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Climbers With a Fear of Heights

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Climbers With a Fear of Heights

Old 10-16-19, 02:46 AM
  #1  
bpcyclist
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Climbers With a Fear of Heights

Hello, guys and gals. I live in a rather hilly place where there are lots of good climbs available. The problem is, I have recently developed a fairly significant fear of heights. For those of you who aren't familiar with phobias or anxiety-type disorders, these things can at times be incapacitating. It can make climbing fairly interesting for someone like me. Just last week, I was at the top of a fairly challenging climb here in town. I came around a corner and was suddenly consumed with fear of my position in space. I actually had to get off the bike and practice some breathing and tell myself I was okay just to get a handle on myself. It was rough. Coming down was a bit more interesting than I would have liked.

I don't want to stop climbing. I enjoy the workout too much. So, my question is, for any of you with a fear of heights, how do you handle your climbs? What do you do? Or, if you don't yourself have a fear of heights, maybe you have ridden with someone who suffers like me. Just looking for any feedback any of you might have. Thanks a million.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:23 AM
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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.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:36 AM
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See the Doc
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Old 10-16-19, 04:41 AM
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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.
cbt ftw?
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Old 10-16-19, 04:48 AM
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Climbers With a Fear of Heights
Originally Posted by bpcyclist View Post
Hello, guys and gals. I live in a rather hilly place where there are lots of good climbs available. The problem is, I have recently developed a fairly significant fear of heights. For those of you who aren't familiar with phobias or anxiety-type disorders, these things can at times be incapacitating. It can make climbing fairly interesting for someone like me.

Just last week, I was at the top of a fairly challenging climb here in town. I came around a corner and was suddenly consumed with fear of my position in space. I actually had to get off the bike and practice some breathing and tell myself I was okay just to get a handle on myself. It was rough. Coming down was a bit more interesting than I would have liked.

I don't want to stop climbing. I enjoy the workout too much. So, my question is, for any of you with a fear of heights, how do you handle your climbs? What do you do?

Or, if you don't yourself have a fear of heights, maybe you have ridden with someone who suffers like me. Just looking for any feedback any of you might have. Thanks a million.
While I am not incapacitated by heights, I do dislike them. In my cycling experiences in the few mountains I have climbed, including Rockies, Allegheny, and Appalachian ranges, I don’t recall encountering any enervating vistas.

I have driven the Pacific Coast Highway, and those ocean views are spectacular, but feel safer in a car rather than as I suppose in the open on a bike.

My most memorable experience with riding on a high platform was the Bourne Bridge to Cape Cod:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…The Bourne Bridge is a high-arched bridge, seemingly several hundred feet over the Cape Cod Canal and I wasn’t fond of riding it, so I walked it about a quarter mile, fixing my gaze on the sidewalk rather than look over the edge.

Once over the Bridge though, I entered Cycling Paradise…
I posted about my most recent mountain descent of few years ago in Pennsylvania, nervous about speed rather than height:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
.I don’t use GPS, and I’m not familiar with grades, so he [@BluesDawg] would indicate how steep (%) were various grades.

This was the first time I had ever looked at an elevation profile of a ride I have done, and since elevations were a key feature of the ride, I could re-visit every segment of the 61 miles…

We held together pretty well nearly the entire length of the Ride. At the top of the first mountain he said "I’ll see you at the bottom." Being heavier, I said, “No, because physics will determine arrival.”

Well, actually fear determined arrival, because after about 30 mph, I started riding the brakes as they chattered. 34.5 mph is the highest maximum speed I have recorded….




Pretty tame compared to out West.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 10-16-19 at 05:03 AM.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:50 AM
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I don't have a fear of heights anymore (heights are a big one for most people), but I do know about phobias in general. I know they can be incapacitating despite their being irrational fears.

One things for sure, you are not going to be able to explain them to someone that doesn't have the condition. If its really bad you may need to seek professional help. Otherwise, you can do what I did and take baby steps to treat it.

I expose myself to those situation that cause me anxiety but only for a specified time, and always with a quick and easy way out.In other words, I don't put myself in those situation where I don't have control. I find that lack of control is the greatest hindrance, so once I've solve that it gives me the courage to move forward.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:52 AM
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I have a ride where the road follows a river up through a canyon. There are several places along the road where, about 3-4 inches to the right of the white "fog line" on the edge of the road, the road just "ends" and drops straight down, at least 500 feet down into the canyon. You could release the emergency brake on a car, and it would roll right down and vanish. And if I fell down there it would be months or years before anyone found me.

There are no warning signs, guard rails, markings on the road ... nothing. It's really shocking to see such a hazard out on the road these days, when every other tiny road danger has signs, flagmen directing traffic, flashers, highway patrol cars, the whole nine yards.

