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Climbers With a Fear of Heights

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Climbers With a Fear of Heights

Old 10-16-19, 04:55 PM
  #26  
Voodoo76
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Very common fear. English cycling champ Emma Pooley has talked about her fear of descending, which offset her excellent climbing skill.
Appreciated, I'll have to look that up. Hearing about others with the same problem helps.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:25 PM
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Fear of Heights or Fear of Descending?

Ive recently started riding a loop that has a steep, sharp set of corners posted at 20mph( for automobiles).
I'm actually drawn to this loop because of the corners and the descent (and the speed).
My descending speed is over 20mph.

Mentally going into the corners with "too much speed" makes me apprehensive as I'm approaching that part of my ride.

Without going into a long digression on *countersteering*, that's precisely what is increasing my confidence, at speed, thru these turns.
A simpler visualization is minimal handlebar input, inside pedal up, hip inside the turn.

The more committed to "hip into the turn", the more solid and confident the cornering and the grip have become for me.

It's a blast.


Last edited by chainwhip; 10-16-19 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 10-16-19, 09:16 PM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by chainwhip View Post
Ive recently started riding a loop that has a steep, sharp set of corners posted at 20mph( for automobiles).
I'm actually drawn to this loop because of the corners and the descent (and the speed).
My descending speed is over 20mph.

Mentally going into the corners with "too much speed" makes me apprehensive as I'm approaching that part of my ride.

Without going into a long digression on *countersteering*, that's precisely what is increasing my confidence, at speed, thru these turns.
A simpler visualization is minimal handlebar input, inside pedal up, hip inside the turn.

The more committed to "hip into the turn", the more solid and confident the cornering and the grip have become for me.

It's a blast.
Fears of sudden deceleration. i.e. death. But that broad definition wouldn't tell you much.
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Old 10-16-19, 09:37 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by Zuzus pedals View Post
Yep, that's what I thought and was expecting to see the statue buried up to its chest in the next photo.

And since "Archer" came along, whenever I see Taylor pounding the ground and cursing his ancestors, I always think of this excellent parody:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WQCoPL3-wo
Funny, I thought of the end of "Spaceballs."

But getting back on topic, I'm thankful to OPs like @bpcyclist and @NoWhammies for starting their threads. I've noticed that I'm a lot more nervous descending hills these days, for whatever reason. I used to be able to shoot down hills and see how fast I could go, but now I ride the brakes and fret about not being able to brake in time for a life-threatening obstacle. It's reassuring to know there are others in this boat, and to read suggestions for getting over it.
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Old 10-16-19, 10:45 PM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
That sort of thing is probably the most tractable problem in clinical psychology, with effective, evidence-based, treatment widely available. Many therapists specialize in it and a good one should be easy to find in any metro area.
I had no idea. Thanks!
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Old 10-16-19, 10:56 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
For more pleasant, and less fear inducing riding, I go back here...

I think beach riding is fine, but I've heard that horses can get seasick when riding in the surf. Just one more thing to keep in mind.
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Old 10-16-19, 11:12 PM
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Well, I want to really thank each and every one of you who responded. This really helped me. I wasn't sure if I was the only one. These phobias are, like many things in mental health, not always outwardly revealed by the people suffering. Sometimes we are ashamed. I'm a grown man. Why should I be afraid of a little height? So on. After reading that nice article referred to by @chainwhip, I definitely do have many of the criteria, no doubt. Anyhow, I will take all these suggestions into account. They are all good. I am going back up that big hill in a couple days. And we'll see what happens. Maybe I need a therapist, though I must say, this fear is so profound, I cannot imagine it ever going away.
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Old 10-16-19, 11:24 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
I have gephyrophobia, fear of bridges, especially long and/or high bridges.
We have a bunch of covered bridges around Oregon. I've been meaning to do a tour of the covered bridges.

It looks like Lane County, Oregon has about 20 covered bridges (I only knew of about a half dozen) that one could cover in about a 200 mile ride.

