Climbing over my fears: How I conquered my fear of heights by climbing the rock wall

Caroline Keys / The Daily Gamecock

I sit at the bottom of the climbing wall and can’t see the top. I’m surrounded by so many athletic people and immediately feel inadequate to scale this, even though so many people have before me. And then, there’s the problem of my fear of heights. 

Earlier today, I didn’t think I would have much of a problem, but as soon as I am in Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center I am filled with the fear of falling. My palms are super sweaty and I can’t stop shaking, but I am determined to climb to the top. 

That is where I am coming from at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Strom offers a climbing wall and belay clinics, so you can build your confidence before actually climbing the wall.

There’s a moment when I am sitting nearby where I consider bolting. Nobody here knows that I failed to climb, and none of my friends would need to know either.

But I will know, and I don’t want to let myself down.

The best advice I received before this whole process began was to bring moral support. That really helped me calm down while gearing up to climb.

Shortly after beginning the clinic, I realized that I was going to leave with way more experience than just climbing. My instructor first taught me how to check my equipment and the equipment of my partner. The entire system is perfectly designed to reassure the climber that they will not fall or get injured. Learning to tie my own knots gave me extra confidence when I climbed because I knew that I had tied the knot myself and it was safe. 

The only hardest part of the clinic was learning to belay. Belaying is when you are working the rope in a sort of pulley system to lock the climber in place. The pattern of pulling the rope and keeping the climber safe was intense because I felt like their life was in my hands.

It was at this point that I realized my lack of strength. I could barely pull the rope that the instructor said would be easy to do. This only foreshadowed how difficult climbing itself would be.

After learning to belay a climber, I was told that it was time to climb. 

I immediately looked at my friend with a face of fear. I couldn’t remember why I had agreed to do this in the first place, but if I had come this far I wasn’t going to go back to Capstone to hide in my bed.

So I climbed.

My palms felt slippery, my forearms ached and I was getting dizzy because of the height and all of the anxiety hitting me in one moment. 

But I climbed.

My instructor ensured me that I could keep going.

I kept climbing.

My friends cheered me on.

So I kept climbing.

When I hit around three quarters of the way up the seemingly endless climbing wall, my arms were sore and could no longer hold my weight. 

My determination weighed over my head because I didn’t want to quit when I had gotten so far. I tried to find any hold that made it easier to make it up the last few yards, but it was obvious that my body could climb no more.

So maybe I didn’t make it all the way up the climbing wall, but when I was looking at it from the bottom I wasn’t sure if I would make it half way up.

I had just conquered my fear of heights to climb a wall even though I didn’t have to.

I haven’t made it up the whole climbing wall yet, but I know that next time I climb, I will.

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