Apr 07

Climbing and Facing your Fears


Climbing is a challenging sport, even for the average able-bodied person. But if you thought you had an excuse not to climb, look at this guy and think again.



Fear of the unknown can almost always be attributed to lack of knowledge. In South Africa, climbing often means facing fears you didn’t know you had. Like committing to a hard move and feeling your hand destroy the sticky mansion of a spider…and losing focus for fear of where the owner went. For most climbers, the fear of falling isn’t so much based on fear of heights as it is on the fear of the belayer losing focus in that critical second. These fears are mostly ungrounded, and seem especially insignificant in comparison to what some climbers need to face. If you lost a limb, would you even consider climbing? Probably not. And yet, climbing has become a vital part of the lives of amputees around the globe.


After losing his left arm and eye in Iraq while serving in the army, Brian Doyne made his first climbing arm from a stripped-down ice axe, which was really dodgy but it worked.





“Climbing is the only time I have to be myself,” Doyne said. “Everywhere else, people see the wounded veteran and the soldier amputee. When I’m climbing, I’m just another guy looking to send.”


Doyne has since developed; together with the prosthetics company Advanced Arms Dynamics, a modified Petzl ice axe.  


“At first, climbing was a way to stay in shape,” Doyne says. “It was the only activity that didn’t hurt in intense ways. But as I climbed, it became a coping method.”


I can’t imagine what climbing with only one eye must be like. Its not like you can replace it with a relatively helpful prosthesis. If you close your one eye, you cant even walk properly, let alone climb hard routes. But, evidently, I stand corrected. The mind is a powerful tool, and you can use it to motivate you through the seemingly impossible. Which is why, when you book a trip with Soul Adventures, whether for climbing, hiking, or mountaineering, we are going to push you beyond your perceived limits. You will hate us. But we will not let you give up, because we know from experience that if you push through the mental barrier of pain, exhaustion and discomfort, you will love us so much at the end (which usually is at the top of a mountain or safely back on solid ground after a hard climb). And we really like being loved.


Us climbers are seriously cool people. We look out for each other. When DJ Skelton sustained severe injuries due to a rocket-propelled grenade sending shrapnel through his body, the climbing community wouldn’t give up on him.


“The first couple times people asked me to go, I’d say, ‘I can’t do that. I’m injured.’ They’d say, ‘We’ll figure it out.’” 


30 surgeries later, Skelton again took up climbing, now with a partially paralyzed arm.


“[Other soldiers and friends] were pretty shocked,” Skelton says. “A lot of [the wounded vets] were struggling just to show their faces in public with the scars. In the climbing community, it doesn’t matter. You are who you are.”  


Climbing is awesome. It makes you feel weak and strong at the same time. It plays on your hidden desire to conquer, and, if you dare rise to the challenge, proves that you are indeed a monkey. You can climb anything you put your mind to. You determine your limitations. You are the only one who can stop you. Facing your fears is synonymous with being alive. So, imagine facing your fears voluntarily. Conquering them. Experiencing things you’ve never thought possible. That’s LIVING.


References (images and text)







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