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Home Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Acrophobia, The Fear of Heights.

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    Wonder, what to one can do to help themselves or their partners, who have Acrophobia (a fear of heights) navigate a mellow ridge-line.

    I know I can choose the terrain where we skin and ride. But enviably, we will have to choose the safest route, which most likely means a ridge with some exposure.

    What are your experiences with this kind of situation?


    I had no choice but to get over my fear of heights when I worked on 25 ft. a-frame ladders one summer. I shook like hell at first, but I over came it and it stuck, so it’s possible. Talking and guiding somebody through a couple tours with exposure would certaintly help. The tough part is getting them to do it. It would be uncomfortable for them at first, but I think the fear can be overcome if they are willing.


    Push them off a cliff into some pow 😆

    Seriously, don’t know if anything can be done for this. It’s one of those inner demons everyone has to wrestle with. No matter how much time I’ve spent in the mountains, and what type of stuff i’ve gotten into, I still get gripped above exposure, especially with the board off my feet. But overcoming fear is the biggest rush there is.


    Start climbing.

    Ridgeline exposure is nothing compared to being 3 pitches up on a sheer wall anchored in with a PAS.

    I’m not saying it ever really goes away, but you certainly learn how to manage it the more time you spend on the sharp end.


    I think that with most big changes, there has to be a strong inner desire from the individual to make the change. At least with strong personality types who are adults I think it’s rare for other motivations to really do it. The difference between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivations if you will. Peer pressure, put downs or other shit usually won’t cut it with usually confident adults that are just in new or uncomfortable surroundings- at least with recreational activities that don’t rely as much on “team” cohesiveness.

    If the person truly wants to change you can help guide them by supporting them and slowly working their confidence up. Start with very very mellow exposure and just let them hang out there. Just show them, rationally, that it is safe. The cherry on top is if there is some sort of extra reward to being there, like a view or taking a snack break or something.

    Then as you, hopefully, see them become more comfortable bring them to bigger things, more exposure but perhaps with excellent footing or maybe less exposure but more technically difficult. Most importantly don’t push too hard as this will usually sour things and blow up in your face. Always be ready to back down and accept their potentially irrational fears as very real and let them WANT to try again. This is not about you and your agenda, this is about them and you have to have a lot of patience and dedication to helping them.

    Another really important aspect of this that I struggle with is properly identifying things that are “scary” or uncomfortable from things that aren’t. If you’re very comfortable or competent at something you often lose perspective and end up saying things like, “Oh come on it’s as wide as a bus here and if you fell you probably wouldn’t even die!” I haven’t found that to be helpful or constructive. 😆

    Past that just keeping a positive attitude yourself is huge and definitely can rub off on people. I used to not believe in all this “hippie” bullshit and attacked it (and people) from a “purely rational” standpoint by pointing out how stupid it was that they were even scared. I was an asshole and I definitely didn’t get any results. :nononno: I stopped being as selfish, pushing my agenda and treating their fear or inabilities as a hindrance to accomplishing MY goals and that changed everything. I enjoyed myself more and so did everyone else.

    I learned there’s a time, place and the right partners to push things and then there’s a time to go more with the flow and truly help someone that wants to change.

    Good luck it’s not an easy process but it can be pretty rad when people are killing shit they wouldn’t have ever even stepped up to before like steep bootpacks or rocky traverses to get to the goods!

    In the end people are all different and their interactions with other people can be very different too. So this might not work for some people. Maybe chastising them will work but for me I have (mostly) embraced positive reinforcement. :rock:


    there are 3 general approaches:
    immersion…push off the cliff into deep pow
    de-sentataion…gradually working higher and higher
    medications….anti anxiety and/or beta blocker


    Wrath, I have to strongly disagree…. medication is NOT the way to gaining something. That’s the easy way out.

