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Climbing and stress (headspace stuff)

Submitted by philbox on 2003-01-17

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Climbing and stress (headspace stuff)

I`m standing below gazing up at this soaring and leaning 180 metre arÍte. Can I control the expected brain funk that could well overcome me when It comes my turn to lead one of the pitches on this monster.

Lee at the start of Hotel California

I can clearly remember stressing out at my mum and dad when I was very young telling them not to drive the car too close to the edge up at the local lookout because we might fall over.

I can also remember wailing my head off as my mum tries to calm me down whilst going aboard an ocean liner to see my grandparents off on a cruise.

In recent times I could not bring myself to jump off a platform to a trapeze even though I was in a full body harness and belayed by not one but two belayers.

By these short anecdotes you may start to see a picture developing in your head of what is going on in my head. I`m sure that others have similar battles with what goes on in their heads when it comes to climbing the vertical spaces of this world.

Rapping or abseiling over a sharp 90 degree edge is another of those things that freak me out. I will go so far as to down climb a short distance to overcome my apprehension.

I have had to travel a long road to gain control over vertigo and other headspace stuff that would keep me from approaching a comfortable feeling in the vertical world.

You could say I am a control freak, I love to be in control. Knowing that, I take active steps to ensure that this does not affect those around me in a bad way. I am constantly pushing my boundaries to overcome this aspect of my life.

Mind you I still like to have some level of control so that I am not too far out of my comfort zone.

Phil seconding the first two pitches Hotel California

One of the main things that you will hear climbers talk about is what is going on inside their heads particularly so when they have had a stressful lead.

So we are down at the base of this huge arÍte and my climbing partner has just struck out on the 30 metre traverse to gain the edge of the leaning arÍte. We will be more or less following the edge of the arÍte to the top, we are on the less than vertical side and because the other side of the arÍte is way overhung we will have major air below us all the way to the top.

Lee tip toes his way across the lip of the enormous roof before ever so slowly vectoring his way up towards the anchors.

Lee way out and up there

Almost time for me to head up.

We had been gazing up at this arÍte all day as we slowly made our way up the harder pitches lower down on the wall and after pitch three the arÍte came into full view in all its gruesome glory.

I knew that the arÍte would have to be surmounted and I quailed in fear.

Okay, I have to get my head ready for this.

Lee is at the anchors.

Mummy, I whimper.

I can do this.

Get control of what is going on in there.

Look out and up, I can do this.

Yeah, calm down nerves, feel the panic that is way down there, put a cap on it, let it drain away.



Enjoy the view.

Look at the zone in front of me, concentrate on the job at hand. Yeah, I can do this, if I were two feet off the ground this is how I would feel. Keep that feeling in my head.

Oh look there I am at the belay with Lee. My turn to lead eh, hmm, yup, I`m still in the zone.

Time for a quick look down, there that wasn`t too bad at all now was it.

Short roof to overcome, great pro, great juggy holds, uppity up. I`m at the anchors. Bring Lee up and time for a pose for a photo. What, lean out, look at the anchors, yeah I can do that, a little I guess.

Lee seconding on Hotel California

Phil chillin` on Hotel California

Lee looking out over the Grose

Lee is off and racing up through the deep dish and over the bulge and heading up the ironstone jugs to the belay.

I`m after him, oooh look at that nice pipe of a jug, yarding, I`m off and swinging in space. That wasn`t too bad, that`s the sort of fall I like, you know the unanticipated ones.

At the top we congratulated each other over our shared experiences but I will take away some experiences from this climb that ordinarily one could keep stored away for oneself.

I share this with others in the hope that others will emulate and share what goes on in their heads.


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