/ Returning after a fall

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BlueTotem on 10 Aug 2017
Is there any advice anyone can give me about returning to climbing after a fall? I've been having some difficulty getting back into it and finding my confidence again, and I'd appreciate any advice.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a 4m ground fall. Walked away with some bad bruising, but nothing broken. Now I can wear a harness again, I've been trying to climb, but I'm really struggling to get back into it. The situation isn't helped by the fact a piece of gear popped out, which I'm finding to be a particular confidence killer. (It was a blue Totem, ironically, which was placed rather badly in a rounded break during a midge attack.)

I've been back to the route, finding excuses to do endless ab inspections rather than actually climb anything. But I'm struggling even to pluck up the courage to solo toprope sections half way down, despite a Silent Partner backed up to a clove hitch, all on an anchor that looks like it could catch a building.

How do I get from where I am now to being able to lead climb the route, especially having seen my gear fail? Is it just a question of time, or is there something I should be doing that will help me stop being a wimp? Would going back to a previous grade help, for example, or maybe practice falling?

Thanks very much for any advice anyone can give. I really love climbing, and I want to be able to do it again.
top cat on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

You should recognise that your runner wasn't good and that some runners aren't. A rush job though. Accept that, and also recognise that most of your runners are good! [they are, aren't they??!]

A couple of years ago I took a ground fall from 8m and spent a month in hospital with 5 spinal fractures. Two runner failures, the first was totally expected: it was crap and I knew it, the second was supposed to be a bomber but the rock failed. I was philosophical about the whole thing and returned to winter V as soon as I had recovered.

If you love climbing enough, you will get there. Go climb some nice routes that you have done before, relax and enjoy them, then move on.
Dave Cumberland - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

1. Traditional climbing.
2. Get the basics right (gear, belaying, speed of movement).
3. Go back to long easy routes if available where you are to build confidence.

And in no time you will be back to your best. Happens to everyone.
GarethSL on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
I decked off one of my first trad routes in Malvern around 10 years ago, leaving a brick sized hole in the rock where my only piece had blown out and me rolling around winded in stinging nettles (a relatively soft yet somewhat painful landing).

I took up ice climbing after that. :^)

Following the fall I decided it was best to take a step back and had to accept that I clearly was not ready to lead. I focused on getting a calm lead-head indoors and following more experienced climbers outside, using that to assess gear properly so I could really see what bomber meant. Watching hard climbers fall on trad gear also helped me learn that good gear will hold. But yes, it did take some time, extending into alpine and other disciplines helped quite a bit!

Never fallen off anything since though!

I reckon you can brush it off. Go out and climb every single route between VDiff and HS around Sheffield you can. Maybe set yourself a challenge e.g. every Stanage VDiff in a day (or other routes that are well with your grade). You will be so focused on getting them done and will cover so many pitches that the fall will likely escape your mind. You can focus on getting back to where you were once your head is back in the game.
Post edited at 14:34
Trangia on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Yours is a perfectly understandable reaction, as others say, give yourself time, and if it continues to bug you lower your grades. After all we climb for pleasure, if that's being replaced by anxiety, then it ceases being fun, and it's not worth it.

It's a similar scenario to having close friends killed in climbing/mountaineering accidents, something I have experienced too many times. It does affect your ongoing outlook and attitude to the sport.
taddersandbadger - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Some good advice given already but one thing that struck me was for a relatively new climber (1-3 years going by your profile) you are already into some pretty specialised kit like Silent partners and Totem cams. Don't get me wrong Totems are awesome cams (see Andy KP's article on them) but generally not seen as part of your first climbing rack or as full sets but rather as add on to a more conventional rack and great for aid or in those placements that nothing else will go in, a bit like the one you describe it ripping out of.

Taking a closer look at what went wrong and why the gear ripped plus what you could have done differently may help you move on and get your mojo back.

If you are really brave post all the details like what route, what grade, what gear you had in on here and I am sure loads of us will get out our armchairs and offer an opinion;) or better still go down the pub with a few of your experienced climbing buddies and talk it through.

