If there is one dream I have, it is to simultaneously hold down a respectable job and travel the world climbing. Mike Doyle is living my dream. He has spent the last couple of years on the road, working his IT job remotely and climbing at some of the best areas across the world. Recently he was in Hueco working Right Martini (V12?) among other problems. After putting in some work to refine his beta and get back into bouldering shape, he finally put it all together (emphasis mine):
On my next try I felt good going through the roof, moved my feet well and set up for the throw. Concentrating on the left hand and right foot I launched for the hueco and stuck it! It was the first time I had held that hueco from the beginning. I quickly moved my feet up and noticed a change in my mindset. It wasn’t a conscious change, it was more of an instinctual change that I was aware of. One moment I wasn’t fully committed to success or failure of the problem, had I fallen I would have just rested a little and tried again, then all of a sudden I was in “Don’t Fall Mode”, a mental state I get into in competitions or after pulling the crux of a hard route. In “Don’t Fall Mode” everything slows down; breathing is rhythmic, foot placements are precise and calculated, each grain of a handhold is felt and my field of vision narrows. I don’t really know how to explain it, or how to always recapture it but I was aware of the change.
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In fact I think many of the worlds top climbers can get into this ‘mode’ from the ground, something I’m not very good at. It’s difficult to always “Try Hard”, especially when on vacation.
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This idea of Don’t Fall Mode (DFM) brings up a concept that I was never very good at grasping. In those moments when most people would go into DFM, I usually plummeted into what I will call Must Fall Mode (MFM). MFM is the exact opposite of DFM. While in the grips of MFM I stop breathing, my heart pumps wildly, my hands sweat, my mind races and before I even realize what is happening I am hanging on the rope or sitting on the pad.
I can think of several examples where I went into MFM, most notably back in 2001 when I fell off after the crux of Burnt Beans and Coffee (5.12c/d) at the Wild Iris several times before sending. Problem being…there was at most 10 feet of easy climbing after the crux. On a positive note, despite flirting with MFM on my redpoint of Whiskey-a-go-go (very soft 5.13a) I managed to hold out long enough to send. Unfortunately, my lungs burned for days from holding my breath for basically the entire route. Also, Hugs n Kisses at HP40 is a boulder problem that I normally would have fallen off of after the crux. I made it past the hardest moves only to find my lower body corkscrewing around while I held on to the upper slopers for dear life. By some miracle from on high, combined with the sheer will of my spotter, I managed to hold MFM at bay to hang on and send.
I’m wondering if others have had more experience with Don’t Fall Mode or Must Fall Mode. Please share your stories of either kind below.