For a route that only saw 4 ascents in over 25 years, as a coach and student of sports psychology I asked myself why it might happen that the 5th, 6th and 7th ascents came within three days. On the main post on my other channel I elluded to the breaking down of psychological barriers and used Bannisters 4 minute mile to show what break a psychological barrier could do to running.
However there is more to it I think and I have written about this before although not directly. Bandurra a psychologists came up with a theory of self efficacy or one belief to carrier out a specific task. He suggested that there were three building blocks that effect your beliefs. These in order of the power they have to change your belief are:
- Prior Performance
- Vicarious Experience
- Verbal Persuasion
Whilst all will have paid a part in the ascents recently of the Indian Face, I think the second is most interesting when it comes to hard route that suddenly get a flurry of repeats in quick succession. Vicarious or witness experience is the increase confidence and self belief we get from watching others.
I believe it is so common that you have probably witnessed this in action. Have you ever been at bouldering and been trying a problem that people were attempting and then suddenly someone does it. At times you’ll see others quickly follow suit and make a successful ascent.
First witnessing a successful ascent lets you belief it is possible and then at a subtler level you may well gauge you own performance against a peer and a switch in your brain subconsciously says to you. If they can do it so can I. This of course needs to be backed up by the physical prerequisites. However if you have those in place then you are now more ready than before to succeed.
This isn’t the same as saying well if they can do it so can I. It is a much more hidden process and one that is more often than not process internally. Yet arguably this could be one of the reason that The Indian Face has seen 3 ascents this week and on similar occassions when other hard and bold routes see rapid repeats.
There is of course another factor as well in play here, the weather. This years has seen some great prolong spells of good weather and all three climbers have been knocking out hard routes. Which would help change their belief via the prior performance route of Bandurra’s theory. The weather has also meant that for the first time in what must be a few years cloggy and all the high mountain crags have been nearly bone dry.
What is certain is to succeed these three climbers had an almost insane level of confidence and self belief in their own ability to not only climb the route physically but also cope with the mental pressure of such a big, committing and dangerous route. I woud love to chat to them about their respective mental coping strategies as I suspect they are all slightly different.