scream?

You can also think of the part of your brain that freezes you up as an entirely separate entity so you can visualize it as the useless piece of shit it is. Alcoholics use this to combat "booze brain"; helps sometimes with depression, too. The same sort of thing as visualizing success on the climb, but fighting negatives is much harder, for me at least.

Having had an accident makes you a better climber, in that you truly know it has risk. Think how cavalier a teenage driver is! You become much wiser once you understand how stupid you can be, and that stuff really just might happen, even to you!

Best, Helen

Nat D · · Seattle, WA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 425
Lydia and Kona wrote:A couple years ago I fell badly in a gym and shattered my ankle (tibia coming out the end, ex fix for weeks, 2 plates, 12 pins...you get the idea). About 6 months ago I got back to climbing and I'm fine top roped, but bouldering and lead climbing are tough. Even lead climbing in the gym I freeze up. They are routes I know I can do but if it involves taking more than one limb off the wall at a time I start panicking. Outside I struggled to lead more than a 5.5..I do better trad climbing. Does anyone have any suggestion for getting past this fear? I know that my injury was a freak accident but my fear is limiting my climbing progress.
Just takes a while. I led my first real trad climb yesterday (8-pitch 5.6).........about 2 years since I took a lead fall and broke an ankle when I was leading 5.8ish trad. The best cure is gradual reintroduction on routes that are easy-wins to build confidence.

After my indoor-only rehab period, I started by doing class 3-4 summit scrambles for my more advanced rehab period. Then I spent about 6 months just doing mountaineering, glacier travel, snow climbs, skiing (to get used to exposure/climbing again without "trad climbing on rock' flashbacks. Then I found ways to teach people basic pro placement and trad skills on low-5th routes to get back into trad mindset, for about 6 months. Then gym climbing and top ropes outside for 6 months until I could confidently tackle v2-3 moves, an 5.10ish single pitch climbs. Which led to yesterday going for a real trad climb 4 grades below my single pitch climbing.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632
Lydia and Kona wrote:A couple years ago I fell badly in a gym and shattered my ankle (tibia coming out the end, ex fix for weeks, 2 plates, 12 pins...
Likely this is obvious, but you haven't said it and nobody else has either. So . . .

That's a pretty serious injury for indoor gym climbing. You're supposed to afraid of that happening again.

I think until you have a clear strategy ("lessons learned") for how that specific kind of fall is not going to happen to you again, it's going to be difficult (and perhaps unwise) to just try to get "mentally acclimatized" for climbing with similar confidence again.

Was it the style of route-setting, stances for clipping? The style and spacing of protection bolts? Was it your climbing strength or style? Your clipping stance or style? Your "holing-on-while-clipping" strength or endurance?

As a result of this analysis, perhaps there will be certain styles of route-setting that you won't lead. Or you'll only lead routes with bolts a certain maximum distance apart - (that tends to be a criterion for me, since some gyms I visit have bolts much closer together than others). Did you try to clip from too low a stance? (which can result in groundfall) - once I came real close to hitting head-first by not climbing high enough before trying to clip.

Myself I've taken two falls while doing high-mountain solo climbing. Each time I was able to resume climbing solo quickly, because I had analyzed my mistake and felt like in the future I could greatly reduce the probability of it happening again.

Ken
Stephmac McLaughlin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 0

I had something similar happen to me when I dislocated my shoulder while climbing; I've found that starting back on easy climbs built up my confidence. Also, check out the Rock Warriors Way by Arno Ilgner! It's helped me to break down some of my mental barriers to climbing and keep my mind in control when I get a little gripped. Good luck! :)

nomadian · · MA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 0

Patience and keep at it. There will be good days and not-so-good-days, but keep coming back. I had a cam break on me resulting in a 20 foot ground fall. It took about 9 months to get my head back in shape. I backed off plenty of easy stuff in the process and just accepted it as part of the process.

Others have talked about Illgner's book and practicing assessing risk. It won't make your fear go away but it will strengthen like a muscle over time and help the parts of your brain you should trust get stronger.

