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Lead Climbing Fear & How to Overcome It

Are you grappling with lead climbing fear? Do you often feel pressure to send your routes? Nervousness creeps in before a climb, doesn’t it? You might wish for more fun and improved climbing ability.

Imagine a sunny day, you and your friends on a bumpy dirt road for a rock climbing adventure. Excitement fills the air as you connect with your climbing partners, sharing the joy of this adventure.

You arrive at a beautiful crag, maybe in the desert, maybe in the mountains, or maybe nestled in the forest. The psych is high amongst your squad or even just for your partner.

Climbing Sinks Canyon, Scud Wall
Climbing Scud Wall at Sinks Canyon

You’re all set for a sports climb, stoked for the adventure, but nerves sneak in at the sight of the route. Clammy hands, racing heart, and thoughts of mishaps—lead climbing gets you jittery despite your love for exploring the outdoors.

And because of it, these experiences that should be pure fun with friends or a partner are tainted with nervousness.

3 steps to overcome fear of lead climbing
Climbing should be fun! Here’s how you can overcome fear and pressure to have more fun and send harder!

I get it. I get it because I was there at one point, feeling like my own fear of lead climbing…

Was holding me back from the fun of rock climbing,

Made me feel like I didn’t belong in the climbing community,

& Prevented me from climbing harder grades.

So in this blog, I’m sharing everything I learned about how to overcome the fear of lead climbing so you can stop feeling nervous and start feeling like a badass on the sharp end of a rope.

Why You Have Fear of Lead Climbing

Let’s address the rationale behind the valid fear of lead climbing. Climbing a rock face and facing the possibility of a 10-30-foot free fall can understandably trigger nervousness or stress. I won’t delve into Traad, as there’s even more reason to be afraid.

Remember, feeling nervous about lead climbing is completely normal. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed; everyone goes through their learning curve. Just because others seem fearless now doesn’t mean they never felt the same. The great part is, I’m here to help you overcome this fear and enjoy rock climbing to the fullest.

Why Lead Climbing Can Be Amazing

You’re currently experiencing the best phase of climbing. Frankly, climbers who never fear leading and only focus on grades and sends can get trapped in the cycle of chasing grades rather than enjoying climbing.

Between where you are and where they are is the sweet spot in climbing, the place of total enjoyment and fulfillment. The key is to overcome the fear and enjoy the challenge without chasing the grade.

When you do that, you’re going to find yourself as the happiest person at the crag. 

The Gear That Gets Us There

Climbing is an amazing experience, but without the gear that gets us there, we would never be able to experience amazing crags and routes in beautiful destinations.

adidas recently reached out to us to be a part of the Adidas bloggers community with the opportunity to test out the Terrex line, which is built for outdoor adventures like us.

Terrex by Adidas offers incredible outdoor wear and hiking shoes, perfect for hitting the trails.

The TERREX Trail rider is a great lightweight shoe, well suited for climbing approaches, or go with a waterproof shoe like the Skychaser Tech with GORE-TEX.

Terrex even has a great AEROREADY Multisport Backpack that works as a great climbing pack.

TERREX really has all the layers you need for day dragging. I was specifically excited to replace my old beaten-up send jacket with the Multi Synthetic Insulated Jacket which has a good combo of stretch and puff to stay warm while maintaining mobility.

How I Overcame My Fear of Lead Climbing

Many people I met were shocked by how many years I had climbed without ever projecting a single route.

On one hand, this was a great thing because it was always just about climbing, not achieving grades. But on the other hand, I never wanted to climb something hard enough that a fall was likely.

For years of sport climbing, I didn’t realize I had a fear of lead climbing because I still continued to lead and instead I just put massive pressure on myself to never fall.

As a result, I didn’t enjoy lead climbing. It felt like more of a stressor than an enjoyment. I got nervous at the start of all my leads because I was worried about falling. Because I was unwilling to fall, I was very slow to climb harder grades. And that made me feel like I didn’t really belong in the climbing community.

I didn’t realize why I was afraid of falling until I read the book, The Rock Warrior’s Way. I suddenly understood that it wasn’t even falling I was afraid of. It was FAILURE that I was afraid of. Nevertheless, I feared lead climbing because I was afraid of failing.

So how did I overcome my fear of lead climbing?

Climbing Valhalla, Tensleep Canyon
Climbing Drugs Wall at Valhalla

Now that I knew my fear, I began to notice my inner dialogue come up while I was on the wall.

Through breathwork, visualization, and self-limiting beliefs training, I was able to slowly break my patterns and build new state of mind when it came to lead climbing.

Since doing the work, it made me learn how to truly love the process of rock climbing, complete with falling, failure, and projecting.

I no longer get nervous on the sharp end because I’ve taught myself how to stop seeing falling as a failure and because of that, I can simultaneously feel welcome amongst climbers for trying new projects and don’t feel nervous to try hard climbs. Instead, I can enjoy trying new climbs and pushing myself without attachment to leading and falling.

How Isabelle Overcame Her Fear of Lead Climbing

Isabelle used to get so nervous leading climbs. She was aware of if and eventually admitted that she “had fear of discomfort” and a lack of trust in her belayer.

“I distinctly remember climbing in Lander, I remember the moment where I thought ‘I don’t trust that my belayer is going to catch me.’ That was the moment I realized the fear I had of lead climbing.” – Isabelle

Isabelle was my core climbing partner and she always wanted to be a gamer. She was strong and knew she was capable of a lot so she kept trying.

