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General Climbing Discussion

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What goes through you mind while on the sharp end?

6:01:47 PM
While on the topic of what goes through one's head - "It's my 'f--- up' and I'll cry if I want to!" (sing it to the tune, to the nervous belayer at the bottom), yes I've cried before....and it does NOT help, apart from getting headaches the size of watermelons (?) after the climb ...anyway, at least the adrenalin from the terror has helped me to gain some pretty obscure strength didn't know I had...and then feeling pretty good about myself, in retrospective.
6:06:55 PM
If you had been a VCC member over the past couple of years you would have seen some Argus articles, reprinted from Ano Ilgner, about the mental approach to climbing. If you want to see what it is all about then log onto:

It's mainly about ways to overcome mental blockages that impede you from reaching your maximum potential. Of course it is of no earthly use to me, my brain atrophied years ago :-)
7:57:19 PM
On 2/09/2003 BA wrote:
>If you had been a VCC member over the past couple of years you would have
>seen some Argus articles, reprinted from Ano Ilgner, about the mental approach
>to climbing. If you want to see what it is all about then log onto: http://www.warriorsway

Hmmm... oriental warrior philosophy applied to climbing... an interesting concept.

The website has an exerpt from the book which I found rather interesting. It sounds like the book was inspired by "Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai" by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. A practical book which explains using short parables how a 16th century samurai ought to conduct himself on and off the battlefield. OK, maybe not so practical in this day and age, but I guess some of the principles could be applied to climbing. Mark Twight recommends "The Art of Jeet Kune Do" by Bruce Lee for similar reasons.

"The best defence is attack" - I'll have to remember that next time I'm on the sharp end with pumped forearms and shaking knees... :-)
8:21:35 PM
Having never taken a fall on lead(trad and sports), I find myself HF'd on occasions, my solution is to downclimb to a rest, then I call myself every name I can think of at the time and give it another go, except for the last time when I was at a rest and looked down and realised that it was harder than going straight up.

Climbing at my limit(though only around the 20 or so mark) saps my physical energy as well, you can see finger prints all the way up, and not from the chalk, I just hold on too damn hard. I try to boulder past my burn using the minimum grip to get me out of this habit.

Works for me, the flower power head junkie stuff is just a little too far out.
10:01:32 PM
Down-climbing is a very good skill. A lot of people have trouble with this one.
10:29:06 AM
I have a copy of an article from Rock & Ice Issue 81 which may be of interest, it suggests types of mental approach to redpointing and on-sighting seperately. Bit long to reproduce here but I'll email it to anyone interested.
mikl law
12:13:35 PM
From Peter-"Having never taken a fall on lead(trad and sports), I find myself HF'd on occasions"

I've been dropped a few times and have a total HF (hot forehead?) a lot, The only cure is to take falls. If you don't, you'll canaonize your fear.

But downclimb when it's too dangerous to fall


1:02:03 PM
On 3/09/2003 mikl law wrote:

>The only cure is to take falls. If you don't, you'll canaonize your fear.

The mental side of climbing is an interesting one - in theory I reckon there are three
ways to control your mind - I've only put one of these to use so far

1. put pro in before you think you need it not after. Sometime ive had the worst moments on climbs which started out being the best, because I got to brave and c--ky, then had to do some moves which proved harder than I'd realised, and I'd left unprotected. Good climbers have given me this tip also.

2. take some lead falls. If you have fallen on your gear, you really know it will hold, not just think it might hold. So you arer likely to trust it more. You don't see that many bumblys working routes, resting on gear, try hard moves, and falling, but good climbers maybe do this more often - they seem more comfortable to trust their gear - why? Becuase they have fallen on it in the past, and have some concrete reaon to put faith in their pro. Mike's comments seem to indiacte this is a valid way to gain confidence.

3. have some skills in escaping. If the only option on a hard free climb is to keep going up, then you may feel more commited, and nervous. If you have some experince getting out of difficulty, you might feel calmer and not loose your head. Having some experince of aid climbing, or down climbing, could be good skills to have up your sleve to get out of hot-spots.

I'd be interested to know from other climbers if these approaches have actually helped them become more relaxed climbing.

The Blond Gecko
5:20:59 PM
Definitely. My first fall on gear was a defining moment. I came off Little Thor at the crux and fell about 4(?) m (not sure exactly how far, but I ended up about a metre off the ground) onto a number 3 nut, which held beautifully. After that, nothing could hold me back - I was off leading everything I could find at about my limit (18-20 at the time, and yes, I know Little Thor is a 21). Always paid attention to my gear placement, took a few more (smaller) falls, and had a ball.
9:44:43 PM
Thanks for the advice guys, I will try a hard lead at the gym tomorrow night and not down climb it if i get into trouble, I fell 20 foot as a second once(rope stretch and slack), its hard was to lead after that(i did), but for some reason there was a strange squelching noise coming from my jocks?

I have heard that when you fall off lead you try to gently push away from the rock, is this true, do you get time?
10:03:53 PM
Why won't you try to down-climb if you get into trouble?