As far as bridges, my brother took me up to a train trestle along either the John Wayne Trail or Columbia ? trail in Washington. Substructure, no superstructure, no improvements, no guard rails, bare ties. I didn't go out on it, but just getting close to it made me nervous. The ties should be about 8 foot long, so it should be OK (assuming they weren't overly rotten). Still, if I did the trail, I might have to work my around some of those trestles.

Going up hills usually is fine. But, going down can be a bit bothersome, but if that is the case, time to burn some brakes.

I do remember Crater Lake, cresting the passes, and suddenly hitting the wind (with my bike and panniers like a big sail). Whew!!!
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Old 10-17-19, 06:35 AM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I think beach riding is fine, but I've heard that horses can get seasick when riding in the surf. Just one more thing to keep in mind.
Does Mr. Ed know about this?
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Old 10-17-19, 10:34 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
We have a bunch of covered bridges around Oregon. I've been meaning to do a tour of the covered bridges.

It looks like Lane County, Oregon has about 20 covered bridges (I only knew of about a half dozen) that one could cover in about a 200 mile ride.
We have a lot of nice ones in Iowa, too. They even made a movie about 'em a while back.
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Old 10-17-19, 12:09 PM
  #36  
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I have an irrational fear of steep dropoffs, although more like excess caution and respect than fear per se. Well, the respect for them and the potentially crumbly edges is healthy, but the longer the dropoff the greater my respect. This is irrational since a 100' fall onto rocks below will kill me just as much as a 1000' fall. They both deserve the same amount of respect.

Other than that I sympathize with the OP... acrophobia would make it very difficult to be a cyclist in the SF Bay Area.



View from road up Mt Tamalpais
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Old 10-17-19, 02:59 PM
  #37  
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I had to think back to the last time I really felt disoriented by heights and it was about 20 or so years ago driving to Colorado. Texas is mostly flat so any mountains seem impressive.

And I'd driven through the Colorado mountains before, including Wolf Creek Pass during a blizzard in the 1980s -- that was a bit nerve wracking, but not for the heights issue. With the snow I couldn't see far anyway. It was just a test of nerves keeping the car on the road. I was delivering a nice used Mercedes to a dealer and this was the first I'd driven that didn't handle well on slick roads. Turned out later the previous owner had put the wrong size tires on the rims, and they were squirming around like crazy.

But my last trip through the Colorado mountains in the 1990s was the only time I felt disoriented ascending while driving. It's the visual conflicts going on -- the nearby mountains were like walls, and gave the illusion of "moving" differently from the more distant mountains and sky. I'm sure most folks get accustomed to it quickly. By the time we drove back home a week later it was less disorienting.
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Old 10-18-19, 07:50 AM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
I have gephyrophobia, fear of bridges, especially long and/or high bridges.

I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice on my bike and twice on foot (this phobia does not affect me while driving). Each crossing was a fear-inducing experience. I did it to prove to myself that nothing bad was going to happen and nothing did. I am not planning on doing it again—there is not point.

As Nietzsche famously wrote, “He who fights with monsters should be careful, lest he become a monster himself. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will stare back at you.”

Fear of bridges is my monster, I have fought it and now I am done fighting it. I have stared into the abyss, and it looked right back at me.

For more pleasant, and less fear inducing riding, I go back here...




Love that area of North Malibu !
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Old 10-18-19, 01:21 PM
  #39  
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A steep descent can get my heart rate well above threshold, even when I'm coasting. I HATE descents. I would rather climb all day and stop at the top than take a steep descent.

Anyway, a couple years ago, I was entered in a TT that had a gnarly descent starting about 3/4 mile into the race. At the bottom of the screaming descent was a cross street and, for some reason, the race hadn't seen fit to have police officers at that intersection. Left to my own devices, I would have been riding my brakes all the way down -- but I knew that descent was one of the keys to the race. I knew if I were able to stay in the aero extensions and keep pedaling down that descent, I would have a big advantage over everybody else.

