Book Review // The Rock Warrior's Way by Arno Ilgner
Ever backed off a climb and berated yourself afterwards? Ever cursed and thrown a wobbly after falling off your project? Ever wondered why you can’t seem to get past that grade? ….
The climber's barrier
I have been climbing for around 6 years. During the first couple of years I made progress in leaps and bounds, discovering the outdoors and getting into both trad and sport climbing. I would relish in being able to develop new skills and push the grades. Then something happened. I wasn’t progressing anymore. I was preoccupied with how risky the next grade felt. How do people ever push the grade without taking massive risks? Why is it that not every trad climber dead!? Are my fears rational? I realised that my barrier was not about how big my biceps were but that it was all in my head.
I started searching for answers by speaking to other people about how they have overcome scary situations or how they turned off that constant warning siren screaming out “go no higher! Don’t you want to live!???”
The Rock Warriors Way - A mindful approach?
I was recommended this book by several climbers. I was quite dubious at first, having a masters in psychology and working in the field I felt that it would be a bit patronising to me. Besides I thought I had tried all the “mental tricks” out there.
I was so wrong. Arno Ilgner has a lifetime of experience and has clearly done a huge amount of research to complete this book. Although the term mindfulness is not mentioned once in this book (I have my theories why) it leans heavily on mindful concepts and is by all intents and purposes about stilling the unhelpful and negative chatter in our heads that distract us from what is rational and real. The front cover says “Observe, accept, focus, intend, commit” and that’s a pretty good summary of the content.
Practical skills with the backing of theory
This book is clear, backed up by science and an intelligent but easy read. From Power Words to Power Sinks, the book introduces concepts we can all relate to and gives labels to ideas that we have only ever thought of abstractly. It looks systematically at self- esteem and confidence to listening and trusting judgement. It is not all theoretical. There are many practice exercises and practical tips and skills on how to tackle your own thoughts and behaviours that hold you back in climbing. I love how the book focuses on risk and helps the reader understand how to assess risk and truly be able to “make the call”. It also has a big chapter on falling, something that holds even the best back.
I started reading this book hoping it would unlock all the answers to my problems with climbing but finished excited to start the journey myself. I also have countless success stories in my own climbing and in fact used some of the “mind tricks” after reading the book and flashed a trad climb that I have been backing off from for the last 5 years.
We thoroughly recommend this book, for beginners through to pro’s. Even if you feel you don’t need any help in this area this is an insightful journey that will no doubt improve your experience on the rock.