Marni

23rd Oct 2014

Question:

Unfortunately I have a fear of heights and I wondered if you ever felt this too and if so, how did you get over it and how long did it take? It's really annoying me how I'm becoming a better climber all the time but I get scared so easily after 3 metres.

Answer:

When I first started climbing, I did have a fear of heights and wasn’t that enamoured about getting too high off the deck! I think this was mainly due to a lack of experience of being at height, a strong sense of self-preservation and an over active imagination! But this quickly dissipated and I think the reason for this was trust. I was lucky in that the people I climbed with initially, were very experienced and I had complete trust in their abilities to keep me safe. And I think that trust issue extends to all areas of your climbing and never goes away. For example, if I’m climbing with someone new or I don’t know them very well, I can feel a more cautious approach to my climbing that day; indoors or outdoors. There is definitely a hesitation to push myself to the point where I may fall, as I’m just not sure what their belaying abilities are like.

So my advice, is to have a chat with your climbing partners and make sure you are both batting off the same wicket in terms of how you would like to be belayed. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do and if somebody took offence to this discussion taking place, then this could suggest they have a rather large ego and climbing with them may not be the most enjoyable experience anyway.

Introducing dynamic belaying to leader falls is always helpful too. This means the falls you take on lead may be slightly longer but they are much softer and you don’t have that horrible experience of slamming into the wall/rock, which can be jarring and off putting.

So, to recap, you need to make sure you have 100% trust in your belayer. You will never be able to push yourself to and beyond your limit, if you don’t have this. The other thing is, to get good at something, you just have to do a lot of it. And feeling happy at height is no different. I don’t know whether you top rope or lead (or both) but if you really are scared after 3 metres, just climb on top rope and introduce small height gains on the same route. Keep working on it all evening until you can happily reach the top. This approach will mean you are slowly familiarizing yourself with the feeling of gaining height incrementally. Also, it’s not a bad idea to choose something easy, well within your ability, so you are not coming across hard moves that intimidate you. Everything should feel easy and comfortable, so gaining height becomes fun and not a big deal.

Good luck!