'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.'
- Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear" from Dune by Frank Herbert
A climber’s mental attitude has everything to do with how he or she is going to perform on a climb. While hesitation and commitment can be lumped in with motivation I want to explore these mental elements as they effect the moment. The thoughts that are rushing through your head as you climb above your last piece or try to top out a boulder problem are very insightful. How can a climber improve their mental game so that the negative self talk can be reduced or eliminated?
When climbing a route or problem I think that climbers exert varied amounts effort throughout the duration. While the amount of physical exertion may be easy to gage the amount of mental effort can be harder to comprehend. Some times on a climb it can be very important to keep the right mindset even when the difficulty eases. A climb may be runout, have serious fall potential or a bad landing where hesitation could cause an unsafe fall. Keeping focus all the way to the top will help to insure success.
Comprehension about the gravity of a situation can have large consequences on the ability for a person to perform the needed actions. Many times a climber can deal with runouts and dangerous situations because they are not fully aware of the potential consequences. A climber can be unnerved when their belayer warns of ground fall danger or other possible problems that the climber thought they had under control. This mental insecurity can easily translate into a bigger problem if the climber starts over gripping or making bad decisions.
There are different mindsets that I think can be very helpful when climbing in order to be more successful. Pressure to send a route can be problematic when it causes a climber to be tentative or worrisome. Being able to be in the moment and distance ones self from expectation and pressure can be quite helpful. Many climbers do not recall the details from hard sends because they were fully engaged in the moment.
Being in the zone does not solve everything; being able to have control over your emotions can be as powerful if not more so than the zone. A problem with climbing in the zone can come when you snap out of it when the climbing becomes more difficult than expected and you are not properly prepared. Willingness to commit to difficult movement can be necessary and mental toughness is necessary. A mind set that allows commitment without taking difficulty for granted is very powerful.
Expectations of a route can have varied effects on a climber. Some climbers are easily intimidated by cruxy routes while others fail to maintain mental energy through sustained climbs. Knowing where a crux is on a route should give the climber an advantage because it allows them to mentally prepare for the complex or difficult sequence. A climber can make sure that they are rested and willing to give 100% to the next section of rock. We as climbers must strive to conquer our fears and hesitation and give a genuine effort.
As the act of climbing becomes more challenging I find my self more engaged in the movement. Clipping bolts and placing gear become integrated into the climbing motion and I am not overly worried about fall potential. Many times when I fail to assume the right mind set or am worried about falling I will dwell on the gear or bolts. The action of clipping a bolt does not help a climber recover lost energy but it often helps bolster a climber’s confidence. Many times I will feel much better after placing a cam even though the difficult of the climbing has not eased.
Looking at how climbing changes our mental state will ultimate lead to both a better understanding of ourselves and a break through in our climbing. Climbing highballs out at bishop this past weekend really made me think about how mental climbing really is. I would be perfectly able to do all of the moves on a climb but my body would not allow me to continue when I would climb far off the ground. Conquering this fear would open a new realm of climbing and it will be interesting to see how I can deal with fear in the future.