/ Fear of falling

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GGoose on 09 Mar 2012 - host81-158-42-100.range81-158.btcentralplus.com
Hi everyone,

I've been climbing for about a year at the local climbing wall.

I'm basically after some advice as to how to make me a more confident climber. I'm constantly held back by my lack of faith in equipment and my knots. I did a course that taught me everything I know about climbing and have had someone check my knots etc, but I still get worried. I use a retraced figure of 8 with about 4 or 5 locking knots, I was taught to do this knot with 2 locking knots but feel like 5 is better!

Its strange because I'm not affair of the height I just don't feel safe, its like I'm climbing with no gear.

Anyone else experience this? Any advice to become more confident?

CrankCrimp - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

yer.. take the first fall and your guaranteed to be more confident next time

two06 - on 09 Mar 2012
Al Randall on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose: First of all your locking knots add nothing to the strength of the knot. Indeed I only use one to ensure that I have left a sufficient tail and to get rid of the loose rope.

How do you feel when you lean back on the rope? Start off by not waiting for the rope to be pulled taught when you lower then gradually increase the distance. Make sure your second is aware of what you are doing. Next find yourself a bit of overhanging wall. It doesn't matter if you are unable to climb it, it's just to make the fall safer. Start off with the bolt at chest height and let go. Gradually increase the distance you are above it and repeat. You need to be up high, perhaps the 3rd bolt or better still 4th bolt before trying this, depending on the bolt spacing at your wall.

Lastly fear of falling is not bad thing it's what helps to keep you alive but that fear needs to be rationalised and controlled.

The Ex-Engineer - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose: Fear about falling and kit breaking is perfectly natural and overcoming the irrational elements of it is a key element to becoming a better climber. In this, knowledge is power. Once you understand 'the right way' to do things you can start to move forward.

Stopper knots on a re-threaded figure of 8 are actually completely irrelevant. However, a tail of at least 10 times the rope diameter, if not slightly longer, is absolutely ESSENTIAL. That is pretty much the same length you need to tie a standard stopper knot which, if done well, is tidier than the long tail. Badly tied stopper knots which are not snug against the fig-8 are actually DANGEROUS as they create a new loop which is non-loading and into which people can clip by mistake. Equally, using more than a double stopper knot is most definitely a poor idea as it just creates extra bulk and complexity for no benefit.

The best advice is always to tie extremely NEAT knots, in a very standard and consistent manner. That way, you build confidence from the fact that you know that the knot is 100% correct. For a re-threaded fig-8 it is good to stick closely to the 'standard' way of doing things:
- form a smallish fist-sized tie-in loop (remember it gets slightly bigger as the knot tightens)
- re-thread very neatly with perfectly parallel rope strands
- use a double turn stopper FIRM against fig-8 with minimal tail
Work out a system to get it 'just so' and practice repeatedly for periods of 10-15 minutes when you have some free time. Most people use their body to measure the rope against to judge exactly where to start the knot (measure floor to a point on body or from an horizontally extended arm to a point on your body). You will soon get to the stage that you can tie-in in double quick time and it is always 'the same' and the length of 'tail' is always near perfect.

The same thing applies to other gear. Take the time and adjust and fit your harness so it is 100% correct. Work out the order in which you do things and that way you will get to the stage where you just 'know' it is right and you can also do it quickly.

Finally, as regards falling off, to get properly relaxed takes at least 3 weeks and around 50-100 real falls. That applies pretty much equally whether you are a complete beginner or have 20+ years experience and are getting back into climbing after a break. Expecting to get relaxed about falling without taking loads and loads of 'practice' or 'real' falls on multiple occasions is just wishful thinking.
Michael Ryan - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

Have a look at this article and video Phil

VIDEO: A Fear of Falling - Clip-Drop Technique


All the best,

Howardw1968 - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:
Climbing with no gear thats the bouldering room ;)

Slightly more seriously, I'm on a beginners course at the moment and we did falling on wednesday night. It's actually quite cool. For our first fall we did a pretend one where our partner belayed us normally to the 3rd quickdraw height then we climbed up to the fourth quickdraw where the instructor told us to jump off! I think I scared everyone else cause I launched myself off and lifted my belayer off the floor (he was built like a rugby paleyer too!) Given that I'm unlikely to have a huge fall like that in hurry my fig8 and single stop were fine!
Spent the rest of the lesson climbing and fell off several times.

Perhaps of you can get a progression lesson with an instructor, who will confirm or correct your knotting and practice falling with them.

Just remembered on the first week of our course the instructor tied the first fig8 and just put the end of the rope into the bottom of the knot not tying the retrace and hung off it to show us how good the knot is even when incomplete.
Didymus - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

I used to be terrified that the rope would snap or my harness would split apart or even the quickdraws would explode!