Those spots have almost a magnetic effect for me, I can't stop thinking about them as I go cautiously past. I just have to force myself to think about something else, because those dropoffs will drive me nuts if I let them.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
cbt ftw?
Yes and progressive exposure or whatever they call it. They got my daughter over a serious fear of needles, a friend past his new issue driving over tall bridges, and one of my people at work over his phobia about people (not I) getting emotional and yelling at each other.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:54 AM
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Switchbacks and single paths on the side of steep cliffs are really a challenge with this condition.
Try to focus on the path forward and not look at or over the edge.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
...If its really bad you may need to seek professional help. Otherwise, you can do what I did and take baby steps to treat it.

I expose myself to those situation that cause me anxiety but only for a specified time, and always with a quick and easy way out.In other words, I don't put myself in those situation where I don't have control. I find that lack of control is the greatest hindrance, so once I've solve that it gives me the courage to move forward.
People with the right combination of insight, discipline, and courage can do a lot of the work themselves, but many need therapy.
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Old 10-16-19, 06:28 AM
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Definitely more of discussion for the professionals. Everyone has some fear of heights - it's rationale. When it gets to the phobia level, those without the phobia will have a hard time understanding it and their suggested "treatment" is likely to be based on alleviating an elevated non-phobia level fear. Like telling someone who drinks too much - but isn't an alcoholic - to just have two or three beers.
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Old 10-16-19, 07:11 AM
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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...




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Old 10-16-19, 07:22 AM
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Very calming place. That first shot with the horses looks like it's probably close to the spot where this famous scene from the ending of Planet of the Apes (Spoiler alert!) was filmed:

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Old 10-16-19, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
I have gephyrophobia, fear of bridges, especially long and/or high bridges.
A guy in my local club has/had the same thing. I believe he's gotten over it because he did our club's ride to Brooklyn, which includes two moderately high bridges and the larger Brooklyn Bridge.
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Old 10-16-19, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
Very calming place. That first shot with the horses looks like it's probably close to the spot where this famous scene from the ending of Planet of the Apes (Spoiler alert!) was filmed:

When I saw the two horseback riders on the beach I immediately thought about POTA’s scene with Captain Taylor and Nova. That scene was filmed on Westward Beach (Zuma Beach) about 10 -15 miles south from my location.

I took my picture while riding the bike trail, near Mussel Shoals in Ventura.

A great place for a relaxing ride.
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Old 10-16-19, 08:04 AM
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Is there any possibility of gaining elevation without being on the edge of a cliff? In other words, topography that just gains elevation overall, rather than in certain peaks. For example, 9W just outside New York City is a gently climb heading north from the George Washington Bridge (very gently - 300 ft over 8 miles) - this is in comparison to riding along the river about 1/2 mile to the east, which is nearly flat along the water line for about 7 miles before shooting up 450 ft in the last mile to meet the main road.

Something like 9W might help you climb a little bit while you figure out how to best tackle the situation.
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Old 10-16-19, 08:11 AM
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Ah, fear. I hate it... Background. I climbed to descend. I once got a ticket for speeding. 60 in a 35, downhill. Judge took my copy of the ticket, no trophy, he said...

8 years ago, after knee replacement and attempting to get back in shape, I crashed downhill. BAD. Took three years to get back on a bike. Took this year to finally allow myself to descend. A BIT. I cannot let it roll. I HAVE to be on the brakes. I cannot let it get over 20 mph. Yet, I can pedal in the flats to a best of 38.9 MPH...

On a recent out and back 20 mile ride, I was confronted with a 2 mile descent, and corresponding 2 mile climb Guess where my heart rate spiked? Before the descent, not the climb. Fascinating...

I live at the top of the hill in my little town. If I ride from home, I have no choice but to descend. Most days, I put the bike on the car and go where it's flatter...

I hate living in fear. I've taken big swings at that fear this year. I have more work to do. I haven't convinced my wife to let me go back to a safer hobby... Skydiving... More than 100 jumps... Actualy. With the hardware in my back, it would be a very bad idea. So would bungee jumping. Might pull that knee out of the bone. Hmm, anyone know how to juggle running chainsaws? LOL
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Old 10-16-19, 10:02 AM
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As a kid, I was terrified on the 3rd rung of a ladder. I took up rock climbing. Fixed me right up. I admit to serious terror, a few tears, a lot of trembling, but . . . I still wasn't that happy leading, but I did OK. For anything which can be dangerous, one has to know what one is doing and know how to be careful. Easy to say, hard to do.
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Old 10-16-19, 10:25 AM
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I have a fear of heights. It gets in the way of my peakbagging adventures sometimes. When I do the other kind of climbing - no bike - sometimes I'll look down and see 80 feet of air below me, and the monkey part of my brain will start to panic for a second. But I remind myself I'm on a rope, it will catch me if/when I fall. And I continue upward. It's a very rewarding thing to face down your fear.

