Sunday, 30 July 2017

South Africa

In June, Alistair and I went on a long-awaited trip to Rocklands in the Cederburg mountains in South Africa. Of course, the climbing was incredible, a totally different rock type to one I'd experienced before and with enough climbing to romp around at that satisfying "hard but only takes a session or two" grade.

But amazing as the climbing was, it was the whole experience that made it. I'd never been there, or anywhere similar before, and the moment we arrived at Cape Town International Airport Alistair and I were just excited about everything.

We went through customs, where a police man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt chatted to us about climbing for a few minutes and then we took our hire car out of CT. As we drove out of the busy, overpopulated, airport side of the city, we watched the buildings fade away into a very different picture. The compounds, electric fences and signs promoting armed response were replaced with farmland, cottages and village schools.

It is amazing to me that there can be such contrast between the type of farmland we were staying on and a big city, although from school geography lessons it shouldn't, I'm sure.

The utterly serene view from where we were staying and our ever loyal Etios
I took with me a small compact camera, and I barely stopped using it. I thought I'd like to blog about some of the beautiful things I saw because the internet always has space for more beautiful things.

One of the things that South Africans experience in winter are absolutely striking sunsets (and sunrises, I'm sure, although I only saw a few). They ranged from calm to sinister, and each one was unique but incredible:

One night climbing session, a hare came very close to where I was sitting. I routed around trying to find my phone, worried that it would scare him off. Instead he hopped ever-closer until I could photograph him right in front of me. Another night, we came inside the house from a braai to find a lizard on our wall, looking like it was mortified to have been caught out. It was much shyer, choosing to hide behind the mug cupboard until we looked away long enough for it to sneak out.

You can just about see the lizard, if you look very closely in the shadows.
In the middle of our trip, we took a journey to a big game reserve to see the big 5. Once gain, this was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. We sat in our safari bus a couple of metres from lions (who couldn't really be bothered with us, boring as we are), and delighted in every cat-like behavior they displayed (since our own domestic cat, Poppy, fits cat stereotypes nicely).

We also got the chance to taste some very nice South African food there - stews, boerewors sausage, billtong and malva pudding. From there, we visited Cape Town to meet some relatives I'd not met before - as cousin of my grandfather and his daughters, about my age.

My family story always fascinates me. A Jewish name, it began in Spain and then moved Rhodes, where it stayed for some time. After this, my branch of the family moved to Rhodesia which later became Zimbabwe My great Granddad Benjamin and his brother Solomon grew up there before the family moved to South Africa. He met an English girl and married, severing family ties other than occasional contact.. He remained in the UK and then when he died some reconnecting took place. We met Solomon's son.

It was amazing to see some family characteristics in people I'd never met - both physical and also mannerisms (although, of course, it is hard to separate nature and nurture because if you go back a few generations you end up with two brothers, who grew up together). They looked after us so well, and showed us Cape Town, and it was a brilliant experience.

Giraffe, being interested or concerned? I'm not sure. 
Seems like it doesn't matter what size the cat is, paws always need washing!

'New' family, against a backdroip

Of course, it goes without saying that the climbing was amazing, so I'll finish this blog post with a couple of photos and videos 😊

Minky, a 7B compression-style roof. Found it hard, as it didn't suit me at all.

Last Day in Paradise - 7C. A steep boulder in a stunning setting.

A romp through the jugs on "Un Petit Hueco dans Rocklands", 7B+

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Summer Lovin'

In August 2010 I climbed my first 7a - Rubicon, at water-cum-jolly. This felt truly remarkable to me. It was my first redpoint: I'd been climbing 9 months, at Westway, and my climbing was characterised by my ability not to let go. In that length of time, I'd developed very little bicep or shoulder strength and heaven knows I hadn't started with any.

So little, in fact, that I had to top the route out upside-down (anyone who knows the route knows that it tops out onto a flat ledge in spite of being a sport route).

Romping (lurching, unstably) through the jugs on Rubicon, water-cum-jolly (7a)

That was a summer of firsts, for me. I was doing an internship during my first year of university with Rolls Royce in Derby, and I had the good fortune of meeting someone there my own age who wanted to climb, every night. That summer I did my first redpoint, my first 7a, my first limestone trad, my first E1, my first ripping of gear (a peanut popped, followed by the one below), my first decking onto a ledge... you get the picture. Above all, I learned to climb outdoors. I will always remember it as the best education in climbing I have ever had, and though I started out indoors, the peak lime feels like home.

