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How To Mentally Prepare To Climb A Mountain - The WCS Technique

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Use The “WCS” Technique To Mentally Prepare For Any High Altitude Adventure

You could be the fittest, most well prepared mountaineer or trekker in the whole world but if you haven’t got the right mindset then you’re not going to make it. It is the people with a specific mentality and outlook that do make it. Mentally preparing for your high altitude adventure is equally as important as your physical training.

FYI – This is just one technique, check out my book “A Step-By-Step Manual To Mountaineering & Trekking Around The World” for more mindset training techniques that you can integrate into your day-to-day life. The beauty with these techniques is that as you mentally prepare, you unknowingly and subconsciously conquer your route or mountain before you’ve even taken the first step.

The “Worst Case Scenarios” (WCS) Technique

This specific technique is one of my absolute favorites that I developed by accident when I started training for Mt Elbrus in Russia. It was the first time I would be joining a team of complete strangers, climbing without a companion. I had started to get anxious about what could happen and the fact that I wouldn’t have a friendly shoulder to lean on in my times of need. So, to overcome that worry, every time I walked our dog or went on a run, I’d think about all the things that could possibly go wrong and how I would solve those problems, everything from losing my luggage on the flight over to being separated from the group as a result of AMS.

It may sound dramatic, but that thought process gave me confidence. I’d work through each scenario and have fun thinking about different solutions. I tested my knowledge on High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema (HAPE/HACE) so that I knew what the symptoms were as well as the prescribed medication. I decided I’d sew elastic to the end of my gloves to wrap around my wrist so that I wouldn’t lose them if I took them off. Losing a glove at high altitude in extreme, frigid temperatures means that you risk frost-bite and that can be the reason why you have to turn back. I made a mental note to spend extra time learning how to self-arrest with our guide before we started the climb because I had no prior experience with that procedure. And just like that, I had solutions for my worst-case scenarios. I accounted for all my fears and, as a result, found my confidence. None of my fears materialized on that trip, but if they had, I would have been well prepared and totally able to handle them without the blink of an eye.

Remember, your solution to the problem is your attitude about the problem. If you are creative or resourceful enough and consistently positive about the problem, then you can always find a way to resolve it. When you close your mind and tell yourself that there is no solution then you will never find one. But when you change your limiting negative attitude to a positive one absolutely everything is possible and there is no problem to which you cannot find a solution. It is not about what happens to you, but more about how you react that truly matters.

How To Use The Worst Case Scenarios Technique

Make it a routine, particularly if you are nervous in anyway about your high altitude adventure, to run through your worst-case scenarios. It may be something as small as getting blisters on your first day or as big as losing your ice axe. Regardless, take the time, while you are comfortable, under no stress and feeling in control, to think about what you would do. Prevention is always better than cure and most scenarios can be prevented with a bit of forward thinking. For example, to prevent blisters, make sure your boots are well worn-in, using both your thin socks for lower altitude temperatures and then your thick socks for higher up, before you leave home. Work out your favorite way to tie your laces to stop any friction. And always keep a couple of blister plasters in a pocket of your windproof jacket.

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