Too much anxiety about leading


Original Post
m kelley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

I've been climbing for about a year but I've gotten more anxious about climbing, specifically leading, lately. I'll make some cool climbing plans then the lead-terror hits and I'll fret about it and think i'd rather just be hiking.

I never taken any bad falls. I've had 4 lead falls where I was feet above the last bolt. All were pretty clean. But ever since the last one, I have no headgame and completely lose my cool on lead.

I was climbing a sport route bolted every meter recently and even then i felt panicked.

How do I make climbing fun again?

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 90

A few possible answers:

Take more controlled falls until you're comfortable with it. Maybe start in a gym before you go do this outside.

Climb below your grade where you're more comfortable with the climbing moves.

Follow other peoples leads, and get your skill up.

Dan Stringer · · Eugene, OR · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 10

I went through a short phase like this a couple years back. I guess your strategy would depend on what your climbing goals are. Do you want to climb as hard as you can? Fun, easier multipitch stuff? Stuff that is just aethetically cool?

If you're losing your cool on stuff that's bolted every meter, then I'm not really sure what you do because that sounds like a bolted aid ladder to me. Maybe talk to Dr. Phil about what's going on in your life outside climbing. Or maybe just focus on the movement, your breathing, and block out all the self doubt talk that you must be having.

A. Bandos · · Broomfield · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 190

We all know the answer is to get experience taking safe lead falls. Do it in the gym first. Take progressively higher falls. It is a little unnerving at first. Remind yourself it's an irrational fear and face it.

Redyns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 65

i heard golf is a nice transition

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55

Lots of people have this problem. Some more than others. Look up "lead climbing fear" on the web and you'll find lots of advice. Pick and choose what suits you best from that.

Emmett Wynn · · Albuquerque · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 70

Every time I wake up for a climb, I think I should make something up to cancel it. I get more and more scared as I approach and then when I start up, it all kinda dissipates because I no longer have the luxury to reflect on the danger generally, I have to start solving small problems, like the next move or three and where the next gear will go. Nowadays I try to remember that every "climb" can be broken down this, and that I haven't yet truly regretted a lead.

m kelley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
Emmett Wynn wrote:Every time I wake up for a climb, I think I should make something up to cancel it. I get more and more scared as I approach and then when I start up, it all kinda dissipates because I no longer have the luxury to reflect on the danger generally, I have to start solving small problems, like the next move or three and where the next gear will go. Nowadays I try to remember that every "climb" can be broken down this, and that I haven't yet truly regretted a lead.
Thanks Emmett. I've got some plans to do some easy climbs this weekend and I hope this is how they play out.

Also thanks everyone else as well.
Tom Sherman · · Bristol, RI · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 416

Climb significantly stronger than you lead (this is a band-aid)
Only bring yourself into safe headspace, don't let the needle go into the red, i.e. if you lead 5.6/5.7 take a break and only lead 5.4
Climb with more confidence inspiring partners
Wrap-up and address other anxieties in ALL aspects of your life (this can't be stressed enough)

and, as all others are saying

Take safe lead falls and get yourself accustomed.

  • this is all coming from a person who is scared of leading, doesn't even take lead falls in the gym, but tries pushing it. I took a lead-slip this weekend and was quickly caught. Not sure if I was even on level with my pro, but my feet blew and next thing I know I was gently rested on the rope! The best part was when I heard and felt that shake-ily placed nut set!
djh860 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 110

Your thought patterns have a lot to do with your anxiety. You are pushing your own buttons by entertaining these thoughts.
I'd suggest a series of positive affirmations . I feel strong today. Today is a good day to climb. I have been climbing well. My rope is 12,000 pound test. I trust my partner. I'm a good climber. Make up your own. Don't let negative talk or feeling capture mind space .

ckersch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 150

You haven't lead enough or taken enough falls, and probably don't do either very often.

I haven't been sport climbing much lately, though I'm starting to get back into it, but when I was leading regularly four falls from above the bolt would be a standard amount of falling for a day of leading. If that's all you've taken over the course of your climbing career: fall more.

I go through what you're going through basically every time I switch from bouldering to leading. I'm comfortable on climbs up to 5.10 or so, but anything harder and I start getting serious nerves, until I take a bunch of falls and get used to climbing pumped above a bolt. Plan on a week or two of taking four decent falls a day climbing three or four days a week.

Unfortunately, that probably still won't get you solid on taking falls outside. To do that, you need to take a similar number of falls outside as you did in the gym. Go out, get on some overhung stuff with clean falls, and take your medicine. Even if you can get out on a weekly basis, it shouldn't take more than a month or two for your brain to normalize falling on real rock as part of the game.

Projects can also help. If you're falling repeatedly in the same spot when trying to figure out moves, you can log quite a bit of air time pretty quickly. You can take the first fall or two in a controlled manner. Tell your belayer "I'm going to climb a few feet above the bolt and fall", and then do that. Then, go for the hard moves. Worst case, you'll take the exact same fall you just took once or twice on purpose.

