Let’s face it: intimidation sucks, and it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from a friend, the workplace, or a rock climb. It comes at us from everywhere. For me, it can be such a paralyzing experience that, in just moments, I’m suddenly shooting down a spiral of negative self-talk and low self-esteem. It’s always been one of my biggest shortcomings. I often have to remind myself that once the moment is behind me, I can always look back and appreciate what I went through it.

Last fall, I took a trip to Las Vegas to climb in Red Rocks where I met Gašper Pintar for the first time. At the time, he was dirtbagging from Slovenia, eager to put down some hard routes in the states. Even though I have never tried to free climb anything at that grade in my life, he convinced me to try The Great Red Roof (5.13b). Gašper successfully redpointed the roof on his second attempt. The Roof requires an extremely high level of fitness, and that alone was an intimidating thought.

The Great Red Roof (5.13b). Photograph by Irene Yee

I did not send the roof but successfully made it to the top, both attempts. To me, just making it to the top of the climb felt like I’d accomplished something. Not letting fear keep me from trying is something I try to exercise but it doesn’t always work out so well (especially on roofs because ropes tend to get stuck. Also, roof cracks are hard.) But I’d finally figured out that I was feeling scared of trying because I didn’t know anything about it. I’d never been on it before and the grade was well above me. Looking up at it for the first time, there was so much doubt. It felt impossible to see past that cloud of mystery at first.

But somehow, understanding that gave me some sort of power over the situation. I like to think of it as reverse intimidation. If I can confront my feelings of intimidation by recognizing them, they lose some of their influence. All of my fears exist because it’s new territory, but the more familiar it becomes, the less scary they seem. At least I can start admitting some of those fears by putting them out there.

Photograph by Irene Yee

Cover photograph courtesy of Brandon Scott.

4 thoughts

  1. Great piece Kathy! The part about reverse intimidation and identifying what exactly scares us. I struggle to keep a calm head while climbing and you’ve inspired me to call out what actually scares me while attempting a route. Keep your head up! Moving to a new place and establishing new friends, routines, etc. is challenging. Just keep breathing 🙂

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