Without knowing the details it is hard to comment but from personal experience, I have had some trouser filling moments above some shoddy gear, only to have my second point out less obvious but far better pro that I missed in the heat of the moment.

Good luck!
Fredt on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

I had a ground fall 18 months ago.
Still pondering a return. As you say, its all in the head.I'm worried about loss of balance after so long. I'm trying to prepare by scrambling, running on uneven ground, etc.

When I used to go to walls (not since the early nineties), I found the most useful thing about them was falling off all the time, so maybe that may help you.
pebbles - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
I had a fall in circumstances very similar to you a couple of years back - realised at the time it was rubbish gear but oddly this didnt helped my head - it still affected my overall confidence in gear. I dont see the point of going back to the same route you fell off - thats just going to reinforce all the bad feelings. what I reckon you need is to rebuild your confidence easily instead - drop your grade a bit to what you do feel ok leading, get lots of volume in on routes you feel comfortable on, maybe start pushing it back up again on routes where you know your gear is good. And get your mates to critique your gear for you when they second - that should help reassure you that your gear is generally good when you think it is (and if not you'll find out and can improve it). chill out a bit, focus on what you enjoy in climbing and accept that sometimes these things take a bit of time. Seems to be working for me . Indoor practice falls helped too - look up clip drop training - but I dont think I would try that till you feel a bit more confident again - no point setting yourself up to have a bad time, the idea is to feel good about things, not scare yourself silly
Post edited at 15:39
Michael Gordon - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

If you're lacking confidence at the moment, the last thing I'd do would be go out alone where you have to trust a mechanism rather than a (proper) partner! Top rope if you feel you aren't up to leading, but surely much more relaxing to have someone who can give a tight rope if required. When you do start leading again, go for well protected stuff initially. Even onsighting a hard route, if very well protected, can be a good way to get back into the swing of things (obviously this won't be for everyone). Lastly, it's just one route you fell off on and nothing to say you have to prove to yourself you can do the route - there's plenty of others!
BlueTotem on 10 Aug 2017
Thank you all, for your kind words. There are certainly some inspiring back-stories here, and it's nice to hear that others have had issues like this and bounced back.

I must say that I admire top cat, GarethSL, Fredt and particularly Trangia. These sorts of accidents aren't easy to come back from, as I now know. Thank you for the advice.
BlueTotem on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to taddersandbadger:

> If you are really brave post all the details like what route, what grade, what gear you had in on here and I am sure loads of us will get out our armchairs and offer an opinion;) or better still go down the pub with a few of your experienced climbing buddies and talk it through.

To answer your question, although I'm a little ashamed to say it, the route was High Neb Buttress*** (VS 4c). There is an awkward mantling move around four metres up, on the left. At that point, I had placed only one blue Totem, and no other gear. I suspect the purple one would have held.

The lead line was attached with a bunny ears knot to two slung boulders at ground level. It was then passed through the Silent Partner on my harness, and a backup knot.

Overall, I had racked a full set of Totems, black to orange, as well as Rock offset superlights, a few smaller tricams, and (mostly) DMM quickdraws. Larger Dragon cams and Torque Nuts had been left on the ground on this occasion. I understand that my climbing skills, and perhaps my rack, don't speak of impressive levels of wisdom and experience. I've only recently returned to Sheff for work, and have spent more time in indoor walls until fairly recently. I had got myself quite excited about grade-pushing, with eyes on more ambitious future projects, and had managed a fair few routes at the grade very recently without any problems. I'm perhaps not the most effortlessly charismatic person in the world, but had been keeping an eye out for potential partners I might meet in the area. Meanwhile, the roped soloing seemed to have been going well, and I had perhaps got a little over-confident.

I can now think of several things, including a backup top rope on a clove hitch, a bouldering pad, or a more carefully placed runner, that would have made a difference here. I have also now revised my position on whether a rushed start to a climb is a sensible way to escape a swarm of midges.

I think the overall consensus, as mentioned by Michael Gordon and others, is that it may be a good idea for me to focus on other routes at lower grades until I find my groove again, and that summoning up the social skills to find a local partner who wasn't made by Rock Exotica may prove a wise choice. I just hope I don't embarrass myself by racking half a tonne of gear then bottling out before I've left the ground...

