Climbing is a mentally demanding sport. High levels of exposure is enough to put anyone off their game, but seeing the world drop away below your feet can be especially tough if you have recently experienced a bad fall or injury. The sensation you had just before you took a whipper (being whipped around by the rope as it breaks your fall, sometimes flinging you against the cliff face) drains your confidence next time you climb, and can lead to you freezing, unable to move up or down, or at best over gripping and wasting energy. There are ways you can overcome your fear and return to your best. Manage expectations Struggling to return to climbing after a fall is normal. Do not expect to return to the level you were without a period of adjustment. With less pressure, you can get back on the wall on easier routes and soon feel confident enough to return to tougher challenges. Exposure therapy Fall on purpose. Tell your belay partner that you intend to fall, so they are prepared and then let go of the wall. Make sure the belayer has taken up the slack so you only fall a small and safe distance. By exposing yourself to the sensation of falling, you will become used to it and it will lose its power over you. Falling is a skill, too. Recognising when you are about to fall will help you mentally and physically prepare so you can fall on your terms. You should keep your arms chest high, avoid the reflex to reach out and grab for something. Flex your knees so your legs can take the impact. Practising falling has the double benefit of helping you heal and preparing you for the next fall so the impact is not as great on your mind and body. Tell the story outloud A fall can be quite traumatic, so do not be afraid to talk about it. Tell a close friend of how you fell and how you felt. It can be cathartic. Instead of saying “I’m afraid of falling again”, talking it through in detail might help identify what exactly it is you are specifically afraid of, then you can address it. View this post on Instagram ‘Black is Back - 6B, Black Crag’ Video by @reshproductions #climbing #rockclimbing #sportclimbing #drone #hongkong #hkig #epic #climbing_photos_of_instagram A post shared by Mark Agnew (@adventureagnew) on Jul 3, 2019 at 1:56am PDT Plan your next climb in advance Check the topo next time you are heading to a crag, examine the route from the base and seek beta from fellow climbers. This way you can visualise the route, mentally prepare as you reach the crux and plan your rest points. Knowing the route better will allow you to focus on the climb and override any fear of falling. Anticipating the climb gives you time to process the coming challenge so it is not shocked and transports back to the moment you fell unexpectedly. Breath Take a few deep breaths just before you start so you can focus on the climb at hand and forget about the chin-wag you just had with your belayer. Focusing on your breath can centre you, remove distractions and help your performance. Newcomers or nervous climbers forget to breathe on the wall when they are scared. Take breaths as you go. Trust your belayer If it is your first trip back to the crag and you are feeling nervous, go with a climbing partner you trust. Your past experiences together will give you confidence in their ability to catch you if you fall. Remember to check each others’ gear every time you start a climb – check the locking carabiner around the belay device and the knot attached to the climber, every single time. Check there is a knot tied at the end of the rope so it cannot fly through the belay device if you run out of rope. Communicate clearly with each other using predetermined language, like “climb when ready” from your belayer and “climbing now” as a response when starting the route. The farther apart you get the more important it is that you know exactly what language you are going to use in which scenario. “Watch me” means you are coming to a tough section and the belayer should pay particular attention. “Take” means the belayer is to pull in the slack as you will rest or are about to fall. If you are able, shout “falling” just before or as you come off the wall.