10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Heights When Rock Climbing

Picture it:

You’ve been invited by that special someone to go out for a one-of-a-kind date. Instead of hitting the restaurant or the bars, they promise to take you somewhere extra fun. Extra special.

Little did you know you got signed up for a rock climbing course.

And little do they know that you’re deathly afraid of heights.

Now you’re faced with one or two options—climb the wall and save the date or ruin the entire evening.

Chances are, if you do choose to climb the wall, you’ll find that many of your fears were unfounded in the first place.

Now, we’re not saying that they’re going to magically go away. The point is this: people often let a fear of heights get in the way of starting rock climbing.

And it’s just not worth it.

Even more importantly, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Below, we’ll tell you the top ten ways to overcome your fear of heights when rock climbing. By taking this advice, you can be on your way to better climbs in no time.

Overcome your fear of heights with rock climbing
Would you stand on this edge?

Where Does the Fear of Heights Come From?

Before we get into overcoming your fear of heights, let’s start by understanding where it comes from.

There are actually two separate fears that generally prevent an individual from rock climbing.

The first is likely the most obvious—the fear of heights, also known as acrophobia.

The other is the fear of falling, or basophobia.

Both of these fears can cause powerful mental blockages that prevent you from physically being able to go rock climbing.

The good news is that with a little practice—and by following the ten tips below—you can get on your way to overcoming these fears in no time.

Getting Over Your Fear of Heights

With these ten tips, you should experience significant improvements in your fear of heights over time:

1. Slowly Increase Vertical Distance

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

This saying has become a cliché because of its ability to be applied to almost any situation—even rock climbing.

When you start climbing, realize that you don’t have to go any higher than you feel comfortable going.

Even if this means that you’ve only gone one step up the wall, if that’s enough for you, that’s enough.

Just don’t stop there.

Each time you climb, slowly work your way up by increasing your vertical distance. As you slowly begin to get more comfortable with new heights, you’ll find that your fear is being greatly reduced.

Granted, this option can take some time, but it’s one of the most-effective means of coming to terms with your fear of heights.

2. Understanding the Belaying System

If you’ve spent any time rock climbing, you know just how important the belaying system is. Consisting of a device, a belayer, and a climber, this is the process by which someone controls the ropes so that you don’t fall when you climb. And if you do fall, the belayer makes sure that you are caught before there’s any damage.

It can be difficult understanding why some rock climbers feel so comfortable so high in the air without knowing how the belaying system works.

Designed to keep your rope taut while you’re in the air, the belaying system can dramatically reduce the likelihood that you will fall while making your climb.

And even if you do, if you can trust your belaying system, you know that you’re going to be okay.

This knowledge can help you start climbing higher, as you start to put more faith in the process. With a solid grasp of the belaying system, you can better conduct your climbs with added confidence.

3. Trusting Your Partner

Even more important than understanding the belaying system is trusting your partner.

Remember this: you’re never going to be able to overcome your fear of heights by rock climbing if you can’t even trust your partner.

Because here’s the deal: your partner will quite literally hold your life in their hands. And if you don’t understand the significance of that now, you definitely will if you’re several feet up on a rock wall with nothing keeping you from falling but your partner.

Make sure that you completely trust your partner before you attempt any serious climb. It’s important that you and your partner are on the same page and have mastered communication amongst yourselves.

Establishing a close relationship with your partner can help you feel more confident as you start climbing. This courage not only helps you get over some of your fears; it can also make you more comfortable in challenging them.

Knowing that you have a strong, capable person behind your back is the first part to any rock climber. No one could make it safely every time without a little help.

By trusting your partner completely, you can enjoy more relaxed and focused climbs.

Now, let’s do take some time to note that you should establish real trust—not just put blind faith in them.

If you’re unsure of how to do this, send hours practicing together on safer indoor rock walls until you’ve ironed out your communications.

Once this is done and you feel confident with each other, slowly build to more and more difficult climbs.

As you continue to do this, you’ll start to build the trust you need to be sure that you’re safe while climbing.

4. Investing in Solid Equipment

From your carabiner to your rope, make sure that you have top quality equipment when you climb. By buying great equipment—and by making sure that it’s in good condition— you can enjoy greater peace of mind in your climb.

If you’re using old equipment, this can add to fears as you may start to imagine equipment malfunction.

And if you’re bent on overcoming your fear of heights, you’ll never be able to do it by adding more emotional weight.

It’s important that you’re not adding to your fears with unnecessary worries. By investing in new equipment, you can feel more confident about your climb.

So while you may still have a fear of heights, you won’t so much fear falling—and that’s half the battle won right there.

Just be careful that when you do buy new equipment that you use it a few times indoors before trying any serious climbs. You want to make sure that you have a proper feel for your new devices. By doing so, you can feel more comfortable about climbing.