That summer, I watched a friend climb The Sissy, an innocuous-looking route two to the left of Rubicon. The sissy was 8a, yet appeared to have only about 5 metres of hard climbing. It was inspiring! This guy was strong, really strong, and I just thought... wow, imagine that! Imagine climbing that grade.

One of the amazing things about climbing is that you get to be inspired by people that you can realistically aspire to live up to. People who aren't professional climbers but still excel. People who work full time jobs, who have full time lives.

Predator is at Malham, and there are a couple of people who have climbed predator that I'm not ashamed to admit I greatly admire. I had trained all winter after climbing Supercool and I hoped I was strong enough to make the grade. After an assessment with Lattice Training, it transpired that compared with everybody else climbing 8b I was pretty weak.

But never mind, I was fit: so I got stuck in. After a hot May and a hotter June, it transpired that not only was I weak, but I was getting rather cross. Climbing at Malham had become futile and so I moved back to the Peak, which was only slightly damp and allowed me to climb after work (and pretend every evening was the weekend). A surprisingly short battle with Ouijaboard (Cheedale Cornice, 8a) of which the crux may well be clipping boosted my confidence, and then I managed to finally commit to trying Ben's Roof which, having tried it once a year for two years with little progress (who knew once a year wasn't enough?) also yielded quickly. I even climbed Comedy in a weekend, at Kilnsey (7c) which is hard if you're below a certain height, and felt more like 8a than 7c.

Reach for the crimp in Ben's Roof, Raven Tor (7C)

But no, I wanted Predator, and I agonised over this desire. Alistair and I returned to it in September whereupon he did it near the start of the month. I have to confess that while I was both impressed by his climbing, and very proud of him, the bad part of me was also a little jealous. We'd tried the route together because I'd wanted to, and at first he was just humoring me. However, that is the occupational hazard of having a climbing partner who is better than you.

The following two weeks were hot, so I returned to the Sissy, which I'd tried in May and where I got to the point where I was falling off the last move (of the hard bit), and would perhaps have got it done had I not had 6 redpoints within the space of 3 hours and ripped through my index fingertip. I went back to training for the rest of the month, full of regret... I'd not achieved either route, and although I was happy with Ouijaboard, I'd only done it to belay Alistair on a route he wanted to do. It was good for me, but not a goal I'd set.

Redpointing is amazing because even though the route can be at your limit, you don't actually have to have perfect conditions to pull it off. Training, and muscle-memory, do their job. The day I climbed the Predator I had taken a Wednesday off, and had been on the route the previous weekend whilst feeling rubbish with a cold. I was still feeling sub-par on the route and my arms were shakier than usual. I set off, finding it much harder going than usual, under the protection of a cloud, which miraculously disappeared leaving the crux in the baking sun just as I got to the pre-crux rest. In desperation, I rested as long as possible, with the dialogue between Alistair and myself being something like:

Ali: "There's a cloud coming, don't worry"
Me: "How far away is it?"
Ali: "It's coming"
Me: "Is it here yet?"
Ali: "Er... it went the other way".

I set of on the hot crux thinking "Get ready, you're going to take the ride again". And yet somehow, I struggled through the crux and threw myself at the final move at the crux. And incredibly, I stuck the move. Clipping the post-crux quick-draw, all I could think was "I'm not doing this again".

But Predator isn't over until it's over. I battled through the final moves to the sketchy, smeary traverse leftwards that isn't afraid to spit people off it and found myself in the rest before the last few moves. I knew there was one more, pretty dropable move and I was terrified. I prattled away to Alistair's reassurances like a nervous parrot, before finally plucking the courage up to finish the route and clip the chains.

Afterwards, I was happy. Super happy, but almost too surprised to believe I'd done the route. I'd convinced myself that I wasn't strong enough and I'd actually come to terms with the fact that I wasn't likely to climb the route. I had only a couple of free weekends left to try it and after that I was going to Font for a week, so I really had very little time left. Having reached that mental conclusion, I had to convince myself that I'd done it.

