When you’re climbing outdoors, you inevitably end up facing some of your biggest fears, whether it’s heights, dirt, or pooing in the wild. Here are some tips and tools on how I dealt with three of my phobias.
Yes, there are mosquitoes in the wild! Tons at Lover’s Leap, where I went to test my climbing gear, especially near the little stream of water that runs along the path to the crags in the early evening. Outdoor Research has gaiters &mdash durable leg warmers that go over and strap under your shoes &mdash that are treated with insect repellent. Gaiters also help keep dirt and pebbles out of your shoes.
Mosquitoes are often at the campsite, too. Since a lot of climbers ditch the tent in an effort to minimize weight, taking a bug bivy with you is also a good idea.
I’m not normally scared of heights, but I have to admit that hanging out on the edge of a 400-foot-tall cliff and trying to look down to see how my climbing buddy was doing whilst being held in place by one flimsy rope was a little freaky at times. Since positive self-talk (it’s ok, breathe, you’re not gonna fall) was not really working, I thought of my own calming down method &mdash I found tiny flowers and leaves in the rock’s cracks and pretended they were my dog Ruby. “Hi Ruby,” I’d say, and suddenly my fear was replaced by a warm, fuzzy feeling. “What are you doing here?” I know it sounds crazy, but try it. It works.
3. Getting lost
This may not be a realistic fear unless you’re going way into back country, but the thought of not being able to head straight back to base camp after a long day of hiking and climbing is pretty daunting. I was with a trustworthy leader who knew his way around the Leap, but if you’re trekking out on your own, you could take the Bushnell Backtrack &mdash it records your starting point and then constantly directs you back to it with arrows and mileage. Of course, this could be totally futile if roads are windy and sparse, or if there are rivers and bears and stuff that get in the way of a direct path home. But it hooks easily onto a carabiner and for $80, it’s not bad. (I also recommend this product, by the way, to people who can’t locate their cars in mall parking lots.)
4. Pooing in the wild
The only thing I have to say about pooing in nature is that it’s fun! Try it. Just remember to wipe, and take your dirty paper with you after you’re done.