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​I have always had a fear of heights and for awhile I thought that climbing in the gym had allowed me to conquer that fear. WRONG.

By: Katie Johnstone + Save to a List

A couple months ago I went down to the Red with my boyfriend James and my friend Cassie and we decided to climb Foxfire, a 5.7 trad multi-pitch route that was 230 feet. From reading the guidebook most of the climb sounded pretty easy and straight forward. There was only one comment about getting to the third pitch that made me a little uneasy, “After this pitch comes the scary traverse left around the corner.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…

The first two pitches were solid. The majority of the first pitch was scooting your butt and back against a large tree until you could get your hand in a crack. The second pitch was a little exposed and got me a little shaky, but once I started climbing I felt fine. It was plate after plate on that pitch! Then came my (little?) breakdown… We were sitting on the top of the second pitch wondering where the third pitch started. After re-reading the guide on Mountain Project we realized we needed to traverse to the right on a very exposed ledge that was about 2 feet wide that quickly made a 90 degree turn to the third pitch that was out of sight. I had been bringing up the rear each climb, but this one I needed to go second. My fear of exposure and heights started to take over me. As I inched out to the ledge I completely froze. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath and move my legs out to start the crawl. Once I rounded the corner I felt a little better, but slowly the adrenaline exhaustion started to take over.

Here I am after traversing from the second pitch to the third. As you can tell looking a little scared!

After everyone made it over to the start of the third pitch we hung out for a little to take in the view. That is when my second fear started to kick in, the sky was turning black and there was thunder in the distance. I had no idea what we were going to do if it started to rain. We wouldn’t be able to climb and none of us had a cell phone in case something were to happen. Luckily, the storm rolled past and we were able to carry on. The next 2 pitches went okay after that. I was mentally exhausted and there were a couple more exposed sections to the climb. However, when I topped out after those 4 pitches I had the biggest smile on my face. I was stoked to have completed my first “big” multi-pitch climb!

Cassie, James and I at the top of Foxfire.

On the way back to Columbus that day I had 4 hours to reflect on the climb. I was bummed I let my fear get the best of me, but knew that I would go back and prove to myself that I can conquer my fear of heights and exposure. So two weeks later I went back and climbed it again and had the best time! I never once felt uncomfortable and I stayed calm the whole climb! I walked away that day feeling very proud of myself.

Feeling very stoked after crossing the traverse that freaked me out the first time!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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