Falling on lead, top rope or even when bouldering is intimidating because it is unnatural. Tell anyone to jump off the top of a thirteen metre wall and I would expect them to say, “No, thank you!” or thereabouts. As humans we are all born with varying degrees of basophobia, meaning a fear of falling is not to be ashamed of, only challenged.
When I first began climbing I was scared of falling, too. I would shout, “Take!” when it came to a challenging move and would wait for the rope to go tight before I leant back and held my knot. Of course, this is all perfectly acceptable as the most important part of your climbing is that you are comfortable and enjoying yourself, however, in order to really improve and reach those higher grades, your fear of falling needs to be conquered.
Unfortunately, the first step is the scariest: just falling. Although the prospect is daunting to some, only by normalising the feeling can you overcome your fear of it. The fall does not have to be big, perhaps just letting go before the rope is fully taken in at the chains, or if it’s bouldering you can climb down halfway before letting yourself go. These manageable achievements not only make you more aware of the feeling of falling, but also help you practise finishing your fall as sensibly as possible, whether that is rolling onto your back in the bouldering area or bending your legs as you swing back into the wall on a rope. From here onwards, your aim is to slowly increment your falling, for example, falling just above a clip, or jumping off with the anchors unclipped (do not try this on top rope!). I guarantee all of this will not only make you feel safer on the walls, but it will also build up your bravery so that when you come to that difficult move, nothing holds you back from putting all your effort into trying it; this is when your climbing skills skyrocket.
I cannot deny that having to stay at home does makes it a lot harder to jump off Reading Climbing Centre’s Diamond, but that doesn’t mean you can do nothing to confront any anxieties about falling. For those lucky enough to have a wall of their own, they can practise safe landings and falls from different heights as you would in the bouldering area. If not, why not try just talking to someone about what or why you fear falling; this may help the problem seem more manageable, or it may just give you someone who can encourage you as you try to conquer this fear. Furthermore, the NHS also suggests keeping active so our brains can release those feel good chemicals, so make sure you stay on top of your training!
This may all seem like a lot, but I promise you it is worth it. I’ve gone from someone who was cautious of falling to someone who doesn’t know what the anchors are for because I never want to clip them! Good luck with conquering your fear of falling and try and make the most of all this free time we have been gifted with.
Blog written by Emily Volkaerts RCC Performance Squad Member