3 Supportive Ways To Overcome Lead Climbing Fear

If you're afraid of taking falls on lead, and would like to be less scared of falling, I'm here to help you.

When you are less worried about the fall, and more focused on the climb, you become a better climber.

I'm going to give you 3 tips on how to handle your fear of lead falls, so you can climb at your best.

I'm Catherine and this is The Conscious Climber: the place to be if you want to become a better climber faster, and have the most fun doing it.


"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood"

Climbers; let's talk honestly about your climbing for second: are you satisfied with the way you handle fear? Are you keeping your composure above your protection?

 If you could use some improvement, I have good news; you can and will improve, if you want to.

Overcoming the fear of taking whips on lead is a challenge, and for many of us it’s something we deal with every time we tie into the rope.

 But I strongly believe that confronting your fears while climbing can help you see it more easily in your day-to-day life, which is extremely important for personal growth and I'm committed to helping you manage your fear because the grass really is greener on the other side of fear. J

You are in charge of your climbing destiny and you can overcome crippling fear. I know you can because I've been there! I've experienced moments of paralysing fear on lead, and I see it at the crags all the time.

I remember times when my body became so tense and rigid I felt like I would shatter like a pane of glass if I fell! I used to be petrified to climb above my last piece of pro, whether bolts or a cam, and with each inch I went above it I would incrementally get more afraid.


Fast forward to today, and I've put in the hours and the time, said 'hi' to my fear, and gained positive falling experiences in the process. And I am grateful today to say I'm finally passed this uncomfortable stage in the learning curve.


That's not to say I don't feel fear – because I certainly do – but the difference is it no longer controls me, I control it. And ultimately that’s mastery.


Fear isn't to be ignored, it’s to be understood.  And in this post I'd like to share 3 things with you that I’ve learned about addressing fear.


  • Acknowledge Human Instincts.

“Is it dangerous? Can I eat it. Can I fu*k it.”

 This is what you are programmed for at the most basic level.


 Our brains evolved to give priority to fear in order to live (long enough to pass on our genes).  For example, being suspicious and listening to fear would have helped us when we were searching for food (whether animals or berries) - to keep us from walking off cliffs, approaching a sabre-tooth tiger, or grabbing prickly berries.

A healthy dose of fear kept us kept us cautious and alive.

And even now we’ll generally avoid something if we can't predict the outcome because when uncertainty is involved our “croc-brain” (the primitive part of the brain where are basic instincts come from) pulls the e-brake because its unsure if its walking into a death trap (or in this case, climbing).

 But our modern environment is nothing like the one we evolved in, however we’re left with this strong aversion to fear, and if we're not aware of it fear can control the course of our lives!

Remember we're descendants of apes, and while your DNA does have some of your interests at heart, you need to override and reprogram the ones that are keeping you from your goals.

So next time you’re feeling afraid, don't beat yourself up – thank your instincts for doing their job, but tell them you're going to handle it.

2) Reservoir of Confidence

Let me ask you something. Have you taken a lead fall? When it happened, how was it? Was it ok? Did you get hurt? When the rope caught you, how did you feel?

When you start to take falls, whether controlled or unexpected, you can begin storing those experiences in a place I call a reservoir of confidence.


What is a reservoir of confidence? It’s a data bank within your mind full of positive experiences, or successes. 


William Hazlitt says "As is our confidence, so is our capacity".

So with each fall, you gain an experience. And if you take the time to really analyze your feelings before, during and after the fall, you'll see that the complete falling experience was really not that bad – it was actually positive.


You didn't get hurt and you overcame something; that's a success! So file that into your reservoir of confidence.

This is important to do because you need to cultivate positive associations with the experience of falling. You need to replace existing beliefs (that lead falls are scary and dangerous) with reality (that falling is okay to do).

Now when I have to take a fall I remember my reservoir of confidence (my past positive experiences with falling) to reassure me that I'm going to be okay.

3) Go with your gut feeling.


If you are really extremely uncomfortable lead climbing you are probably not ready for it yet.  And that's OKAY!!


Life is about timing: knowing when it’s time to move, time to stay, time to hold on, time to release.


So to prepare yourself for lead climbing I say, top rope- top rope – top rope.


Build a foundation of skill and strength before you tie into the sharp end.


Follow multi-pitches, practice placing gear on top rope, practice lead climbing on top rope, get your practice in. Build confidence in your movement and technique first.


I seconded for years before I started to lead. I built confidence in my climbing abilities before I went into the whipper zone.


Remember, you build confidence by having positive experiences to draw on.


So if in your heart, you're feeling like leading is way out of your comfort zone and you're not having a good time, rein it back in.


Listen to your gut.


If you have a genuine intention and interest in lead climbing, you'll get there I promise, just be patient.







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