April 29, 1996
How can I overcome fear of climbing?
Question: I've been climbing about a year now--mostly bolted routes in the 5.9 and 5.10 range. But I'm constantly scared. I keep thinking if I stick with it I'll start having fun, eventually getting used to being one or two knots away from being dead, but it just isn't happening. Were you ever scared all the time? Did you ever have trouble with constant fear?
Answer: The thing that I do when I'm afraid of something--when I'm actually leading--is to actually practice falling. So find a place where you're not going to hit a ledge and start jumping off. Take a one-foot fall, then a two-foot fall, and pretty soon the fall itself is, you understand, not very scary. And what you were afraid of is not falling so much as the unknown. You are afraid of what falling would be like. And once you overcome the unknown, you realize the actual fall is nothing.
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