/ Fear of falling?

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fluffy bunny - on 01 Jul 2018

Hi there,

I'm 37 and only recently started climbing at the local bouldering wall. I was given the advice - to get better, just climb.

Towards the end of 2 months, I'm progressing from V0-V1 at the local wall. If anything, it's flexibility of my hips (after time on the bike) and leg strength with hips rotated that's improving as well as being able to hang onto the wall for longer. Still can't do a pull up and still have a fear of heights above the crash mat leading to my downclimbs sapping more energy than the up. 

Having fun but does anyone have advice re: fear of falling

GridNorth - on 01 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

Yes keep fearing it, that's healthy.  I'm recovering from a broken ankle after slipping on a relatively easy bolted route and that's after 55 years of experience climbing at quite a high standard and very few incidents.  Apart from alpine climbing I must add


Lornajkelly - on 01 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

I've always been afraid of heights and I think I always will be. I'm happier with a rope on me, and I've pushed my limits by climbing more and also by taking falls, but I wouldn't advocate that for bouldering.  The more you climb, the less afraid you will ultimately be.

I noticed as well that I would be much less scared on routes well within my capabilities. You may well always be afraid at your absolute limit but that's simply because falling off is most likely here. Easier things will ultimately be less frightening. Fear doesn't mean you don't enjoy climbing. Sometimes it means the sense achievement for conquering your fear is greater.

J Whittaker - on 01 Jul 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

A blanket fear of falling isnt a great thing to have for a climber. You need to be able to differentiate between rational and irrational fear of falling. Fearing falling in a rational scenario where you're likely to hurt yourself (poor gear, ground fall potential etc) is good but an irrational fear of falling in situations where youre safe will only hold you back. If youre 5 bolts up on a sport climb with a competent belayer and no obstacles to hit during a fall then its perfectly fine to fall off, similarly for trad ive taken quite a few falls onto bomber gear and not injured myself.


Fluffy bunny. Try falling off at an indoor wall. First on a slack top rope then move up to taking leader falls of increasing distance. Dave McLeods 9/10 climbers book has a great section on fear of falling and tactics to overcome.

GridNorth- you must have taken a fair few falls to have a ticklist im envious of?

Post edited at 18:39
tom_in_edinburgh - on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

To progress in bouldering you eventually need to develop a bit of skill in jumping off and landing it.   Knowing that you can jump off and land safely is one of the things that will give you confidence to go for a move higher up the wall.  Down climbing is a better option when it's possible and much easier on the knees but if you want to try harder problems it won't always be possible.

Obviously, take it easy and build up the height you are happy to jump from gradually.  Watch the better climbers to see how they land.

tlouth7 on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

Glad to hear that you are progressing, I suspect that if you can get past this fear you will find that you are already strong/good enough to climb a couple of grades harder.

I would say that there are two separate issues: willingness to drop off from the top, and willingness to fall unexpectedly.

If you are unhappy with dropping off from height then all I can suggest is that you practice from the upper limit of what you are comfortable with. Don't do it too many times in a row as your knees and ankles will get tired, but you should find you rapidly get more comfortable with making good landings. Do this when you are properly warmed up, but not too tired, and only if your head is in the right place so that you don't frighten yourself more.

If the problem is that you are uncomfortable trying moves which have a chance of falling then know that we all experience this to some extent. Especially big moves high up, or on slabs (less than vertical walls) where a fall may result in sliding down the wall. The nice thing about bouldering is that you can do hard moves while very close to the ground, such that when you come off you basically just stand up. This is healthy and allows you to get better by trying things you won't be able to do first time. I suspect that with V0s you may not have taken very many unexpected falls, which is fine unless a fear of them is preventing you moving forward (up?).

With regard to getting tired when downclimbing, I guess that those of us who climb slightly harder grades are spoilt by being able to easily downclimb the V0s adjacent to where we went up. If you are willing to jump off from just 4 feet up you will save a fair bit of effort, without the risk of injury from higher drops.

Good luck, I hope this barrier does not stop you getting better and enjoying the sport.


bedspring on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

Fear of falling is an oft discussed topic.
However as you are a beginner I will give you a tip. Many people when they fall/jump off boulder problems tend to look around to see who has seen them fall/jump, its quite natural. DO NOT DO THIS, its can start to rotate your body, and possibly damage your lower leg. Land, and when all motion has stopped, then look around and see who is laughing at you. (No one, as no one noticed ;-) )

springfall2008 - on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:


It natural to be scared, especially when bouldering as you really can hurt yourself!

