Get a Grip


A series of mindfulness and maintaining a positive headspace on and off the wall.

Meet Tuesday Kahl, our newest contributor!

She joins us just in time to usher in our newest segment, Get a Grip, because if climbing challenges one thing, it’s your headspace.

About Me:

I’m a gym manager, guide, coach, gear slinger, artist, amateur baker, photographer, swimmer and writer who’s been rock climbing for nearly 3 years. I sport, I trad, I boulder, I train. I love long days, high off the deck and big, dynamic moves in steep limestone caves.

I also love run on sentences.

For most of my life, I idolized the stoics. I grew up in a military family. For most of my life, I wanted to be as stoic my father was. When met with anything from being shot at to his car being stolen, he maintained an incredible level of unwavering calm. To me, that was the goal. I never met it though. I have always been an expressive person and I shoved that part of me so deep down to be the stoic I wanted to be and constantly failed. I was a risk-averse, joyful, passionate and creative human trying to force my round emotions into a stoic box.

When I started climbing, every bit of who I was bubbled to the surface.

I’ve cried more times while climbing and because of climbing than about anything else in my life.

I cried more over my first 12a project than I did when the love of my life walked away from me and moved across the country.

This new understanding of the capability of human emotion that exists inside of me has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Climbing is a tool through which I’ve used to explore the vast capabilities of my body and mind.

The joy I experience when I am with incredible people, in beautiful places and exploring the wonderful world we live in is unmatched. I’ve learned to describe this feeling as “So happy I could float away”. I’ve also experienced great anger, boredom, and anguish.

I’ve never had such violent and vicious self talk as when I couldn’t climb something I knew I was capable of. Learning how to turn that self talk into a positive mantra was a whole new realm of mastering my brain. I do not naturally possess the mental fortitude of some folks I know.

I am a scared human, but I am a scared human who is building an infantry of tactics to combat the fear and anxiety that comes about when I step onto the rock.

My hope and my goal in this is that at least one of theses tactics I share in this series helps you.


About You:

Everything we do in climbing is the exact opposite of our human instinct.

Let’s repeat that differently: Your adapted modern human nature is to not rock climb.

So the fact you (yes, you!) rock climb is incredible and a feat of nature! Regardless of whether you climb 5.6 or 5.14. You are accomplishing something entirely opposite of what we have evolved to be comfortable with.

Now that’s pretty cool. Go you!

So now that’s sorted, let’s dive deeper.

The fact that climbing is the opposite of what our instincts tell us is acceptable and safe is the very reason any and all levels of fear and anxiety while climbing are COMPLETELY NORMAL.

Everyone (including Alex Honnold) will experience fear and anxiety while climbing at some point. The tactics we use to manage that fear make all the difference.

So where do we start?

Acknowledge it. Accept the level of fear and anxiety you experience is perfectly okay and reasonable. Pretending fear doesn’t exist is the perfectly wrong way to appropriately manage it. Bravery and courage are not marked by an absence of fear, but the act of being fearful and pushing forward in spite of the fear. Someone who isn’t fearful doesn’t have to be brave.

Step two.

Analyze it. This one is the hard part. I can’t tell you, nor can anyone else, what makes you scared. Think back to the most terrified you’ve been while climbing. What triggered your fear?

Think about your collective climbing fear experiences. Write them down, think it out. What we want to look at is common themes.

Were you scared of making a move on slab because you were afraid of cheese grating down a cliff?
Did you not trust your feet?
Do tiny slab footholds make you nervous?
Are you scared of overhangs and exposure because of the emptiness beneath your feet?
Are you scared when you’re climbing above your last quickdraw because the fall concerns you?

Do you refuse to push yourself because you don’t want to fall?

Why does the fall scare you?
Are you scared of heights?
Untrusting on equipment?
Untrusting of your belayer or spotter?

Does Bouldering freak you out because every fall is a ground fall?

Do you despise trad because it’s not a bolt or a boulder or because you don’t understand the gear?

All of these? None of these?

Your Homework: Find common themes in your experiences with fear and anxiety while climbing.

Keep it handy as we explore tactics for handling these fears.

Love and Sends,
Tuesday Kirby