Clip and drop technique is great and worked (is working - I still use it) for me. I would really recommend being honest with yourself and be really self-supportive when you are feeling afraid.

To start with, when leading just sit on the rope and swing around. Do this a lot to start with (if you need to).

The next step is to take VERY SMALL falls and do this EVERY time you go climbing as part of warm-up (mental warm-up). Tell yourself "That was scary but well done! I did it and the gear works!"

If you don't feel like it then give yourself a rest from the mental pressure which only makes anxiety worse and go bouldering or something.

GO AT YOUR OWN PACE - not anyone else's. Build confidence SLOWLY and try to avoid the bigger falls until you feel ready for them.

The other thing I did to strengthen my faith was to buy a new harness, new rope, new gear and also research the physics/engineering side to the gear. Watch some DMM test videos - they will add to your confidence in gear capabilities.

Oh and as everyone else said the extra locking knots aren't helping but are probably just a symptom of your insecurity which will get better with clip and drop technique, I promise!
Neil Williams - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to Howardw1968:

"lifted my belayer off the floor"

Not necessarily a problem as long as they are expecting it and not standing too far out and so don't get slammed against the wall. (I learnt that one quite painfully the first time I caught a fall where the climber had pulled out slack to clip the top clip and then fell off - fortunately it also reinforced that I had my priorities right and took the hit rather than letting go to put my hands out as might be the instinct for a non-climber).

The danger comes if they are taken too far up and thus hit the first clip hard, which would not only be painful but might also cause damage to equipment. But if the weight balance is right it shouldn't happen even with a large (for indoor) fall. If you think the belayer is light enough that that's likely, it's time to use a sandbag or similar (or, where not provided and I'm climbing with substantially lighter people, another person sitting on the floor connected to the belayer by a sling is not unusual!)

nniff - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> (> The best advice is always to tie extremely NEAT knots, in a very standard and consistent manner.

An another ex-engineer, I am similarly inclined. My partner used to tie scruffy knots, but we now have 'compulsory' checks of knot and belay device. I refused to accept scruffy knots - he now ties perfect knots, every time, without effort.

Of course, evenly tied knots are easier to untie after they've been loaded than mashed imitations of the real thing.
Howardw1968 - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to Neil Williams:
Belayer was at least a stone heavier than me and the instructor was on the rope too.

I was taking advantage of knowing it was a contrived situation and launched off!
Neil Williams - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to Howardw1968:

It can happen - the person who taught me that lesson (not deliberately on his part, more my incompetence) is about 12st (if I recall) and I'm about 17...

GGoose on 09 Mar 2012 - host81-154-248-93.range81-154.btcentralplus.com
Thanks for the info guys,

This clip drop stuff seems like the stuff of nightmares to me at the moment to be honest! And wow that Lakeland wall is very tall compared to what I'm used to!

I've only top roped, never tried to lead a climb before so I'm not sure if this technique is applicable still? Would I just ask the belay to give me some slack and drop from increasing height?

I'm going to go to the wall tomorrow and have a climb. So my first goal will be to tie my knot correctly, I always tie it neat but I just get a bit carried away with the locking knots, I have had a few funny looks whilst tying it!

I will try a few route that I have previously given up on because the moves look to risky. I'm just going to go for it, my belayer has got me right?!

So I'll be back tomorrow (hopefully!) to let you know how I got on! Hopefully I'd of practised a few falls and managed to climb a route I previously wouldn't do. Which is usually anything over basic 5's.

Thanks for the help,
tom_in_edinburgh - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

Since you are top roping and your worried about knots I'd suggest just asking your belayer to take in slack and have a small swing on the rope before starting off in earnest up the route. If the knot holds near the floor it will also hold at the top.

If your belayer is also nervous/inexperienced then I absolutely wouldn't try taking deliberate large falls from high up. For lead climbers and good belayers being high off the ground makes a ground fall less likely but being high up when you take a deliberate fall on a top rope is not such a good idea if the main risk is an inexperienced belayer fluffing things.

Why not pay the climbing centre and get a coached improvers session for yourself and your partner. The instructor will be able to check your technique and give you confidence that everything is fine and you can be totally confident in the belay if you want to practice falling.
ashley1_scott - on 09 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:
With regards to tying a retrace Fo8 with 4 or 5 stpper knots. I think you have far to much rope, There are lots of differant ways to measure the rope when you get ready to tie in.
The most common one is an full arms length of rope, end in one hand and you want to tie your knot at the point where your other hand would reach it. This for me gives me to much rope so I tie the figure 8 in it, then hold the end of the rope between my feet and more the knot so that it is at the centre of my rib cage. This comes out on me to being just under 48" (I am 5'6") this is the correct amount for ME to put it thru my harness, rethread it and get a double stopper knot in.
Give it a go, you may find a way that suits you better.
Neil Williams - on 10 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

"I've only top roped, never tried to lead a climb before so I'm not sure if this technique is applicable still? "

Ah, I think we thought you meant leading. I guess it isn't.

