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onyx


Jul 4, 2006, 3:59 PM
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Well, I've been climbing for four years now. I can follow up to 5.11. My problem is leading. I have steadily lost all confidence. I haven't taken any time off, I've just gotten more and more scared. I used to be able to lead with a fair amount of confidence. I even put up a 5.10b once! But yesterday I tried to lead a 5.7 and had to be lowered off half way up the route because I basically had a panic attack. WTF?! I'm really disappointed in myself and frustrated. I've been reading the posts here and I'm thinking I need to practise falling and confronting my fear without reacting to it. I really think a lot of it is the control issue because I'm not afraid when I actually fall. It's the committing to the possibility. Please post any ideas or suggestions. :?


djoseph


Jul 4, 2006, 4:30 PM
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Not sure if you're interested in some thoughts from the psychology realm, but if so:

There are a couple of gold-standard approaches to working with anxiety from the realm of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). (Disclosure: I am a CBT-oriented grad student, so I'm biased toward this).

1. Gentle, gradual exposure: In this case, you might start by leading a ton of 5.0s - 5.6s (or toproping up to 5.9s) or whatever feels like a slight "stretch" for you. Stay away from the hard stuff until you're truly, comfortably ready to work your way up. Gently, gradually work your way up the ladder. The idea is that through this gradual, gentle exposure, you're demonstrating to your own mind that you are competent.

2. Cognitive restructuring: Identify the specific thoughts that precipitate the feelings of panic. They are there. Might be things like, "Oh, no... I'm going to get overwhelmed by fear, and then I'll lose control of my grip and fall and that will be awful!" Or, "What if my belayer doesn't catch me? I can't let that happen!" Or whatever. Identify those thoughts, and then assess whether they are realistic. If so, perhaps the anxiety is justitifed! If not, see if you can substitute more realistic, self-supportive attitudes/thoughts.

As a new leader, I too get sketched when leading at times, and am working with these approaches. I'm also working on identifying when the sense of concern is justified and when it's overblown.

Good luck working on things... let us know what you find.

Dan



redrocker


Jul 4, 2006, 5:36 PM
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Are we talking about sport or trad leading, or both?
Is it possible that clues may be found in your post?
For example:
"I used to be able to lead with a fair amount of confidence."
Have you ever felt completely confident and comfortable when leading?

"I'm really disappointed in myself and frustrated."
Are you too focused on your performance and the outcome?
Are you perhaps subconsiously concerned about what others will think of your performance?

Maybe the source of your fear can be found in your general attitude toward climbing. Why do you enjoy climbing? Are you climbing for the sheer fun of it or have you allowed your natural desire for greater achievement to take the fun out of it?

I suspect you will get lots of great advice on this website. Most, if not all, of it will be valid and useful. The solution for your probem will come when something you read or hear strikes a cord with you and gives you a plan for conquering your fear.

My humble and unprofessional advice to you would be as follows:
The most important thing is to have fun. Forget about how well you are or aren't doing. Forget about what others may think of how well you are or aren't doing. Don't care about whether or not you reach the chains or the next belay. If you don't make it, lower off and let someone else finish the pitch. Just climb bolt to bolt (or pro to pro) and enjoy the moment and the movement.


Partner the_mitt


Jul 4, 2006, 5:51 PM
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(This post was edited by the_mitt on Nov 19, 2006, 1:28 PM)


blitzkrieg_climber13


Jul 4, 2006, 7:18 PM
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whats there to be scared of. as long as you dont deck there is no problem with leading. i took a good 25 footer as my first lead fall and it was a blast. since then ive taken numerous 30 footers (sometimes for fun). go to the gym and take some lead falls just to get used to the feeling. at first do it on overhanging walls so you catch nothing but air and ease into the less steep walls to get used to hitting the wall on the swing. hope it helps. just remember "fear is an illusion"


