Deep down, aren’t we all a little scared of heights? Not of the heights themselves, but of the idea of actually falling from a great distance. Maybe you’re the type of person who goes right to the edge of the cliff, but I bet you’ll still have a minuscule feeling of unease when clinging to the tiny pockets of a pretty flat rock face with an 80-metre drop below.
Well, none of that really applies to me since I fully admit to being squeamish about heights. Not an unusual amount, but enough to make me hesitate in certain moments. Most of the time, it’s pretty inconsequential. But, when you’re in the middle of a pitch and realize that there is no getting away, no going down (without ruining the climb for everyone), it can feel like a monstrous problem.
So, if you want to be like me (why would you?) here is a step-by-step guide on how to freak out in an inconvenient position—something that you will feel very embarrassed about later.
1. Look down even whilst chanting “don’t look down, don’t look down.”
2. Focus deeply on the fact that your legs are starting to shake.
3. Practice the mantra “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”
4. Remind yourself that you are completely safe. For some reason this doesn’t help at all.
5. Remind yourself that if you slip, the quick-draw above you is going to make you swing out off the edge of the face. This won’t cause you any serious physical harm, but it would be incredibly scary.
6. Refuse to trust your feet, even though that’s everyone’s favourite piece of advice for new climbers (to trust them, of course).
7. Cling to the wall and sob a little, refusing to move.
8. Realize that there really is no option but to go up. Still, it doesn’t hurt to repeat the phrase “I have to go down,” frantically.
9. Keep complaining as you eventually inch your way up.
10. Almost lose your footing and shriek a little. Keep moving, since at this point your fear is being replaced with anger at the evil people who put you in this situation.
11. Realize that you are almost at the top and get a sudden burst of get-me-out-of-here energy
12. Clip into the anchor and be amazed with yourself that you made it. Then, look around and see that you are 30 metres into a 100-metre route. Somehow, prepare yourself to do it all over again—luckily, it’s “no more difficult” than what you just did.
BONUS: Smile and pretend that you are loving it whenever a camera lens finds you.