Thanks for your kind words of advice, Paul. It's always nice to be able to talk these things through with more experienced climbers - UKC at it's best I reckon.
Greasy Prusiks on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

I'd change what you're doing a bit. Imagine if someone you knew had been in a car accident, you wouldn't recommend the site of the accident as a good spot to start driving again.

Go and do something else that you feel comfortable with, boulder, top rope, drop your grades, go indoors it doesn't really matter. After a while you'll feel more relaxed and you'll be enjoying climbing again.

I'd be very careful with going back to the same route. When you have an accident your first response is emotional, obviously this is not a good for making climbing decisions. Do something else, wait and get comfortable then you can go back and make a rational decision.
BlueTotem on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

Thanks for the advice. I think you've got a good point. Maybe returning to the scene of the crime isn't the answer I'm looking for, and repeat ascents or easier climbs elsewhere might be the answer to finding my confidence again. I suppose what I need to do is get some successful top-outs, rather than getting too focused on this route, and not being able to do it.
taddersandbadger - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
All I can is: "hats off to you" you have come across very well on this thread and to be fair, VS 4c self belayed is nothing to be ashamed about
For what its worth, you sound like a reasonably experienced, very articulate guy with a sense of humour, who had a bit of bad luck.

If you are ever near the South Coast, give me a shout, I would be very happy to climb with you.

Post edited at 18:26
Greasy Prusiks on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
No problem. That sounds like a good plan to me.

Good luck with it!

EDIT :Don't be bad about falling of a VS, it's a hard grade. I fell off a HVS 4c twice in a row this year, not long after climbing E5!
Post edited at 18:58
Kirill - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Just think of all the 3 star vdiffs that you could never be bothered to do as they were too easy. Now is the best time to do them. It is going to be great!
GridNorth - on 11 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
Great post, if only to remind all those idiots who continually maintain that climbing is NOT dangerous, that trad gear is as safe as bolts, and that you are more likely to get injured driving to the crag etc. etc. that climbing is a dangerous activity.

Post edited at 13:35
davidbeynon on 11 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:
I had something similar happen a few years ago. Rested on gear which pulled out and dumped me on the ground. Was sore for a couple of weeks but no bones broken.

It took me a few years to get back to the level I was climbing at before I fell off.

I found that climbing a lot of easy stuff, and really concentrating on getting the gear right helped with confidence early on.

Unfortunately once I was having fun climbing again I coasted for a couple of years and didn't really push myself. I find that picking a feasible but challenging medium term objective helps a lot with motivation.
Post edited at 14:04
Pursued by a bear - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Sometimes, you just lose your mojo. I lost mine after a long fall off the second potch of Spectre (HVS 5a); nothing hurt, just bagged some air miles, but afterwards I just couldn't get going. I struggled nervously up the rest of that climb, went climbing the weekend after and just couldn't do it, didn't want to be there. Confidence, gone.

So I took the rest of the summer off. Went walking, did some easy scrambles, reacquainted myself with the joy of movement and the pleasure of playing on easy rock. Tryfan north ridge was a good spot for me then. I also backed off one or two scrambles because I didn't fancy the moves. Kept on walking, scrambling, playing on rocks until I felt ready to get back into it. Then, an easy climb, Will o' the Wisp (HVD), I think, one exposed position and an easy move. Then I felt ready for another go; classic routes, big holds, nice views, all to get my head back to a spot where it remembered why I loved doing this, what the joys of climbing were; nothing too challenging, just nice routes in nice places.

I eventually got back to pushing my grade but that break, and then a spell of rediscovery and rehabilitation on classic routes, was an essential part of getting back there. So don't rush back if you don't want to, take the time to remember why you're a climber. You'll get your mojo back when it's ready to return.

