Acrophobia - The Fear of Heights

14 Feb 2015

Last month, I spent a week working with my colleague, Matt, in Bridgend. While there, he took me indoor climbing at the local leisure center. It’s the most fun I’ve had and the scariest thing I’ve done. When climbing, I’m hooked to an inertial reel. They’re great because I’m not dependent on a human paying attention to me the whole time. They are a bit scary, because the way to get down is to lean back and let go.

Before I did any actual climbing, I got extensive training on “letting go”. There’s something about falling backwards that scared me. I think it’s my instinct from riding a bike, I felt naked without a helmet. The instructor, Nathan, had me try it with me on the ground. Phew, that was scary stuff. After a bit, I got past the fear and let go. The ground is a soft mat, so there’s a low chance of injuring myself if I did hit my head. I tried it 3 times until I was sure I was okay to let go!

The wall. The inertial reels are in red

Once I mastered that, he had me climb a bit and try it again. After a few tries, I decided I had enough control of my fears and went all the way up. Oh, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Nathan had to coach me to trust the reel and let go. After that attempt, I got a bit of confidence and tried out the different levels they had. I got the 1 nailed, then 2 and 2+. I didn’t get past the 3 though. My arms were completely fatigued and I kept slipping on the 3.

Now, I was past fear of letting go. I slipped a few times on the 3 and I was completely okay. Lesson learned, climbing isn’t about upper body strength, it’s more about technique. Just about when our time was finishing, I tried out the highest wall they had (30ft), without bothering with the grades. It was kinda special going up all that high and looking down :)

The smile doesn't show how exhausted I was at that point

Just before we finished, Nathan came up with an absolutely crazy thing to do. He suggested climbing to the top of the 20 ft wall, standing on the ledge, taking a few pictures, and jumping down from there. That sounded scary, but the adrenaline rush was tempting. Standing on the 20 ft ledge, I could see how high up I’d climbed. That’s when my mild acrophobia hit me. Going down meant turning back, holding on to the bar on the ceiling that’s also holding the reel, and letting go.

Looking deceptively calm

It’s one of those things. I knew exactly how it would go once I let go, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. After some deep breaths and pep talk from Nathan, I did let go. The adrenaline rush was great!

If I get the time, I’m going to be hunting down places to do indoor climbing in Delhi and give it a shot. After all, how hard can it be? ;)

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