Isabelle Rock Climbing, Cirque of the Towers
Isabelle following an exposed ridgeline in the Cirque of the Towers

Despite her willingness to push through, her experience on lead was always tainted with nervousness and discomfort.

So she began to do the work.

Though working one-on-one with me, she was able to identify her limiting dialogue, and through repetitive awareness, she was able to rewire her thoughts on the wall into peace and courage.

How Robyn Overcame Her Fear of Lead Climbing

Robyn was a seemingly fearless rock climber. Her bold attitude and urgency to get on the sharp end when arriving at a crag would lead you to believe there were no doubts in her mind about climbing.

The odd part was, the moment Robyn got to a crux move above her bolt, she’d rapidly work herself into a frenzy of pumped forearms.

Wyoming Road Trip climbing Cody
Robyn lead climbing in Story, Wyoming

For how strong and relaxed he looked prior, it was interesting how fast she’d psyche herself out.

She seemed to be scared of falling but when I asked her, she responded sincerely,

“I don’t think I’m afraid of falling, I just don’t like the feeling of being pumped.”

You could rephrase the sentence to make it active by saying: “I asked her, ‘Don’t you think pumping scares you because it makes you feel like you’re not in control?'”

Her immediate reaction was no, but the more she brought awareness into her self-talk on the wall, she realized that was exactly it.

Robyn had 1:1 support to accurately identify the limiting belief in her way and followed Fearless on Lead strategies to rewire the belief to have more fun in the process of climbing again.

How to Overcome Lead Climbing Fear

Step 1: Figure Out Your Limiting Beliefs

Like I shared in the 3 stories above, pretty much all of the fear of lead climbing comes down to a deeper fear…

  • It could be a fear of chaos, disharmony, or discomfort.
  • It could be a fear of feeling incapable or inadequate.
  • It could be a fear of feeling like a failure or unworthy.
  • It could be a fear of losing control.
  • It could be a fear of feeling unimportant
  • It could be a fear of being just average.

Whatever it is, it takes work to identify your core fears and shift them.

On your own, it could take years to identify these limiting beliefs. But that’s why I created Fearless on Lead Accelerator, a mini-masterclass to help you rapidly identify the in 30 minutes or less. Psst, when you download my guided meditation you get access to the masterclass for free for a limited time.

Normally this Accelerator is $47 but if you click here and download my free meditation, you can get access to Fearless on Lead Accelerator for FREE for 24 hours only!

Step 2: Change Your Values

A lot of fears of lead climbing are actually non-physical fears. Fears like fear of failure, fear of judgment, the comparison game, and fear of insignificance are rooted in your values.

If you have these fears, this means you are unconsciously living by external values like approval, achievement, success, validation, and acceptance.

You see, every moment of our waking life is motivated by a value. You might not notice it because your values are subconscious and the ones you’re living by were handed to you without you knowing it when you were a child.

The hard part is: Most of us were handed extrinsic values and extrinsic values leave us trapped in eternal feelings that we’re not enough, we need to do more to be more.

External values mean something in the physical world HAPPENS which THEN makes us FEEL something. For example: When I send, I will then feel adequate, confident, or good about myself.

To escape the cage, you have to define new intrinsic values. One’s that make you feel good about your personal PROCESS over the RESULTS. Healthy motivators could be:

  • Challenge
  • Fun
  • Curiosity
  • Adventure
  • Etc

That’s why I got hooked on mountain adventures. When I started getting serious about shifting my values, I noticed that adventure climbing and mountain climbs made it easier to feel good about the process rather than the result.

The problem-solving was a default, it was fun, and I was motivated by challenging myself without worrying about what I looked like.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally get wrapped in extrinsic values here and there. I’m human after all and sometimes the idea of getting the send is so tempting!!

But any efforts to notice values that ARE motivating you and trying to consciously choose NEW values is going to make a lasting change in your happiness and your climbing abilities.

Do you ever feel let down or not-so-stoked when you go climbing? Let me help you rewire your value system.

In my Know your Soul 5-Day coaching program, I help you go deep in getting to know your soul coding with the core self-limiting beliefs and core values that are blocking your ability to create confidence and courage. This program gives you massive insights about yourself in a short amount of time. This program is 5 days of 1:1 coaching and all-day support from your coach.

Step 3: Shift Your Self Talk

To be able to shift your limiting beliefs and values, you start by changing the way you talk to yourself.

The way you talk to yourself wires your brain in patterns that become habits of thinking.

In order to cultivate new brave and confident beliefs, we have to practice talking to ourselves differently.

This is why meditation and visualization is so powerful. We can rehearse new ways to think.

When you grab my free Fearless on Lead meditation, I’ll directly guide you through an audio experience to rewire your beliefs, boost your confidence, and unleash your fearless spirit!

Do You Want to Feel CONFIDENT, Competent, and BRAVE on Lead?

I know what it’s like to feel frustrated with climbing. I got anxious to lead, hated if people were watching, never projected anything, and didn’t love the process.

On top of it, I felt like I didn’t belong in the climbing community because I thought the grades I sent defined me.

I’m here to remind you that it’s okay to have fear but instead of letting it stay there, I urge you to do the work to transform that fear into confidence and courage.

Wouldn’t you love to:

  • Climb harder grades without training harder,
  • Find more joy in the process of climbing,
  • Stop feeling nervous to lead,
  • And, break through the fear of failure?

Join me for 1:1 Know Your Soul coaching and I will help you overcome your fear of lead climbing so you can enjoy rock climbing, send harder grades without stress, and feel like a badass on the sharp end!

Discover More Ways to Be A Fearless Lead Climber!

Fearless on Lead Programs by Gabi Robledo

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