5. Take a Chance

Sometimes, there’s no better way to overcome something than by just doing it.

If you’re really looking to beat your fear of heights by climbing, you’re going to have to take a chance.

Once you’ve worked up a bit of small courage, take a big chance. Now, it’s important that you aren’t making unnecessary risks outdoors, but you can really start pushing your boundaries in an indoor gym.

Pushing your boundaries is a good idea, as it exposes you to your fear. When you’re face to face with your fear, you can either run from it or beat it.

And when you’re climbing up a rock wall in the middle of the air, you don’t have much room to be running.

You may even realize that your fears were unfounded to begin with. It might be that you come to embrace the challenge and turn your fear into a sensation of thrill.

At the very least, you’ll be able to tell yourself later that you did it. And here’s the thing: if you can do it once, you can do it again.

By taking a chance and beating your fears—even if just momentarily—you can gather the courage to keep trying rock climbing until you start to feel comfortable doing it.

6. Practice as Much as Possible

Once you’ve established a baseline of courage, it’s time that you put it to the test.

Don’t let the thrill of your early successes disappear. Instead, harness this energy to practice even more.

As you build on your confidence, you’ll realize that you’re growing more confident and bolder in your climbing endeavors.

You may even be ready to try outdoor rock climbing after just a little while.

In this way, you can all but overcome your fear by rock climbing. With just a few baby steps every day or every other day, you can slowly advance toward your goal.

7. Embrace Your Fear

Part of getting over your fear is learning to embrace it.

Acrophobia is extremely common, and chances are you’re not going to be able to completely rid yourself of it—at least not at first.

Being able to recognize your fears and separate them from reality is important. By allowing yourself to be afraid without letting it influence your ability to climb, you’ll be on your way to climbing higher in no time.

It’s often the case that our fear makes something appear worse than it really is. By training yourself to realize this, you can gradually overcome your fear of heights.

8. Focus on Your Climb

Another way to do this is by focusing on your climb. Don’t think about falling. Don’t look down. Don’t do anything except focus on what you need to do to keep going up.

When ‘deep water climbing’ isn’t what you expected it to be, Don’t look down.

By keeping your focus away from your fears, you’ll be able to climb higher than you ever thought possible.

Additionally, you’ll be able to make smarter climbing decisions, helping reduce the risk of an accident.

By focusing on the reality of the situation in each passing moment, you can ward off unnecessary fears. You may even realize while climbing that there’s no reason to be afraid.

As you continue climbing and proving your own ability to yourself, you’ll start to realize that your fears were misguided.

And, if we’re being honest, getting lost in the moment is what rock climbing is all about. It’s not about forward-thinking or planning. It’s about being in the moment and conquering a challenge that you didn’t think you could overcome.

The more you focus on doing this, the less time you’ll have to worry about your fears and the more you’ll start to enjoy rock climbing.

9. Get Used to Protected Falling

If you’re still afraid of falling, consider working with your partner to practice protected falling.

In this method, you and your partner can practice at an indoor gym. After climbing a safe distance up the wall, practice falling and letting your partner catch you. Repeat at safe distances until you feel comfortable falling.

Now, the point of this isn’t to encourage you to fall. Rather, by doing this, you’ll be able to better trust your partner, your equipment, and yourself.

When you see that drastically-bad results don’t occur when you fall, you’ll be able to overcome your basophobia.

A great team-building exercise between you and your partner, protected falling should only be done when both parties are on the same page and only from a safe distance.

10. Educate Yourself

Finally, if you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights when rock climbing, learn everything there is to know.

Study fear. Study rock climbing. Learn about all your equipment. See how your hypothetical fears stack up to real recorded evidence.

You may even want to analyze why you’re afraid of heights in the first place. You may discover that you can attack your fear from the root cause.

No matter what, don’t attempt to learn about everything that could go wrong. The point of this exercise is for you to better understand your fear so that you can work to get over it—not to seemingly validate it with hypotheticals.

The Bottom Line

Having a fear of heights can seriously complicate your rock climbing endeavors.

The good news is that there are solutions available.

If you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights so that you can start rock climbing, consider the ten tips above. By incorporating them into your rock climbing routine, you’ll be on your way to better results in no time.

Climbing Blogger

Zealous boulderer, gear geek and editor. Typically has more flappers than fingers on his hands. Occasionally enjoys the feeling of being scared of heights. Mostly prevents looking down too much, though, and cheers at the invention of climbing chalk.

2 thoughts on “10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Heights When Rock Climbing

  • Awesome work. Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading. Thanks for the share

    • Hey there, thank you! I’m really glad you liked it 🙂

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