Fear of heights and fear of falling are common topics in rock climbing. Many coaches and climbing experts have written on specific steps you can take to overcome your fear of falling. But the question remains: is fear something we can overcome through these practices, or does that advice remain anecdotal and random? Well, according to new research from Alexander de Bree of climbingblogger.com, there is evidence demonstrating that fear of falling does decrease with climbing experience. But the overall trend may surprise you.

Related Post: 4 Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Falling by Paul Roberts

The research reports 5 major findings from the results of 4,600 rock climber surveys.

1. Fear of heights decreases as you get more climbing experience.

Fear of Heights for Rock Climbers

The research reports “Most of the benefits of climbing for the reduction of fear of heights are reaped in the first year of climbing. During this time the average fear of heights drops by 36,7%. Continuing to climb for the following three years will maintain to reduce the subjects’ fear of heights, albeit being less effective for each consecutive year.

Very experienced climbers, interestingly, are slightly more concerned about heights. This is possibly accounted for by the fact that they embark on riskier, higher climbs, e.g. when lead climbing a multi-pitch. A degree of fear of heights in these circumstances is definitely healthy – all experienced climbers have heard the adage ‘never fall on lead.’”

2. As you understand your gear, your fear decreases.

Fear of Heights decreases as you learn about your rock climbing gear

You may have experienced this one, as well. When you first start climbing, you are trusting what people told you about figure 8 knots and rope strength. But as you get familiar with the equipment, and you are able to quickly identify when a set up looks correct and when it does not, your fear decreases.

Almost two-thirds of climbers (64.9%) say that learning about their climbing gear has helped them overcome their fear of heights.

3. Rock climbing just for the sake of overcoming your fear works (almost) as well.

“Over 500 participants said that they explicitly got into climbing to overcome their fear of heights.

This enabled us to pair the data for all people who listed ‘To overcome my fear of heights’ as a reason they got into climbing, with the data where they could indicate whether their fear of heights has in fact decreased.”

Success rate of people getting into rock climbing to overcome their fear of falling

4. Young climbers are relatively fearless; climbers age 25-35 years exhibit more fear than those 55 and older

It’s no surprise that very young people exhibit lower levels of fear. But it is quite unexpected that climbers 25 to 35 years old experience higher levels of fear than those in older age groups.

relationship between age and fear of heights

Understanding why this is the case is grounds for another study…

5. Men have a greater fear of heights than women?!

In this study of 4,600 climbers, men reported experiencing fear at levels 6% higher than women. While the difference isn’t extraordinarily large, it does fly in the face of commonly held biases between men and women. Many prominent female rock climbers have reported how they have had to push through their fear of heights to become successful rock climbers. In a recent interview with Moja Gear, Emily Harrington shares how she has learned to “live with the fear.”

This research suggests that men actually do experience this fear even more than women!


Are you struggling with fear of heights when rock climbing? According to the research, the solution is clear: climb more, get familiar with your gear, get older, and be woman.

Easy enough, eh?

Fast track overcoming your fear with these pieces from Moja Gear:

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