I'm Anna Stöhr, I was born and raised in Innsbruck, and I have been climbing for 26 years. I am Pure Climbing, and this is my community story.
Last year I set the goal to climb Ali Baba, a 250-meter high multi-pitch route in France. I had tried some multi-pitches before, but I had yet to feel completely comfortable on the higher walls. I knew that I would face some kind of fear, since I've felt uncomfortable on steep multi-pitches before. And Ali Baba is extremely steep, which, of course, also adds to its charm. But in the beginning, it was stressful to have eight very exposed pitches ahead of me.
At first, on Ali Baba, dangling 200 meters above the ground, I felt a limiting fear from the exposure. My mental skills, which I used so well in competitions, seemed useless at these heights. I noticed that fear was limiting me because I wasn't climbing like myself. I wasn't moving fluidly, and my powerful dynamic climbing style had changed to a static way of climbing where I tried to control every move. I focused on the next draw, instead of concentrating on where to place my feet and on learning the sequence. I could not concentrate on climbing at all. I over-gripped every hold and was really exhausted, which did not help at all.
Of course, my boyfriend and climbing partner Kilian knew exactly what was going on. He told me that it was okay to be scared even if rationally, there was nothing to worry about. Ali Baba is well-protected, and a fall would not harm. He was incredibly supportive and did not ridicule my feelings.
What finally helped me was first to recognize my actual fear and stop trying to push it out of my mind. Instead, I needed to accept that it existed and know that this was okay. Through this, I found I could address the exposure. For me, that meant falling over and over again. I needed to get used to it, and it really helped to feel comfortable on the wall. I am glad I did, though, because, in the end, I enjoyed hanging 200-meters above the ground in an exposed spot. It became an amazing feeling to move confidently through the wall without thinking about height but instead focusing on the climbing.
I wish I could say that it won't happen again, but it will. And that's okay. Overcoming my fear is a work in progress, and it will need many more different and new experiences to handle it. Now, I can always tell myself, I've been here before, though, and I was able to move past it.
I want to share this because I believe that fear plays an impactful role in climbing. If you are familiar with this feeling, I just wanted to let you know that it's okay to have fears. Try to accept them and find your way to work through them.