    I suffer from Acrophobia, and the only way to beat it is to face it. There’s nothing I hate worse than that “fight or flight” alarm going off. It’s unnerving, and takes away from enjoying the day. But, what I’ve come to learn is the achievement is well worth the anxiety. My 1st time out with HFT on a 2 day hike up West Needle put my ability to cope with Acrophobia to the test. Not the best time to free climb “no fall” areas w/ everything strapped to your back, and 18 cans of beer. I learned alot from hanging with HFT and Bonez on that hike. So, the best advice is to try your best and get your friend to face that fear. They’ll be okay, just keep them focused.


    Yup, sometimes you just need to back off. We just started splitboarding last winter, but I can tell you that the Mrs. will never be comfortable with exposure. We’ve done enough hiking to know this. She gets really uncomfortable. (Don’t tell her I told you this, she’s still a tough cookie!). I just know when we plan a route it has to be mellow. It doesn’t take away from the fun at all. We still get great views and great lines! :thumbsup:
    Come on Snow!


    @SPLITRIPPIN wrote:

    I learned alot from hanging with HFT and Bonez on that hike

    Thats my advice, follow bones around on a few tours, and everything after just seems pussy. I used to have a fear of edges, but after 1 winter touring with bones, I can sit with legs over the edges now.

    My favorite quote was up on a tour of the Turk,

    bones, standing on a condensed wind slab: “Hey, don’t fall right here.”
    Me: “Why not?”
    bones, calm as can be: “because you’ll fall over a 100 foot cliff and die”, and then proceeds to jump on the small slab (image a 220 yeti jumping). “Nope, it won’t go, your good to go”. Burly


    My climbing partner (my dad) had a hard time with his fear of heights. And I can tell you. It goes away with time. If you don’t climb, I highly recommend it. If you don’t want to start climbing do some technical hikes. Anything with a controlled amount of exposure. Listen to the other guys on this forum too, they know what they’re talking about.


    I have been struggling with a fear of heights as long as I can remember, but it didn’t really “surface” until I started splitboarding 4 years ago.

    For me, what triggers it is the feeling of being “unsafe”. Icy traverses and a lack of splitboarding teqnique at the time, for instance, would freeze me right up. I also noticed that the fear of falling down something is often completely unrelated to the beating you would get if it actually happens. I mean, sliding down a 45-degree icy pitch for a few seconds isn’t dangerous by any chance, but still – what triggers it is the perceived chance of sliding of falling, not just the consequence if it were to happen.

    I think the point is to work up to it slowly, which means starting mellow.
    I’m the first one to laught at myself for this fear, I find that’s better than to have my friends call me a whimp. I’m always the first one to break out crampons and ice axe, simply because I need to feel safe.

    It goes away with time, though. I do stuff now that I know would freeze me right up 2 years ago. The fear doesn’t go away completely I think, but it turns into something manageable – and that’s an awesome feeling in itself.

    My advice (both to you and to your struggling friend)
    -Work up slowly to bigger stuff. Slower than you think.
    -Be prepared. An ice axe is a nice way of increasing the perceived safety level, even though your bad-ass mountaneering friends might laugh at you
    -Don’t make every splitboard mission a mission to challenge this fear. Just go out and enjoy it, from time to time (or as often as possible )


    @trondh wrote:

    I’m always the first one to break out crampons and ice axe, simply because I need to feel safe.


    And I could give a shit if someone thinks I’m a puss, as long as I feel safe, that’s all that counts in my book.

    Living and riding in CA forces you to deal with some aspects of Acrophobia head on because no one EVER puts the bar down on the lift. So because of this undeniable fact, skinning across a ridge or traversing icy slopes has become less of a big deal to me. I figure, as long as my feet are on the ground, and not dangling 50-75ft in the air with a sail strapped to them and the wind blowing like mad, I’m pretty safe.


