• TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • TNB: Do the Right Thing
  • TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals - Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks - Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate - Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad - The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest - Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Story Behind the Craziest of Rescues
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit - Hermann Gollner, 71, Cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Five Best Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro - 5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal - The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept - Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger, Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak - Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery - The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem - Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller - National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best in Show - Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Under Pressure - Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem - Crawling, Balling & Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown - Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory - El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago - Athol
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: The Perils of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: Bring It On, Bitch!
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Bad Genes - The Different Types of Gumbies
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    Of Choss and Lions: Honnold, Wright and Birdwell in Kenya
    Of Choss and Lions: Honnold, Wright and Birdwell in Kenya
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    TNB: Fearless?


    Is Lindsey Vonn fearless? Photo: Bigstock.So, Alex Honnold.... ARE you afraid of cellophane?

    The question arose on our FB page recently after Chris Parker’s amusing eblast about climbing with Honnold, a premier soloist and a great cragger as well as endurance climber.

    “I tell myself,” a reader, Sam Anderson, posted consolingly, “that the guy is scared of something stupid like cellophane.”

    I have been thinking of Alex and other preternaturally unfazed climbers ever since reading a February 8 article about the amygdala hijack effect, in relation to the four-time World Cup ski champion Lindsey Vonn. On February 5, Vonn, going 50 or 60 mph in the Super G at the Alpine Ski World Championships in Austria, flew off a jump and overshot the icy ruts of the course, catching a ski in softer snow. She tore her ACL and MCL, ultimately leaving her with only 12 months between the crash/surgery and the upcoming Sochi Olympics.

    If anyone can recover physically, through hard work, it is she. But can she mentally?

    In an excellent article in the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins, formerly of Sports Illustrated, pointed out, “It helps if you're not easily scared. Vonn has a built-in advantage: She literally appears to handle fear and anxiety better than other people.

    “According to Outside Magazine, Vonn likes to show off by driving Vail Pass without braking. When the rest of us do something like that, we're likely to suffer what Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman terms ‘amygdala hijack,’ a threat reaction in which an emotional-hormonal surge takes over our brain, bypassing the cortex where rationality and executive function reign.”

    That is about when most of us lose it, overwhelmed. Vonn, however, can circumvent the chemical stream, and, as Jenkins puts it, “hijack it back” to stay cool.

    I’ve seen the video of Vonn’s recent crash, and a 2012 interview in which David Letterman asked her how it felt to get back to skiing again after an awful one in 2006 (she’s had a few), when she thought she’d broken her back.

    “If you’re not enjoying it,” Honnold told an audience in Aspen recently, “you shouldn’t be out there.”“Doesn’t really bother me,” she said lightly.

    Vonn continues to rip down racecourses because she loves it, which is also why Honnold does what he does.

    “If you’re not enjoying it,” he told an audience in Aspen recently, “you shouldn’t be out there.”

    Living in the region, I heard young teenage males, generally not the most thoughtful of people (trust me), discussing that comment in serious tones. “I really took that into consideration,” said one.

    Still, modern psychiatrists, Sally Jenkins writes, know that from anxiety can spring benefits: “Vonn has attained what Goleman would call high emotional intelligence. In a way, her quest for speed is an addiction to learning.”

    She has mastered self-control, creating a state of heightened awareness and “relaxed alertness” that is prime for athletic feats.

    * * *

    Alex Honnold soloing <em>Cosmic Debris</em> (5.13b). Photo by <a target="_blank" href="http://mikeylikesrocks.com/blog/">Mikey Schaefer</a>. Yet aren’t most people afraid of something? Even Indiana Jones is—of snakes. In one of my favorite lines in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy says wearily, "Snakes! Why does it always have to be snakes?"

    Chris Parker doesn't like spiders. I walk across the street to avoid dogs: not nice ones, but German shepherds (and I throw in Rottweilers and a few others) like the one that bit me in the belly. The MVP of our high-school football team one year, on an outing (a classic teen rite around here) to some secluded hillside “baby graves,” legacy of an ancient epidemic, heard a noise and, bolting, took out about three other kids.

    So I emailed Alex: “Are you afraid of anything, or are you like Lindsey Vonn? Maybe she’s scared of something, but doesn’t seem like it.”

    His reply: “As a kid I was always afraid of spiders. I hated spider webs, etc etc. Yesterday Tommy [Caldwell] and I did this fun link-up in Zion, and when I got to one of the belays on the third route there was a small tarantula—pretty sure, it was a damn big spider—hanging out in the anchor. My first instinct was to knock it off the mountain, but then I thought about it more and rationalized that they're harmless, provide a useful role in the ecosystem, and are basically cool animals. I belayed Tommy for probably half an hour with it just hanging out a few inches from my whole belay setup.”

    When Honnold finally climbed away, the spider remained grandly undisturbed.

    Honnold continued, “To me that sort of calmness, though not as dramatic as soloing a big wall, let’s say, has been a slowly learned process. It applies to all things in life and is a constant learning process.”

    He is not fearless, he says, nor even close: “But I probably do a better job [than others might] of staying rational or calm in what could be a scary situation. I don't know too much about it, just that I've gotten better at it with time.”

    Last question, then. Does he brake on Vail Pass?

    Honnold demurred on that. “I wouldn't say I do any really crazy driving,” he replied, “though I do like to drive fast. Thankfully [my] van prevents me from getting too wild or else it would probably just roll over. I don't think I'm quite the adrenaline seeker that Lindsey Vonn is, though maybe that's why I'm not as hardcore.”

    The amygdala hijack occurs, according to Emotional Intelligence, when the brain’s thalamus sends stimulus to both the amygdala and neocortex, and the amygdala’s emotional “fight, flight or freeze” response takes over (hijacks) the brain milliseconds before the neocortex can give a rational response. This response is not always distressing, the author observes, giving an example of a man who was walking by a waterway when he spied a girl staring frozen in terror. Absolutely unthinkingly, he jumped into the canal—in jacket and tie—and only then saw, and saved, a toddler in the water.


    Have you, in climbing, experienced an amygdala hijack? Ever overcome it?

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