This weekend, freed of the shackles of Malham, I went to try The Sissy once more. In cooler conditions, I put the clips in and climbed it first redpoint. I was ecstatic! It summed up my best week of climbing - my best summer of climbing - ever. The sissy might not be as hard, but it's a classic, and it's been there in the background the whole time I've been climbing, just looking untouchable. Though we train hard all year, it often seems that we reap the reward only once or twice a year and that has pretty powerful consequences from a psychological point of view.
Victory shot! (The Sissy, Water-cum-Jolly)

Having struggled with a shoulder injury and a broken leg for the middle few years of my climbing it feels amazing to be gaining confidence in climbing once again, and I feel very grateful that things have come so far from there. Once I've got over myself, I'll go back to training at the wall and remember that, this being Sheffield, I'm still rubbish. But for now, for once, I'm going to drink to Alistair, Climbing, and Lattice Training.

*This, I think, means there is something wrong with me as I have yet to find anyone else who even likes the route. If you do, please get in touch and I'll make a support group.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nous sommes allés à Fontainebleau

Last week I went to Font. During my week there, I came to three main conclusions:
  1. I was truly blown away by the sheer volume of problems, high quality rock and the beauty of the place.
  2. For the first time, I was able to accept my own failure in a climbing situation and not be sorry about it.
  3. For the first time in my climbing experiences, I failed at something with no good excuse, and wasn't that angry.
Regarding (1), there is very little to add... I imagine a large proportion of climbers from the UK have been to font and I have to say, that for somewhere that had been hyped-up by so many friends for so long, it still managed to absolutely blow me away. 

I couldn't believe my eyes. It was the second week of February, it was sunny most days and a balmy 8-12 degrees, and as someone who hates climbing when cold, I found the whole experience surprisingly enjoyable! I found Font is particularly well endowed with comfortable rocks and sunny patches to sit in when the sun shines, and this combined with French cheese and baguettes and a jet boil made for some very nice days out.

With the good forecast and the excellent conditions, and significantly stronger than the last time I bouldered on sandstone (at St Bees, incidentally) I was very keen to try the rock out and to get on a problem I'd got my eye on: La Mouche, a crimpy affair at Franchard Cuisinière  [https://bleau.info/cretesud/509.html]. And so it was, on the second day of our trip, that I found myself at the base of an amenably small boulder with some tasty crimps.

The first session went well: I could do all the moves and got very close to sticking what felt like it would be the redpoint crux. I don't honestly know why I didn't stick it that day, but it just didn't happen. It was hard enough that falling off after that move was quite plausible, but I was also confident that I could stay on. It was a hard session and I wore my fingertips worryingly thin. After that, I went to watch Alistair and Joel do some more problems and wore them thinner still trying something incredibly reachy with about three moves (I just wanted to prove that I wasn't too short) and Le Mur Cordier [https://bleau.info/cuisiniere/474.html]. Remarkably I overcame the fear of standing on the foot holds on Le Mur to do it, and topped it out with a toe hook because by this point it was too dark to see the footholds but you could still see the silhouette.

The next day, exhausted by an overnight drive and a couple of days' bouldering, we rested. This was followed by a day of rain and so it happened that I had a double rest day. I was happy that this would maybe give my thin tips a chance to grow a bit (ha!).

The second session on La Mouche took place on the Wednesday of our trip. I felt confident, I knew the moves, and I hoped I'd see improvement. However, things did not go as planned. Within about four goes, I'd worn a hole in a crucial fingertip. Angry and frustrated, I ranted and cried to Alistair about how I really wanted to do the problem.

As I said earlier, I've never really failed at a project without a good excuse. That's not to say that the excuses in the past have been the reason that I failed, but they could plausibly have been. I've always set projects dangerously close to my limit, at always got away with it. My first 7a was Rubicon, and I climbed it the morning I moved from Derby (from a summer job) back to Bristol.  I tried a 7c route at Kalymnos in summer 2012. It was my absolute physical limit, and I was recovering from a shoulder injury, and it was August, sweaty and hot. In the event, I did it the morning we left.

Those things I've failed, I've often had a good reason: I tried The Ashes in summer 2013, but never did it because that September I broke my leg. I tried Power Plant a couple of years ago as a first 8a but if you're short there's a move low down that is considerably harder than the official crux. Who knows if that's actually why either of those didn't get done, but the point is that no-one likes to fail. I know many, many climbers that hate to give up. And letting go is not something I've ever mastered.