You're on a road. It's broad and flat. A road is almost a guarantee that you'll be safe.

If that doesn't work, select roads that don't have a drop off beside them.
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Old 10-16-19, 10:30 AM
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Quick answer is : Do not think about it. Of course, this ain't possible all the time. Breathing is a good thing to do. Practising Mindfullness also helps. However, a true therapy with an certified therapist is the thing to do in my opinion. Be careful not to listen to advices that will end up aggravating the situation.

Another (cheaper) alternative is to avoid these roads, but this will obviously not help conquer your fear.
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Old 10-16-19, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by zjrog View Post
Ah, fear. I hate it... Background. I climbed to descend. I once got a ticket for speeding. 60 in a 35, downhill. Judge took my copy of the ticket, no trophy, he said...

8 years ago, after knee replacement and attempting to get back in shape, I crashed downhill. BAD. Took three years to get back on a bike. Took this year to finally allow myself to descend. A BIT. I cannot let it roll. I HAVE to be on the brakes. I cannot let it get over 20 mph. Yet, I can pedal in the flats to a best of 38.9 MPH...

On a recent out and back 20 mile ride, I was confronted with a 2 mile descent, and corresponding 2 mile climb Guess where my heart rate spiked? Before the descent, not the climb. Fascinating...

I live at the top of the hill in my little town. If I ride from home, I have no choice but to descend. Most days, I put the bike on the car and go where it's flatter...

I hate living in fear. I've taken big swings at that fear this year. I have more work to do. I haven't convinced my wife to let me go back to a safer hobby... Skydiving... More than 100 jumps... Actualy. With the hardware in my back, it would be a very bad idea. So would bungee jumping. Might pull that knee out of the bone. Hmm, anyone know how to juggle running chainsaws? LOL
For me it was several bouts of really bad speed wobble that now has taken up permanent residence in my head. I went from a Cat 2 who considered bike handling to be a strength over my peers to gripping the brakes in fear down even a modest hill. I no longer do any mass start races, or even group rides because I need to stay away from certain types of terrain (and don't want to crash someone else out). Skipped the local TT series this year because I can no longer go fast down a short section at -5% on the course. I don't even like "descending" on Zwift

Kind of miss mixing it up with the boys Still love to ride hard/structured and still love to go fast on the flats & sprints. Fortunately one direction from the house offers quite a few miles of flat roads. It's weird and very limiting but I know others have it worse than me.
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Old 10-16-19, 03:31 PM
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Gradual, structured exposure to the fear...CBT

One of the main treatments for acrophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With this form of therapy, behavioral techniques that expose the individual to to the feared situation—in this case, heights and high places—are employed.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sour...4bVwsZ0LZ3lntl
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Old 10-16-19, 03:32 PM
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Very common fear. English cycling champ Emma Pooley has talked about her fear of descending, which offset her excellent climbing skill.

Like many folks I have recurring dreams about heights, including last night.

A nearby 5 mile loop popular for training has a fairly short, steep climb on one side, and a comparable descent on the other.

I find straight descents exhilarating, but don't trust my mediocre handling skills on twisties.

To my surprise when I first tackled that climb a couple of years ago it appeared impossible long and steep. That alone psyched me out.

I find familiarity helps. The more I tackle a climb or descent the easier it gets.

But that doesn't translate to an unfamiliar climb, no matter how similar. There's still a mental challenge to overcome. I'll find myself panting with shallow chest breaths rather than relaxing and using the diaphragm, puffing out the belly.

Watch some GCN videos with Emma Pooley from a year or so ago. Check her breath control and tummy puffing out with natural breathing. That's critical to her climbing ability.

And proper breath control helps reduce anxiety too.
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Old 10-16-19, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
When I saw the two horseback riders on the beach I immediately thought about POTA’s scene with Captain Taylor and Nova.
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
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Old 10-16-19, 03:59 PM
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Interesting thread. I have company. We have no hills/decents around here steep enough for fear, even for me. However, way back in college days, I was fortunate enough to have a job as as steel worker, specifically a wire lather. Pay was fantastic at the time. I worked on new construction in Lower-Manhattan, 20-30 stories. Walking the forms at the perimeter to help place steel never bothered me. Fast forward, I can still climb our extension ladder, but no way will I get onto the roof, even our garage. Those cantilevered, glass observation decks, such as at the Grand Canyon freak me out!
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