What did I do? I told myself that my brain was playing tricks on me. As I went down the descent, I told myself that the road was actually flat. I was just imagining the 10% to 12% descent. For some reason, it worked. (I think the race was the incentive I needed to fool myself. The ploy hasn't worked since.)
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Old 10-18-19, 01:26 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
I have an irrational fear of steep dropoffs, although more like excess caution and respect than fear per se. Well, the respect for them and the potentially crumbly edges is healthy, but the longer the dropoff the greater my respect. This is irrational since a 100' fall onto rocks below will kill me just as much as a 1000' fall.
.. but the 1,000 ft fall gives you more time to be terrified.
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Old 10-18-19, 02:10 PM
  #41  
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Look where you want to go, not where you don't.
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Old 10-18-19, 03:53 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
A steep descent can get my heart rate well above threshold, even when I'm coasting. I HATE descents. I would rather climb all day and stop at the top than take a steep descent.

Anyway, a couple years ago, I was entered in a TT that had a gnarly descent starting about 3/4 mile into the race. At the bottom of the screaming descent was a cross street and, for some reason, the race hadn't seen fit to have police officers at that intersection. Left to my own devices, I would have been riding my brakes all the way down -- but I knew that descent was one of the keys to the race. I knew if I were able to stay in the aero extensions and keep pedaling down that descent, I would have a big advantage over everybody else.

What did I do? I told myself that my brain was playing tricks on me. As I went down the descent, I told myself that the road was actually flat. I was just imagining the 10% to 12% descent. For some reason, it worked. (I think the race was the incentive I needed to fool myself. The ploy hasn't worked since.)
That is a very interesting strategy and I am going to try it tomorrow morning on Mt. Scott. Thanks!!
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Old 10-18-19, 05:03 PM
  #43  
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I have had a really bad fear of heights my whole life. 4th-floor balcony terrifies me. Getting on a 4 feet ladder makes my legs shaking. However, I do tons of mountain biking (including downhill) and skiing and what I discovered that I feel safer on a bike/ski than walking. I can jump off a cliff on my skis, but I cannot approach the same cliff on afoot. Same with a mtb. I can ride really scary/steep places, but if I dismount the bike, my legs start shaking. I guess it depends on what you are focusing on...
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Old 10-18-19, 05:29 PM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by bpcyclist View Post
Well, I want to really thank each and every one of you who responded. This really helped me. I wasn't sure if I was the only one. These phobias are, like many things in mental health, not always outwardly revealed by the people suffering. Sometimes we are ashamed. I'm a grown man. Why should I be afraid of a little height? So on. After reading that nice article referred to by @chainwhip, I definitely do have many of the criteria, no doubt. Anyhow, I will take all these suggestions into account. They are all good. I am going back up that big hill in a couple days. And we'll see what happens. Maybe I need a therapist, though I must say, this fear is so profound, I cannot imagine it ever going away.
This summer I attempted a peak in the North Cascades. Hiked 6 miles and 4,000 feet of vertical, only to turn back 100 feet below the summit. There was a very short and flat section with good footing, but a drop off that would have been the end if I rolled an ankle there. I just wasn't able to do it. I stood there for a while trying to will myself, but couldn't. Felt like a damn fool and a wuss. Point is you're not alone.
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Old 10-21-19, 09:17 AM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by bpcyclist View Post
That is a very interesting strategy and I am going to try it tomorrow morning on Mt. Scott. Thanks!!
Did you try it? How did it go?
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Old 10-21-19, 11:38 AM
  #46  
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I used to have both a fear of heights and of speed. Seeing someone may help, but don't try to force yourself to do things that trigger that panic feeling. It will make your problem worse and increase your chances of getting into trouble since your response mechanisms get messed up when your head isn't level.

In my case, gradually working my way up and not trying to force things proved effective -- the process took years. No one would ever guess I had those fears -- bombing down hills and ski mountaineering are among my favorite things to do.

When I tried to force myself to confront things I rationally knew were fine but wasn't prepared for, I found it made the problem worse.
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Old 10-21-19, 11:53 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
I have gephyrophobia, fear of bridges, especially long and/or high bridges.

