Friday, September 6: A story about a time you were very afraid.
The funny thing about fear is that once the event has happened, its really difficult to remember it – or at least that is what happened with me. I choose sports that are scary. Climbing, mountain-biking, road cycling (on British roads) are all scary in their own way. In this post, I’m going to talk about my experience of trying to climb again after decking out (meaning falling off, in climbing parlance).
I started lead climbing quite soon after beginning climbing. My university club often took trips away and taught newbies the basics of rope work. However, my parents flipped out at this and paid for me to go to the National Mountain Centre in Wales for a week-long lead climbing course as a birthday present. It was an amazing week. For one thing, it didn’t rain the whole time I was there (rare in Wales) and I learnt so much. However, I also learnt just enough to make stupid mistakes.
A friend I met on the course suggested that we go to the Peak District and put what we learnt into practice. After leading a couple of Severes and Diffs, I decided that I could *totally do a VS and chose to do Paradise Wall (now downgraded to HS 4b from VS 4c), just above Stanage Plantation. I got started and about 20ft up, I was seating a nut in a crack, and it came out in my hand after a good tug. I still remember falling looking at it and then hitting the ground.
Luckily I didn’t do that much damage. I badly sprained my ankle and cracked a metatarsal in my foot. I had crutches for a while and hobbled for the summer. The worst part was sleeping in a tent the night after I fell. My ankle throbbed, I was bruised and generally not in a good way. And it’s very dull watching others go off to climb and being stuck in a campsite miles from anywhere. Telling my parents wasn’t fun either.
However, in my head was a different story. I was always fighting the fear when leading, but up until my fall it was manageable. Afterwards, I started leading almost as soon as I could. It was not fun, but I thought I should push through the fear and get used to falling. I could lead indoors and after moving to Sheffield, I began to lead outside again. I started on Little Tremadog in Wales, and did some stuff on Burbage and Bamford. The fear was still there, and I’ve never really enjoyed trad again. I just did it because that’s what being a climber was. As being a climber was something that I had tied very much to my identity in my final year of university, not climbing trad was unthinkable.
Lead climbing became a fight between my fear of falling and my frustration that I was scared. I had a number of indoor sessions hanging at the end of a rope and being shouted to man up and just do it. I went to Orpierre and got up loads of different sport route. I felt pleased, and scared.
In the end, I focused on bouldering and stopped leading. Occasionally I’ll try again to push myself but I don’t enjoy it. At the moment I have the urge to try again, but I think lead climbing is a bit like fish & chips for me. I see everyone loving them, I want to love them, but I take a couple of bites and remember that I find it greasy and unpleasant.
- Lead climbing (vickyheyes.wordpress.com)
- Facing Fears of the Group Ride – One Cyclist’s Saga (Guest post) (fitisafeministissue.wordpress.com)
- Plateaus, valleys and mountains: Silencing the inner critic (canadiankate.wordpress.com)
- Climbing Terms (ankadventures.wordpress.com)