I'd be inclined to try top roping, you will then find you can fall off as much as you like without injury and gain a lot of confidence being at heights.


snoop6060 - on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

Everyone is scared of falling off stuff when they first start climbing. The vast majority of people still get scared, sometimes to the point of tears, after many years of climbing. You can still climb progress, climb hard stuff and  be a total wimp.  I know proper wimps who have led E6 trad routes

dareterr on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

There will always be some fear, but repeated experience of the situations that cause you anxiety will lessen the intensity and help you control it. When I forget that, I reread this article on Alex Honnold and his MRI:


david100 - on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

there is nothing wrong with downclimbing and as i am recovering from a non climbing injury i have to do a lot of it at the moment. however to enjoy indoor bouldering fully you need to be able to come off in a controlled fashion. the solution for most people i think is easy. jump off backwards from very low down and let yourself fall on the floor. repeat and increase the height when you are comfortable. it did not take long for the fear to completely disappear and the falling off part became part of the fun. ideally you should not come off in an uncontrolled fashion but even with that in mind you will climb harder and it will be more enjoyable. you are allowed a spotter inside as well as out if that helps.

tjdodd - on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

I was the same when I started indoor bouldering a couple of years ago.  After a few weeks I went up a modest overhang and was really pleased I had done it only to be faced with not being able to downclimb.  My experienced bouldering friend just said they weren't going to help me so after a few minutes hanging around I had no choice but to drop off.  Get used to dropping off overhangs first as there is nothing to hit on the way down.  That will get you used to falling off the height.  I then found it easier to jump off vertical and slabs.

Re downclimbing, I deliberately do this as much as possible.  It saves your knees/ankles and you develop better climbing skill as well.

pasbury on 02 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

The mats at bouldering walls are there to fall onto. It’s one of the liberating things about climbing at a good bouldering wall. The risky bits are falling while rotating. Can knack your knees if you’re rotating around your z axis. Other rotations can slam you into the mat sideways, head first or backwards. BUT these injuries are rare because people have got used to falling onto mats. Practice at the bouldering wall, it’s really good to do this when it’s quite empty if you can.

Bouldering walls are made to be jumped off!

Ungabunga73 - on 18 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

I have found recently that my fear of falling is normally not down to the perception of it being dangerous, but more of the fear of failing the next move, this has really become apparent recently whilst top roping grades above my confort zone.
What I have found is that I am making moves sucessfully that I would not attempt on lead, beacuase of two factors

1) I feel safer and think just go for it

2) "This is probaly closer to the truth" I don't mind messing up on what I consider too difficult for my level, and this more than often suprises me of what I actually can do/reach etc

Summing this up I think the fear is not always about danger, it can equally be about failure.

kathrync - on 18 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

Having broken my ankle bouldering indoors twice, I have a healthy fear of falling, and if I haven't bouldered for a while it gets worse.  Fear is healthy and normal, you can get injured doing this stuff. 

Exposure is the thing that helps me.  If I go back after not climbing for a while, I will often not want to do the top move of anything but the easiest problems.  I often spend the first few sessions back spending as much time high up on easy stuff as I can, sometimes just going up and hanging around or traversing high to get used to it.  Combine that with working on some harder stuff low down.  Eventually, you'll get to a hard move higher up and just do it without even thinking about it.

Having said that, I always down climb when I can, and if I can't, I down climb as far as I can, then hang and drop.

One of my other tactics is if there is a hard or balance-y move at the top of a problem, I will often work the rest of it and get it dialled, then come back for the top move next session when I am fresh and don't have to spend energy figuring out the rest.

Lastly, even when you are a bit worried, try to climb with conviction.  You are far more likely to come off unexpectedly by doing something halfheartedly than you are if you give it everything.  I know it can be hard to do, but moving positively really does seem to help.


HannahC - on 18 Jul 2018
In reply to fluffy bunny:

May be completely irrelevant for you but worth mentioning. My confidence is falling off bouldering is linked directly to my leg strength. 

When I’m doing some gym work strengthing my legs jumping off when necessary feels a lot more comfortable than it does when I’ve been busy (or lazy) and not doing so much! 

Post edited at 14:02

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