I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice on my bike and twice on foot (this phobia does not affect me while driving). Each crossing was a fear-inducing experience. I did it to prove to myself that nothing bad was going to happen and nothing did. I am not planning on doing it again—there is not point.

As Nietzsche famously wrote, “He who fights with monsters should be careful, lest he become a monster himself. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will stare back at you.”

Fear of bridges is my monster, I have fought it and now I am done fighting it. I have stared into the abyss, and it looked right back at me.

For more pleasant, and less fear inducing riding, I go back here...




I don't have fear of heights (but weightlessness gets to me thru my stomach), but I can see how the GG Bridge could have an affect. Abt a month ago I did a ride on my mtb over the GG Bridge. For those who aren't familiar with the ride, some pretty breathtaking views out into the bay and the Pacific Ocean.

SF County, at least the day I went, puts cyclist traffic (both directions) on 1 side of the bridge, walkers on the other. For a lot of the path (fenced on both sides) it's a tight squeeze for both directions, with some areas being even narrower (some due to construction).

What frightened me wasn't the height I was riding at or vertigo from the vista points along the way, but rather those cyclists (mostly road, I'm sorry to say that were zipping back and forth on a very crowded path trying to pass the slower crowds. One guy nearly cut me off. That scared the crap out of me....and pissed me off a bit as well.

Soon enuf, tho, we were over in Sausalito sitting bay side having lunch being able to see Angel Island, Alcatraz and San Francisco across the bay Quickly forgot about all the potential accidents while riding across the bridge.
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Old 10-21-19, 12:03 PM
  #48  
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May have nothing to do with your situation, but could it be vertigo or dizziness related? Have you had any recent head knocks?

The reason I ask is I had a bad concussion (from a bike/car incident) and one of the lingering vertigo/dizziness effects was the inability to go downhills fast. And by fast, I mean not really fast at all (30mph and greater). My brain felt like it was still traveling on level ground, while my body was obviously heading down the grade. Very uneasy and disconcerting feeling. Even worse if it was twisty/curvy, felt like I was going to fall off the bike. It's bad enough being dropped going up hills, but really bad when my superior mass didn't allow me to catch up on the downhills.

If you're experiencing any other vertigo-type symptoms in the rest of your life, then that my be a cause. For me, just looking up quickly to the ceiling, rolling over in bed, etc. might set off symptoms. Fortunately, I'm better now, but it took 2 years and many missed rides before it settled down.
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Old 10-21-19, 01:11 PM
  #49  
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Agoraphobia (fear of heights). I couldn't climb onto the roof of the house. One story, flat ground, it was overwhelming.

It wasn't until I started flying a small plane did I ever overcome it. It was odd, but turning downwind, you look over your shoulder. I was fine but freaked me out to see my wheel just hanging out there. After a year, I started to settle down and relax and accept the height. Not sure when by heights didn't bother me after that.

Bridges & tunnels: Hiawatha Rail to Trail on Washington/Idaho border. I had a great time on that ride, but a 1.6-mile tunnel was almost too much for me. Wet, cold, fog, it's own weather condition inside the tunnel. No lighting. Only lights are other cyclists and your light. I knew it was a former train tunnel, so no sharp turns, but still unnerving.
https://www.ridethehiawatha.com/the-trail
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Old 10-21-19, 05:20 PM
  #50  
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A Follow up...

Like photos of ski hills and trails, these photos probably don't indicate the grade very well.

Nice fresh paving, tho.

On my bike with a speed read-out today: 30mph, on two wheels( vs. 20 mph posting for cars).


Steep Hill - Approach


Steep Hill - Left hand Curve, Road entering at right.

A driver, approaching from the road entering the right side of the sharp bend, performed one of those Stop sign arrivals where you're unsure if they're going to obey the sign...just to boost the adrenaline a bit.

Last edited by chainwhip; 10-21-19 at 06:48 PM.
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