I had led outside a little bit before that, and in the year since then, I also only led a little bit – here and there inside, but I tended to gravitate to bouldering, and some more outside, though I still often stuck to the safety of toprope.
Today, I went to Movement’s Rope Up (a great program which pairs climbers who don’t have belay partners) with the intent of conquering my fear.
I started on a normal warm-up climb for me, but this time it was on lead.
And it felt good.
Then I tried another, slightly more difficult climb, and it also was not too much of a challenge.
I was intrigued by a climb on a fun-looking roof feature, and I went for it. I had to take several times as I navigated the roof, but the climb was an absolute blast, and my fear on the roof was completely manageable.
Finally, I wanted to attempt my favorite route in the gym, a climb that would be the hardest climb I had ever tried to lead. But I had it dialed on toprope, so I knew I was physically capable of climbing it on the sharp end.
And I made it through, taking once on the hardest section of the route (at least for me) because I had to figure out how I wanted to make the clip.
After I finished that climb and lowered, I realized something.
I was no longer scared of leading.
I was still scared of some moves, and I had to yell “take!” to figure out some sections on new routes, but for the most part, I felt just as confident in my climbing as I did on toprope.
The act of leading itself no longer made me nervous. Instead, it felt natural. I knew what I needed to do, and I knew that I could do it.
This feeling I had today is why I strive to push through my fears.
Because one day, you won’t be afraid anymore.
It might take a whole year, but the fear will be replaced by a new feeling – confidence.
And that feels amazing.