A few weeks ago I went to West Virginia to rock climb, but instead spent the day falling. On purpose. I went to the New River Rendezvous Climber’s Festival and took a clinic with author/climbing guide Arno Ilgner. For those unfamiliar, he wrote two books on mental training and climbing, The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons. He links the mindfulness of climbing to the work of earlier authors and mystic like Carlos Castaneda and Dan Millman.
The clinic was incredibly eyeopening for me. Ever since my whipper outside, I thought I was pretty comfortable with falling. Arno asked us in the beginning of the clinic what we hoped to gain with this clinic and we had any fear. I brazenly said I wasn’t really afraid, I just wanted to learn proper technique and learn the “right way” to fall. Yet, I also know I am less willing to go for it when there are consequences (not on top-rope). Arno told us several things to work on while falling. We should take three breaths and on the third exhale, fall while breathing out, relax our arms and legs, look down and quietly let our feet brace the rock face.
After the first fall, I was shocked. I actually grabbed for the rope. I never knew I did that. I was completely unaware. This told me I was more afraid than I thought; your body doesn’t lie. It took me several tries to break this habit before I could successfully implement the other steps. The point of practicing is that you will create new habits so when you do fall unexpectedly, your body will remember what to do.
I definitely recommend this clinic to all climbers. Arno is quiet and gentle in his teaching, which is very effective in rock climbing. The mindfulness needed in climbing is one of my favorite aspects of climbing, which is why I love Arno’s work. It was such an honor to meet, climb and learn from him.