Just don't pick a project with ledges.

m kelley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
Tom Sherman wrote:Climb significantly stronger than you lead (this is a band-aid) Only bring yourself into safe headspace, don't let the needle go into the red, i.e. if you lead 5.6/5.7 take a break and only lead 5.4 Climb with more confidence inspiring partners Wrap-up and address other anxieties in ALL aspects of your life (this can't be stressed enough) and, as all others are saying Take safe lead falls and get yourself accustomed. *this is all coming from a person who is scared of leading, doesn't even take lead falls in the gym, but tries pushing it. I took a lead-slip this weekend and was quickly caught. Not sure if I was even on level with my pro, but my feet blew and next thing I know I was gently rested on the rope! The best part was when I heard and felt that shake-ily placed nut set!
I lead some really relaxed soft 5.8s last week that weren't scary but a few weeks before that I was in the "forgetting to breath and deathgrip on everything" mode on similiar terrain.

Does anyone know any good outdoor sport 5.4s near denver? I'll be there for work soon. I'd love to do some fun easy climbs but seems like climbing starts at 5.10.
Scott M. McNamara · · Tucson, Arizona · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 55

http://warriorsway.com/

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 1970 · Points: 0

Check out east colfax in clear creek. Lots of easy routes. Climbing is all about enjoying yourself and the process. And when your head is working against you it's the worst. We've all been there, and most of us have found our own creative way around it. Me personally, I started soloing to put lead climbing Into perspective. But that's just me and my own head game.

And +1 to what Scott said.

Mike13 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 10
Kiz wrote:Check out east colfax in clear creek. Lots of easy routes. Climbing is all about enjoying yourself and the process.
I agree that E Colfax is loaded with easy routes but almost all of them would actually suck to fall on as they are almost all significantly less than vertical. Nothing enhances a fear of falling like your foot slipping on that 5.7 and sliding down a slab.
ARonchetti · · Mundelein, IL · Joined May 2011 · Points: 15

I would say try to figure out what it is exactly that is freaking you out while leading.

For me my usual belayer is a good deal lighter than me so I'm afraid to fall and hurt her. So I tend to have a bit more lead head at the start of a route and it gradually goes away as I climb.

Once you figure out why you're getting scared then you can start to address that.

Just my two cents.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin' western US · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701

Get with a partner that'll push you. Gym climbing provides more comfort with its colored holds, tape, music, and padded floors. Climb hard in the gym.

Keep the rope between your feet and the wall at all times, no matter what you're on. Our wonderful bolts tolerate 5,000+ pounds. Keep pulling toward the next hold. You fail to? Enjoy the rope swing! You can only benefit, whether you're cranking, or fallin.

The only misfortune is that you have an ignorant belayer that just freezes and can't be a functioning, moving part in the system.

pkeds · · Redondo Beach, CA · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 30

Lots of good advice here. As someone who has a history of anxiety in and outside of climbing, I can relate. I generally find that if my anxiety outside of climbing is peaking (ebb and flow) it normally raises my anxiety while climbing. If i can reign in my overall anxiety, I notice an improvement in climbing. That being said, i have found a few climbing specific things to help.

  • find a good partner. one that carries the stoke, is supportive, a good belayer, and will help challenge and push you in climbing. if im feeling anxious that day climbing, letting my partner know where my heads at and having him/her understand helps rather than try to weasel my way out of climbing or coming up with an excuse and we'll do something more chill that day. a good belayer helps ease the mind with falling obviously.
  • i find that climbing harder sometimes(with good gear) helps me since ive found harder grades tend to be less ledge-y and requires 100% of my focus to be diverted to the movement where easier climbing requires less focus freeing up my mind to falling more.
  • mileage/repetition. the more you do it, the more you get used to it. i have a hard time coming off the couch after an extended period of not leading and climbing to my fullest potential on lead. as others suggested, practicing lead falls also helps in a safe environment.
  • positive thinking/attitude, breathing techniques, and learning how to rest properly while climbing go a long way.
  • read rock warriors way
JeffMK · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 240

Some guy in passing once mentioned offhandedly that "it's all mental pro anyway." While I would never suggest not making protection as bomber as reasonable nor expecting to never take a fall, but I found that if I'm about to lead something that is within my range (not pushing the grade) that this little phrase has helped me to loosen up the fear of falling and climb on.

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35
ARonchetti wrote:I would say try to figure out what it is exactly that is freaking you out while leading. For me my usual belayer is a good deal lighter than me so I'm afraid to fall and hurt her.
I have the same issue with my regular climbing partner.

For the OP I would suggest the Clip and Fall technique. I just heard about it, basically you climb to a bolt, clip it and then take a fall. Its a shorter controlled fall but it get you used to falling. I personally find the shorter falls to cause more anxiety than the longer falls.

Climb smart and climb often.
Christian · · Casa do Cacete · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 1,495

Yep, positive thinking always works. Oprah and Dr Phil and The Secret said so, so it must be true.

Or you could also accept that falling on slabby climbs with crappy belayers and limited falling experience is probably a pretty realistic fear and plan accordingly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS06JvtlAc8

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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