Jason Halladay · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 9,851

I think kenr has a great response. In order to offer suggestions on how you could proceed to get over the fear, understanding what type of accident you had and what factors led to the severity of the accident is crucial.
It's not clear to me if your accident was a bouldering fall or a lead climbing fall? If a lead climbing fall, what was the biggest contributor to the severity of the injury? Ground fall, super hard catch or sideways/twisting fall?

If it was a bouldering fall, was the pad placed incorrectly or did a spotter fail to spot properly?

With careful analysis of the factors of the accident, it's possible to look for solutions and better practices that reduce the risk of a severe injury.

Lydia and Kona · · Barre · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Thank you everyone! This is great advice all around. It's great to talk to other people who have gotten back up there!
Luckily I have a great belay partner who doesn't mind random little panic attacks.
I feel like printing this thread out to take with me climbing just an extra positive boost!

normajean · · Reading, PA · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 50

Practicing Mindfulness meditation can greately help to eliminate unwanted thoughts related to your accident which cause the fear and to be "in the moment" while climbing. I find that Mindfulness In Plain English is a great introductory text and can be found free online in pdf format.

David Galbraith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0

I would do fall practice near the top of the easiest route in your gym. Start the fall as close the clip as you feel comfortable falling from. Take a few falls from there until it feels totally fine.

Then reach up and touch the next hold higher and fall... do that until the fall feels comfortable, then grab onto that hold reach up and touch the next hold a little higher and fall.

Don't give your brain time to think to much about the fall... get into a good position reach up touch the hold and fall. As you are falling focus on good fall technique, try to do "good" falls... focus your mind a part of the fall that you want to do better at. Say sometimes you grab at the rope when you fall (this was what I always did when I first learned to lead) So I would focus on touch the hold, fall, don't grab the rope... and then go. Don't think to much about it...

Your belayer also get to practice nice catches, so have them practice soft catch, and so on.

Make this part of your warm up routine and you'll get over your falling pretty quickly.

Good luck.

Laters,
-d.

Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 0

climbing friend,

a dozen falls will not help you progress through fear of lead falling. try 5-10 per session on regular basis, forever, hucking your meat off the anchors of each climb or if not that because you push on demanding but safe leads. also do not be trusting anyone that says "lead head" or talks about their "lead head" - they are terrified and suffer a performance crippling fear of falling on the safe climb.

Gretchen 81 · · Longview, WA · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 30

I took a big lead fall and broke my foot and had to have surgery...long painful recovery. Anyhow, I really struggled with leading for a long time. As in having almost panic attacks and meltdowns on climbs way below my abilities. My husband got me Rock Warrior's Way. I highly recommend it. I fell on a granite trad route (hit a ledge) after stepping on a wet spot. This weekend lead a similar route that had wet spots and flew up it and was smiling the whole way to the anchors. Someone mention figuring out what went wrong, and the process has been very helpful for me as well. Really recommend the book though.

llanSan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
Gretchen 81 wrote:I took a big lead fall and broke my foot and had to have surgery...long painful recovery. Anyhow, I really struggled with leading for a long time. As in having almost panic attacks and meltdowns on climbs way below my abilities. My husband got me Rock Warrior's Way. I highly recommend it. I fell on a granite trad route (hit a ledge) after stepping on a wet spot. This weekend lead a similar route that had wet spots and flew up it and was smiling the whole way to the anchors. Someone mention figuring out what went wrong, and the process has been very helpful for me as well. Really recommend the book though.
I'm interested to know how did the book help you? or which part?. I ask because I think the book gets you to improve the mental game but not sure it helps to overcome a traumatic event.
Jerry · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 0

I was dropped at The Creek, shattered my Navicular and and several metatarsuls.
My head was also wrecked. I went to Mallorca to DWS with a guided camp, I could not go more than 15 feet without dropping my first day, after two weeks I was going 60 without even flinching. I went from there to Rodellar and my head was so solid I was climbing past bolts without even thinking about it.
Talk to Amos if you want to to DWS, he is the man! mallorcaclimbingcamps.com/

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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