watch_me


Jul 4, 2006, 7:53 PM
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Onyx,

The mental aspect of climbing is probably more important than physical strength when it comes to leading at the 5.10 grade (sport - which I assume this is about) and below. You need to look at yourself and discover why you climb and how it fits into your life. When you put it into perspective climbing is not some hugely important thing. We are just amusing ourselves by climbing up little cliff faces. Just because you had one bad climbing day doesn't mean every day will be like that. You need to get out climbing with a partner who has a really positive attitude. You need to go out with an open mind and not think about previous failures. You probably need to start from scratch. Climb things that feel easy to you and gradually work your way up through the grades. I think most climbers have had a day where they were afraid to step above the bolt.

At the start of this climbing year I decided that I would try to lead everything that I wanted to climb. I had just read Arno Ilgner's book "The Rock Warrior Way" and just came from having an incredible backcountry ski season. I felt really relaxed about my climbing and didn't care too much how hard I climbed. I wanted climbing to be the way skiing was for me this winter. There is a certain fluidity and beauty to skiing that I got hooked on, and I have tried to let climbing be that way. I am now climbing better than I ever have.

"The Rock Warrior Way" serves to dissect your ego out of your climbing - not an easy thing. It points out that if you have a bad day climbing your "nasty ego" punishes you and lowers your sense of self esteem - which seems to have happened to yourself. This of course is stupid. Being a better climber does not make you a better person. The point of the book is to push you to focus your climbing on the process of learning (which includes technical as well as mental aspects of yourself) and not on pure achievement. It doesn't matter if you fell on a climb or couldn't make it up to the top - the important thing is what you learned while trying to do it. This might sound a bit like a losers guide - but it actually works to make you more relaxed about climbing and less tension equals better performance.

It sounds like you have the technical skills to easily be a 5.10 climber, you just need to calm your mind, relax and have fun.


Partner happiegrrrl


Jul 4, 2006, 8:02 PM
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whats there to be scared of. as long as you dont deck there is no problem with leading.


... and then, there will be the unhelpful posts.



Good luck with the fear issue, and keep at it. Acknowledgement is the first step toward change.


lrossi


Jul 4, 2006, 8:29 PM
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You need to look at climbing as fun, and don't look at it as a way to judge your fitness, your strength, your ego, or your worth. You are there because it's fun to climb.

You might want to take a break. One of my climbing partners went through a similar thing ... he was leading 5.9, then he got worse and worse and quit climbing altogether. Six months later he came back and quickly made up for lost time. Today, we both led our first 5.10d. I can't see inside his head but I think the difference was that he's climbing for fun now.

I'm not saying it'll take six months, but maybe just skip a few days. Come back when you're chomping at the bit to climb.


_fiend_


Jul 5, 2006, 5:48 AM
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You're in the right place :wink:

Buy the RWW book, read the RWW book. It specifically deals with this sort of issue. The advice posted here is good and will often tally with the book but it's good to have it in a clear, detailed reference.

For what it's worth, I have been in the same situation - I've often have psychological struggles with climbing (note that it's important not to define oneself by one's "problems"), and on a few occasions that's lead to my climbing getting noticably worse than in previous times. Each time I've eventually learnt methods to deal with that and improve my climbing - and improve my approach to climbing - and ended up climbing better and having better experiences than my previous high points.


Partner sevrdhed


Jul 5, 2006, 6:03 AM
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Alcohol. Easiest way to get your head on straight for hard, scary leads. .11a R/X death slab protected by quarter inchers? Three shots of bacardi 151 will take care of that whole "wanting to survive" thing, and you'll be cruising!

Steve

P.S. Personally, I avoid trad climbing like the plague while drinking... but if it's pads or bolts, pour me a shot!


bill413


Jul 5, 2006, 6:16 AM
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You might want to look at what's happening in you personal life outside of climbing. Fear, uncertainty, stress, doubt, etc., can carry over. Since you used to be more confident, look at what may have changed, not just in climbing, but outside of it as well.


svilnit


Jul 5, 2006, 7:34 AM
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Alcohol. Easiest way to get your head on straight for hard, scary leads. .11a R/X death slab protected by quarter inchers? Three shots of bacardi 151 will take care of that whole "wanting to survive" thing, and you'll be cruising!

