How Can I Rock Climb If I’m Afraid of Falling?

Bill Springer jams a practice crack at Indian Creek Canyon in Utah.
Crack climbing requires jamming or wedging your hands and feet in cracks of various sizes. Stewart M. Green

"I'm afraid of falling!" and "What will happen if I fall climbing?" are a couple of the most common questions and fears that beginning climbers have when they're starting out. Just remember that most climbers, even experienced ones, usually don't like to fall.

The fear of falling is a natural and basic human instinct. It's one of those fears keeps us alive in bad situations. We don't want to fall because if we do, we can be seriously injured or die. If you're not afraid of falling, then maybe climbing is not the right sport for you. Your fear of falling is healthy-never forget that. It keeps you coming home alive.

Learn the Climbing Safety System

Your first fears about falling are usually because you don't understand the climbing safety system or you don't trust your climbing partner. Go climbing with an experienced partner or a competent guide and learn how climbing equipment keeps you safe. Learn how to ​tie into the rope. Learn how to belay. Learn how to do a safety check for your buddy and yourself. Learn climbing skills and how to be responsible for your own safety and you won't worry as much about the effects of falling.

Trust Your Equipment and Belayer

Everything we do when we're rock climbing, like placing gear for protection or clipping into bolts and all the equipment that we use is designed to mitigate the dire effects of gravity. If you fall climbing and you're not properly using climbing equipment, then you're going to get hurt. You have to learn to trust your equipment, rope, and your belayer, which comes with getting out climbing and learning how the safety system works.

You Won't Fall Far

When you go climbing, eventually you're going to fall off the cliff. If you're climbing a route at or above your ability, you will fall off at some point. If you're a beginner, what you need to know is that you're not going to fall very far and you're certainly not going to fall to the ground if you're using climbing equipment. You will be swaddled in a climbing harness and a strong climbing rope will be attached to sturdy anchors above you, forming a sling-shot top-rope, and tied into your harness with a tie-in knot that will never come untied.

Will the Rope Break?

One question that I hear every time that I take a beginner climbing arises from their fear of falling-Will the rope break? Ropes just don't break. Okay, some have been known to break but the rope usually gets sliced on a sharp edge before breaking. Climbing ropes are designed to hold huge amounts of static weight, at least 6,000 pounds, so unless you weigh as much as an elephant or a Volkswagen Bug then you don't have to worry about the rope breaking with your meager weight on it.

Accept that Climbing is Scary

If you're afraid of falling, accept that climbing is scary. Trust your equipment, rope, and climbing partner. Build a strong relationship with your partner and you will trust them explicitly to take care of you while you're climbing. Concentrate on the climbing moves above you. Don't look down and wonder "What will happen if I fall?" That's a surefire way to psyche yourself out. Instead make goals like, "I'll just climb to that next ledge and rest there." Take it slow and don't be afraid to lower back to the ground if you get scared. And practice falling.

Practice Falling

Yes, you heard right-practice falling. Most falls that you take will be on a top-rope, which is secured to anchors above you. If you're afraid of falling, then have your belayer hold you tight and just let go and fall off. See, it's not so bad. The rope stretches and then catches you. "No big deal!" you say and wonder what all the fuss about falling was about.