Thanks for the post MVS. I have heard this practice preached from some of the best climbers. Just make sure you have a nice thick rope!
I also am growing in the fear of falling area, and what helps me is to look at the rock in front of me. I focus on the feet and holds instead of the next clip. Look at the rock up close and in detail, this keeps your mind busy and if you fall, its a surprise and not a building anxiety. This is only my 3rd year rock climbing and I'm learning something new almost every time I'm out. I just lead my first 5.12 last month, and hope to tick off a lot more this summer. I love using my accomplishments as mental confidence in my "next climb".
"Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!" - The Dude, Lebowski
Thanks for the additional comments. Actually Borut, I disagree with several of the points you made, while recognizing that in a particular context, your points are highly valid too:
"For us mountaineers, climbing sport routes is training."
Yep, I think of myself as a (would-be) alpine climber. This means doing technical routes in the mountains. Of course that implies bad protection at times, and all the other things that go with mountains.
For us, "You have got to fall" is not mandatory.
Okay, sure, I mean, nothing is "mandatory." My statement is in the context of someone who wants to improve his climbing ability grade past the point that he currently finds scary because he is afraid of falling.
"We are here merely to build muscle."
For you maybe. For me it's a lot more complicated than that. It's technique, it's managing the thoughts in your head, etc. What I was seeking to convey in my post earlier, was that it's a useful skill to be able to recognize the case where your protection is bomber and you should be able to operate without excessive and unnecessary fear crippling your attempt at a hard move somewhere above that gear.
"I would say that falling is not elegant. Falling means you didn't realize what was going on."
I disagree with that too. You also mentioned that people fall on purpose to "show off." Okay, I don't understand that at all, but if you see a lot of that I can imagine how you would get sour on the whole idea.
It may be that I just can't communicate well enough to get the point across, but the deal is that I've spent many years climbing "good" from an alpine point of view...holding the attitude that you are defending...sport climbing is mere muscle building, it's not as "valid" as what we are doing, look, they are just showing off, etc. But I found that my real barrier to climbing 5.12 wasn't only strength, it was also a mental issue that clenched my brain up when the climbing really became technically difficult. You don't need these ideas for 5.10, but I think you need them for 5.11 and 5.12 (unless you are a very strong person mentally and physically, which I am not by any stretch).
Borut, when we climbed that route a year ago I was already benefitting from "falling practice." Without that I wouldn't have gotten on that UIAA VII+ pitch or whatever it was. Possibly, like many things in this day and age, I am just making a mountain out of a molehill. Another approach is "just climb" and shutup about your internal thoughts!
I forgot to say how I think this falling practice in safe, sport-like environments can translate to the hard-bitten world of the alpine climber.
An alpine climber should only attempt climbs with a technical grade well within his abilities. So if he climbs 5.11b at the crag, he shouldn't go into an alpine route with a grade over 5.10b-c, I would say. And if he thinks he climbs 5.11b at the crag he should take a hard look at what that really means. Trad? Or bolts only? Everybody playing this game should know and think about this stuff really hard. This means not giving yourself credit for routes you lead where there was any kind of cheating, etc. If you pulled on a draw, it's A0!
Now, in the alpine environment, because of the additional technique gained from doing much harder routes on crags, cruxes will be easier, and the climber is more likely to successfully navigate an "unexpected crux." (broken hold, surprisingly loose rock, or a mental game when protection is sparser than expected).
How many alpine climbs have you been on where the difficulties always remained safely within whatever parameters given by the guidebook? If you are like most people, I'd say about half. The other half had something or another which wasn't expected and required some "intestinal fortitude" to overcome. In my mind, falling practice is not antithetical to the development of these mental skills, it's a complement to them.
Finally, I reject the canard that if you practice falling, that you will somehow lose your head in alpine environments, and despite alarmingly poor protection (which is the norm), you will fling yourself off of walls joyously because you imbibed a dangerous dogma. I think everyone involved here deserves more credit than that. In the alpine world you do everything you can to avoid falling because it's at least a trip to the hospital every time if not the morgue. You aid, you cheat, you go around things, you retreat, you get the strong guy to lead (my favorite trick :p), whatever. Falling practice does nothing to invalidate those alpine norms. It's simply a way to learn to lead effectively on very difficult technical terrain. It's a tool that has a place, and that place is not the alpine environment. If you want to argue that then you are arguing with a straw man: nobody believes that. Well, maybe those crazy british "gritstone" climbers .
I think it's just as important to know what causes falling, in avoiding falling, in the alpine.
Look... if you want to be a bold climber, you have to take chances. To be good at taking chances, you have to have taken chances. Taking chances in practice (non-alpine 5th class, for lack of a solid definition) means, odds are you're gonna fall.
I see the merit in both ideologies- as an alpinist, and one who likes to solo things some other guys wouldn't even follow on- I fully understand the absolute necessity of not falling. But to be able to climb boldly, I have to have experience enough to recognize the thing I need to avoid.
Und zet es mine two zents.
Last edited by Ben Beckerich on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
where am i going... and why am i in this handbasket?