ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Overcoming a Fear of Heights When Hiking

Updated on November 13, 2017
Virginia Matteo profile image

Viriginia is an experienced hiker. She goes to the Tatra Mountains in Poland every summer.

I have seen many people scared of heights on the trail. Heck, I have had rushes of adrenaline myself when tackling more exposed obstacles.

People respond differently to heights. Some seem to have been born in eagle nests, whereas others struggle on the easiest paths. The good news is you can overcome your fear of heights, regardless of its intensity.

Fear in itself is not bad. It makes your body prepared for danger. A bit of adrenaline helps you perform better.

The trouble begins if the fear physically paralyzes you, which could be dangerous for you and others on the trail.

Increase Difficulties Gradually

Don’t attempt difficult trails without the necessary experience. First-time hikers should test their reaction to heights on easy paths.

Remember that even experienced hiking buddies may be helpless if you have a panic attack on an exposed trail. Going further up or back could become impossible. That’s why you shouldn’t give in to peer pressure to attempt difficult trails on your first hike.

Do your research before taking a hike. Read reviews and difficulty ratings for your chosen path.

For your first hike choose a trail that:

  • Is family-friendly
  • Has no technical difficulties
  • Has no aids for tourists such as chains or ladders (which normally means increased difficulty)
  • Is relatively short and has little to no exposure

If you watch YouTube videos as part of your research, remember that those shot with a GoPro camera often have a skewed angle. What seems daunting in the video can be a breeze in reality.

After that first hike, treat yourself to something more challenging. Reputable websites with trail descriptions normally have a rating system. If your first hike had one star, a second one should have two and so on.

Do in-depth research on every prospective trail, as the rating system alone gives you no information as to the type of difficulties you can encounter. Guidebooks, blogs, forums, YouTube are all good sources of information.

If you feel scared on a trail, do another route with the same level of difficulty before progressing to the next level.

Wear hiking boots with an anti-skidding sole on rocky and exposed trails, which will increase your safety and sense of security.

On the Trail

So you’ve done your research and you’re on the trail. So far so good – you haven’t had any problems. But you’ve just reached a narrow ledge hanging over a precipice.

How do you cross it safely?

  • Look at the people ahead of you tackling the obstacle. Where are they putting their feet and hands? Are they stable or wobbly? If they are stable, emulate them. If wobbly, think of a better way of tackling the obstacle.
  • Use the rule of three stable points. Each time one of your limbs is moving ahead, the other three should be firmly on the ground or holding on to the rock/hiking aids.
  • Look on the ground to find the safest and most convenient places for your feet. They should be wide and dry, if possible.
  • If you’re using a chain, make sure you stretch it. A loose chain is pointless.
  • If there are hiking aids, the most stable posture will be usually achieved by holding on to the rock with one hand and on to the aids with the other. But sometimes you may prefer to hold on to the aids with both hands or consider the aids more of a nuisance than a help. Remember that they are there to help you and not make the hike more difficult.

Focusing on these points will not only help you tackle exposed obstacles safely but also take your mind off the fear. Breaking the obstacle down into small steps will make it manageable.

If you feel that you are not ready to tackle the obstacle, turn back. As Ed Viesturs, a famous Himalayan mountaineer, once said “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”

Good hiking boots are a must.
Good hiking boots are a must.

If You Have a Phobia

Most people on the trail have a rational fear of heights. A gradual increase in the level of difficulty and learning to tackle exposed obstacles safely may be all they need.

But things are more complicated with a phobia. Gradual exposure also helps, although you may need to take smaller steps.

Tackling a phobia requires a strategic approach. Make a multi-step recovery plan. The first step may be thinking about standing over a precipice. Then you can go on to standing on tables, bridges, and high buildings.

Learn relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation. In a nutshell, mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. Two basic techniques are meditation and mundane task focusing. The first one is focusing your attention on the breath and the second on sensory experiences during performing a daily chore.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a gradual tensing and relaxing of parts of your body to help you control anxiety. Here you can find a complete guide to progressive muscle relaxation.

Practising these techniques daily will help you resort to them in situations of height-induced anxiety.


If you feel unable to cope with your phobia on your own, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional.

Does it make you dizzy?
Does it make you dizzy?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)