This problem was a boulder rather than a route, but other than that it was no different. After going through a second tip I was getting no closer to doing the problem. The tape was not proving very compatible with the small crimps as I just couldn't get that much friction (or really feel them). I shouted, I ranted, I raged, but to no avail. I put everything I had into it, and after several hours of trying I was making it way further than I should have been through sheer will...

But it wasn't enough.

Just wanting something badly enough isn't enough. Being strong enough isn't necessarily enough. I am sure, as sure as I can be, that I was strong enough to do that problem. I'm sure I was fit enough and I'm sure I was tall enough. I tried hard enough. But something didn't work.

I generally consider myself to have good movement skills for the level I climb at, and I am undoubtedly weak for the sport grade I climb, but in this situation I think where I was failing was that I simply wasn't good enough at solving the problem. It took probably thirty more goes and blowing a third tip and a considerable amount of failed taping to finally stop. I was scared to fail. I was scared of how I'd feel if I gave up- if I could get that mad and upset just trying, how was I going to feel once I'd given up?

Alistair suggested a that as a get-out I could take a rest day and try it on our final climbing day. There are times I've taken that last unlikely chance and it's paid off, but in this instance I knew without a doubt that I wasn't going to get the problem that way. I had to decide whether to carry on stubbornly beating myself up over it and try the problem on Friday, or whether to move on. For the first time, I decided to let go.

And after all the angst? It wasn't so bad. I've always been afraid that if I accepted defeat, that if I stopped beating myself up over failures, then I'd lose the drive to succeed. That I wouldn't be the motivated person that I am. That I'd be nothing.

Yes, I failed. Nope, I had no excuse. But I found that I didn't hate myself after all. I actually felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I went and climbed easy circuit problems with my remaining fingertips and somehow I ditched the post-redpoint-failure blues even though I tried unsuccessfully to climb a number of other things that were hard-ish for me.

I'd like to think that this epiphany will have some effect on me but I've no doubt that I'll be spotted stropping at climbing walls, on boulder problems and sport routes across the land. However, it's nice to realise even once that I've gained something in spite of not finishing it and that that doesn't make me a worse climber than before I'd tried La Mouche.

Sunday, 20 September 2015


Two years ago I went to see Tom Randall for an assessment. I told him I wanted to climb Supercool, and even I could see at the time that that was an unrealistic goal. The hardest I'd climbed was a 7c, the year before, and it'd taken four or five sessions to even do all the moves, then another four or five to redpoint it.

It was an amazing route, Polifemo, still one of the best I've climbed, with a very reachy crux - but nevertheless, a long way from 8a+.

Not one to discourage, however, Tom wrote a year long training plan to bring me closer to Supercool. I was super psyched. And then, four days into the plan and three days after my summer holiday had stared, I snapped both bones in my lower leg in what felt like a devastating blow.

Aside from the impact on my climbing, it rocked my student life: I was starting the final year of my degree, and I was stuck at home in bed. I lost my part-time job, because I couldn't move around easily. I missed my "day-to-day" friends: the people you don't know that well but that you see regularly and chat to and that become a surprisingly large part of your life.

I didn't even know Tom: I'd met the guy once and paid him to do an assessment. And yet high as a kite and feeling very lonely in LGI he seemed like the obvious person to email.

"Tom... Everything's f**ked"

As I started to recover, Tom used his wisdom to translate the training plan from 3D to 2D, and so I trained on a fingerboard for several months. It was a period of time which if you were bored enough to read the entire blog can be summarised as fairly miserable and took every ounce of motivation I could summon.

It was also a period of my life during which I was very dependent on my boyfriend Alistair, without whom I would never have achieved what I did academically - nor would I have been able to train. I know that at times this was incredibly stressful for Alistair, both emotionally based on the impact it had on our relationship but also in terms of juggling this with his own career. However, I will be forever grateful for all his care, love and support.

When I started to climb again, I battled a combination of leg pain and fear as I tried to remember why I loved it. 18 months after the accident, I still felt like things would never be the same. I was crippled by fear and I was surprised that I could still be feeling the physical effects.  Even two months ago, things were much that way. Tom suggested I climb Aberration as it was a similar style to Supercool, albeit sideways rather than up. I still keep finding knew things that I didn't realise I could do until it hurt too much to do them, usually relating to heel hooks, and I still do certain things in stupid ways because I can't do them the way other people do (or the way they're set).