    Good conversation piece. Every once in a while I get a bit sketched, but through repeated exposure, this happens less and less. Unfortunately, my wife, and some other riding partners, are still a bit behind the curve on this. Hard not to get frustrated sometimes, but easy to get over it when you put yourself in their boots and imagine how gripped they are feeling. Remember, the point is to have fun, right? If that’s not the point, pick another partner who is on the same page as you and then it’s a non-issue.

    Slowly ramping up the exposure works, but takes time. There is no magic way to help someone get over this quickly.

    Taking extra precautions like spotting your partner when they are sketched, staying below them, and always staying positive helps. Anything you can do to boost their confidence just might save the day.

    Greg - NoKnees


    Body and Brain: focus on breathing deep and rhythmically, like count 1 2 on your breath in and 3 4 on your breath out. I have this little breathing mantra I used to use surfing in Hawaii to keep from freaking out, I’d paddle with each arm breathing in 1 paddle 2 paddle, breath out 3rd paddle 4th. Try to set a little climbing and breathing rhythm in your head and you’ll focus on what your doing and keep bad thoughts and panic away. Stop, make sure your breathing isnt shallow, check that you aren’t over tightening back neck and leg muscles, and focus on your hands- their holds- and your feet, and the snow support under each foot. give a little check to each snow platform you make with each step before weighting it.

    Gear: Stop skinning and just boot pack it on a firmer snow ridgelines with exposure if you are getting the creeps. Crampons- although they introduce their own health hazards and an axe or whippet can make you feel like a spider where you used to feel sketchy. Even a pair of verts in non-ice hard snow can increase your feeling of security by a large margin. If you don’t have a lot of gear, take your poles or your shovel out and plunge them/it into the snow straight or horizontal & hold on near the blade to make something more solid to hold on to. Put another layer on if you are getting beat up in wind and blowing snow or just feeling like a little ant on a sandhill, the warmth makes you feel more safe, capable and optimistic. 🙂


    Excellent tips.

    Does anyone have any experiences they would like to share/ when coaching or receiving coaching. when trying to work through a fearful situation? In particular, when the person who is afraid is the your significant partner (aka your girlfriend or spouse).


    @Powder_Rider wrote:

    Does anyone have any experiences they would like to share/ when coaching or receiving coaching. when trying to work through a fearful situation?

    I was with a guide once and when we were about to top out we had to cross this ridge with what was probably a 1000ft vertical fall on one side. I told him that I tended to get dizzy in situations like that, and he said “no problem. bootpack RIGHT behind me and whatever you do, don’t take your eyes off my boots”. worked like a charm.


    Maybe take them to a climbing wall. My son is 7 and is afraid of moderate heights. When he first would get the harness on and get roped in he would maybe only climb to 6′-7′, (not due to skill, he climbs like a spider). After a few attempts and talking about being afraid of going to the top he’s tripled his height on the same wall. I’m not a drill sergeant dad by any means i let him explore his own boundaries and give him encouragement along the way. I think the harness and rope helps to give that added sense of security and gives you a chance to become familiar with high places.
    Breathing and visualization of positive results (floating through powder) helps with any fears you have. :twocents:


    I am Angela. I have had Fobia from the heights at the age of 17 and it was really scary for me. I had very tough time. But with the help of “The PHOBIAMAN Clinic” and Alex Treatment Director helped me a lot during that. Now I am an independent person and enjoying my life.




    As someone who is scared of heights, I’d say do some tours that include ridgelines that are more mellow to get use to being on them and work your way up. Do ones that they/you find challenging mentally more than once. I did just this yesterday. The first time the skin track up was a bit snowy but slightly slippery and the areato turn on was small, shorly after there was a bit of rock over some exposure people struggled and i was nervous. Someone in my group pulled a shovel out and made a larger area for for people to kickturn and widened some of the track. Yesterday I did that same line and the conditions were crusty, i was dreading the upper section. As it happened, it was just easier to then bootpack the last section, so we did. Even bootpacking makes me nervous sometimes. But the more you do it, it does get easier. As another person has said, talking them through it helps quieten their inner fear voice.

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