Monday, August 6, 2012

Falling For You

They fail, and they alone, who have not striven. Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

I've just finished reading what is probably the best training for climbing book I've ever read, and I've read 'em all - Maximum Climbing, The Self Coached Climber, Training for Climbing, Conditioning for Climbing, and on, and on. What distinguishes Dave MacLeod's "9 Out of 10 Climbers Make The SameMistakes" from the rest is that it contains no complicated self-assessment quizzes, no complex training regimes, no prescribed sets of exercises, repetitions, weight loss goals, or intricate training regimes.

Instead, in plain easy to understand prose, MacLeod points out the few common mistakes that climbers make and, with a "no bullshit attitude" warns that failure to attack these mistakes doesn't result, as we may think, in our treading water as a climber, but actually results in us regressing. Unlike his more positive American counterparts, the Scottish MacLeod is ruthless in exposing the little fabrications and rationales that we tell ourselves to avoid confronting the two real blocks that climbers face - being afraid to fall and afraid to fail.

The more time that passes while we defer attacking these two key issues, the smaller and smaller our comfort zone becomes until, finally, we are boxed onto a very small ledge indeed.

Fresh from reading "9 Out Of 10 Climbers" I went out today to tackle both my fear of falling and my fear of failing by plunging right in. Right now, I don't have time for a full climbing day, but, as MacLeod points out, climbing even a little bit will help maintain fitness, a concept he dubs "reversibility maintenance." But, as well as maintaining fitness I wanted to work on my fear of failing and fear of falling so we went to a 15 metre local crag with some well bolted sport routes which are at my climbing limit.

I warmed up by leading a couple of easier routes, then jumped on two harder routes that I've climbed many times before but never led as, most times, I fall off, even on top-rope. I made the first route with only one fall, although I felt like I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth for the last moves to the anchor. The second route defeated me. I got to the final clip - having taken three falls to get there - and just could not commit to the final moves that involve pulling over a very insecure slab on micro holds. When I repeated it on top-rope, it felt no easier, in fact, I peeled off a further two times!

So, success or failure? Given that the goal was to go out and push myself beyond the fear of failure and falling, I'd say a success. As MacLeod says "Failing to fail is the ultimate failure" in climbing as we give up any chance of reaching our full potential.

Get out there, give it all you got, and that itself will be a tremendous success.

Safe for falling sport route

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