9:03:34 AM
Just remember - in a lead fall a lot can go wrong quickly, especially in the great outdoors. As Kieran suggests it is always better to downclimb to your last piece of gear if you can. Dangerous situations such as being flipped upside down because you leg is behind the rope, biners unclipping, gear stripping ect all make lead falls not something you want to do all the time. The phyical shock of falling off can also mess you up with bruised bits of your body. Elbows, fingers, backs of knees all seem to like being scrapped on the way down as well! If you think you might fall off - wear a helmet! A couple of weeks back i took a nice 5m upside-down/sideways fall off a route when a hold snapped. My head hit the rock REALLY hard - and i am very thankful i wore my helmet. This route was a well bolted sport 23.
9:14:06 AM
My first and only lead fall was indoors.
Just finished doing a roof section and I was struggling to clip the first beana around the lip. I thought I'd get myself in a better position to clip, so I pulled the lip and went attempted to clip again. I somehow popped off, missed the clip and did my best superman impression head first for approx 6m.
Moral of the story, clip before pulling the lip of a roof section. & bring your cape if your not.

The fortunate thing was that I was high enough not to run out, and being a roof, nothing below to hit on the way down(except the ground, oh and the other side wall)...Good belay job there Jimbo.

10:17:40 AM
On 4/09/2003 Peter wrote:
>I have heard that when you fall off lead you try to gently push away from
>the rock, is this true, do you get time?

Sometimes, but not always due to many reasons.

The end result could be worse if you do, if the last point of contact with the rock is a foot, ... -> then this action will ensure a head 1st plummet.

Even if you remain upright, then it could add more force to the swing back into the cliff below you, so you see it largely depends on the nature of the climb involved. It could be a valid action if you know it will help you clear a nasty obstacle mid fall though, so once again its a judgement call at the time.

I am sure all falls happen relatively quickly but the unexpected ones seem to happen faster!
No matter the fall however, I have found that the mind operates faster, unless the known consequences are so bad that you go into a 'denial mode' and your thoughts drift off to another place and time?

Some of my falls have been due to holds breaking.
Can still remember a long fall on a multipitch climb I had in the Warrumbungles where as I was falling I was looking at the 'good hold' still in my hand and thinking "this shouldn't be happening!". Then I remember casting it aside (opposite side to the belayer) about the time the rope came taught, thinking "I don't need this now".

If you find yourself about to fall or oozing off, thereby having more time, then you would be better advised (pro dependant) to put in the supreme effort and go for it rather than giving up. Either that, or try and consolidate your stance to enable downclimbing.

Getting comfortable with falling is fine to a point regarding confidence in your equipment, but I have found that the temptation to simply give up and take the fall is great. In my opinion this is NOT a good mindset, because even simple small falls can hurt, and gear can strip etc.

About the smallest piece I feel comfortable falling on is a well placed #5 stopper (thumbnail size) in solid rock.

Falling is a lottery, and poop happens.

10:43:29 AM
On 3/09/2003 Richard wrote:
>I'd be interested to know from other climbers if these approaches have
>actually helped them become more relaxed climbing.

I have been around long enough to learn that a fair bag of tricks up ones sleeve can help in being relaxed while climbing, but emotions and knowledge do not always line up readily.

It amazes me how quickly one can go from feeling 'alright' about the climb to 'blerrie heck!'
One can be comfortable and confident at the start but when it goes pear shaped, that is where the bag of tricks and a cool (fore)head (thanks mikl :), are seen to best advantage.

Your 3 points are good tips and should be mandatory; but the beauty of climbing (and challenge for me), is all the unknown variables with the uncertain outcome that generates from these; ... changes in the weather, partners mindset etc.

I like onsighting / new routing trad multipitch, and aid climbs, and don't sportclimb or boulder much, so this is probably an irrelevant point to those who tend to specialise in the latter?

10:53:39 AM
My infamous groundfall caught on video was a classic case of apathy about falling. I just thought 'this looks too hard - i will just rest on the rope and suss the holds out'. Next thing i knew i was smashing into ground when my 'bomber' gear pulled.

11:31:58 AM
On 4/09/2003 Peter wrote:
>I have heard that when you fall off lead you try to gently push away from
>the rock, is this true, do you get time?

Ok this is my 2cents about falling 101 for those who are not familar with it ;-)
At the moment when you know that you have gone past the point of climbing to being airborne, be that having slipped, missed the hold or whatever, immediately let go of everything (this may involve a sub-conscious push) and adopt a sort of crunched-up pose with your legs bent and arms in front of you both ready to take the impact when(if) you hit the rock. Don't hold onto the rope as that can definitely cause problems. And as you are falling watch where you are going to hit and be ready to absorb the impact with first your feet/legs (bend them in as you hit) and then your hands/arms to stop your head from hitting the wall.

And to avoid upside-down falls, don't forget to get your leg out from under the rope when leading (especially when at your limit!), I've learnt this the hard way a few times with lurvely ring rope burn around my leg but fortunately that was my only injury!

One thing that can put a spanner in the works is when your top pro comes out because it can throw you off trajectory and spin you without a milliseconds notice.
12:01:37 PM
The most important thing to do when falling is to relax... If tense, your body doesn't readily absorb the impact as well.

1:07:38 PM
On 5/09/2003 Dalai wrote:
>The most important thing to do when falling is to relax... If tense, your
>body doesn't readily absorb the impact as well.

LOL ... visions of soft bodies going splat, (but I understand what you are saying).

Who relaxes while falling?

1:39:10 PM
I reckon actively absorb the impact with your leg muscles, then your arms

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