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Focus vs. Fear
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Jul 26, 2005, 8:56 AM
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Registered: Sep 12, 2004
Posts: 192

Focus vs. Fear
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Just a little post to maybe help get the forum going again. I've been climbing for about 1.5 years now, and I redpointed my first 10 this weekend; previously I've led up to 5.12a but never had any redpoints above 5.9 because I find it extremely difficult to keep climbing once I get marginally pumped. However, before this weekend, I'd never actually attempted to work a route multiple times in one day. I've basically been attempting to onsight everything I've lead for the past 6-8 months. The effect this has had is that I'm always scared on lead and it's very difficult to focus. I was just about to give up on my lead head when I realized that maybe if I actually attempted to lead something a few times in a row, I'd be able to remember the moves and I wouldn't lose my focus and give in to the fear so easily. In a nutshell, it worked brilliantly. By forcing myself to focus on efficiency of movement in order to try to conserve my strength to get to the anchors without being ridiculously pumped, I completely forgot to be afraid of the climbing itself. At one point, on my second attempt, I took at the last bolt. Afterwards, I finished out the climb just to make sure I had the last moves nailed before my third attempt. However, I was so focused on what I was doing that I forgot I was on lead, and I climbed up to the anchors and just hung out there messing around with different hand positions for 15-20 seconds before I realized I needed to clip in to the anchors. I got it on my third attempt, with very little real effort. Over the past couple months, I've been starting to feel very bitter. I watch other climbs who are not as strong or thin as I am and who don't seem to have better technique than me effortlessly lead climbs on which I was pumping out at almost every bolt. I didn't understand how they could be so cool and collected and seem so efficient in their movement. It all makes sense to me now. Of course, I'm going to be more afraid when I'm leading something near my limit for the first time. And since I haven't been leading it again afterwards to get the moves down and work it, I never actually get comfortable with leading. So naturally, my mind associates climbing on lead with fear and uncertainty. As soon as I spent ONE day actually working something that felt difficult to me at first on lead, I walked up it in three attempts and with no fear and almost complete confidence in my movement. I think a lot of newer leaders might have the same type of problems...we're afraid to lead to begin with, so after we do a scary lead for the first time, we sure as hell don't want to do it again. I think that if we force ourselves to work the route a couple of times, we'll be amazed at how much more comfortable we become with the moves and how focused and committed we can be to the effort. Also, it seems that the more you can train your mind and body to climb with focus and commitment rather than with fear while working a redpoint attempt, the more that focus and poise should transfer over to your onsight attempts also. So from now on, at least on sport routes which are easy to repeat multiple times quickly, I think I'll be attempting to work routes multiple times rather than just climb them once, wet myself in fear, and move on. I'm sure that to more experienced climbers this seems like common sense, but you might be suprised at how counter-intuitive it seems to newer leaders, especially in situations where they don't have a mentor to push them to repeat a lead that frightens them in order to become more comfortable with the fear. Anyway, just an interesting sort of breakthrough I've had this weekend that I felt I'd pass along. I'm actually excited about climbing again for the first time in a few months, rather than being nervous and apprehensive. It's a great feeling.



Jul 27, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Registered: Mar 29, 2003
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Hey Nate,

I agree it is good to not climb in fear!

Have you considered working on your efficiency? Are you over gripping, not using your feet as much as possible, and maybe forgetting to breathe?

One thing I have found that helps with both concentrating on the moves as well as endurance is to do very long traverses at a boudler area. There is no fear of falling when the ground is one foot away, but the moves can be almost impossible. You can work the hard parts over and over without having to climb back up to them.
As a bonus, eventually, by trying to stay on a very long intense traverse, you will discover more efficient ways of making the moves.

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