Offwidth - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to GarethSL:
You do realise that a challenge of every Stanage VD in a single day would be tough for some pretty good climbers. Even the Popular End VDiffs is a full afternoon's work solo for most who know them well (I know as I've done it).
Post edited at 15:28
mark s - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

I fell off Laguna sunrise at 5 clouds and fractured 2 vertebrae.
Only thing I could do was to go back and repeat the route. Didn't help the actual pain but I couldn't let it beat me.
Wayne S - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Never be ashamed for falling off a route, maybe moderate embarrassment for decking however!

I have been hospitalised after a climbing accident, and it does take some effort to get past. You should really analyse what happen, if you knew the gear was rubbish why did you climb on? Could you have placed solid gear? Do you need to do some work to be sure you know what's good and what isn't? Place gear from ground level and bounce test different placements over and over again, then do it some more.

The reason for risking sounding a bit uncaring is that to move on you need to be able to rationalise what happened, if you can say I would do X differently, then you have options to move on. If you were to say that it was too hot, too cold, too midgy then you can't control that. What can/could you control?

I think you could be kinder to to yourself and sack off High Neb Buttress for a while.

Maybe put some effort in finding a climbing partner and second high Neb Buttress initially.

Not wishing to be too much of a spoiler but leaving hexs at the base was fine, I would take bigger cams!

Not sure I can agree with Totems only being specialist gear as above, my main rack are totems, black to orange with superlight Camalots above. They hold as well if not better than anything else, but nothing can make a crap placement good.

johncook - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to Wayne S:

The placement on high neb buttress is an absolutely solid wire. Placing a cam in a flare instead of a solid wire in a bomber placement seems like a panic placement. Keeping cool at this point on big footholds and looking for the ideal placement is what makes the difference between having fun climbing and scaring yourself witless and falling. Push tech grades on well protected stuff and save the poorly protected or not easy to see protection for when you are well on top of the tech grade.
Wayne S - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to johncook:

Hi John,

How goes it?

I know these things well enough! I assume the detail is for the benefit of Blue Totem. High Neb is neither super safe or bold from my recollection, a bit safer than Hargreaves perhaps, bang on VS.
slab_happy on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

> and that summoning up the social skills to find a local partner who wasn't made by Rock Exotica may prove a wise choice.

Are you a serial killer? If the answer is "no", want an irregular local partner? Social skills not required.

(Note: I am also not a serial killer.)

> I just hope I don't embarrass myself by racking half a tonne of gear then bottling out before I've left the ground...

If you did, it would not be embarrassing. Getting your head back into it after an accident or injury takes time, and I know that a ground fall in particular can really shake people up (for obvious reasons).

YMMV, but taking the pressure off yourself and knowing that it's okay to "bottle out" if you need to can actually make it *easier* to do things.
cb294 - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Some good advice, especially about gaining confidence in your gear placement.

I would add that logging some air time, either indoors or even better at a steep and hence safe sports crag, can be psychologically helpful. Quite clearly there is a difference in context, but you should still be able to subconsciously re-learn to associate falling with being caught rather than decking.

Your post shows that you are probably safe from endangering yourself through overconfidence, the obvious side effect of this self conditioning approach.

Also, visualization: Close your eyes, and imagine yourself climbing the route move by move again and again, before attempting it again for real.

trouserburp - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

Don't overthink it - just remember why you like climbing and focus on that

Hargreaves is similar and I think better protected. Similarly first move is the hardest but you can protect it, maybe that will translate to success on HNB

or reject the risk as not worth it and stick to safer climbs. It's not a failure or success unless you choose it to be (but it is a great climb)
stp - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to BlueTotem:

I would definitely drop your grade as low as necessary and build up slowly as you regain confidence.

I've not done trad for a while but my own personal rule was that I wouldn't push myself to where I might fall if I've only got one runner between me and the ground, unless it was an absolute stonker. Most of the time I like to have 3 decent bits of gear just in case two fail. It is our life we're talking about when climbing so I don't think you can be too careful. Where that wasn't possible then I'd climb in a more careful mode where I wouldn't push myself to the point of potentially falling.
stp - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to slab_happy:

> (Note: I am also not a serial killer.)

I Am Not A Serial Killer:

slab_happy on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to stp:

There was no series!

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