Steve

P.S. Personally, I avoid trad climbing like the plague while drinking... but if it's pads or bolts, pour me a shot!

What happens when you see 3 pads below you and you know you only brought one? Aim for the one in the middle?


Partner sevrdhed


Jul 5, 2006, 7:41 AM
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What happens when you see 3 pads below you and you know you only brought one? Aim for the one in the middle?

Then I send :D

Steve


dirtineye


Jul 5, 2006, 8:51 AM
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Onyx, this sort of problem is what Arno is REALLY good at helping with, so if you have a chance to get to one of his clinincs or presentations, that would be ideal.

Personally, I have found that getting into a very difficult situation in terms of the climbign involved, but one that also has very low risk of injury, (for example a boudler problem you can barely do or even can't quite do, but one with a happy landing ) can be very helpful.

YOur problem MAY be one of concetration-- since you do not have to struggle to stay on the rock, you allow yourself to drift into poor thinking that hurts yoru efforts. ON the other hand, if all your tattnetion HAD to be on staying on teh rock, then maybe your anxiety would fade away.

This has worked for me many times.

I wil remind you that it is important that there be a happy ending though, just in case your problem can't be solved by raising the difficulty.

An Ideal situation to test this theory is to find an excruciationgly difficult low traverse, one htat you can't possibly get hurt on, and see how that goes.

If all goes well, try one with a little hgiht/risk to it, but still, one with plenty of protection if you come off.

Another point would be, do you have these pesky feelings while top roping?

Anyway, to reitereate, I have found myself doing the very thing you mention, getting a little panicky when the climb is way below my ability, and the reasons have always been unclear to me. BUT, when all my attention MUST be focused on climbing in order to have any chance of staying on the rock and completeing the climb, I settle down.

maybe this would be true for you too.


slimper


Jul 5, 2006, 9:48 AM
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There is a lot of good advice above, I second the idea of purchasing the RWW book or going to a clinic with Arno.

Just one more thing to add. My partner is currently going through the same issues. One thing that has helped her a lot is getting away from crowded crags. When you escape the eye's of others it's easier to shift your focus inward. So if it's possible try to find a crag with a good long approach, that will keep the crowds down. On the hike in you can focus on why we really climb, to have fun and enjoy the outdoors(I hope). Then, when you arrive at the crag. Stay mellow, and calm. Try not to focus on the climb, but rather the moment.

It may be the crazy hippie side of me, but when I have a day to just chill, and enjoy the fresh air I tend to climb a lot more focused.


jdouble


Jul 5, 2006, 10:21 AM
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Hey Onyx!

Good advice so far, but don't think Onyx is being 'chicken'. For those that have not climbed in the Black Hills we are not exactly talking about nice, clean lead falls. Picture weathered granite slabs with quartz crystals the size of your thumb sticking out.

Have you spent much time in Spearfish Canyon? I would say that would be the best place to get comfortable with falling (overhanging limestone sport).

Clip a bolt above your head, fall. Clip a bolt and climb so its at your waist, fall. Clip a bolt and climb two inches above it, fall. You get the idea. Find where you are comfortable and then push your comfort zone a weeeeee bit each time.

J.J.


Partner chappie


Jul 5, 2006, 10:36 AM
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I feel your pain - or fear as it were. Dan is dead on about using gradual exposure and cognitive restructuring - CBT is the therapy of choice for phobias, at least for a significant portion of the population. Although replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is preferable, it does take time. In the short term, simply stopping the negative thoughts from playing in your head can make a big difference. A thought stopping exercise (such as visualizing a stop sign, counting, doing math in your head, etc.) can help keep your mind from going off the Reason Reservation.