I was both surprised that I climbed Aberration so quickly and kind of disappointed that I wasn't excited as I felt like I should be. I thought that I'd be super excited about climbing my first 8a, but then when I did it it felt like I'd passed the point where it was the hardest I could climb. It wasn't magic like Polifemo.

During August I was trying Supercool at weekends while working down South during the week (in Henley-on-Thames, no less). I was starting to get close to doing it, but it kept raining, and I was really tired, and I could just never get a good session on it. I started to get very frustrated. Towards the end of August, Jules Pearson redpointed the route and spent the following week sending me weather updates. I was pitifully grateful to her as I'd developed an unhealthy addiction to the weather forecast (I'm getting help for it).

Jules is really cool, but she doesn't realise how good she is so she's very unassuming, very down to earth and awesome to climb with. And it was nice to be rooting for each other as I rarely seem to be projecting things at the same time as someone else (I remember with Polifemo everyone just kept flashing it).

The day I climbed the route was the Sunday of the August bank holiday, and I think it was really because I'd spent most of the Saturday snoozing. I was knackered from my crash introduction to the watch industry in Henley and all the commuting that had gone with it. I didn't feel amazing, but it's the sort of route where you don't have to feel super strong, as long as you just keep going and rest where it's appropriate. Nevertheless, when I pulled through the final crux onto the somewhat technical head wall I was terrified. Like Jules the week before, I knew that it would be all too easy to slip on a smear and fall off.

Somehow I topped out though and for a sport route it felt incredibly profound. Goredale itself is an awesome place, and many rainy and oppressive days there (not to mention the odd falling rock from the sheep at the top) have given me a healthy fear of the place. I didn't feel like celebrating, I just felt happy to be there. A tourist later summed it up when I was explaining what we were doing with "It must be the most wonderful feeling". Sitting there, in the cave, looking at the beautiful view was very inspiring. It finally felt like all the pain and effort of the last two years no longer defined my climbing, as though achieving the goal I set before I broke my leg and overcoming the fear in order to do so had freed me of some of the mental hang-ups I had.

The next day, Alistair climbed the route in a poetic team send. I doubt we'll ever share a project again, as we normally have very different climbing styles, but it was a fun team send!

We felt that the route deserved a video, so we went back for this:

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


Last Saturday was gloriously sunny and warm. After teaching the ridiculous kitten about grass in the garden, I headed out into the peak district with Mr Austin the Psyche Machine to try Aberration, at two-tier.

Batting the bauble, a long term climbing goal

Popping around

Ed was keen to steal all of my beta while I was hoping to steal his psyche. This worked well both ways. I confessed to Ed that he was one of the few people I had climbed with other than Alistair since breaking my leg and that I was scared. 

In actual fact, Ed seemed supremely confident that I would not be scared. Which in many ways, was actually really reassuring.

We arrived at the crag and elected not to wait for Squiff and Hannah (scumbag Lisa and Ed) as we were impatient. At this point I also realised that in being organised and remembering flip-flops for wading the river, I had in fact forgotten to wear real shoes. It turns out that using flip flops in sloping mud is actually an achievement in itself.

As we walked along the Monsal trail, it started to rain. However, we ignored it and it got bored and went away again. At the base of the crag, a fruitful bargain was made whereby a cup of coffee was exchanged for a banana (see what I did there?) before we warmed up bolt-to-bolt (because in spite of the fact that two-tier actually has warm-ups, warming up is something I frequently forget exists on british limestone).

Thanks Ed for the photos :)

As I'd already had a couple of sessions on the route, I pretty much knew what I was doing. I had a redpoint go just before the sun came around, but fell off on what is essentially the crux move. However, the next go didn't go quite so well. It had got considerably warmer and it felt like it was necessary to pull a lot harder: as a result I fell off going for the crux hold.

I came down and decided to sulk for a bit: I thought I'd do that, have a coffee, then have a training go. So, on my final go of the day I started up the route, complaining about how warm the rock was. But by the time I was about 8 moves in, it seemed to be cooling down slightly. Without really thinking about it I stuck the move and then romped onwards to the final sketchy move. Embedding my sweaty fingertips into the crimp (sorry, next person), I rocked over and prayed... and stayed on.

