This post is sponsored by REI. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Welcome to the blog Ambassador Meg as she discusses how she didn’t let her fear of heights keep her from climbing.
My mind races as I stare out of the three-sided hut perched precariously on the hillside. As sweat pours from my palms I can barely make out the words of the instructor. “Jump on three OK? Three…Two…”
Before he could finish the countdown, I sprint towards the opening trying not to think. As the ground gives way beneath me I plummet into a freefall and make a noise so primal I didn’t even think my vocal chords could produce it. Just as I’m certain I’ll fall to my death; the bungee grasps tensions and I bounce uncontrollably several times before coming to a stop suspended in the air. I had just bungee jumped 47 meters and I’m deathly afraid of heights.
My Four-Year Battle with Myself
Some people take naturally to exposure. Although it may look like it on the surface, I am certainly not one of them. My saga with rock climbing and exposure has been hard earned. Born out of fear and stubbornness to keep on trying, I’m finally able to say that I’ve beaten that fear.
I used to cry on climbing walls because my nerves were so shattered I couldn’t take it anymore. Flash forward four years later and I’m an avid scrambler (rope-less alpine climbing), ice climbing, and have finally learned to enjoy sport climbing. My “but” wasn’t an option for me, so I decided to kick my “buts” aside and live through action.
Trust in Yourself and Trust in Your Gear
Climbing goes against every instinct any sane person would have. You’re willingly suspended from a rope, high in the air, where a fall will likely kill you. Sure. Sounds great! Sign me up said no one ever! It’s OK if that scares you. I’ll let you in on a little secret: most climbers, in some capacity, are afraid of heights.
Start small and work your way up to tougher grades.
Trust your gear. To be honest, this doesn’t happen quickly, but try taking a break and letting go of the wall. Or have the person belaying you hold you several feet off of the ground. You aren’t going to go anywhere, I promise. Most accidents in climbing don’t happen because gear fails, it happens because a system of pro (protection) or anchors aren’t working properly or due to human error. Your harness isn’t going to break, and the rope can hold a pickup. Trust in your gear.
I spent the last two years sport climbing indoors, but unable to up my grade. Lead climbing haunted me for quite some time, until very recently. I couldn’t push beyond a 5.9 because I was afraid of falling. That feeling of your gut rising as you plummet is my version of hell. Then I did something a little crazy. I enrolled in a class that’s purpose was to take lead falls for several hours. So up the wall I went and poof! I let go. Again, and again until my nerves didn’t feel it anymore. Exposure therapy works. The excuse “but I’m afraid of heights” will never go away unless you expose yourself to that fear. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and discover your inner strength.
The Big Battle with Self-Doubt
Many times, we are the only ones holding us back. “Well, I might make it up that route.” I used to muse. Sometimes I would shy away from even trying. Just last week I had been eyeballing this 10a in the gym. The route rose nearly 45 feet in the air, with a roof section at 30 feet. There was only one move on the roof, but I eyed it with suspicion.
I tried the route anyway, daring myself to give it a go. What was the worst thing that would happen? I wouldn’t top out? So what? I lead that route and attempted the roof section three times before being let down. I didn’t make it to the top, but I gave myself one big hug for giving it a solid try. The takeaway? I wasn’t as afraid as I thought I would be and I got to see the incredible strides I’d made as a climber.
Hey everyone! Meg (@adventuresoffoxintheforest) here. HLAW ambassador, freelance writer, and adventure addict! I’m takin over the HLAW Instagram account to show you allllll of the action happening a Outdoor Retailer. Outdoor Retailer, or OR is THE event in the outdoor industry. There are two shows, one in summer and one in winter. It’s a place to showcase the latest and greatest gear, learn about the outdoor industry, hear inspiring talks from industry leaders, and get allll sorts of nerdy 🤓 about our favorite outdoor sports. So follow along as I give you an exclusive look at the show. Be sure to check out our story! In the meantime, here’s yours truly hunting rock in the beautiful Utah desert last weekend. Happy hiking everyone! . . . . #ushikers #shehikes #sheadventures #teamHLAW #andshesdopetoo #roamingwomen #radgirlslife #sweatydirtyhappy #optoutside #getoutstayout #dirtbagdarling #seeyououtthere #celebratewild #everyonesoutdoors #sharetheadventure #visitutah #goatworthy #todsl #travelmindset #utahisrad #climalife #everytrailconnects #goplayoutside #theoutbound #wildernessculture #exploremore #forceofnature #sheisnotlost #adventureliesahead #backcountrywomen
It’s easy to get in your head and shy away from something new, but you are never going to get anywhere if you don’t make space for success. I doubted my ability to climb for many years, and now I embrace my skillset to push harder.
The process is slow, but over time I’ve been able to shed my “but.” Heights will always make my hair rise, but now I’m confident enough to climb higher and reach further.