Susan E.B. Schwartz - Reader Blog 3


Ah, so THAT’S the move. Sweet... Photo courtesy of Susan E.B. Schwartz.

There must be a hold here someplace... Photo courtesy of Susan E.B. Schwartz.

At the crux of CCK, not sure what I'm going to do, but taking out pro always buys time... Photo courtesy of Susan E.B. Schwartz.

Applying my fear strategy on Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope, (aka CCK) a popular 5.8 in the Shawangunks, October 1992. (But wait, I'm looking in the wrong direction...) Photo courtesy of Susan E.B. Schwartz.

Blog of Fear

In this blog, I’m going to deal with a topic near and dear to the heart of all climbers. Fear.

More precisely, how we deal with fear – appropriate not just for climbing but also considering the scary events now in our economy and coming off another holiday season when so many of us had to confront yet another year of fruitcake.

Below is a fear strategy I’ve used and I’d love for you in return to email me your favorite fear strategy for a future blog. (I’ll run it with your image, so here’s a chance to get on Climbing.com. )

I’ve never tried this strategy when faced with fruit cake. But I’ve found it works well in situations where you’re on lead, onsighting near your limit, stymied by the move, and discover that despite the guidebook’s cheery PG rating, the route’s crux protection is disconcertingly thin and can’t be backed up, the next piece below is a 50 year old pin off to the side by a right facing corner, and down climbing isn’t an option.

Can you tell I have a specific route in mind? 

My fear strategy is kind of a mind game out of Star Trek: I pretend that what is happening isn’t really happening, but is instead a memory. That what is really happening is instead later that night, after I laid down for sleep, head on the pillow, happily replaying the events of the day. In my pretend reality, I’m drifting off to sleep and savoring the play-by-play memory of how I successfully worked out the solution to the crux.

I used this fear strategy when climbing Baskerville Terrace in the Gunks with my friend Bob Phelan. It worked so well that I even returned to the route to lead it again.

Or maybe the second time on Baskerville Terrace was less about dealing with fear but a case of climber’s amnesia, which is a version of childbirth amnesia, and nature’s way of letting us block out painful memories so that we continue climbing and continue having children.

Now if I had only remembered to use this strategy when my sister announced this year that she had made three fruit cakes just for me. 

So email me your fear strategies for dealing with scary climbing situations (at susan@susanebschwartz.com). Or your fear strategies for dealing with those fruit cakes.

—SEBS 

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