I think what I was proudest about was the fact that I'd felt so confident above the clips - the top is easy, but slippery in the sun - and I know that not long ago I would have been terrified. I'm super psyched to do some more climbing and training now and I hope the sun keeps warming my holds!

Nearly there :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Clip by Clip

While reading about ways to deal with fear in climbing, I read something about how we don't expect to keep strength gains if we only train once a month, so we shouldn't expect to keep mental gains if we only train very occasionally.

On the face of it, this seems obvious: most of us in the UK boulder in the colder months and only get out our ropes each summer. Usually, there's a transition phase where different people feel varying levels of fear before returning to last year's level of confidence. In the same way that a 6a climber will need to train more to climb a 7a than a 6c climber, a very scared person will need to train more to climb fluently on lead than someone who is simply a little rusty.

But how can you combine fear training with training training without the two impacting each other? And where do you start?

I guess fundamentally you need to work towards the thing you'll actually be doing. For me, that's currently sport climbing on british limestone. For that to be ok, you need to be happy first leading (probably indoors), then happy standing on slippery limestone, then happy leading between the (occasionally quite spaced) bolts.

I found that the best time to start training my head indoors was warming up. Though initially I was skeptical about the value of fall training by letting go, I think it helps to normalise the feeling of falling. Although it's very artificial, jumping of big holds above a bolt on an overhang indoors is a quick and relatively safe way to learn to fall and I found that I wasn't really able to try on harder routes because I wasn't ready for unexpected falls.

When endurance training on routes I found that I preferred top-roping as I hated the pressure of trying to achieve PBs whilst also being brave: I much preferred to separate the two achievements. So I would do some fall training and then train as normal. Once I'd gained some confidence, the training actually motivated me to push my fear boundaries, but in the early days I wasn't ready to tackle the fear.

I also started doing some outdoor sessions that were focussed entirely on fear. The goal was simply to try, above a bolt. The day was a success if I reached the desired point on the climb and nearly fell off, or if I fell off. Though it felt like a big jump in difficulty, I resorted to the old favourite - jumping off slightly above the clip, then higher.

I have a long way to go with the outdoor leading, but I'm really amazed that I've made it to the point where I'm enjoying climbing outdoors. I'd kind of given up on getting back to where I was but I don't think I could ever have dreamed of getting this far. After breaking my leg I trained out of obstinancy, and because I call myself a climber, and then as physical recovery progressed I realised I didn't really have any goals any more. I didn't know what I was training for and I didn't really want to climb anything in particular.

For a long time I wasn't sure I would ever get my desire to climb back. And at that point my motivation to train started to slip too... because what's the point if you don't really like climbing? The fear I felt on the rock overcame any enjoyment. But a couple of months ago, after weeks of head training that didn't really seem to be progressing, everything fell into place. It was one of those rare but glorious moments when you see all of your efforts come to light: I felt so much more confident and happy while climbing.

Now leg pain has ceased to be a limiting factor in my climbing, and fear is becoming much less of one. It seemed appropriate to change the name of this blog accordingly: thus I removed the "a recovery". The result seems worryingly egotistical and yet I rather like it.  It is almost two years since I wrote the first post in an injury blog and it's only really now that I feel like I have started to overcome said injury. As with any significant climbing injury (or sports injury) it has massively changed my perspective on climbing, and my motivations. However, overall, I think they have changed for the better. I'm no less motivated but perhaps more forgiving of myself. I'm no less brave but I'm definitely less rash. And I'm no less psyched, but I think I'm more passionate for the fight.

Two years ago, I would have said "Of course I'll get back there!"

One year ago I thought "I'll never get back to where I was, and I'll never really enjoy climbing again".

Now, I'm not there - but I'm happy to be here instead :)

The limestone is calling!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Fear of falling: Dare I admit it?

It's been the source of much confusion to me that, after breaking my leg bouldering indoors, I'm having so much trouble leading outdoors. I've been terrified climbing routes I should be warming up on. Routes that if I fell off, I should be laughing at the mistake rather than being frustrated that I fell off.

But I can't fall off.

