Friday, February 21, 2014

Rock Climbing Mistakes: The 'Oh $@!*' Moments

Ahhh the moments where we make a mistake, either on the wall or on a highball boulder problem, will someday find us all and sometimes all too frequently.  I call these the 'Oh $@!*' moments (use your imagination for the expletive!) because usually it is the first phrase that comes to mind or is spoken aloud like a plea for help.  Usually what follows the saying or thinking of this phrase is the onslaught of panic then followed by fast repetitions of the aforementioned phrase.

After your mind races through every possible catastrophic thing that could happen, you come to the realization that you have to make a decision.  Fight or flight, or in climbing I like to call it 'fight the pump or take the whipper'.  I have some beta on what to do when one of these dreaded moments pop up.  The first thing to do is control your breathing.  Inhaling and exhaling like you're trying to blow out a grease fire only makes things worse and makes your muscles tighten or spasm (Elvis leg anyone?) so relax and breathe slowly.  The next thing to do is stay focused.  Fear makes your mind drift into the realm of terrifying premonitions of what could happen if you fall.  It is better to try to focus on being cautious, deliberate, and aware to make calculating the next move easier.

If you have to take a whipper, make sure your leg is not between the wall and the rope.  If it is you will flip upside down and get your bell rung quite harshly (hopefully a helmet is being worn!).  Try to fall legs first and try not to grab the rope.  Grabbing the rope will likely mean socking yourself in the face and giving a black eye or even a bloody lip.  If you're taking a fall from a highball boulder, pray to whatever you believe in, try to keep your feet below you, and crumple once you hit the pads to lessen the impact on your body.

No one ever said rock climbing was a safe sport.  The fact that it is dangerous makes it more appealing to us climbers.  With danger comes the consequences of making a wrong move or mistake, which then leads to an 'Oh $@!*' moment.  To minimize the occurrence of these moments one must climb smart, climb safe, and be aware of the surrounding conditions.  Climb away!