You might also want to try a physical relaxation technique like deep breathing - a relaxed body leads to a relaxed mind.

Good luck,

Mark


onyx


Jul 5, 2006, 11:22 AM
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Alcohol. Easiest way to get your head on straight for hard, scary leads. .11a R/X death slab protected by quarter inchers? Three shots of bacardi 151 will take care of that whole "wanting to survive" thing, and you'll be cruising!

Steve

P.S. Personally, I avoid trad climbing like the plague while drinking... but if it's pads or bolts, pour me a shot!


I think I will try this method first. . . . hahaha

Well, thanks everyone for such great advice. I will definitely read the RWW book and start putting into practice some of this stuff. I'm hoping I will get it figured out and be a better climber for it. Again, thank you for all the input. :righton:


nmt252


Jul 5, 2006, 12:13 PM
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I led, and then a high 1st bolt and a blown hold had me deck pretty bad. then I watched my best bro take a nice whipper on lead (I was on belay). I couldn't lead after that. (backed off of a 5.8). I stopped climbing for almost two years.

climbing again, almost as if this is my first go-round at climbing ever. Leading with confidence and caution. Still get the thoughts in my head about my buddy swinging around the overhang, or my hand w/ rock coming off of the face. But I think comtrolling those thoughts and fears is part of "the game" (plus those thoughts ultimately keep you safe) Leading is a total head game. I completely 100% backed away from climbing, let my mind clear, and now I've come back climbing better than before.


notch


Jul 5, 2006, 1:57 PM
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I suspect you will get lots of great advice on this website.
I suspect I will someday fly by flapping my arms really fast. Now we're both wrong.


livinonasandbar


Jul 5, 2006, 1:59 PM
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I got ripped a new one for making a similar, "unhelpful" comment to someone else, but given the unforgiving nature of climbing (it is, afterall, a rather dangerous activity) perhaps I'll mention it again:

If your head isn't right for leading, it might be worth paying attention. It's just possible that leading isn't for everyone, and there ought not to be any shame in it. Take a good look in the mirror and ask the question. If you push yourself to take the sharp end for the wrong reasons, you risk getting f'ed up for the wrong reasons.

(Crusty ol' Dirtineye can now call me a MORON again and make himself feel good.)

Be careful up there.


Partner the_mitt


Jul 5, 2006, 2:07 PM
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(This post was edited by the_mitt on Nov 19, 2006, 1:29 PM)


gblauer
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Jul 5, 2006, 2:59 PM
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I too have had peaks and valleys in my leading. There are times when I can truly experience the joy of leading and other times when leading scares the hell out of me. (sport and trad).

I took the Arno class and found it to be very helpful and very reasonably priced. But...you must PRACTICE his techniques everytime you climb. Indoors or out.

There is some good advice in this thread, be patient, don't be so hard on yourself. Afterall, you are climbing for fun. Remember, this too shall pass!


climberboy193838


Jul 5, 2006, 3:13 PM
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sounds like someone needs to make you take a whipper. or if your not confident in your clipping do a lot of dummy leading(leading with a toprope, making sure your belay gives a realistic, but safe amount of slack so you can get a good fall if you do). I was afraid of falling at first, but then you keep pushing yourself onward, more confident in your climbing despite the potential of a legendary horror-story fall but you will be better at climbing and less afraid of falling. if you want to get good whipper practice go up 2 clips then go above the clip a little, then let go. continue doing this progressively higher, although you may have to go up higher on the wall so you wont deck, but you should be fine and more confident in your belayer and yourself.
have fun
-parker

:righton:


redrocker


Jul 5, 2006, 10:03 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
I suspect you will get lots of great advice on this website.
I suspect I will someday fly by flapping my arms really fast. Now we're both wrong.

I think you just called "bulls---" on me notch and I must say you're right. When I saw it quoted like that I felt kinda foolish for sayin' it. Oh well, too late to edit it out now.

redrocker

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