As someone who never really felt fear, I've never really confronted this issue and perhaps this is where I went so wrong. For the first three years of my climbing I used to climb in the summer, ditch climbing in the winter and then start again in the summer. Each year, leading outdoors would feel a bit nerve-wracking at first but then it would be fine. Then almost exactly four years after I started climbing, I had a bouldering accident and my outlook on risk taking changed. Probably irreversibly. I think that most of us become naturally more scared as we grow up, but after an injury-free childhood this was my first (brutal) introduction to the idea that I didn't bounce as well as I thought.

If you're wondering, I'm talking about sport climbing here. Not trad, sport climbing. As in, climbing clipping bolts. Bolts which are 2 metres apart, on overhangs.

Worse still, I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to boulder more normally (OK, not at the top, but then you'd understand my reservations there). And until now, I'd not realised how much being scared could hold me back. Because I can't try moves: in fact I can't even move, I'm terrified.

Often this even happens on a top-rope. But until recently, I've always been able to use the injury as an excuse. Perhaps that's why bouldering is going better for me? I'm allowed to down climb. And outdoors, I'm very tactical about the problems I choose! But sport climbing, that's different. And here I have a confession to make: regarding being scared of falling off routes, I've always been well and truly cocky. Sure, I'd never say it out loud. But I've often thought "why don't you just try?". People who top-rope for convenience, that I understood. But I could never understand why people would try to lead and say "take" as soon as the probability of catching the next hold wasn't 1.

And now I'm sorry for thinking that way: I never realised how hard it could be to be genuinely, paralytically scared of falling off. Nor did I realise that to overcome that, you have to admit it in the first place. And that to admit it, you have to deal with people like me!

Imagine my consternation: my fear was taking six grades off my climbing, I was so scared of falling off sport climbing that I couldn't even look at a route without worrying about the places that I couldn't see clearly exactly how I was going to do the move in advance. Bearing in mind that I'm currently climbing in Kalymnos (where the bolts are excellently situated and all the routes that I am climbing have been climbed many, many times) that is simply not rational. When scoping out a trad route (or a slate sport route!) maybe. But not here.

Not only that, but in judging myself, I'd had to admit that my previous opinion on fear of falling was based on a complete lack of empathy and that I'd had no idea what I was talking about and was just lucky that I'd never been scared. Since I started climbing again I've experienced varying levels of fear while leading (and indeed top-roping). It became clear last week that was no point having goals for a climbing trip when I couldn't even try moves on a top-rope without being turned into a gibbering wreck: how was I ever going to enjoy climbing again? I needed to drop the grade, but not so far that I wouldn't fall off. I needed to start again.

I realised also that to truly beat the fear of falling off forever, you might well have to climb for all eternity. That sometimes it will be easy and sometimes it will be impossibly hard. I've started to work out the fine line between making progress, and pushing yourself so hard that you're traumatised. But it's worth it I think. Because the thing about fear is that it rarely goes away by itself. It feeds on insecurities and it takes away the joy of the activity and usually, it only grows as time goes on.

I think that trying to lead at my on-sight limit this trip has produced mixed results: at times, I've felt better than I felt before I broke my leg. At other times, I've had to take my quickdraws out and back off a route, unable to bring myself to complete it. But if I'm being completely honest with myself, I was starting to doubt whether I really enjoyed climbing at all. The fear totally eclipsed the love of the movement. By letting go of the idea of what I should be achieving and facing the battle head on I've had fleeting moments of feeling the way I used to feel when completely consumed by a route. I have started to believe that there's good in climbing, after all.

I could never have imagined how extensive the emotional and psychological effects of a bouldering accident could be. But I'm tired of being ashamed of my fear. Lots of people are scared sport climbing for lots of different reasons. Lots of people aren't: maybe they're lucky, maybe they worked through it.

It doesn't matter if the danger isn't real, the fear is and it can be hugely debilitating. It can also be humiliating, and sometimes I'll find myself crying on a warm up route and I'll be absolutely mortified. Working through it will involve lots of leading, and lots of safe falls. I'm sure I'll doubt that there's any point and at times I'll go backwards but I hope that I'll reap the rewards in my climbing.

Although it takes motivation, in some ways, it's not hard to train. I'm motivated and young. I've always been in control of exactly how much and when I train. This is different: this is a part of me that I don't understand. But I've finally understood that it won't be any less of an achievement than getting stronger.