For me, confidence in the rope when first starting out top-roping just came with time. Probably took me 6 months to a year or so to be completely confident in it, how long it takes you depends on how easily you get used to that kind of thing.

You will get there!

Chalk - on 10 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose: I found the best way to overcome this when top roping is to work lots of routes above your limit, you'll spend a lot of time hanging and taking small falls on the rope, which will bring a lot more confidence in time.

Might just be me but I find if i'm concentrating and struggling on a climb, my mind has little else to think about other than getting to the next hold.

Just don't forget to do easier routes as well, other wise your technique might go out the window.
mmmhumous on 10 Mar 2012
Hi Phil

> I use a retraced figure of 8 with about 4 or 5 locking knots, I was taught to do this knot with 2 locking knots but feel like 5 is better!

As others have said, tying your not in a consistent and neat manner will give you faith in the knot (concentrate on that rather than excessive stopper knots, and partner checking will help further. If you're still struggling, then weighting the rope a few metres off the ground might give you that little bit extra confidence.

> Its strange because I'm not affair of the height I just don't feel safe, its like I'm climbing with no gear.

Falling practice is the best thing to get your head sorted, and positive reinforcement is the key (don't do anything you're not happy with, or it will do more harm then good). Start small, i.e. on top rope and just let go. Begin with no slack, and then (from the same hold) get your belayer to pay out increasing amounts of slack. (I tend to build up in ~10-20cm amounts of slack. That way the climber/faller can practice falling safely (there's a good technique video on here http://www.ukclimbing.com/videos/play.php?i=52). Good communication between climber and belayer here are key (both clear on the ammount of slack/size of fall). Knowing your belayer can and has caught you on an xcm or xm fall will give you more confidence when climbing.

If you do get around to leading, then clip drop is definately the way to go. I'd start as above, i.e. fall off below the clip, then build up to what you're comfortable with on lead. Again the key is positive reinforcement, you need to overcome your (very healthy and natural) fear of falling. Personally, my bottle only extends to deliberatley falling with the clip at knee height, but have taken falls of 5-6 metres on lead, a which have felt fine (been positive falling experiences).

Whether on top rope or lead, once you're comfortable with 'planned falls' then move on to "climbing till you fall."

The easiest way I've found is to get a safe distance off the ground, and then switch to a route at or above your limit (preferably on an overhang) and climb until you fall off. Or manage to accidentally push your grade The trick thing is stopping yourself grabbin holds on easier route.... climbing quickly can help with this
GGoose on 10 Mar 2012 - host86-152-177-41.range86-152.btcentralplus.com
I was at the wall for a few hours today.

First things first I have sorted my knot tying issues out. It took a while to find my length marker but for me it is around my solar plexus which gives me a finished knot like this. http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g260/yank103/Climbing/IMAG0451.jpg

That part was the easy part! I went up a little way and just jumped off a few time first time was real scary but after a few I was OK. Then I moved on to the climbing and just went for everything and fell a good few times which was also OK. None of these falls was from that high up highest probably being only 4-5m but falling is falling right?

Today I climbed on climbs that are mostly to hard for me so actually getting to the 4-5m mark is a success in part! It definitely distracted me from thinking of falling constantly, I was too busy looking for a route and planing my moves!

Thanks for all the advice it has really helped and has definitely started me off on conquering the fear of falling!

ashley1_scott - on 11 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:
Firstly. Your knot looks a lot better than when you first said about it. It will also be a lot better when you purchase your own harness, as at the moment you only have to go thru one loop on the wedgie strap, normal sit harnesses have two.

Secondly. Falling is falling when you are on toprope, as long as you are more than a metre off the floor then there is little chance you will ground out. However when you start lead climbing falling is not just falling, ut we will go into that at a late time.

Thirdly. Well done on trying harder routes, it is the one way that you know that you are going to fall. It's just a matter of time, but don't spend all your time on the harder routes. Get on some easier routes that you can practice technique, after all if you have better technique there is less chance of you falling anyway.

Keep us posted.
Al Randall on 11 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose: Don't get too complacent about falling off seconding. On long routes the stretch of the rope can be significant and a fall can be quite a long way especially when just setting off.

sianabanana - on 11 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:
Seconded about getting your own harness. No wonder you dont want to fall off in that one - can be painful.

Go get yourself a nice comfy one and you wont mind hanging around in it all day.
Howardw1968 - on 11 Mar 2012
In reply to GGoose:

Good on you

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