1. Get proper instruction for climbing and belying
Find a reputable climbing gym or outdoor climbing guide service. Look for an organization with experienced instructors who have been certified by a recognized climbing association such as the American Mountain Guides Association. Please note that your very experienced and well-intentioned friends might not know the best practices or they might have developed bad belaying habits.
Sign up for a climbing course that is relevant to your skill level and what your goals are. This will give you a solid foundation in climbing techniques and safety procedures. This will reassure your trust in your skills and help with the fear of falling.
Tell your instructor about your fear of falling. They can help you work through your fear by teaching you how to fall safely and demonstrating how the equipment is designed to protect you.
2. Practice falling on an overhanging wall by increasing the distance gradually
Once you have learned how to fall safely, practice falling from a height that feels comfortable to you. Start small and gradually increase the height as you become more comfortable. I always have my lead climbing students start by taking a fall on an easy route. The climber first climbs up the route to at least the third or fourth quickdraw and then takes a fall with the quickdraw clipped above them. Then they gradually increase the fall distance by climbing waist level to the quickdraw and then above it to take falls.
Take it slow. Climbing can be a mentally and physically challenging sport, so take your time and don’t push yourself too hard too quickly. Set realistic goals and work towards them at your own pace.
3. Read the route and plan where to clip quickdraws or to place protection
Learning to read the route when climbing can be a helpful way to handle your fear of falling. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Take a moment to survey the route before you begin climbing. Look for handholds and footholds, and try to visualize the sequence of movements you will need to make to ascend the route.
Break the route down into sections or “cruxes.” Identify the hardest parts of the route and plan your approach accordingly. By focusing on one section at a time, you can break the climb into manageable pieces and reduce your anxiety.
Use your feet as much as possible. Many climbers rely too heavily on their upper body strength, which can increase the risk of falling. By using your feet to push yourself up the route, you can conserve energy and maintain better balance.
Pay attention to the quality of the handholds and footholds. Some holds may be small or slippery, while others may be solid and easy to grip. By learning to differentiate between different types of holds, you can make more informed decisions about where to place your hands and feet.
Visualize success. Rather than focusing on your fear of falling, try to visualize yourself completing the route successfully. Imagine yourself making each move with confidence and precision.
Remember that fear is a natural part of climbing, and that it can be managed with practice and experience. By learning to read the route and focus on the task at hand, you can build your confidence and overcome your fear of falling.
4.Use positive self-talk and visualization to handle the fear
Using positive self-talk and visualization can be an effective way to handle your fear of falling when climbing. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Use positive self-talk to handle your fear of falling
Instead of focusing on negative thoughts or what could go wrong, try to fill your mind with positive affirmations. Tell yourself that you are strong, capable, and in control of the situation. Repeat phrases like “I can do this!” “I am safe!” and “I trust myself!”
Visualize success on the route
Imagine yourself completing the climb successfully, making each move with ease and confidence. Visualize the route in your mind, and see yourself reaching the top safely. This can help build your confidence and reduce your anxiety.
Celebrate the small successes
If you make it through a difficult section of the climb, take a moment to celebrate your success. Acknowledge the progress you’ve made, and use it to build your confidence for the next section. If you take a fall consider how far you made it and how good the practice was on both the climbing and the falling!
5. Use steady breathing and focus to calm yourself during the climb
Take deep breaths. Slow, deep breaths can help calm your nerves and regulate your heartbeat. Take a few deep breaths before you begin climbing, and continue to breathe steadily throughout the climb.
Focus on the present moment. Rather than worrying about what might happen, try to focus on the present moment. With your training and your skills you know when you are safe! Pay attention to your movements, your breathing, and the sensations in your body. By staying focused on the task at hand, you can reduce your anxiety and increase your confidence.
6. Trust your skills, your belayer and your equipment
Trusting your skills, your belayer, and your equipment can be a helpful way to handle your fear of falling when climbing. Here are some tips to help you build trust in these areas:
Trust your skills. Take the time to practice and develop your climbing skills. Learn proper technique for climbing and belaying, and practice falling in a controlled environment. The more you practice, the more confident you will become in your ability to handle different situations.
Trust your belayer. Your belayer is responsible for keeping you safe while you climb. Make sure you have a good communication system in place, and trust that your belayer will catch you if you fall. If you have concerns about your belayer’s experience or ability, talk to them openly and address any issues before you begin climbing.
Trust your equipment. Climbing gear is designed to keep you safe in the event of a fall. Make sure your gear is in good condition and properly maintained, and trust that it will do its job if you fall. Make sure you check our tips on how to check for damage and how to maintain and store your climbing gear. If you have concerns about your equipment, check the manufacturers recommendations or talk to a qualified climbing instructor or gear expert.
Remember that trust is built over time through practice and experience. By focusing on your skills, and trusting your belayer, and your equipment, you can manage your fear of falling when climbing.